MOUNT DESERT — A forest of masts will grace Mount Desert Island waters next summer when schooners of the Maine Windjammer fleet rendezvous in Somes Sound as part of the Acadia National Park Centennial celebration.
Most of the windjammer fleet is based in Camden or Rockport and takes passengers on weeklong cruises, sailing the coast during the day and anchoring at night. 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.
So far, Lewis R. French, Heritage, American Eagle, Isaac H. Evans, Ladona and Angelique are planning to participate in the Acadia Centennial Windjammer Parade Aug. 2, Meg Maiden of the Maine Windjammer Association said. The schooners’ itineraries do depend on weather, though, she said.
“We’re very excited about this event – it will be fun for our guests. It’s always a good trip when they get to Acadia. There are panoramic views of the mountains from the water. Plus, spectators should get some amazing views [of the boats]. Those 600-foot cliffs make a pretty dramatic backdrop!” Maiden said.
Organizers hope hikers on Acadia Mountain, Flying Mountain and Norumbega that day will enjoy a birds-eye view of the parade. Motorists on Sargeant Drive also will have a good view of the parading schooners.
The boats will tie up at John Williams Boat Company in Hall Quarry, Maiden said.
For one of the boats, the trip will be a kind of homecoming. Built in 1871 in Christmas Cove, Lewis R. French spent many years based on MDI carrying freight under various owners.
“From about 1900-1920, the French worked out of Mount Desert Island, carrying all kinds of freight as the Island communities were being developed and the park was being established,” Maiden said. “So the centennial ties in perfectly with that boat in particular.”
Captain Garth Wells owns Lewis R. French, which the Windjammer Association says is the oldest commercial sailing vessel in the country. The boat 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.