4:02 p.m. Aug 29 – This story was changed to remove information about the The USS John Hall, a Navy fast frigate built in Bath, joining the festival fleet this year. The USS John Hall, having moved out to sea in order to avoid Hurricane Irene, will not be back in time for the festival.

 

When you’re accustomed to living adjacent to the Atlantic with windjammers in your backyard, there’s a chance you could start taking the watercraft for granted.

Passing boats might start to feel underappreciated.

But next weekend’s Camden Windjammer Festival will put windjammers back at center stage for three days of maritime celebration.

The festival includes a Maritime Heritage Fair, fireworks, boat-building contest, crate race and a chance to learn skills like knot tying and blacksmithing. Attendees can also take in the harbor views of the windjammers in the water, then climb aboard during the boat open houses.

“(The festival will) show not just the history of the windjammer fleet, but a deep connection of the sea to Camden and the surrounding areas,” said Dan Bookham, executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber.

“It’s also the 75th anniversary of commercial windjamming in Maine, which was started right here in Camden.”

The festival’s guests of honor arrive in the harbor between noon and 5 p.m. Friday, and their grand approach is something Bookham says is well worth seeing.

“There’s this breathtaking moment every year, watching the fleet come in,” Bookham said. “You’re watching these incredible boats suddenly appear, noiselessly maneuvering their way into their slips. It really is quite special.”

The Maritime Heritage Fair runs simultaneously at the public landing, featuring maritime history displays, vendor booths and workshops where visitors can try their hand at sail making, rigging and bollard line tossing.

From 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday, a free public contradance takes place at the public landing and the entertaining Schooner Passenger and Crew Talent Show takes the stage in Harbor Park from 7 to 9 p.m. The talent show audience should expect acts of sublime artistic talent, “and some terrifying singing,” said Bookham.

The evening ends at 9 with a fireworks display over the harbor.

Saturday starts early with the Camden Rotary pancake breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. at the public landing. The day’s events include author talks, sailing tours, live music and the Maritime Heritage Fair. Some festival-friendly pirates will even be on hand in Harbor Park for pirate duels, cannon lessons and a weapons demo.

Visitors can also seize the opportunity to climb aboard the regal boats for a closer look from 2 to 4 p.m.

The popular lobster crate race takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday on the public landing, where courageous competitors attempt to traverse a lineup of floating lobster crates. It’s a feat of footwork that lands most contestants in the water.

Anyone can enter, although kids and teens have a better shot on account of their smaller size, according to Bookham. But adults are still welcome to give the crate race a whirl, particularly those who are “very bold or very reckless.”

All the windjammer appreciation might inspire some festival attendees to try building a boat of their own. The build-a-boat contest, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at the public landing, pits 12 teams against each other in a race to build the most seaworthy boat.

Completed boats are tested in the harbor waters at 3 p.m. Sunday, when teams cross their fingers and hope for more floating than floundering. Pre-registration is required, as the slots tend to fill quickly. More information on the contest and a registration form can be found at camdenwindjammerfestival.com/download.

Saturday night entertainment includes a 7:30 p.m. showing of the film “Captains Courageous” at the library’s amphitheatre. Visitors looking for a laugh can catch Maine humorist Tim Sample at the Camden Opera House, also at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased at camdenoperahouse.com.

Festivalgoers should prepare for an invasion on Sunday, as the Pirates of the Dark Rose are expected to attack Camden at 1 p.m. “The pirates will swarm the town,” Bookham said. “There’s usually a spirited defense by local militia, but I think the pirates might prevail.”

Sunday also includes the Chadwick Cup R/C boat race at 10 a.m. at the public landing, the Sea Dog Show at 11 a.m. at Harbor Park and the schooner open house from 2 to 4 p.m.

All boats are welcome to join the procession during the All Comers Boat Parade at 4 p.m., where lobster boats and historic schooners play follow-the-leader through the harbor.

The parade, like the festival, reflects the Camden area’s past and present relationship with the water, from lobster traps to pleasure craft.

“You walk around and you realize the historical anachronism,” said Bookham. “But it’s current as well.” These seafaring skills are still employed every day.

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

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