It’s always great when you can take part in something fun and do some good for others at the same time. That’s exactly what will happen from Thursday through Sunday, when boating enthusiasts gather for a series of events to raise money to put an end to multiple sclerosis.

The 29th annual MS Harborfest will feature something for every type of boater — recreational and commercial, power or sail. Those who are more comfortable on dry land can get in on the fun, too. There’s a shoreside exhibition Sunday at the Maine State Pier, and many of the events will be visible from Portland’s Eastern Promenade and other locations.

“MS Harborfest brings together all types of recreational boaters and ties everything in with Portland’s working waterfront,” says Sue Tidd, director of development for the Maine Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. “And they’re all getting together to support our mission to create a world free from MS.”

The event, which started as a sailboat regatta in 1982, has grown over the years to include a tugboat muster and power boat poker run. This year, the fishing community joins in, with lobster boat races on Sunday.

It starts Thursday night with the MS Benefit Auction at the Ocean Gateway terminal on Portland’s waterfront. There will be bidding on travel packages, sports tickets, jewelry, art, spa treatments and more. Tickets are $20 per person and include bid number and hors d’oeuvres. The Portland-based band Roll and Go will entertain with nautical music and sea shanties.

After the MS Regatta skippers meeting and cocktail reception for participants and sponsors Friday evening, sailboats will gather off Falmouth Foreside on at 10:45 a.m. Saturday for the Parade of Sail to Portland Harbor. The racing begins at 12:30 p.m. off Fort Gorges, and the courses take racers out the Portland Ship Channel, offering good views for spectators from Spring Point and Bug lights.

There’s still time to sponsor a sailboat. The cost is $500, and sponsors’ banners will be displayed during the parade. Just call Sue Tidd at MS Maine (781-7960) to sign up.

Saturday’s events aren’t limited to sailors. The MS Poker Run, out of Dimillo’s Marina in Portland, will send power boaters on a harbor tour. They’ll move at their own pace to several stops, picking up a tag at each one. They return to Dimillo’s, exchange the tags for cards, and the best hands get valuable prizes. There will also be a barbecue, raffles and entertainment.

On Sunday, the commercial boats will be put to the test, and for the first time in about a quarter century, lobster boats will race in Portland. Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association, estimates that 50 or more boats could come out to the course off the Eastern Promenade.

“There’s lots of interest in lobster boat racing,” he says, noting that some participants travel for good competition. “Boats will be coming from Penobscot Bay and other points east, and we’re expecting five from Rye, N.H.”

The lobster boat races are set to start at 10 a.m. Sunday, and will be visible from the Eastern Promenade. Among the boats to watch, according to Johansen, is Foolish Pleasure, a “hot” gas-powered boat belonging to Galen Alley of Beals Island.

Earlier this summer, Alley and Foolish Pleasure set a new speed record of 68.1 miles per hour.

Lobster boats are divided into classes according to size, engine, fuel type and other factors. While most of them are working boats, a few are lobster-style boats that have been optimized for racing performance.

Just like sailors, lobster boat racers run the gamut in terms of competitiveness — some are pretty casual, while others take the sport very seriously.

While the lobster boats race, tugboat crews will be at the Maine State Pier showcasing their skills in tasks like line-throwing and swimming in survival suits. In the afternoon, they will take over the race course off the Eastern Promenade for their own racing and pushing contests.

Boaters who want to watch the spectacle from the water are advised to stay well clear of the competition area, which will be clearly marked with buoys and patrolled by the Coast Guard and other law enforcement.

Boaters should also resist the temptation to raft up with others.

The on-the-water competition is sure to generate large wakes, and being hit with a wake while rafted with another boat can put tremendous strain on lines, cleats and other equipment, and is generally a recipe for trouble.

Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 30 sloop on Casco Bay. Contact her at:

[email protected]


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