When and If, an 82-year old Wiscasset-built schooner, returns to her original home port as the centerpiece of Wiscasset’s Schoonerfest 2021.
Designed by renowned ship designer John Alden and commissioned by World War II hero George “Old Blood and Guts” Patton at a cost of $31,700 ($600,000 in 2021 dollars), When and If was built in 1939 at on the east side of White’s Island.
Shipyard owner F. F. Pendleton later told Portland’s Press Herald, “General Patton thought the world of that boat I built for him. When the contract was made, (Patton) said, “I’ve got the money for her now and I’m going to plank it into her and then I’ll have her. Nobody knows what the value of money’s going to be later, but a boat’s a boat and if she’s bronzed-fastened she’s pretty nearly immortal.”
A cannon salute the morning of Thursday, Aug. 19 (day two of Schoonerfest) will welcome When and If home and the vessel will be available for tours and day sails through the Sunday, Aug. 22 close of the festival.
On Saturday night, the ship will lead a lighted boat parade around Wiscasset harbor and be joined at the head of that gathering by two other notable vessels, Sycamore and Pagan Moon.
Sycamore, a 4-year-old, 52-foot steel, two-masted schooner whose current home port is Wiscasset, was 16 years in the making in the backyard of Fred and Mary Bowers’ Alna home. Its design honors pinky schooners (“pinky” means the stern is “pinked” or pinched together) that supported Maine fisheries a century and a half ago.
Pagan Moon, a steel cutter with dark red sails and a dark green hull, runs 32 feet on deck and 40 feet overall with an insulated steel hull whose cabin house encloses a finely finished mahogany interior.
Crafts of all shapes and sizes will be invited to join the lighted boat procession Saturday night. “We’re paying homage to the nautical heritage of Wiscasset,” noted Schoonerfest 2021 committee member Sherri Dunbar. “And while we’ll all have the pleasure of enjoying truly magnificent ships, we’ll also be honoring the history and memory of Hesper (201 feet in length) and Luther Little (204 feet) (which) were traffic-stopping sites – majestic 200-foot vessels grounded permanently in the 1930s that survived, in bits and pieces, until 1998.”
While those relics were bridge-side attractions for 60 years, their memory is a reminder of Wiscasset’s past. Said Dunbar, “Maine’s third-deepest harbor was a global center of shipbuilding, commerce, and shipping back to the 18th century.”
Just as people competed in sailing and rowing two centuries ago, so will Schoonerfest 2021 host sailboat and rowing races. And just as Wiscasset was every bit a town of families in the 1800s, so will the celebration of the past include children, with face-painting, bail-bucket races and lobster cornhole games.
To support a true community event, the town has signed on to support Schoonerfest 2021, providing police, fire and emergency support services to event attendees.
Wiscasset Creative Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is Schoonerfest’s parent and partner.
Peregrine Turbine Technologies, a Wiscasset-based energy-management specialist, is among the latest Schoonerfest 2021 sponsors, joining a group that includes Ames True Value Hardware, Berkshire Design Group, Big Barn Coffee, Chewonki Campground, First National Bank, Fog Art Restoration & Custom Framing, 40 Federal Studio, In the Clover, Moulinette, Red’s Eats, Renys, Roy Griffin Septic Cleaning, Seamus Gilbert Excavation, Sherri Dunbar/Dunham Realty, Sarah’s, Treats, Sylvan Gallery, Water Street Kitchen and Bar, Wiscasset Bay Gallery and Wiscasset Woods Lodge.