The first Maine Lobster Boat Race of the season opens at Boothbay Harbor in mid-June, and there are plenty of opportunities throughout the summer to watch lobster boat races throughout the summer in other areas around Maine.
Since the early 1900s the lobster fishermen of the State of Maine have been competing to see just who has the fastest boat. It began with sloops and evolved to power boats with the development of the internal combustion engine. First it was the make-and-break engines, which were followed by the typical automobile gasoline engine of 200 hp and now the boats are diesel powered with engines putting out as much as 1,200 hp.
Real pirates in Maine are now a thing of the past, but there are still several opportunities to enjoy pirate-themed fun.
Historical Pirates in Maine
The first pirate known to operate off the coast of Maine—and perhaps the best known—was an Englishman named Dixie Bull. Dixe (or Dixey). Born in the early 1600s in eastern England, Bull sailed up and down the coast of New England, trading English knives and beads for fur. In 1632 while docked in Penobscot Bay, Bull’s ship was robbed of all of its valuable merchandise. Unable to recover his property, Bull sought revenge and turned to piracy, and became known for plundering small settlements along the Maine coast, most notably at Pemaquid.
The coast of Maine is designed by nature as a prime playground for kids. Most obvious are the miles of beaches all along the coast. The water can be a bit chilly, but kids don’t seem to mind. Favorites for the littlest ones are Long Sands in York, Crescent Beach, Ogunquit and Lincolnville Beach which has a long stretch of shallow water perfect for splashing and making sand sculptures. Old Orchard Beach with its arcades and shops is a favorite with teens. Bar Harbor is a great lesson in understanding the tides with the bar that is completely covered at high tide and walkable at low tide. Just keep an eye on the changes to keep from being stranded!
What could be finer than great food on board a magnificent sailing schooner in Penobscot Bay or a river boat tour with an oyster tasting? Maine’s schooner fleet has always been renowned for its food with several boats boasting true cuisine fit for the most discerning foodie.
On the J&E Riggin, Chef Annie Mahle has honed her craft with both knife and pen. Her first cookbook titled At Home, At Sea, was highlighted on the Today Show and her food has been featured in dozens of national media outlets including the Food Network and Bon Appetit Magazine. The wonderful menu adds to the historic feel of the cruise, and much of what is offered comes from local farms and Annie’s ever expanding garden. Beginning with the highest quality and freshest ingredients allows for simple yet elegant meals that are both healthy and charming.
The newly rebuilt Ladona takes dining to a new level on board. The food on Ladona reflects the restrained decadence and pure aesthetic of sailing in Maine. Produce is fresh, local and carefully prepared. Applying their professional expertise and personal style, Captain Noah and Jane Barnes transformed their beloved Stephen Taber’s traditional classic comfort food to the gourmet standards of 21st century foodies and built its reputation as a food destination to the delight of many well satisfied guests. Jane has worked in the wine industry for over twenty years and enjoys selecting a white and a red for dinner each night, along with some special treats for good measure. There is no question that fresh air and the nature of a voyage at sea adds flavor to the food.
For a different experience, the River Tripper out of Damariscotta offers wine and oyster tasting and oyster as well as sake pairing cruises. Maine food aficionados can sample half a dozen different oyster types from the Damariscotta River, ranging from the mild Norumbega oysters to the extra briny and plump Pemaquid oysters, all paired with sumptuous summer wines, bubbly, or even sake.
Maine’s coast offers many opportunities to get up close and personal with a variety of sea life. To keep it simple, a walk on the beach and an exploration of tide pools will turn up crabs, sea snails and anemones.
A visit to the Maine State Aquarium offers more options. Located on the water in West Boothbay Harbor, Maine, the aquarium is operated by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The main gallery resembles the rocky coast of Maine. A collection of regional fish and invertebrates can be seen hidden within the granite-like cliffs. The aquarium features extraordinary lobsters of all sizes and colors and colorful marine life. A special attraction is the 20 foot long elevated touch tank that houses a multitude of invertebrates. Feel the spiny skin of a sea star or sea urchin and get squirted by a sea cucumber or scallop. Watch the moon snail pull in its enormous “gooey” foot and be fascinated by the sea star retracting its stomach.
Photo Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Photo Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Photo Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Photo Courtesy of Diver Ed
Photo Courtesy of Diver Ed
Photo Courtesy of Diver Ed
To get an even more “real ocean” experience, take a “dive-in” theater cruise. Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater is a two- or two-and-a-half-hour scenic boat ride out into Frenchman Bay in Acadia National Park, where Diver Ed and his sidekick “Mini Ed” dive down to the ocean floor with specially equipped video and sound equipment, allowing you to see and hear the ocean floor in real time from the comfort of the deck.
At the end of the dive, Ed & Mini Ed return to the boat – and so do the creatures! Touch tanks allow you to observe, handle – and sometimes even kiss – these strange and mysterious beings before they are returned safely to the sea. You will be amazed at the colors, the textures and the variety of animal life beneath the waves.
In Stonington, you can bring your children to the Penobscot East Resource Center. In the permanent public education and exhibit space, children can learn about the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and check the Touch Tank that brings marine life to the Center for all to see. The Downeast Fisheries Center is staffed Sunday through Friday from 10am – 4pm.
The story of coastal Maine is the story of ships of all sizes, and across Maine there are schools that teach the art of boat building. Take a class or just come by one of the schools to see how it is done.
Photo by Dick Leighton
Located in the tiny coastal town of Brooklin, the WoodenBoat School is an extension of WoodenBoat magazine. This well-known boat building and sailing institution has provided “access to experience” for thousands of people in construction, maintenance, repair, design, seamanship, metal working, canvas work, photography, and other related craft. Emphasizing “hands-on” learning in a relaxed setting, the WoodenBoat School is a meeting ground where folks of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels can gather to meet, live, and work among others who share similar interests.
In Rockland, at The Apprenticeshop the core traditional boat building programs include the 2-year Apprenticeship Program, an intensive experience designed to teach all aspects of traditional wooden boat building; the 12-week Small Boatbuilding Program, a shorter course designed to give participants an understanding of basic traditional boat building; and the Extended/Advanced Intensive Program for those with previous woodworking or boat building experience.
The Carpenter’s Boat Shop in Bristol takes a slightly different approach. It is an open and affirming intentional community designed around a nine month apprenticeship program committed to traditional wooden boat building, seamanship, and service. The Carpenter’s Boat Shop has provided a safe harbor for people from around the country who are navigating the seas of transition from a variety of life circumstances.
The Landing School in Arundel focuses on preparing for careers in the marine industry as practical designers, builders and systems technicians, whether working professionally on today’s vessels, adapting to the industry’s evolving technology while imagining and building the boats of the future. To maintain your own boat, to restore a boat, do woodworking around your home, to build your own fine furniture, the skills offered at The Landing School can follow you home.
You might not automatically think of gardens when you think of maritime Maine, but there are a host of beautiful seaside spots in bloom all season long showcasing a range of styles from historic to modern.
Asticou Garden | Photo Courtesy of gardenpreserve.org
Celia Thaxter Garden | Photo Courtesy of Peter E. Randall
Map of Coastal Maine Botanical Garden Courtesy of mainegardens.org
Garden of the Five Senses at Coastal Maine Botanical Garden | Photo Courtesy of mainegardens.org
Garden at Franciscan Guest House | Photo Courtesy of franciscanguesthouse.com
Thuya Garden | Photo Courtesy of gardenpreserve.org
In the southern end of the state, Historic New England’s Hamilton House, located on a bluff overlooking the Salmon Falls River has restored gardens that are faithful to their historical origins and provide a great beginning for a tour of Maine gardens.
Heading north to Boothbay, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is a must see for garden enthusiasts and anyone with an eye for nature’s beauty. After 16 years of planning, planting, and building, the grand opening of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens was celebrated on June 13, 2007. Today the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens comprises 270 acres of tidal shoreland and in 2014 welcomed more than 100,000 guests throughout the year. The gardens have an array of plantings, ponds, and garden structures, providing many opportunities to stroll, sit and admire.
Even further north are the famous azalea gardens at Asticou in Northeast Harbor. The beauty of the Azalea Garden changes and evolves throughout the year. A flowering cherry tree heralds the start of the season in mid-May, followed by azaleas and rhododendrons in many hues in late May through June. July blooms include Japanese iris, smoke bush, rosebay rhododendron, and the fragrant sweet azalea.
Between north and south, there are many more gardens to tour and enjoy including wild gardens in Acadia National Park, poet Celia Thaxter’s island garden, a sunken garden at the Nickels-Sortwell House in Wiscasset, a Franciscan Garden in Kennebunkport and many more.
Gardens in Maine are Maine dwellers’ compensation for the snows and cold of winter. Come take a walk around and see all that blooms!
From a full size representation of the mighty Wyoming (the largest wooden sailing vessel ever built) to fleets of models, find your ship at Maine’s maritime museums. And not just ships, but photographs, art, ship’s captains’ homes and furniture, navigation instruments and more. If it’s nautical, you are sure to find compelling, educational exhibits for everyone at these museums.
Maine Maritime Museum
Maine Maritime Museum
Penobscot Marine Museum
Penobscot Marine Museum
The Sail, Power & Steam Museum
Maine Lighthouse Museum
In Bath, the Maine Maritime Museum explores our state’s maritime heritage and culture. An historic shipyard and Victorian era shipyard owner’s home are just two of the buildings to visit. The kids will love the pirate playship and human sized lobster trap. Take a trolley tour of Bath Ironworks where today’s navy ships are built or a cruise on the mighty Kennebec River.
Further north, in Rockland’s old Snow Shipyard, the Sail, Power and Steam Museumhas a wide collection of maritime artifacts to intrigue all ages. Find a replica of a ship’s bridge complete with radar and navigation instruments, a hands-on knot tying exhibit and Admiral MacMillan’s equipment from Artic expedition.
Also in Rockland, the Maine Lighthouse Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in lighthouses and American maritime history. From sparkling lenses to heartwarming stories of the keepers and families the museum is home to the largest collection of lighthouse artifacts and mementos.
And in the famous ship captain’s town of Searsport, the Penobscot Marine Museum brings history to life. The Museum houses one of the largest collections of historical photos of ships, shipyards, towns, homes and people. Maybe you will find images of your hometown or even your grandfather. Exhibits feature nautical art, ship models, ships papers and a chance to “go fishing.” Buildings around the site feature regional watercraft and the museum hosts numerous special events and exhibits. Plenty of hands-on fun for kids as well.
Maine Open Lighthouse Day happens every September, and with over 60 lighthouses dotting Maine’s coast, visitors should consider lighthouses as a theme for their vacation.
Lighthouses are both historically significant as well as visually interesting, and come in various shapes, sizes and monikers. From the oldest lighthouse in Maine—Portland Head Light located in Cape Elizabeth and completed in 1791—to Whitlocks Mill Light—on the St. Croix River and the most northern in the state—these “Beacons of Light” were instrumental in helping sailors navigate the difficult waters and craggy shores that make up Maine’s tremendous coastline.
What is it about puffins that is so intriguing? Is it because they are both cute and strange looking (think a penguin with a clown mask on) at the same time and have a funny way (think Charlie Chaplin) of walking? Is it the clever way they line up a row fish on their beaks, ready to offer their young a smorgasbord?
Or perhaps it is that the only puffin habitat in the U.S. is exclusively in Maine (puffins are much more common in Iceland and Norway, Greenland), and we’re proud that, in just over 100 years, we have helped the population here surge significantly.
In 1900 there were only two Atlantic puffins known to nest in the United States, right on Maine’s barren Matinicus Rock. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 put a stop to puffins being hunted both for their prized feathers and eggs, and other more recent endeavors such as the Project Puffin Audubon Society, have helped with the great progress made on behalf of increasing the puffin population. Today, Maine provides a summer habitat for approximately 4,000 puffins each year. A long way from just 2!
Whatever the reason we find ourselves charmed by these small, odd birds, puffins are certainly rock stars here in Maine, and people have many ways to flock—pun intended—and catch the show:
Tune in to a puffin cam to watch the progress of fledglings!
Head out to Eastern Egg Rock, Matinicus Rock, Seal Island, Petit Manan and Machias Seal Island (not to be confused with the aforementioned Seal Island) on a puffin-watching cruise, where keen eyes commonly locate groups of puffins sitting in the water, nesting on the rocks, or flying by.
The Following Article is From an Interview of Meg Maiden by the Maine Office of Tourism | Photo Courtesy of Schooner Stephen Taber
Thank Captain Frank Swift.
It was his notion back in the 1930s to turn the classic ships now known as windjammers into places where people can relax, cruise and have the seafaring experience of a lifetime.
Those old ships, which were used for shipping cargo, were becoming obsolete with the birth of the steam engine and the emergence of railroads. But Captain Swift had other ideas—and the ships were saved, giving birth to an experience that is quintessentially Maine.
Today, windjammer cruises are incredibly popular, appealing to couples, families and groups of people just looking for a little fun and adventure on the Atlantic.
Captain Barry King, who helms the Schooner Mary Day out of Camden, follows in the footsteps of Captain Swift. “There’s nothing about my job that’s boring,” says Barry. “Sailing is pretty darn exciting, and we never know where we’re going.”
Yeah, you read that right—windjammer cruises don’t follow a set course or itinerary. “If you’re the kind of person who is wound up and needs a schedule and an itinerary, this isn’t the type of vacation for you,” Barry says, with his trademark honesty. “For me, it’s relaxing.” With the lack of an itinerary, you get to leave the stress of life behind. In a way, Maine’s true nature is personified in a windjammer: Just follow your own inner compass and let the wind be your guide.
Few know as much about windjammer cruises as Meg Maiden, marketing director for the Maine Windjammer Association. “We have eight ships in our fleet, and five of those have been designated as National Historic Landmarks,” she says proudly. Maine has the oldest and largest fleet of windjammers in North America. “They sail 20 weeks out of the year … the actual sailing season begins Memorial Day and ends on Columbus Day.”
So what does the typical (if there is such a thing) windjammer cruise look like?
“Windjammers can hold 21 to 40 people, depending on the size of the boat, and go on three-, four-, five- and six-day cruises,” says Meg. The first night, you sleep at the dock, and when you wake up the next morning, you get a chance to run into town and pick up things you may have forgotten or need for the trip. “Go get your beer and wine, because it’s BYOB,” she says. You sail about six hours each day, and you can get as involved as you want in sailing the boat. “Passengers can steer, navigate, raise sail, lower sail, help with the anchor, help cook—as much as they want to do,” Meg says.
She also reminds potential travelers: “You’re not stuck on a boat for a week.” They set sail in Penobscot Bay, originating from either Camden or Rockland, and you could visit numerous islands, including Vinalhaven, North Haven, Isle au Haut and Swan’s Island, to name a few. But the real allure is in the off-the-beaten-path, uninhabited islands that offer passengers access to a part of Maine that gives the state its singular mystique. “The captains know which ones they can go to,” Meg says, adding that “there are lots of places you can go that are pristine where you don’t see anyone—they’re ‘little gems.’”
Photo by Ben Magro
Schooner American Eagle Parade | Photo by Meg Maiden
Atlantic Puffins | Photo by Patrick Burns
Photo by Brian Thomas
Captain Brenda Thomas | Photo by Hazel Mitchell
Crew on Sail | Photo by Fred LeBlanc
Downeast Cruising | Photo Courtesy of Schooner Stephen Taber
Photo by Anna Davidson
Photo by Eiichi Okamura
Photo by Fred LeBlanc
Schooner Heritage at Sunset | Photo by Mikael Carstanjen
Schooner Heritage Galley | Photo by Fred Le Blanc
Stern of Schooner Heritage | Photo by James Boyle
Kids at Sail | Photo Courtesy of Windjammer Isaac H. Evans
Schooner Mary Day | Photo by Ed LeBlanc
Lobster Bake | Photo Courtesy of Schooner Heritage
Schooners Mary Day and Stephen Taber | Photo by Jen Martin
Crew of Schooner Mary Day | Photo by Barry King
Osprey on Nest | Photo by Barry King
Schooner Mary Day | Photo by Steve Guthier
Guests Having Fun| Photo Courtesy of Schooner Stephen Taber
Schooner Mary Day at Sunset | Photo by Ed de Mellier
Schooner Victory Chimes at Parade | Photo by Andre Albert
Schooner Victory Chimes at Anchor | Photo by Fred LeBlanc
The four-to-nine-person crew keeps you comfortable, and windjammer captains are unique characters that keep everyone entertained. Meg affirms, “They have great personalities and character. They love being out on the water, they love their vessels, they love being around people and sharing the coast of Maine.”
Captain Barry King has a passion for sailing and meeting people that is one of a kind. He says it best: “I get a chance to share the place I love with a group of guests—in my case, 28 new guests every week. I have spent my life exploring this coastline, and there’s something new for me every day.”
Windjammer cruises offer distinct experiences for people of different interests, ages and backgrounds. For families, a majority of cruises require that kids be at least 12 years old. They are perfect for anniversaries, family reunions and birthdays—a family can charter the entire boat.
And for the environmentally conscious traveler, Meg notes that windjammers are a very green form of transportation. “If you love the idea of wind power and green—it’s totally efficient. They use very little resources and hardly any electricity or water. And not a lot of fuel either,” she says.
It’s an adventure that’s priced right too—even if you’re a couple looking for a distinctive adventure and want to book a unique wine-tasting cruise. The average price is usually right around $1,000 per person for cruises of the six-day variety.
Throw in a little evening jam session (passengers who play are encouraged to bring an acoustic instrument), the gourmet food on board and a lobster bake in a unique setting like Pond Island, and a windjammer cruise—like so many Maine experiences—is something you won’t soon forget.
Captain Barry King sums it up: “This is the second-greatest show on earth, right behind P.T. Barnum.”
About Meg Maiden
After graduating from Amherst College, Meg Maiden moved to the Maine coast where she has been involved with boats ever since, first at WoodenBoat Magazine, followed by 25 years as the Marketing Director for the Maine Windjammer Association. She lives in Blue Hill and gets out on the water every chance she gets.
One of Maine’s most significant maritime traditions also involves a favorite Maine pastime: eating lobster! Sitting down to enjoy the delicacy is definitely the end goal, however it’s also important to take time to understand how Maine’s signature seafood item gets from the water to the table. Before donning the bib, cracking the claws and dipping the tail into the drawn butter, consider several ways of taking the time to understand the evolution of the iconic Maine lobster.
CHECK OUT THE (ART-Y) FACTS
Maine Maritime Museum Lobster Exhibit
There are a number of museums in Maine that have exhibits, collections and activities dedicated specifically to the Maine lobster. Visit the recently opened Lobstering & the Maine Coast at the Maine Maritime Museum, the largest permanent exhibit that tells the authentic story of Maine’s most iconic fishery. When you’re on Islesford, head to Boats and Buoys, Lobstering on Little Cranberry Island at the Islesford Historical Museum and check out this community-curated exhibit that features imagery and hands-on activities to celebrate the men and women who have fished the waters around Little Cranberry Island for generations. And if you’re island hopping, you can go over to the Swan’s Island Lobster & Marine Museum to experience how, through extensive preservation work, brothers Theodore and Galen Turner allow visitors access to antique equipment, old time fishing techniques, photographs, navigational tools in order to learn the story of commercial fishing in Swan’s Island, Maine.
Photo Courtesy of Maine State Aquarium
Learn how the humble lobster began as bait and even prison food before it eventually made its way to a highly sought-out Maine delicacy. The Downeast Fisheries Trail site provides an in-depth and informative article on the history and science of lobstering, and how finally in the 1800s the commercial industry started to flourish and lobster was on its way to being an economically important resource and high end food. The Lobster Issue of the Maine Thing Quarterly gives readers a plethora of lobster facts, insight into a day in the life of a lobster fisherman, information on the long-standing Maine sea-to-table movement and, of course, how/where to eat our favorite crustaceans. And just when you thought you knew all there was to know about Maine lobster, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative offers a vast collection of resources and information on the iconic Maine sea creature including where to buy and how to cook and eat a Maine lobster.
Video Courtesy of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative
BEFORE YOU EAT THE ROLL,
SEE WHERE THE LOBSTER CAME FROM
Lobstermen at work | Monhegan Island, ME (Photo Courtesy of Thierry Bonneville)
A number of lobster fisherman/woman offer boat tours leaving from Bar Harbor, Portland, and Boothbay Harbor, among other ports. Before lunch or dinner, get out and see first hand how lobstering is done and even experience hauling traps right out of the water—talk about doing something of the beaten path! And since you worked so hard for your lunch or dinner, you’ll be more than ready to sample some fresh lobster–the hardest part will be deciding where to dine or what recipe to follow. Maine has a seemingly unending selection of places to get lobster, from the “best” or “most authentic” shacks to fine dining restaurants totraditional community beach bakes. You could also, of course, make your own lobster roll…
WHAT WE DO:
ENJOY LOBSTER EVENTS ALL YEAR, EVERY YEAR
Succulent Maine lobsters! Photo Courtesy of Thierry Bonneville
Every year in Coastal Maine there are year round, annual, and unique events and activities that center around the theme of lobster. For example, every year from June to August, the Maine Lobster Boat Races not only showcase participants’ sailing and boating talents, but spectators also really get into the spirit too as they cheer on their favorite boat. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Lobster Bicycle Ride has been circling the state since 2002—the routes vary from 15 to 100 miles and follow winding, country lanes and breathtaking rockbound coast; Bicycling Magazine recently recognized the century route as one of the TOP TEN in the country. Head to Rockland the very end of July to the first weekend in August—like thousands of attendees have since 1947—for the Maine Lobster Festival, a nationally and internationally recognized event and the ultimate festival for lobster aficionados!
Everyone knows that lobster is the quintessential Maine food, however we also have another “secret weapon” in our larder. The same marine ecosystem that produces Maine’s succulent lobster also works for producing some amazingly noteworthy oysters. The region’s cold, pristine waters and sheltered, tidal rivers are optimal for Crassostrea virginica (East coast oysters), and Maine is increasingly being recognized as one of the country’s premier oyster regions, evidenced by the high product demand.
To get an idea of just how prevalent oysters are in Maine, if you travel for example along the riverbanks Damariscotta and Newcastle—where many Maine oysters are grown—you will see piles and piles of middens, an indication of the thousands of years that people have been eating oysters in the area.
Maine boasts over 3,000 islands, some accessible by bridge, some by ferry, some by private boat and some just not at all. Mount Desert, home of Acadia National Park, is so easily reached by car it seems not an island at all. But for a more nautical experience try an island by ferry.
Off Portland in Casco Bay are six islands served by Casco Bay Lines. While many residents use the ferries to commute to work, leisure cruises are offered as well. Choose from a family trip with the kids to explore tidal pools or wade at one of the small beach areas. Escape for a romantic lunch or dinner, a day at the beach, or bring your bike and explore island life.
Photo: Summit of Mt. Penobscot in Acadia by Richard Moore
Wiscasset was a prosperous seaport in the late 18th century, filled with sailing ships and international commerce that supported a sophisticated social scene. Wiscasset ships brought cargos of lumber, fish and fur to Europe returning with manufactured goods and accoutrements for the fine mansions in town. The smell of tar and the sounds of the docks filled the air. Everyone made their living from shipping and the businesses that supported it, until it all abruptly stopped with Jefferson’s Embargo of 1807.
Trade revived after the War of 1812 ended, but the world of international trade had moved on. In the 1890s, Wiscasset was rejuvenated by an influx of wealthy families looking for a summer home in a quaint New England village. They were looking for a place of cool and quiet charm on the water, where cars, telephones and other modern distractions were slow to take root. These families bought and preserved the large historic homes we see today.
Photo of Castle Tucker Courtesy of Historic New England
One of the best perspectives of Maine is from the water—this vantage point offers visitors views of coves, islands and harbors, all while taking in Maine’s timeless beauty and getting a sense of its seagoing history. From the on-the-water perspective, you’ll see many of Maine’s charming ports, observe animals such as seals, porpoises, and osprey, learn about the history of the region, and have unique access to seaport villages.
In late spring, summer and early fall, there are a number companies offering many ways to enjoy a bay or harbor cruise with departure options up and down the coast, from Boothbay to Bar Harbor, Camden to Castine. There are also a variety of vessels to choose from, including windjammers to lobster boats to a 1934 motor yacht similar to Hemingway’s beloved “Pilar”.
“The Coast & the Sea: Marine and Maritime Art in America,” currently on exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art, is a must-see for history buffs, sea aficionados, art lovers or those who are just curious to learn more about how Maine maritime history helped shape the growth of the United States.
A relatively young country, the narrative of the United States still continues to be written and its future re-imagined with each new generation. Since its founding, the “story” of the United States has largely centered around ideas of optimism, hard work, and promise, and the notion that this ideology came from an era when the country was inextricably tied to the sea is no coincidence. Throughout history, the sea has represented humanity’s spirit of hope and possibility, with the simultaneous potential for danger and ruin. In the context of a hard fought for and newly established nation, the sea represented both of these realities while framing a collective vision for the people of the United States of America. Those who live on the coast of Maine understand that proximity to the ocean and waterfronts can have quite an impact on one’s identity and on our perceptions and understanding of the world.
In many Maine coastal towns the maritime past is still part of the present, and Belfast is no exception. Sitting right on the water where the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River spills into the Penobscot Bay, early settlers of Belfast immediately saw the town’s commercial potential. With Belfast’s prime location, abundance of timber, sloping waterfront and proximity to varied agriculture, it didn’t take long for a strong maritime industry to develop.
If you’re a hopeless romantic misplaced in this century, now’s your chance to experience the salty life of the 1800s. More than a dozen 19th-century-style tall ships in mid-coast Maine are ready to whisk you back to a simpler time before televisions, refrigerators, phones and faxes. You’ll sail aboard majestic two- and three-masted coasting ships that once freighted granite, timber and hay or aboard fishing schooners that supplied mainstream America with cod, swordfish and oysters.
(Top banner photograph: Schooner Heritage by Fred LeBlanc)
Departing from Camden or Rockland, you’ll sail for up to a week amid glorious islands, across sparkling bays and around lighthouse-crested fingers of the rocky coast. Like the mariners of yesteryear, your captain relies on the wind and tide for propulsion, and itineraries are cast to the wind.
Lobster traps stacked 10 feet tall on the wharf, with as many colorful buoys stashed neatly inside each one. Peapods and dories floating nearby, with lines attached to a cleat on the edge of the dock. Fishing boats tied snug in the harbor’s mooring field further out, bows all pointed in the same direction, into the wind.
It is an iconic image of Maine’s working waterfront, and it tells a timeless story of communities whose economy, culture, and character are intertwined with the sea.
I love mud between my toes on a hot summer day, at the edge of the sea, pants rolled up above the knees. I love being a child again, up to the elbows and ankles in mud. I’m digging for clams to steam for tonight’s supper on the beach—although you don’t have to dig in the mud with your bare hands, like I do!
Most people wear rubber gloves and boots and dig clams with a 4-tined rake called a hoe. My father used one of these, and a wooden slatted basket called a roller. Digging clams was his main income during good weather, along with raking blueberries.
Traveling through the coastal towns of Maine it is easy to become enchanted by the views crafted by years of weathering, carved by the salty sea. The unique people who inhabit these communities capture their histories in a timeless experience—one they will readily share with you.
Lise Becu with her sculpture, “Spirit of the Marsh”
The Boothbay Sea and Science Center is a community sailing and science education center offering affordable access to waterfront activities for mid-coast youth, adults, and visitors through unique sailing programs and innovative experiential learning activities. The organization’s mission is to advance recreational sailing experiences and the study of ocean sciences by minimizing economic and physical obstacles, and developing independence, self-confidence, teamwork and volunteerism among its students. Last summer the center successfully piloted community sailing programs for both teens (the Mainsail program) and youngsters (the Mizzen program).
When people think of Maine, they tend to think of lobsters. The lobstering industry has always been a key component of Maine’s economy, dating back to the 1800s. Today, the fishery employs over 5,900 licensed lobster harvesters and is a multimillion dollar industry that supports a number of coastal villages throughout the state. Lobster is a featured component of many recipes enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, but have you ever wondered where those lobsters come from or what it takes to get them from the seafloor to your table? Now you have an opportunity to find out as you take part in one of the many lobster hauling excursions available in the Boothbay Harbor Region.
Hauling traps, mending nets, digging clams, raking worms, wrinkling, dip netting, seining… you can see all these activities in Downeast, Maine, where men and women make their living from the sea. Folks in Downeast Maine rely on the sea, and are fierce protectors of its bounty. Not only do they fish here, but people also seed clams to restore the flats, grow salmon for release in native brooks, and truck alewives around dams to help them get them to their spawning habitat.
Downeast, you can witness resource harvest and resource conservation hand in hand, and that’s pretty unique!
Take a look at a coastal map of Maine and you’ll quickly discover there are dozens of peninsulas that stretch like fingers into the Gulf of Maine. Each one is unique and well worth exploring, and the Blue Hill Peninsula is no exception.
When visiting this Peninsula, it helps to love boats. Brooklin, the self-proclaimed “Boat Building Capital of the World” is home to six companies that produce everything from prams and peapods to offshore fishing boats to some of the world’s finest wooden yachts.
The Bold Coast Scenic Byway is a 125-mile scenic driving route connecting a network of communities whose entire way of life is historically bound to its wild and scenic coastal environment. The people who make their living by harvesting the bounty of the land invite visitors to come experience their stories and explore first hand the places and events that shaped them.