The Freeport Historical Society fundraiser celebrates the town’s maritime heritage.

John Coffin’s lobster boat has a history to uphold. Named after a clipper ship launched from South Freeport 140 years ago, the modern-day Tam O’Shanter has done just that.

Coffin’s boat, which will lead the Harraseeket Heritage Day & Harborside Gala boat parade at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 20, has been in service since she was built in 1976. That’s 101 years after the original Tam O’Shanter left the old Soule Shipyard, today the site of Brewer’s South Freeport Marine. Coffin, 74, has not babied the wooden boat, which is valued at $200,000.

Coffin recalls that Carroll Lowell built the lobster-boat version of the Tam O’Shanter, and Lowell’s brother, Royal, designed it.

“She’s been a very durable vessel,” said Coffin, a lifelong Freeport resident. “I’ve had her over half of my life. The guy who built it for me said, ‘You’ll never need another boat.’ I didn’t believe him.”

The boat parade, which begins in South Freeport harbor at 2, is a highlight of the Harraseeket Heritage Day & Gala, a primary fundraiser for the Freeport Historical Society. Actors, sailors, musicians and historians will come together to celebrate Freeport’s maritime heritage for the annual event. The gala will feature family-friendly afternoon festivities and a sophisticated evening soire?e, both at Brewer’s South Freeport Marine.

The day begins at 12:30 p.m. with pre-parade activities. Staff from Maine Maritime Museum will be on hand to demonstrate crafts of the lobster trade, including knot-tying and trap-making. Children will be invited to paint lobster buoy silhouettes to form part of the display for the maritime museum’s new exhibit on lobstering. Author and historian Jim Nelson will do a presentation on Josiah Porter, gunner’s mate on the famous Dash, a Freeport-built privateer of the War of 1812.

After the boat parade, there will be a variety of festivities. Visitors to Brewer’s will be able to enjoy food and beverages – including chowder donated by Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster and beer by Gritty’s – and a number of activities.

Coffin, part owner of Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster, said he participated in the first Harraseeket Heritage Day boat parade last year. Again, he will bring his family on the Tam O’Shanter.

“We just got in line last year,” Coffin said. “This year we’ll be in front.”

Coffin said that his great-great grandfather, James Ballard, built the original Tam O’Shanter, a clipper ship that sailed for the Far East trade. His grandmother, Beara, made many trips on the boat.

“My grandmother made seven circumnavigations around Cape Horn when she was a little girl,” Coffin said. “I used to read about them all the time. I don’t know if there’s anyone today who could deal with it.”

Coffin said his lobster boat had her last survey for insurance purposes seven years ago, and checked out just fine. He and his two crew members, Sean Murphy and Allison McDermott, got out lobstering on Casco Bay at around 4:30 a.m., and get back around 1:30 p.m. They’re just about to make their first trips of the summer season.

“We’re not fishing just yet,” he said. “We’ve got the boat out, painting her and getting ready for the season.”

Kristin Peterson, waterfront manager for Brewer’s South Freeport Marine, is chairwoman of the Freeport Historical Society Events Committee, which began Heritage Day four years ago. The first boat parade last year added a great touch to the event, she said.

“It was a real bringing together of the harbor,” Peterson said. “Last year it occurred to me that John was one of the most historically connected people to participate. He’s been tied to this harbor for a long time and he appreciates this maritime heritage.”

The Harborside Gala begins at 5:30 p.m. As in the past, the gala will include appearances from ghosts of Freeport’s maritime past – with a little help from the Freeport Community Players. Those attending the evening event, priced at $55 in advance or $60 at the door, can expect a night of good food, good friends and good fun. The theme of “Barbeque and Bluegrass” will feature food by Buck’s Naked BBQ and a cash bar featuring Gritty’s beer and the historical society’s signature rum drink.

Perrin Davidson’s bluegrass group, Ethos, will perform. Guests also have the chance to bid on silent and live auction items to benefit the Freeport Historical Society, including many unique items and unusual opportunities.

“It’s a terrific event,” Peterson said. “It’s a festive occasion and an opportunity for people who don’t get down to the waterfront.”

John Coffin’s lobster boat, Tam O’Shanter, will lead the parade Saturday at 2 p.m. Courtesy photoA painting of the clipper ship Tam O’Shanter. Photo courtesy of Freeport Historical Society


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