Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best of 2012: Back in Time at Rockland Harbor

Two Masted Schooner
Story and Photos by Doug Mills
    I think I have the best job in the world. On Saturdays during the summer and fall I lead a Tall Ship Photo Safari on the breakwater in Rockland, Maine, at the lighthouse where my grandfather, Albert Mills, was keeper 100 years ago. I ofter thing what this harbor must have looked like then. The lime trade was at it's height and Rockland was the center of lime production for the whole of the east coast of the United States. Millions of barrels of lime per year ware manufactured and shipped by schooner all up and down the east coast. The Lime industry in Rockland alone employed more than 200 schooners to move its product to market. In the early 1900s the schooner was the most efficient way to move any product up and down the coast and to the islands and river towns. Along with the lime industry and the moving of freight, lumber and stone, the Rockland also had a sizable fishing fleet. By the 20s and 30s most of these schooners had been replaced with steam and motor driven vessels.
    Today of the thousands of these vessels which filled the harbors and waterways at the start of the 20th century there are only a handful remaining. Rockland is now home to seven of these historic vessels. On this overcast Saturday morning we are expecting 5 vessels including the 141 year old Stephen Taber. The rain has passed and the air is fresh and cool. There is very little breeze today and the water is calm and reflective.
Early Morning At Rockland
On our way out the nearly mile long breakwater we are treated to the sight of local fishing boats ,lobster fishermen and sea birds. Each step seems to take us further and further from the fast paced modern everyday and deeper into a world ruled not by time and deadlines, but rather ruled only by the wind and the tide.
Today it is the Stephen Taber who is first to arrive. When this ship was launched in 1871 the Civil War had only been over a few years and the infamous Dodge city was only a sod roofed trading post on the edge of the west. The Taber was built as a coasting schooner in 1871 on Long Island, New York. The 68' schooner is the oldest documented sailing vessel in continuous service in the United States, and she was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Stephen Taber Passes The Lighthouse
    Soon the Isaac H. Evans and the Nathaniel Bowditch round the point at Owls Head and make for the harbor. The Evans was built in Mauricetown, New Jersey in 1886 and spent many years oystering on the Delaware Bay. Completely rebuilt for windjamming in 1973, she now specializes in kid-friendly sailing adventures; families with children as young as age six are welcome on any cruise. She also is a National Historic Landmark. The Nathaniel bowditch was built as a racing yacht in 1922 in East Boothbay, Maine. The 82' schooner won special class honors in the Bermuda Race in 1923, and served in the Coast Guard during World War II. She was rebuilt for the windjamming trade in the early 1970's.
    As we watch American Eagle and Heritage appear out of the mists. The American Eagle was built in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1930. For 53 years she was a working member of the famed Gloucester fishing fleet. She is also a National Historic Landmark. Our last ship of the day is Heritage,built in 1983 by her owners at the North End Shipyard in Rockland, Maine. Designed for the comfort of her passengers, the vessel was built in the tradition of a 19th century coaster.
    Another weeks safari has passed and now it is time to return to my world of computers and cell phones. But refreshed from the few hours I was able to spend in the past, now ready to face my fast paced modern life and looking forward to the time when I will once again be able to step back into the past for a few hours.

Rockland Working Boat

Looking South Toward Owls Head

Lobsterman Checking His Traps

Stephen Taber Sailing For 141 Years

Isaac H. Evans and Nathaniel Bowditch Passing The Owls Head Light

Nathaniel Bowditch Returns Home 

Isaac H. Evans As Seen From The Lantern Of Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse

American Eagle Slips Past The Lighthouse

Heritage Out Of The Mists

Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse's "Pea Pod"

Home To Rockland

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