It’s Monday and sea fever has Portland, Maine firmly in its grip. The much anticipated “Tall Ships” are here, and the wild call of the running tide has succeeded in attracting tens of thousands to Portland’s first big sails event since OpSail in 2000. Berthed neatly together along the Maine State Pier and adjacent to Casco Bay Lines — in an area small enough to allow all visitors a chance to scrutinize every vessel up close — are a dozen+ deep water ships and schooners. And there’s a lot to see.
The 200-foot Oliver Hazard Perry, America’s first domestically-built, fully-rigged ocean goer in over a century; from Nova Scotia, the 179-foot barque, Picton Castle; from Sevilla, Spain, El Galeón Andalucía, a masterfully created fiberglass replica of a seventeenth century Spanish galleon; the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s training barque Eagle — all breathtaking at close hand as their masts tower over the buildings of the Portland waterfront.
Here also are the Maine Maritime Academy’s schooner Bowdoin, Northeast Maritime Institute’s 74-foot brigantine Fritha, the schooner Tree of Life out of Newport, R.I., and the square topsail schooner, Lynx. Lastly the stunning, privately owned Columbia, a 141-foot reproduction of the storied Gloucester fishing schooner that took second behind Bluenose in the famous 1923 International Fishermen’s Cup Races in Halifax.
Rounding out the fleet, as they say, the local vessels: the schooner Alert, the gaff-rigged cutter Frances, and Portland Harbor’s two John Alden-designed day sailing schooners Bagheera and Wendameen,
Officially named the Iberdrola Tall Ships Portland 2015, the event has done a wonderful job celebrating Maine’s maritime history and promoting the beauties and skills of sailing, while raising scholarship funds for Sailing Ships Portland, the local non-profit that organizes shipboard adventures for high school age students who sign on for a week or more of tall ship experience on the high seas.
Every ship has a story. Picton Castle has completed six circumnavigations; Bowdoin made 26 trips to the Arctic Circle before 1954; Eagle was once named Horst Wessel and belonged to Germany. And, best of all, every Tall Ships Portland guest will return home with their own sea tales to tell.