Windjammer Days honors region’s extensive boat building and maritime history

Celebrating the classic boats of the past through a Vintage Boat Parade and highlighting one of the shipyards who keeps the history of boat building alive.
Mon, 05/01/2023 - 12:00pm

    Be it a labor of love or the know-how that has been passed down over generations, it takes an accomplished group of shipwrights and boat builders with a unique set of skills to restore the wooden boats from our past. Bristol Marine's "The Shipyard" in Boothbay Harbor is home to this kind of mastery. Preservation of historic vessels is the hallmark of this yard which has deep roots in Boothbay Harbor going all the way back to 1869.

    Owner Andy Tyska recognizes the significance of that history and works hard to honor it. The 700-ton railway is well maintained and suited for large wooden boats, add to that its talented workforce and this landscape makes a unique and desirable configuration for restorations. Dennis Gunderson, general manager of The Shipyard describes it well, "It's a perfect union of skilled craftsmen and the means for hauling out large vessels in a way that will not damage their hull structure."

    For Tyska, Gunderson and all the people who work at any of Bristol Marine's four yards, maintaining a working waterfront and community-based shipyard is the top priority. It is worth noting that in addition to these collective ethics, the company also has an altruistic side. Much like a person lends a hand to another in distress, when Bristol Marine sees an opportunity to help a historic old boat in disarray, they take her in. After some much-needed TLC, they help her get through this transitional stage on her way to find her next home. "Sometimes these boats just need a place to be taken care of until they find their next life. We see it as our responsibility to carry on a tradition and help these boats out when we can." explains Dennis. "It's important to get people onboard these boats or they will just vanish, and their legacy will fade away."

    We shine a light on Bristol Marine as their core values align rightly with the mission of Boothbay Harbor's Windjammer Days. The week-long festival honors the region's extensive boat building and maritime history and celebrates the vital role it plays for all who live here. It is an effort to keep these traditions alive for generations to come. In addition to the Gathering of the Fleet of schooners which is central to the festival, Windjammer Days celebrates the classic boats of our past with a Vintage Boat Parade. Each year approximately forty or more antique boats circle the inner harbor in a spirited procession and then dock for a public celebration. Last year Bristol Marine generously offered to host the Pier Party at The Shipyard. The event included food and drinks provided by Mine Oyster Restaurant and live music by Dave Gagne. The ambiance of the location steeped in history added to the celebration which sold out and was a huge success. "We are a part of this community, and we gladly open our doors for the people who love classic boats and everything they stand for, we are proud to play a part in the Windjammer Days Festival,” said Gunderson.

    Bristol Marine was first founded 25 years ago in Bristol, Rhode Island by Tyska. Since then, Andy has acquired three additional locations over the years including yards in Somerset, Massachusetts, the aforementioned Shipyard in Boothbay Harbor, and their newest acquisition on Southport Island, Maine. Each shipyard has its own character, history, and customer base. First and foremost, for Tyska and his team is to respect what has come before them and work to retain that heritage. Recognizing that they are the custodians of each of these properties, their main goal is to build on its history. The company prides itself on being community focused, and their support goes much deeper than they let on. They are a full-service shipyard whose doors are wide open to not only the public, but also the industry. The Shipyard is very involved with The Landing School in Kennebunkport, Maine, The Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine and IYRS School of Technology & Trades located in Newport, Rhode Island. These schools actively train boat builders which is becoming an endangered craft. Many young people attend these schools in place of traditional college. Bristol Marine welcomes these students with tours, apprentice programs, and summer internships keeping this next generation excited about the art and skill of what they do.

    It is with great admiration and appreciation that we salute the stewardship, craftsmen, community involvement and devotion to the preservation of our maritime history that takes place at Bristol Marine. We welcome you to join us on Friday, June 30, for the Vintage Boat Parade & Pier Party in Boothbay Harbor. Spectators can watch the parade beginning at 4 p.m. from anywhere in the harbor. Announcing is done in Whale Park and the parade is a free event. The Pier Party at The Shipyard which includes food, drinks, live music, and not to be missed tours of The Shipyard begins at 4:30 p.m. and ends at 7 and is a ticketed event. You can find all the information at

    Windjammer Days is presented by Friends of Windjammer Days with generous support from sponsors: Bangor Savings Bank, Linekin Bay Resort, Mr. & Mrs. Mark Powell, First National Bank, Windjammer Emporium, Knickerbocker Group. Tugboat Inn, Fisherman’s Wharf Inn, Boothbay Harbor Inn, Samuel Adams, Pepsi, J. Edward Knight, Bristol Marine, Pine State Beverage, Rugged Seas, Mr. & Mrs. Jeff Suyematsu, Down East Magazine, Dogfish Head Beer, Bud Light, High Noon Sun Sips, Mark and Kathie Eldridge, FORJ, Shoreline Capital, Tindal & Callahan, 102.9 WBLM Maine’s Classic Rock Station, Summit Spring Water, News Center Maine and Nütrl.