MOUNT DESERT — A forest of masts will grace Mount Desert Island waters on Tuesday, Aug. 2, as several schooners from the Maine Windjammer fleet and dozens of other sail and power boats rendezvous in Somes Sound in full flag dress as part of the Acadia National Park Centennial Celebration.
The boats are set to gather at the entrance to the Sound around 2 p.m. and make several passes up and down the sound before dispersing around 4 p.m. Beginning at 1 p.m., traffic on Sargeant Drive will be one-way from south to north, allowing motorists to park in one lane to enjoy the parade and take photographs.
“Spectators will enjoy amazing views of North America’s oldest fleet of commercial sailing vessels, as well as scores of yachts belonging to the Corinthian Yacht Club and the Northeast and Southwest Harbor fleets,” Meg Maiden of the Maine Windjammer Association said. “What started out as a way for the windjammers to show their appreciation for Acadia National Park, the Windjammer Parade, has grown to include visiting and local fleets of sailing and power boats of all sizes and designs. We were thrilled to make connections with other boating organizations that also wanted to celebrate Acadia under sail.”
Members of the Corinthian Yacht Club on their annual cruise will lead the parade. Thirty-two boats from the group are expected to participate, representative Bill Burnham of Connecticut said, some coming from as far as the Chesapeake Bay.
Centennial committee co-chair Jack Russell “knew we were sailing in these waters this year,” Burnham said. “So he asked us to participate and help organize the local fleets to accompany us, making it into a greater spectacular than it already was going to be with the schooners.”
Ned Butler has helped manage logistics and safety issues for the boats, working with harbormasters, the coast guard, park officials and MDI police departments.
The schooners Lewis R. French, Heritage, American Eagle, Isaac H. Evans, Ladona and Angelique are planning to participate. All of the windjammers are homeported in either Camden or Rockland and offer three to six-day cruises from late May to October. Some are replicas and others date to the Age of Sail. But all are built on traditional designs and rigged the old-fashioned way. The crew, helped by passengers who want to join in, raise the large gaff-rigged sails by hand.
Lewis R. French, American Eagle and Isaac H. Evans are each National Historic Landmarks. French has particular connections to MDI, having worked carrying freight here between 1900 and 1920. Capt. Garth Wells owns the boat, which the Windjammer Association says is the oldest commercial sailing vessel in the country. French also served as a sardine carrier before undergoing a major restoration and beginning passenger service in 1976.
Ladona was formerly known as Nathaniel Bowditch, but new owners Noah and Jane Barnes, who also own Stephen Tabor, have brought back her original name. The boat was launched in 1922 in Boothbay Harbor, built as a private yacht for the Loring family.
In a related centennial nautical event, a replica of the original America’s Cup yacht America, will visit Northeast Harbor and Bar Harbor Aug. 7-8.
See related story on page 8.
This story has been updated.