On Mount Desert Island, Maine, August 2, 2016
We get here about Noon, two hours early, and stake out a good location. The day is sunny, the blue sky full of fast-moving clouds, and the breeze an intermittent thrill. We’re among thousands of people strung along Sargent Drive, overlooking glacier-created Somes Sound. We’re waiting for the “Windjammer Parade” in honor of Acadia National Park’s 100th federal anniversary. Local and visiting sail boats tack impatiently back and forth across the Sound as we talk and eat our fancy sandwiches from Rooster Brothers’ Deli in Ellsworth.
We kill time by checking license plates. Within a short time, cars from 24 states and Ontario pass by desperately looking for a spot; apparently, they didn’t get the message about getting here very early. When we get bored checking license plates, we discuss a relevant curiosity while watching the smaller boats tack and heel.
The curiosity relates to Mount Desert Island: contrary to its spelling and original meaning, we and most locals intentionally mispronounce its name. The name is Mount “duhZERT” (as in dessert after dinner), not Mount “DEZZert” (as in Sahara desert). Why? Because it always has been called this around here, as far as anyone can remember. That’s a good enough reason in Maine. Besides, most of us call Mount Desert Island “MDI,” anyway.
(We suspect that the local pronunciation has something to do with the accents derived from the early French settlers in this part of the state. But the original meaning seems clear: history has recorded French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who played a part in naming the island, as erroneously stating that the mountains here were bare – desert-like -- when he saw them from far out at sea.)
By the way, MDI is the second largest island on the Atlantic coast, after New York’s Long Island. It contains most of Acadia National Park, many quaint harbors, and Bar Harbor (which isn’t that quaint when it’s crawling with cruise ship tourists).
Somes Sound, where we are now, almost divides MDI in two; it passes through parts of Acadia and has been a great place to sail since well before President Woodrow Wilson designated much of MDI as a national monument in 1916. (Three years later, the monument was redesignated as a national park and named Acadia in honor of the original French colony that was established in Maine and Nova Scotia.)
Our waiting is over at bout 2:30 p.m.! The welcoming Host vessels, fully dressed in their maritime signal flags, form on the far side of the Sound, below Acadia Mountain.
Most of the Host boats are sail boats, but one is a classic Lord Nelson Victory Tug named Loon. She’s a 37-foot luxury tugboat built in 1987 that hails from Southport Island, Maine.
The first windjammer to be welcomed is the Heritage out of Rockport, Maine. She’s a 1983 replica with an overall length of 145 feet and, unusually, a yellow hull.
Next is the Lewis R. French out of Camden, Maine. She’s a refurbished 1871 coastal schooner with an overall length of 101 feet and a gray hull.
Following her is the Isaac H. Evans out of Rockland, Maine. She’s a refurbished 1886 coastal schooner with an overall length of 99 feet and a white hull.
Next is the Angelique, also out of Camden. She’s a 1980 replica with an overall length of 130 feet, a green hull, and unusual tan-bark sails.
Ladona, also out of Rockland, frolicks on the sidelines to the joy of the crowd. She’s a 108-foot refurbished 1922 coastal schooner with a white hull. (Ladona was her original name, but she was known as the Nathaniel Bowditch for a number of interim years.)
After the parade, it was Heritage’s turn to show her speed and pose close to the crowd.
As we pack up after a long and satisfying day, the schooners are led off by a Host boat toward Somes Harbor at the top of the Sound, where most of them will moor overnight. A lone kayak paddler, almost invisible in the middle of the Sound, says a final good bye.
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Barbara and Dick