Fine fair winds ruffled the mouth of the Thames River and Long Island Sound August 12, as the planning for this fall’s Connecticut Schooner Festival took full shape with the addition of the State of Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism as a major sponsor.
State Director of Tourism Randy Fiveash emphasized that the state support was very appropriate, asserting that the “Connecticut: still revolutionary” tourism motto extends to the state’s maritime heritage as well as to the innovative power of products made in Connecticut.
The sunny-morning gathering at Branford House on the University of Connecticut campus at Avery Point underscored the many facets of the Connecticut Schooner Festival, which has educational, historical, and tourism components. The festival runs from September 11 through 15 with venues at Mystic Seaport and New London—ports which exemplify the pivotal economic role of sailing schooners in the economy of Connecticut up to the Age of Steam…and beyond.
The long weekend will include Mystic-New London visits from more than 20 classic vessels, representing both the everyday-haulers and the conoisseur-cruisers of their day, whose wakes crossed the Atlantic and linked the coastal towns of young America and the Caribbean.
“Schooners are part of our maritime heritage,” said John S. Johnson, Festival Chairman, “and they also played a significant role in the commerce that made our state thrive. Today, they play a key role in teaching people about the sea and its role in our daily life.” He evoked the successes of the local “tall ship” programs that go back to New London’s OpSail 2000 festival, and noted that schooner gatherings in Massachusetts towns like Gloucester extend back almost three decades.
“We hope to make the Schooner Festival an annual event,” he said, “and extend it forward with improvements for at least five years, as we gather new sponsors.”
Mystic Seaport President Stephen C. White concurred, referring to the Seaport’s mission, that “strives to inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.” He asked, “Is there a better way to do this than to bring a large number of schooners to the area, to show young people their importance?”
Dr. Joseph Geraci of New London is heading up the long-term educational programs.
“Students will have instruction and hands-on activities on the schooners,” he said, adding that “a long-range goal is to develop a teacher’s guide and multidiscipline curriculum on Connecticut’s maritime culture and history. It will be used use in area school districts and serve as a model for the rest of the state.”
For details on the events of the festival, see http://schoonerfest.com.
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A Classic Lineup for Classic Ports
- Virginia, a 121-foot wooden replica of its original 20th-century pilot vessel
- Alabama, a Gloucester fishing vessel built in 1926
- Sophia Christina, a 62-foot wooden vessel modeled after an 1870′s Boston pilot schooner
- Adventure, a 122-foot historic wooden dory-fishing schooner built in 1926
- Mary E, a 75-foot authentic clipper built in 1906
- Spirit, a John Alden-designed Malabar Schooner launched in 1934
- Mystic, a 170-foot, three-masted square-topsail schooner built and launched in 2007
- Perception, a 68-foot vessel designed by L. Francis Herreshoff in 1924 and built in New Zealand in 1983
- Tree of Life, a masterpiece of old-world traditional design with modern hull construction
- Tyrone, a 75-foot schooner designed by S. Sturgis Crocker and built in 1939
- Adventurer, a 122-foot historic wooden-dory fishing schooner built in 1926 in Essex, Massachusetts
- Brilliant, Mystic Seaport’s prize-winning 64-foot schooner, one of the hundred-most-beautiful classic boats
- Equinox; a racing rig Muscongus Bay Schooner, built by Ralph Stanley in Southwest Harbor Maine, 1983-1984
- Irena, a Tom Colvin Gazelle model 42′ schooner, built in 1984
- Lelanta, a 1929 custom-designed private yacht by Boston designer John G. Alden
- Malabar II, a two-masted gaff-rigged schooner designed in 1922 by John Alden
- Mystic Whaler, a reproduction of a late 19th century coastal cargo schooner
- Niamh, a 42-foot Tom Colvin Saugeen Witch schooner
- Quinnipiack, New Haven’s 91-foot flagship schooner, built in 1984
- Quintessence, a duplicate of an early 20th-century Friendship sloop