If you’ve ever sailed, you know the sense of freedom the open water brings. Hand on the rudder, or in larger vessels the wheel, keeping the boat true by sight or by compass, the scent of the ocean, the sound of splashing of water on your hull and the billow and snap of your sails as you bring the boom around, a seaman’s faith in the wind in your heart, you are truly a captain, if only for awhile. Of course, when you’re thinking about sailing, visions of the ancient tall ships always come. What must it have been like to climb the rigging, barefooted, knowing you’ve only got seconds to get to the topsail? To haul on the halyard like your life depended on it after a costly calm? To bellow with delight and relief when the barrelman yelled, “Land ho!”
Portlanders can get a taste of all that during SchoonerFest & Regatta 2017, sailing from points on the Portland waterfront during the last weekend in June, the 24th to the 26th. A berth on one of the five participating traditional schooners costs $45 to $60. If you prefer solid ground under your feet, enjoy the races and fanfare from the Eastern Prom.
Hosted by Portland Schooner Company and Tall Ships Portland, the event marks the beginning of summer sailing season, featuring some of the best-known schooners in the country (Gloucester’s Schooner Adventure [a national historic landmark] and Portland’s 131-foot Harvey Gamage are two). Wanderers in Portland have been known to catch the tall masts gliding by above nearby rooftops, run to see, and become lifelong sailing fans and sailors themselves. SchoonerFest, quite purposefully, brings all the mystery and wonder of the nautical life to those who may have never fully appreciated what it means to live in a seaside city before.
Stefan Edick, captain of Schooner Adventure, said, “We are really excited to join the racing and spend the weekend in Portland. Portland’s sail training community is growing and we look forward to showing Adventure’s transom to the other fine schooners who will be there…” In case you’re wondering, yes, that is a little bit of trash talk; a ship’s transom is the stern. Join the fun and see if Edick can live up to his hype. These vessels are quite a sight, either way.