Friendship sloops at the starting line of last year’s race. FILE PHOTO

Friendship sloops converge on MDI

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — A fleet of the gaff-rigged sloops named for the town of Friendship are set to gather in the Great Harbor of Mount Desert Island Saturday for the Friendship Sloop Society’s 23rd annual Southwest Harbor rendezvous and race.

“You could say it is our Daytona 500 because we start the season off with a big bang,” organizer Miff Lauriat said. “Ours is not a hardcore race with trophies and handicaps, it’s more just for fun. And it’s kind of a tune-up for the Homecoming Rendezvous in Rockland July 16-18.”

The race is set to begin around 1 p.m. Boatbuilder and longtime race committee chairman Ralph Stanley retired this year, but he has arranged for a new committee boat and leader, Lauriat said. Janneka Nielson, owner of the Ralph Stanley power boat Cinchona, has agreed to take the rains. Cinchona’s captain is Norman Sanborn of the Cranberry Isles.

The Friendship sloop fleet includes wood and fiberglass boats, many built in the last 50 years but a few “old ladies” built more than 100 years ago. Alice E. is the oldest, a 33-foot design built in 1899. Her owner and skipper Karl Brunner “has more experience than any of us,” Lauriat said, “because he’s sailing several trips a day, every day.” She’s part of the Sail Acadia fleet with passenger trips leaving from Dysart’s Marina.

New to the event this year will be the 38-foot Lucy Bell, built in 1983 by Peter Sellers. The Sellers sailed up and down the coast of Maine for many years with no engine, Lauriat said. New owner Jamie Carter added one this year.

The late James Russell Wiggins became a Friendship sloop owner when he moved to Maine following his tenure as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and became editor, publisher and owner of the Ellsworth American. His boat was Amity, a 1901 Wilbur Morse. Amity is now owned by Patrick Riley of Belfast, and she’ll grace Great Harbor this weekend.

Black Star will be here from Boothbay. Her owners are Ted Walsh and Judy Heininger. Walsh is co-author of the recent book “Lasting Friendships: A Century of Friendship Sloops.” Black Star was built in 1989 at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland, a copy of a 1903 Wilbur Morse boat. Her original owner was Frank Snyder, commodore of the New York Yacht Club at the time. “She’s a fine example of a Friendship sloop yacht. They didn’t spare any expense,” Lauriat said. “And Ted is an expert in marlinspike seamanship. If you have to reeve a new line and can’t remember how to do a Matthew Walker knot, you go over to Ted’s boat and he’ll show you.”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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