The Tall Ships Festival in Boothbay Harbor June 25-27 is happening through a partnership between Friends of Windjammer Days and Tall Ships of America.
It had been scheduled for 2020 by Mark Gimbel of Friends of WJD for Maine’s Bicentennial. But the pandemic put the kibosh on the arrival of seven ships – and Windjammer Days. Gimbel, a founding member of the Friends group with wife Dianne, started making plans for that Bicentennial celebration during the 2019 Windjammer Days Festival.
“The first conference call I was on was with ports up and down the coast. Dave Cheever was the head of the Maine Bicentennial Commission and spearheaded a Tall Ships Challenge,” Gimbel said. “Ports had to form a committee, create an event, and apply for grants. Then the whole coast of Maine could experience 200 years of sailing ships and Boothbay Harbor was the first choice for 2020.”
With COVID-19, all of the state’s Bicentennial events were canceled. Friends of WJD held out on canceling until late April, after Gov. Janet Mills announced her four-part plan to reopen the state, which included limiting crowds to under 50.
“But (Friends of WJD) soldiered on and became the only port for the Tall Ships of America event on the East Coast this year,” Gimbel said.
Then the real work began: What ships could come in 2021? Those scheduled for the 2020 event had already booked ports of call or were not leaving their home ports. Gimbel called Privateer Lynx captain Don Peacock, who said yes and suggested Gimbel call his son, Alexander Peacock, captain of Spirit of Bermuda; perhaps Alex could rework his sailing schedule. The next call was to the Nao Santa Maria. The Seville, Spain Tall Ship came for Windjammer Days three years ago. The captain said he and the crew weren’t keen on returning to Europe just yet and Nao Santa Maria could make it to Boothbay Harbor in time for the Tall Ships Festival. From Bailey Island, Bethany McNelly-Davis and Perry Davis, captains of Schooner Alert (a registered Tall Ship) were already coming for Windjammer Days, and there were the four ships for the Tall Ships Festival!
Deck tours of Spirit of Bermuda, Privateer Lynx and Nao Santa Maria will be held in two sessions, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets are 20 per person and are on sale now, only through eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/boothbay-harbor-windjammer-days-tall-ships-festival-tickets-154249072127 fbclid=IwAR2D2u70006U2akTlI4yOU2axgnq97emqN8H-iHCDoqrPIapvW6Que_TKDk
Before buying tickets, remember these are historic ships with limited accessibility for those with physical disabilities. All guests must be able to walk up a gangway, vertical ship stairs, and possibly ladders. And, at low tide, gangways down to ships will be extremely steep.
There is always special security in force for Tall Ships of America events. All personal belongings may be checked. No weapons are permitted, or other items security personnel deem unlawful or dangerous. And prohibited items found will not be held at the gate for people. Expect bag checks at the entry areas for the ships: in front of Windjammer Emporium on Pier 1 for the Nao Santa Maria; and at the Whale Park dock for Privateer Lynx and Spirit of Bermuda.
Bring your e-ticket(s), printed or on your phone, to the Friends of WJD information tent/check-in place in Whale Park to receive the deck tours wristband and directions to the ships.
Gimbel noted there are 1,500 tickets available, most of which will be sold online at eventbrite, with 20% available at the Friends of Windjammer Days tent in Whale Park. But, to be sure you get your tours, don’t wait; buy those tickets in advance.
For those who didn’t have the chance to board Nao Santa Maria three years ago, Gimbel noted there is a museum telling the story of the ship below the top deck. This tour would be the longest of the three, maybe 20-30 minutes.
And, as always, for up-to-the-minute details and information about the Tall Ships and Windjammer Days festivals, go to www.boothbayharborwindjammerdays.org