Schooners make snug, festive fit in Camden Harbor for Windjammer Festival

Sun, 09/03/2023 - 1:00pm

CAMDEN — There could not have been a finer weekend to celebrate Camden’s most storied legacy, the windjammers that make their trade where the mountains meet the sea, and contribute to the town’s unique schooner culture. 

But to start the annual Windjammer Festival, always taking place on the few days just before the Labor Day holiday, the vessels first need to nestle in tight quarters at the head of Camden’s inner harbor, where the Megunticook River empties into the seawater, where dinghies and small boats fill the dock space, and where the admiring crowds gather to see them all come together.

It is tense process to park the schooners, large and small, with masts towering over head. Assist boats help nudge the schooners around, as their captains back them into berths. 

The homeport schooners have it a little easier, as they make their way to their regular dock space; but the visiting schooners are provided extra care, their shiny wooden hulls lovingly tendered into their assigned spots.

And overseeing it all, a maestro in moving the pieces around the marine chessboard, is Camden Harbor Master Steve Pixley. In charge of getting the vessels safely in and out of the harbor, he zips around in small Whaler, his phone rocketing messages and ringing for attention. “Garth, go,” he speaks fast, getting the latest information from the bay. Or he jokes with a friend, or clips a friendly redirection to a visiting motorboat that inconveniently ties up where it should not. 

And the marine radio is likewise alive with chatter. It’s Camden’s 2023 Windjammer Weekend, Sept. 1 and 2, with boats remaining in the harbor over Labor Day Weekend, or sailing on the bay.

Everyone is happy to gather and celebrate schooners, the aged two- and three-masted vessels whose sails fill and billow out on Penobscot Bay, the boats that turn heads, no matter how often you have seen them on the water.  Because they are always beautiful and full of unique maritime history, still proudly rolling with the tides.