That’s what they call ‘us’ out here… ‘landlubbers’! ‘They’ are the people that know the sea and we landlubbers are the ones that don’t. It’s true… I don’t know much about the sea and sailing it at all, but I am fascinated by it. I had the fortunate experience last week to be in Portland, Maine when the tall ships gathered. I’ve got to be honest, until last week, I had never even heard the expression ‘tall ship’! But now I can proudly say this landlubber has experienced Portland’s tall ship parade and more!
Without getting too technical, a ‘tall ship’ is a sailing vessel with traditional rigging. (there are different classes and sizes and types etc. within that definition) But in very simple landlubber terms, they are sailboats that are tall! Seriously, the masts are noticeably taller than the other sailing boats out there. They are longer too, but you really notice the height of the masts.
There was a huge range of styles of tall ships in Portland last week. From 1500 Spanish galleon style, to smaller turn of the 20th century style…
It was a heavily overcast day, with rain seeming to be imminent, but held off during the entire parade. Many people (100,000 estimated) gathered all along the coast in preparation for the tall ship parade, from Portland Head Light all the way around the where the tall ships were to be docked for their weekend destination into the Portland Harbor.
I chose to watch from South Portland’s Bug Light Park. (the lighthouse/marker is so small, it’s nicknamed ‘Bug Light’)
Folks lined up and down the sidewalk with their lawnchairs, just like a traditional street parade, but instead of facing the street, we all faced the harbor.
Announcing the start of the parade, the fireboat came through the harbor shooting its huge water cannons, sporting colorful water.
Just behind the waterboat, from around the harbor bend, we saw the first tall ship coming. It was the the Coast Guard’s ‘Eagle‘ (which has a huge golden eagle jutting out on the bow).
This tall ship, built in Germany in the 1930’s was part of the reparations paid to US after WWII. It is now used by the Coast Guard for training. They are stationed on board for 2 to 3 years at a time.
The Eagle is indeed a tall ship, with a length of 295 feet, a width of 39 feet and the rigging reaching up to 147 feet high. The size of it in the harbor compared to the other sailboats is stunning.
Another visually stunning tall ship was this one:
It is Spain’s ‘Galeon Andalucia‘. She is the only 16-17th century replica of a Spanish galleon sailing in the world in present days. And she has sailed all over the world, including Pacific, Indian, Atlantic oceans, China and Mediterranean Seas and more.
Though most of the tall ships couldn’t be in full sail in the harbor, this picture, courtesy of Fundacion Nao Victoria, shows just how majestic the ‘Galeon Andalucia‘ looks when they are. Can’t you just imagine life 400 years ago with these ships creating the trade routes across the seas, pirates and all?
At first glance, this next tall ship doesn’t look all that stunning compared to some of the huge ones, but it has it’s own stunning features for sure!
It is the ‘Bowdoin‘, built in 1921 and is considered to be one of the strongest wooden vessels ever constructed. Good thing too, because she was built for the purpose of exploring the Artic!
The ‘Bowdoin‘ made over 26 voyages to the Arctic waters above the Arctic circle. She now serves students of Maine Maritime Academy, continuing trips to the Arctic with them.
Once all the tall ships went through the harbor, they docked across from where we were watching.
Then taking part of the historical significance,
was the BOOM! of the cannon firing as the re-enactment was taking place at the end of Bug Light Park, across the harbor to the tall ships.
The tall ships were docked in the harbor, and we went to see them on Monday, which was a much clearer day.
The coast guard offered free tours of the ‘Eagle’.
For the others,
like the Spanish Galleon,
‘Oliver Hazard Perry‘ for a fee of $15 you could tour them all.
So what’s this landlubber’s take on the whole tall ship experience? It was really fun! Just to see the ships in the water is so beautiful, but then to read a little about the history of each vessel is really amazing, and gives me a glimpse into a whole different world I really know very little about.
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