An awe-inspiring fleet of windjammers will gather Labor Day weekend for the Camden Windjammer Festival, an annual community affair celebrating the area’s maritime heritage and living traditions.

The official kickoff for the festival begins at noon Friday with a pirate invasion and opening of the Maritime Heritage Fair at the Public Landing.

According to Dan Bookham, executive director of the Camden, Rockland, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the organizing committee that makes the festival possible, the formal welcoming of the fleet on Friday at 5 p.m. is something not to be missed.

“There will be 14 of these magnificent ships coming into the harbor and Capt. Jim Sharpe will be narrating their arrival. He’s a former windjammer captain who’s sailed all over the world and he’s an encyclopedia of knowledge on these ships – from the origin of their names to the complete sail yardage of each one.”

But people attending the festival don’t have to admire the windjammers from afar. They can actually get on board and tour them on Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

“Touring the windjammers gives people a sense of these vessels. People can explore them and really see what they’re like,” Bookham said of the free Schooner Open House.

The happenings at the Camden waterfront are free during the festival weekend, including the concerts on Saturday and Sunday nights.

There are fees for schooner rides out of the harbor.

The many demonstrations at the heritage fair include blacksmithing, boat building, knot tying, mast hoop-making, timberframe cutting, sail repair, solar evaporation methods to make sea salt and even a demonstration on steam-bending to learn how to make your own toboggan.

The under-12 crowd will have plenty to keep them busy with a variety of activities that include story times, drawing classes, hula hooping and Project Puffin’s interactive booth. There’s also a fireworks show Friday night.

The festival will feature a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning that Bookham said is a great way to start your day. Breakfast is served under tents overlooking the harbor and windjammers can be seen slipping out for their morning tours. Proceeds from the pancake breakfast, and from the Chowder Challenge later in the day, benefit local Rotary clubs.

“This is the only place in Maine after June when the whole fleet gathers up to be seen in one place. It’s a wonderful chance to get a glimpse of a working waterfront, how it was, and how it exists today. It’s a great crossing of traditions,” said Bookham.

Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at:

[email protected]

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