Friends of WJD: Cautiously optimistic for 2021

Sat, 01/23/2021 - 7:30am

Boothbay Harbor Windjammer Days Festival – what’s not to love? Visiting schooners, schooner tours, fireworks, boat and street parades, Blessing of the Fleet, music, games and activities for children; tours, activities and informational talks at Maine State Aquarium, boat rides, tours of the Sail Loft and Coast Guard station, a tug-of-war across the harbor, craft fairs, competitions, golf tourney, the student T-shirt design contest ... the list goes on. But in year 58 last year, for the first time, a pandemic canceled the Festival. 

The Friends of Windjammer Days held its first Zoom meeting Jan. 19 making plans for a 2021 Festival planned for June 27-July 3.

“It’s a very weird place to be right now. We’re going on the assumption that we can have the Festival happen,” said Friends co-founder Dianne Gimbel. “Everyone is waiting to see what happens with this pandemic. So, right now we are cautiously optimistic.”

Pete Ripley, the festival’s decades long schooner liaison, reported 15 schooners were ready to sail to Boothbay for the Festival. Most of the windjammer captains had told Ripley they would be back in 2021.

“They are looking forward to sailing again,” Ripley said. “The captains will not stay tied  up in 2021. The vessels have Windjammer Days on their schedules now – and our local boats are also rarin’ to go!”

Confirmed schooners are Alert, American Eagle, Ardelle, Eastwind, Heritage, Lazy Jack, North Wind, Sycamore, Lewis R. French, Mary E, Harvey Gamage and Victory Chimes; and Ripley is still working on confirmation for the Schooner Bowdoin.

The Tall Ships Festival, planned for the final three days of WJD last year, is tentatively scheduled as a prelude to this year’s Festival, June 24-27. Tall Ships Oliver Hazard Perry and Lynx are already on board for 2021. Ripley is also still working on getting confirmation for the Tall Ship Agnes & Dell.

“Our worry in all of this is for the tall ships and others that are nonprofits,” said Gimbel. “Everyone has struggled. It’s a hard place to be in. You want to plan, to be optimistic.

“We are moving forward as if we are not living in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic. If we are absolutely forbidden to have it, we could still have the Antique Boat Parade and Lighted Boat Parade ... But we have plenty of time to figure it out.”

Visit for updates.