El Galeón Spotted off Old Orchard Beach

El Galeón

El Galeón

El Galeón, one of the ships featured in our Tall Ships Portland festival, has been spotted off Old Orchard Beach, Maine! The replica Spanish-galleon is currently on its way to Portland for the festival. The picture above was snapped by a local lobsterman, and the galleon looks wonderful on the horizon. If you like the sight of tall ships on the horizon, and want to see them in person, be sure to attend Tall Ships Portland! If you want to track the progress of El Galeón, visit www.marinetraffic.com and search for “El Galeón.”

The Best Places to Watch the Parade of Sail

The Tall Ships Portland 2015 festival is only a few days away, and the festival will kick off with the Parade of Sail into Portland Harbor. For those who want to watch these ships sail in, there are a few locations that you should consider - not only are these places great for watching the ships sail into the harbor, they are heavy connected to Portland’s sailing and shipbuilding heritage. 

Fort Williams Park

Fort Williams is a great location for anyone interested in maritime history, beautiful sights, and good food. The park, which was once a military installation, not only features iconic Portland headlight, but also the remains of World War One era military installations that are a blast to explore and discover. The high, hilly points in the park make for great parade watching.  If you want a bite to eat during the parade of sail, grab a lobster roll from Bite Into a Maine, a food cart in the middle of the fort that will also be present at the festival itself. For anyone new to the Portland region, Fort Williams is a must-see spot where you can see the magnificent tall ships on parade, and even if you are a greater Portland local.

Bug Light Park

Known for its lighthouse, Bug Light Park also has expanses of hilly grass and a long breakwater, which stretches out into Portland Harbor. These are perches from which to see the parade of sail, and nearby restaurants have great food for any hungry-ship watchers. The park also features Fort Preble, a now-defunct fort whose seawall will be the location of the land-cannon salute to the passing ships. Bug Light Park has everything a tall ship can could need for the parade of sail. 

Willard Beach

For those who want to watch the parade of sail from a beach, Willard Beach, a public beach in South Portland, is the place to go. Not only does it have a good view of the harbor, but the beach is also easily to find, and has plenty of parking for parade-viewers. 

Eastern Promenade

If you want to watch the parade of sail from Portland, the Eastern Prom is the place to do it. The grassy park in eastern Portland has a great view of the harbor, and is very close to where the festival will be held on July 19th and 20th. The Eastern Prom is a green, open place, so its perfect for anyone with pets or small children. 

History of the Portland Observatory

The Observatory today 

The Observatory today 

For many newcomers to Portland Harbor, the striking outline Portland Observatory is one of the first things they notice. This iconic tower, visible over the tall ships at our festival, has long been a Portland landmark. It holds a strong connection to Portland’s rich maritime history, the same heritage that we are celebrating with our event. But why exactly was the tower constructed?

Not For Stargazing

Most who see the Portland Observatory, with its impressive height and old-fashioned design, assume that the structure was constructed for observation of the stars. Though this octagonal tower holds a magic that seems to come from another world, the tower was not constructed for astronomy. Rather, like many elements of the harbor, it served a utilitarian purpose in bustling 19th-century Portland. Constructed in 1807 at the top of Munjoy Hill, the tower was built out of wood, and used as a commercial signaling tower. Lemuel Moody, a former ship captain constructed the eight-sided tower. He would stand atop it and look out into the harbor with a powerful telescope, identifying the ships coming into the Portland channel, and notifying local merchants by setting up flags. The merchants paid to participate in Moody’s signaling service. Even the tower’s shape served a simple purpose – to lessen the strain placed on the wood by the wind by dissipating it along slanted sides. 

Later History

Despite this somewhat mundane commercial role, the tower’s unique shape and sheer height made it a popular tourist attraction even in the 19th century, and the tower was also a commercial success for more than a century. Captain Moody was able to build a number of buildings around the tower, including a house for him and his family. The tower operated until the early 1920s, when the advent of radio made it outmoded. It was purchased by the city of Portland in 1930s, and was managed by the city for most of the 20th century. It was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in the 1970s, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. Today, it is the only marine signaling tower still standing in the United States, and is open to the public as a museum. Those who are interested in visiting this landmark can take tours of the tower, and some may get a chance to experience the incredible view from the top. For fans of Portland’s maritime heritage, it’s a must-visit. 

Are you interested in Portland’s rich maritime history? Do you enjoy good music, good food, and the sight of magnificent tall ships? Come to Tall Ships Portland, a celebration of Portland’s sailing past and present right here in Portland Harbor July 18-20th. Tickets on sale now!

Local Cuisine at Tall Ships Portland

Although the focus of our event is the magnificent vessels in the harbor this weekend, no event would be complete without something to eat, and to that end Tall Ships Portland 2015 has you covered. The event will feature a selection of food vendors, giving visitors a chance to sample Portland’s renowned cuisine while enjoying and learning about Tall Ships. Here are some of the food vendors and their specialties. 

El Corazon

Offering traditional Mexican cuisine, El Corazon features traditional Mexican dishes such as baja style fish tacos, Sonoran hot dogs, burritos and taquitos. El Corazon will be filmed during this event for a cooking program, so festival-goers might get a chance to sing the praises of their cuisine on TV!


Featuring drive-through classics like meatball subs and hamburgers alongside classic Maine fare like lobster rolls. Many of the dishes can be ordered as a “cone”, a way to enjoy delicious steak or chicken on the go in a doughy cone.

Locally Sauced

Featuring only locally grown ingredients, Locally Sauced offers gourmet burritos served with delectable sauce. The sauce is the star here, and there are almost endless combinations with savory burrito fillings.

Love Kupcakes

Aiming to bring artisan cupcake flavor to the people of Portland, Love Kupcakes serves up inventive, fantastic pastries made using locally sourced goods. The company even offers vegan and gluten-free varieties for conscious eaters who still want a sweet, frosted treat.

Mainely Burgers

Started by burger-loving college students from neighboring Cape Elizabeth, Mainely Burgers features an original take on hamburgers and sandwiches. Some notable creations include apple slices and maple-syrup mayonnaise. Mainely Burger has something for both the steadfast burger-lover and those with adventurous palates

Maine-ly Meatballs

Maine-ly Meatballs, a newer food truck, elevates the meatball from a side dish to main course. Offering pork, beef and lobster balls for a local twist, Maine-ly Meatballs is great stop for anyone who enjoys savory meats.

Mainely Treats

A must-try for those with a sweet tooth, Mainely Treats offers ice cream sandwiches, sundaes, and root beer floats, all with Maine ingredients. 

Taco Trio

A popular spot for classic Mexican food in South Portland, Taco Trio offers quaesdillas, burritos, tacos and sopes – handmade “bowls” of fried dough filled with sour cream beans, and other filings. For delicious, authentic Mexican, Taco Trio will be sure to hit the spot.

Wicked Good Food Truck

Serving a diverse set of dishes – everything from chicken and waffles to pad thai is offered here – Wicked Good Food Truck is sure to have something to fulfill your craving. 


Bite Into Maine 

Often cited as featuring some of the best lobster rolls in the Greater Portland region, Bite Into Maine will be bringing its seafood creations to Tall Ships Portland. 


Unlike most of the vendors at the event, who will be newcomers to the Ocean Gateway Terminal, Zippitydoodogs is a mainstay of the area, selling classic hotdogs on the water every summer. To enjoy a Portland Harbor institution, stop by this cart!

The Ospreys in Portland Harbor

The ospreys in their nest. Photo credit to Kathy

The ospreys in their nest. Photo credit to Kathy

Tall Ships in fiction and real life sometime feature the “crows nest,” a lofty perch for lookouts. Tall Ships Portland, may not have many crows’ nests but it will feature an Osprey Nest. Don’t worry – this isn’t another type of lookout perch – it is an actual Osprey Nest, recently built on pilings near Maine State Pier. Eagle-eyed visitors to Tall Ships Portland might get to spy these magnificent seabirds on the wing, and everyone can enjoy the sight of their nest – resting precariously on a dock piling. The osprey nest will be right next to Eagle during the event. Below is a post about the ospreys written by Kathy, a friend of Tall Ships Portland. 

These Ospreys have called Portland Harbor home for a long time. Their former home was near the end of the Maine State Pier, on the east side, atop a platform that had to be taken down. When the pair returned from their winter location to find the platform gone, they spent the next few years trying to nest on the new mega-berth, on a work-boat moored off the east end, and even on top of old pilings near the mega-berth.

They flew into the trees on the Eastern Prom, grabbing dead branches in their talons, and tried to construct nests, but were thwarted by everything from project engineers to boat owners to mother nature.

It's said that the instinct to return and nest near their natal nest is strong, and for this pair, that appears to be the case. While there are more than a half dozen osprey nests in the local area, with presumably more and perhaps better opportunity elsewhere, they wanted to be here. Eventually, a small group put up a nest near one of the same pilings the birds tried to nest on, and the pair not only built a nest but produced two healthy chicks.

This is the second year in their new location, and the chicks, who've been deep down in the nest, will soon be visible if they're not already.Watch for them among the pilings as well as at the top of the sailboat masts, and listen for their magical calls. Together with osprey from other area nests, they can sometimes be seen and heard flying and soaring in groups of three or four over the prom, the Hill, and by the treatment plant.

(Please note that  the Ospreys are easily disturbed and territorial; people must not go up to this or other nests in their boats: as soon as an osprey makes any noise (cries), it is a sign of agitation, and that you are too close and need to back off.)

A "Tall Instrument" meets a Classic Maritime Film

Promoting maritime heritage is a major of part of the mission of Tall Ships Portland, and maritime heritage manifests itself in any ways. Besides the physical heritage - the ships, sails and clothes that tie us to our seafaring past, our maritime heritage also contains books, songs and movies. This is why we are excited to announce the screening of an iconic movie about maritime history, the silent film Old Ironsides. This film, which is itself concerned with a famous item of American history - the USS Constitution, and concerns the efforts of a young man who finds himself involved in a conflict between North African pirates and Constitution.

The Kotzschmar Organ. Photo Credit: Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ

This classic movie will be accompanied by a one-of-a-kind instrument as well – an 103 year-old “tall instrument.”  The amazing Kotzschmar Organ, which was once the second largest organ in the world, is housed in Portland’s Merrill auditorium. It is an incredible sight, not to mention hear played alongside a landmark American film. Join organist (and sailor!) Peter Krasinski as he deftly creates musical themes from the Kotzschmar’s palette of voices to compliment the images of the film. Classic film and live music come together with a sailing theme in this screening of Old Ironsides, a collaboration of Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ and Tall Ships Portland. Not only is it a unique and special event, it’s for a good cause. Proceeds from the ticket sales go to the Tall Ships Scholarship Fund and Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ (FOKO) Education and Outreach programs to inspire a new generation of sailors and musicians. 

More on Cannon Salutes

3rd New Hampshire Regiment readying the Cannon

3rd New Hampshire Regiment readying the Cannon

As we previously posted, cannon salutes will be fired as the Parade of Sail rounds Bug Light. Here is more on the cannon – a reproduction of a British 3-pounder, a type of cannon used during the Revolutionary War – that will fire the land salute. 

“ These cannons were built to be light, and because they were light weight, approximately 700 pounds as opposed to the previous standard field gun weighing approximately 1,500 pounds, they could be man-handled over obstacles where the larger gun would need well-made roads and bridges.  The standard charge was 8 ounces of course black powder behind a canister round; the canister round consisted of a tin can filled with 32 1 inch iron balls. When the canister was fired the can split apart allowing the iron balls to spread out to form a devastating effect. Solid 3 pound iron balls could also be fired. “

If you are interested in reading more about this cannon and the re-enactment society that owns it, check out the website of the New Hampshire 3rd Regiment, for more great photos and history.  http://www.freewebs.com/3rdnewhampshire/ 

A Look at Maine's Other Ports

A Fishing Boat in Searsport. Photo Credit: Press Herald

A Fishing Boat in Searsport. Photo Credit: Press Herald

Although Portland is the focus of Tall Ships Portland 2015, one of the objectives of the event is to promote the maritime culture that spans the entire Maine coast. This maritime heritage is present in Maine’s other major ports, which are worth visiting and learning about to get a sense of their connection to historic shipping, boatbuilding and fishing. According to The Maine Port Authority, the two major ports beside Portland are Eastport and Searsport. Both are located north and east of Portland, and both are replete with interesting facts about Maine’s past. 



Sitting at the mouth of the Penobscot Bay, Searsport was once the town in the United States that supplied more merchant marine captains than any other locale in the country. This gave Searsport a strong connection to the booming whaling and fishing trade that dominated the Northeast in the nineteenth century. This connection was bolstered further by a powerful shipbuilding industry. In it’s heyday, Searsport was host to some 17 shipyards. Another interesting fact about Searsport is that it was once in the running for being the capital of the Massachusetts Colony. General Samuel Waldo, for whom the Maine county of Waldo is named, lobbied unsuccessfully in 1720 for the small port to become the new capital of the Massachusetts Colony after a major government building in Boston was ravaged by a fire. Even though it failed to become a state capital, Searsport remains a shipping capital, exporting heavy amounts of timber, chemicals, and foodstuffs. If you have an interest in antiques or maritime history, Searsport is a great place to visit.



If ever a place was aptly named, Eastport is it. The port, which is the easternmost city in the continental United States, is indeed a port, and is about as east as you can get, (although it bears mention that the tiny of town of Lubec is slightly further east than Eastport). Eastport’s history stretches back further than most places in Maine; it has been the center of the Passamaquoddy tribe for tens of thousands of years. Its European history begins with some of the earliest explorers in North America. A colony on one of the nearby islands was established by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, but it did not survive for long due to a lack of resources. The area was formally settled early in the nineteenth century, and became an important fishing center. During the War of 1812, it was briefly claimed by the British, but was eventually returned to American hands. Today, the port forms an important shipping connection to Nova Scotia and the rest of Maritime Canada, and continues to be an important hub for fishing. Eastport hosts a local Salmon Festival every September. Those who enjoy learning about Maine’s maritime past (and present) should consider making the trek up to Eastport to enjoy this city. 

If you have interest in Maine's port culture and maritime heritage, come to Tall Ships Portland 2015! Tall Ships will be visiting Portland Harbor July 18-20th. Tickets on sale now!

The Art of the Cannon Salute

The Cannon Shot  by Willem Van de Velde the Younger

The Cannon Shot by Willem Van de Velde the Younger

In the days when tall ships dominated the seas, these massive vessels commonly greeted a new harbor with a powerful blast of cannon. But why did these ships use the cannon, an expensive tool of war, to herald their arrival and entry into a port?


 A Show of Goodwill

Cannon salutes began as a way for a ship entering a harbor to show they meant no harm, because by unloading their cannons they showed they had no intention of firing on the port. In this way, the practice of a cannon salute can be compared to a handshake; it signifies to both parties that there is no malice planned, and because the powder required to perform such a salute wasn’t cheap, it was an offer that carried real downsides – it couldn’t be faked. Cannon salutes always consisted of odd numbers due to the belief that firing an even amount of shots was a harbinger of death for the ship’s captain. Although cannon salutes were at first intended to simply show peace, they soon became wrapped up in a complex system of tribute paid to other nations. Opposing countries demanded certain methods of cannon salute to show their dominance of the ocean. Chief among these nations was Britain, which ruled the waves during the age of sail. It was in this time that Great Britain popularized the 21-gun salute. This practice arose because it was common British custom for ships to fire a seven gun salute. Forts would respond by “answering” every single shot from the ship with three shots, turning the 7-gun salute into the 21-gun salute. Though this system was at one point reserved for the British as a sign of their mastery of the sea, it eventually spread elsewhere. Britain pressed America to adopt this system, and in the late 19th century the U.S. complied. 


Cannon Salutes in the United States

Since then, the U.S. has adopted its own unique set of cannon salutes. These salutes vary in number of cannons, with the 21-gun salute being reserved for Presidents and those who previously held the office. One notable procedure here in the US is to fire a special salute in recognition of Independence Day. This practice dates back to the earliest days of the republic. In these days, when there were only 13 states, the common salute was to fire a shot for every state. As our nation expanded west, this practice was quickly dropped – not many captains wanted to waste so much powder and time acknowledging all the individual states. Today on the fourth of July, we fire off a 21 gun salute in the British tradition, which is ironic for celebrating the day we separated from the British. Regardless, the practice of cannon salutes is thoroughly ingrained in U.S. and global culture. 


Cannon Salutes and Tall Ships Portland

On July 18th, when tall ships sail into Portland Harbor during the parade of sail, an authentic cannon salute will occur. Firing a response from Portland Harbor will be a cannon from the 3rd New Hampshire regiment. The cannon is one of the few revolutionary war cannons still in existence. If you want to see this historic cannon, and witness the ancient maritime exchange of a cannon salute in action, you can watch the Parade of Sail from Fort Williams park in Cape Elizabeth, or the waterfront in Portland. If you want an incredible up-close look at cannon salute, you can purchase tickets from Portland Schooner Company and be on board a Portland schooner during the Parade of Sail! Visit  http://www.portlandschooner.com/ for more details on this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Are you interested in maritime history? Do you want to learn more about the Age of Sail and the ships that sailed back then? Come to Tall Ships Portland! Tall Ships will be visiting Portland Harbor from July 18-20th.

Peaks to Portland: Portland's Traditional Swim Race

Swimmers in the Peaks to Portland Race. Photo Credit: Press Herald

Swimmers in the Peaks to Portland Race. Photo Credit: Press Herald

The frigid waters of coastal Maine are famed for their lobster-nurturing cold temperatures, but this region-renowned chilliness doesn’t stop Mainers from enjoying endurance swim races, at distances you might expect in warmer water climates. This race is the Peaks to Portland race, a regular race that challenges swimmers to a two-and-half-mile trek from Peaks Island to Portland’s East End Beach. The race is  another aspect of Portland Harbor’s busy, unique life.

A Cherished Tradition 

The race’s recent history dates back to the early 1980s, when the race became a codified, regular event managed by the local YMCA but the tradition traces back much further than the 80s. Photographic evidences places the race as being as old as 1927, when Portland man Mitchell Williams won the race. Other notable years include 1947, when an oil tanker exploded off the harbor during the race. In true hardy Maine fashion however, the swimmers continued unfazed by the fireball in the harbor.  Since being revived in the 1980s, the race has reached a new level of popularity, with 400 swimmers participating in 2014. Sponsored by the YMCA, the race is a major fundraising operation. Participating swimmers are charged a small entrance fee, and those athletes who raise money for the event are given “Peaks to Portland” themed towels and attire. 

A Little Help From My Friends 

Not all the swimmers do it alone. Most are aided by a spotter (in a kayak or rowboat) who helps by paddling alongside them and providing them guidance in the cold, disorienting harbor water. Utilizing this method is Scott Yeomans, a 50 year old swimmer who has won the race for the past few years running. Yeomans has a regular kayaking partner who he taps for the race, but for those who don’t have a kayaking buddy, the YMCA can send a volunteer kayaker to help you along. Volunteers also man food tents at the end of the race and bring towels for the swimmers when they emerge from the frigid waters. Local coast guard officials also assist, monitoring the mass of swimmers for any who can’t go on. The race commonly is not a short event, and swimmers can be the water for as long as two hours. 


Are you interested in Portland’s rich maritime culture and heritage? Come see Tall Ships in Portland Harbor from July 18-20th! Tickets are on sale now!

The Lighthouses of Portland

Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light could well be the most famous lighthouse in the world. Besides acting as a beacon for tourists every summer, Portland Head Light  has been featured in movies, on stamps, and is reportedly the most photographed lighthouse in the United States. But Portland Head Light is just one of the stately lighthouses to which Portland can lay claim. The area’s other lighthouses, constructed in different eras, shed some light on Portland’s history as a shipping center, and are great places to visit and learn about. 


Ram Island Light 

For visitors to Portland Head Light, Ram Island Light is probably the first non-Portland Head Light lighthouse that most who come to Maine for sightseeing get to see. This is because this lonely light can be seen from Portland Head Light itself. The lighthouse was built in the early 1900s after the ledges surrounding Ram island caused frequent shipwrecks, most notably wrecking the major steamship California, an event that caused the United States Congress to request that a lighthouse be constructed to prevent further accidents. The light was publicly owned until 2010, when it was sold to a local physician. It is accessible by boat, but is best viewed at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. The lighthouse’s dirty granite exterior gives it a peculiar beauty in contrast to the deep blue ocean that surrounds it. 


Portland Breakwater Light 

Also known as “Bug Light,” this small lighthouse sits on a long, very walkable breakwater in Bug Light State Park, South Portland. The Lighthouse was built in 1875 as a replacement for an older wooden lighthouse at the same spot, helping escort ships into Portland Harbor. Designed by the architect of the US Capital Dome, the lighthouse pulls inspiration from Athens, Greece. Its unique look prompts comparison to a chess piece or medieval parapet. Fans of interesting architecture should be sure to check this lighthouse out!


Spring Point Ledge Light

The youngest lighthouse in Portland, Spring Point Ledge Light occupies the end of a breakwater in South Portland, near the remains of Fort Preble, a military site from the War of 1812. The fort predates the lighthouse by almost a century. Spring Point Ledge Light was constructed in the 1890s after steamships repeatedly ran aground on Spring Point ledge. Spring Point Ledge Light is a great attraction during the summer months, when families enjoy walking its scenic breakwater and picnicking in the surrounding park. For information tours of Spring Point Ledge Light, go to http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=545


Cape Elizabeth Lights

Located in Two Lights State Park, these twin lighthouses overlooking Casco Bay were built in 1874, and are almost as well known as Cape Elizabeth’s other lighthouse, Portland Headlight. Painted by Edward Hopper in the 1920s and recognized as a historic landmark in 1974, the lighthouses aren’t open to the public but can be seen from the park. One remains active, owned by the town, and the other has become a private residence. The park itself has picnic tables, a playground, and a great view of the ocean. The beautiful park and lighthouses are a must-see on any Portland sightseeing trip.

If you are interested Portland-area sights and or maritime history, Tall Ships Portland is the event for you! Tall ships will be visiting Portland Harbor from July 18-20th. Tickets are on sale now!

Portland's Premier Ferry Service

Maquoit II, one of the ferries of Casco Bay Lines

Maquoit II, one of the ferries of Casco Bay Lines

One of the larger objectives of the Tall Ships Portland Event is to promote the strong maritime culture of Portland Harbor, including the ships that use the harbor that aren’t tall ships. Casco Bay lines, the historic and instantly recognizable ferry service that runs in Portland Harbor, is a significant part of this maritime culture, and is a draw to anyone in the Portland area who wants to see Portland and its islands.

A Local Institution

The Casco Bay Lines ferry service is a local institution, dating back to the nineteenth century. What is today known as Casco Bay Lines began in the 1870s as “The Casco Bay Steamboat Company,” designed to use burgeoning steamship technology to provide transportation from Portland to the surrounding islands. Unlike today, Casco Bay Lines was not the only ferry services in town – facing fierce competition from The Harpswell Ferry Service. Eventually these two service combined, adopting the joint name “The Casco Bay and Harpswell Steamboat Company” in 1909. This union was fruitful for a decade, until the stress from the First World War forced the joint company to shut down. From the ashes of this larger company, the operation today known as Casco Bay Lines was born. This operation was leaner, with only four ferries. This smaller service worked privately until, in the economic downturn of the early eighties, the company went bankrupt. The Maine State Legislature, recognizing the importance of the ferry service to the Casco Bay islands, stepped in, and the modern day Casco Bay Island Transit District was formed as a municipal service of Portland. The company runs today as a non-profit. 

Island Adventures

For anyone interested in exploring the islands of Casco Bay, the ferries of Casco Bay Lines are the way to do it. Casco Bay Lines provides regular, convenient trips to popular destinations like Peaks Island or Great Diamond Island. These trips also provide travelers with the chance to enjoy Portland Harbor from a vessel, which is an experience that can’t be overstated. Peaks Island, once known as the “Coney Island of Maine”, is a hotspot for sight seers,with scenic beaches, restaurants and tours. Great Diamond Island is wonderful destination for families, as it has plenty of beaches and can be traversed easily, without a car or bicycle. For anyone who wants to explore these destinations and others, Casco Bay Lines offers regular trips to all of the major islands in Casco Bay, as well as private cruises for those who want a personalized experience. 


Are you interested in Portland Harbor’s maritime heritage? Do you enjoy the sight of tall ships? Be sure to come to Tall Ships Portland. Tall Ships are visiting Portland harbor in July from the 18th to the 20th. Tickets are on sale now!

Destination Portland: Portland's Cruise Ship Industry

Cruise Ship Passengers Entering Portland. Credit: Press Herald

Cruise Ship Passengers Entering Portland. Credit: Press Herald

 When most people think of cruise ship stops, they usually think of the palm trees and white beaches of the tropics, but not all places visited by cruise lines are in the Bahamas. Portland Maine, the site of Tall Ships Portland 2015, is, surprisingly a popular cruise ship destination.

Growing Popularity

Portland hasn’t always been favored for cruise ships. The city once received very few visits from cruise ships, but that began to change when the city took on new projects designed to increase large ship traffic in Portland Harbor. The construction in 2011 of the 1,200-foot Ocean Gateway Pier II, a berth designed specifically to harbor cruise ships represented an uptick in Portland’s cruise ship fortune. The city’s cruise ship traffic has grown drastically since then, with 400 ships visiting Portland in 2014. City officials have responded to this growth by giving the go ahead on projects designed to make Portland Harbor an even better destination for cruise ships - a dredging project in 2014 with a 9 million dollar price tag made the harbor deeper so that bigger ships could sail through it. In a 2015 Portland Press Herald article entitled “Portland expects more cruise ships and passengers in 2014,” Bob Leeman, the city overseer for cruise ships, credited the continued growth in 2015 to the dredging project, saying “If the dredging did not happen, we would be losing ships, not gaining ships.” Clearly, Portland’s cruising fortune is on the rise- but what does this mean for the city?

New Jobs 

The increase in Portland’s cruise ship traffic has put more money into the Old Port and waterfront, which draws heavy foot traffic from cruise ships. Portland is a popular destination for both the more intimate cruises, which favor the wealthy, and for the larger, more populist cruises. This mix of cruise ships means Portland experiences routine, regular traffic - the type of tourist influx that grows jobs. Portland is not a hotspot for large ships during the height of the summer months. Aside from a few large ships in May and June, Portland’s cruise ship pilgrims are those who travel to the city on smaller cruises. In September and October however, the city brings in the larger ships in droves. If Portland was reliant on either type of ship, the Old Port would boom in September or July, but not at both times. Both because of its popularity with both types of cruises, and commitment to cruise ship visits,  Portland is sure to see plenty of growth in the future.


If you’re interested in Maine’s maritime history and culture, be sure to come to Tall Ships Portland. Tall Ships are visiting Portland harbor in July from the 18th to the 20th. Tickets are on sale now!

The Sails of Tall Ships Portland

USCG Eagle

USCG Eagle

 In July, nine tall ships will visit Portland Harbor. Some of the vessels will sail into Portland harbor from spots on the East Coast, and others will have made multi-week journeys to get to Portland. Ever wondered about the sails that power these magnificent vessels? How do they work, and what makes the sails on a schooner like Bowdoin different from those on a ship like El Galeón


Two Types of Sails 

There are two major types of sails on the ships that will make an appearance at Tall Ships Portland. The first is probably what springs to mind when you think of a tall ship: the oblong square sails that give tall ships their name. These sails are the oldest kind of sails, dating back to vessels once sailed by ancient Egyptians on the Nile River. The sails work best when the ship has the wind at its back, or is sailing “downwind.” The sail’s huge surface area allows for all the wind it catches to be converted to energy, moving the ship along. The efficiency of this type of sail is why square sails are common on the bigger ships featured in our festival. The downside of the square sail is its poor performance when it doesn’t have the wind at its back, requiring the wind to form at least a 90-degree angle to the sail to work at all. This problem is why most tall ships carry the second type of sail, the fore and aft sail. The latter sails, which resemble triangles and trapezoids, are built to deal with less-than-ideal wind angles. Whereas the square sail can only sail 90 degrees to the wind, the fore and aft sail excels at traveling upwind and can travel 45 degrees to the wind. This ability allows ships to travel even when they don’t have the wind at their back, which can make a big difference on long voyages. 


The Ships In The Event 

  1. Bowdoin: This ship is a two-masted gaff-rigged schooner with fore and aft sails. Schooners always feature multiple fore and aft sails and usually don’t have any square sails — although some do, see Lynx below.
  2. USCG Eagle: This ship is a three-masted barque and features two square-rigged masts and one fore and aft rigged mast. Barques commonly feature one fore and aft mast and anywhere from three to four square-rigged masts.
  3. El Galeón Andalucia: El Galeón is a galleon-class ship, and the only one still sailing today. It features two square-rigged masts and one fore and aft rigged mast. 
  4. Lynx: Designed to emulate schooners from The War of 1812, Lynx is a two-masted topsail schooner. These ships feature two fore and aft masts and one or more square sails.
  5. SSV Oliver Hazard Perry: This vessel is a full-rigged ship, the first one to be built in a century. Full-rigged ships feature three enormous square-rigged masts.
  6. Picton Castle: Like the USCG Eagle, Picton Castle is a barque, featuring two square-rigged masts and one fore and aft rigged mast.
  7. Fritha: Fritha is like the Lynx in that it is a two-masted topsail schooner.
  8. Alert: This vessel is a gaff-rigged schooner.
  9. Tree of Life: Like Alert, this ship is a gaff-riffed schooner with two fore and aft rigged masts.

A Look At Casco Bay

"Pumpkin Knob" an island in Casco Bay off of Peaks Island  

"Pumpkin Knob" an island in Casco Bay off of Peaks Island  

Portland Harbor is the site of Tall Ships Portland 2015, and its history and heritage are a major focus of the event. But what about Casco Bay, which houses Portland harbor? Casco Bay has its own storied history, one that dates back to the earliest Europeans explorers in North America.

A “Drowned” Coast

Casco Bay is what’s known as a “drowned coast.” The phrase doesn’t refer to frequent swimming accidents on the bay’s rocky beaches but to how Casco Bay was changed by glaciers thousands of years ago. The bay was once composed of three large hills. When glaciers arrived during the Ice Age, they created valleys out of these hills, and when the glaciers melted, the valleys filled with water. The higher points of the valley became islands.

The Calendar Islands

European adventurers were intrigued by Casco Bay, named in the early sixteenth century by a Portuguese explorer when he noticed it resembled a helmet. He called it “Bahia de Cascos,” or “Bay of Helmets.” European interest in the bay continued. In the eighteenth century, Colonel Romer, an English military engineer, explored the islands in Casco Bay. Shocked by the number of islands he saw, Romer was convinced that Casco Bay had islands for every day of the year, so he granted it the nickname “The Calendar Islands.” Although the name might sound great, it isn’t an accurate one – the bay contains only two hundred islands, some of which are only tiny clusters of rock. 

The Islands Today

Today, most of the islands in Portland Harbor are part of the city. Peaks Island, for example, is considered just another neighborhood of Portland, albeit one that only can be reached by boat. Despite being settled and documented, the islands that enchanted Colonel Romer in 1700 remain mysterious and beautiful, making them a great destination for anyone who enjoys hiking and sailing. Many are rocky and forested with hidden, sandy beaches that have a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean. There may not be one for every day of the year, but the islands in Casco Bay are unique enough to spend years enjoying. 

If you’re interested in Maine’s maritime history and culture, be sure to come to Tall Ships Portland. Tall Ships are visiting Portland Harbor in July from the 18th to the 20th. Tickets are on sale now!

Maine's Lobster Industry: A Look At Maine's Famous Seafood

A lobsterman working. Credit: Press Herald

A lobsterman working. Credit: Press Herald

When Americans think of Maine, Lobsters are probably in the mix. Maine is known throughout the United States as the best source for these tasty crustaceans - there’s a reason why “Maine Lobster” is the seal of approval for lobster on out-of-state restaurant menus. Portland is part of this lobster craze, and the sight of lobster boats in Portland harbor is a view that is loved by tourists and locals alike. But what is Maine (and Portland’s) lobster industry really like? 


The Biggest in the World 

Maine has the largest lobster industry in the world. In 2014, a record year for Maine lobster, lobstermen caught 123.7 million pounds of lobster, yielding 456.9 million dollars. Maine regularly provides 80% of all  U.S. lobster, and on good years this percentage can rise into the mid eighties. Maine’s huge lobster industry accounts for more than just the lobsters themselves. The lobster trade also accounts for 3 million lobster traps fielded by more than 5,000 licensed lobstermen and women. The industry is closely regulated, one of the most carefully watched fishing industries in the world. This is because lobsters  are slow growing, and so certain rules must be followed if the population is to be maintained. For example, Lobster fishermen cannot bring back pregnant female lobsters or smaller, younger lobsters. Because both lobstermen and the government have a vested interest in maintaining this ancient Maine industry, - which dates back to the earliest settlement of North America by Europeans - the lobstermen and women co-regulate the fishing of lobster alongside the state government. This has lead to the creation of small councils of lobstermen who decide how “areas” of the lobster fishing community will handle their craft. 


A lobster being prepared. Credit: Press Herald

A lobster being prepared. Credit: Press Herald

Portland’s Lobster Industry 

As of 2014, Portland is one of the top three Maine ports for value of a vessel used in commercial fishing, according to the Department of Maine Resources. Cumberland County, which encompasses Portland and surrounding towns, accounted for 11,655,792 pounds of live lobster landings in 2014, and 45,962,864 dollars of value. While Cumberland country is not the center of lobster fishing in Maine, it accounts for a significant amount of the state lobster fishing total. Portland is home to several facilities that package lobster, and it features some of the best lobster-centric cuisine in the state. While Portland harbor may not be a state leader in the lobster industry, it is without question the destination for those looking to enjoy authentic Maine lobster served with style. 

Do you enjoy learning ships and learning about the maritime industry? Are you a fan of seaside cuisine? Tall Ships Portland 2015 is the event for you! Featuring magnificent tall ships in Portland harbor from July 18-20th, this event will feature live presentations by those in the maritime field, and some of Portland’s best food. Tickets are on sale now!

Tall Ships America Presents 17 Student Scholarships

On June 22nd, Tall Ships America presented scholarships to 17 middle and high school students. These scholarships will make it possible for these students to spend from one to two weeks sailing on tall ships. The idea is to further the Tall Ships America mission of encouraging character building through sail training, promoting education under sail and promoting sail training to the North American public.

The scholarships were awarded to students who submitted essays explaining why they wanted to sail aboard a tall ship. The essay focus on the student’s desire to ship out on these vessels ties in with Tall Ships America’s hope that these students will act as passionate  ambassadors for tall ships and sailing training. 

The scholarship winners will be aboard the vessels Fritha, Picton Castle and Lynx when they enter Portland Harbor during the parade of sail for Tall Ships Portland 2015. We got the chance to speak to some of these great kids, check out what they have to say!


Image from WGME 13 

Image from WGME 13 

Badar Omar is a student at Deering High School in Portland. His father is an engineer on a fishing boat, and he has always felt a connection to the ocean, even though he lacks sailing experience. He decided to apply for the scholarship program because he knew it would be an exciting adventure, and we at Tall Ships Portland think that sailing on a tall ship as a first sail is a great way to get his feet wet. Badar will be sailing on Picton Castle from July 7 to 19th, as it travels from Greenport, N.Y. back here to Portland.

Q: Given that you don’t have a lot of sailing experience, what part of sailing on a Tall Ship are you most excited about?

A: Getting close to the other people on the ship, getting to know these people in a restricted place 

Q: Do you have a favorite type of vessel?

A: I love big, tall ships. They make me think of the history with the ocean in a place like Portland.

Q: Do you think you have a future in the maritime field? 

A: I love Portland, it has a strong connection to the ocean. I don’t know if I want to do something involved in the ocean, but I’m interested in the history here in Portland


Alden Siepert, a rising freshman at Cape Elizabeth High School, is an experienced sailor with seven years of sailing under his belt. His passion for sailing comes in part from his family, who sail regularly. He will be spending July 12th to 19th aboard Fritha, as it sails from its home port in Fairhaven. Mass. back here to Portland for Tall Ships Portland 2015.

Q: Do you think you have a future in the maritime industry? 

A: Maybe, I’m thinking about it. Sailing will always be a hobby of mine

Q: Do you have a favorite type of vessel?

A: I really enjoy sailing 420s and J24. 


Peter DiNinno is also a rising freshman Cape Elizabeth High School, and like Alden, he has sailing experience. His love of ships and an interest in Cape Elizabeth High’s sailing team motivated him to apply for the Tall Ships America Scholarships. Like Alden, he will be sailing aboard Fritha.

Q: Is the maritime industry in your future? 

A: Possibly maritime, I’m a rising freshman in high school so I have some time to figure it out.

Q: What excites you most about your trip?

A: I think it will be very different from what I’ve experienced, I’m excited to see that. 

Q: Do you have a favorite type of vessel?

A: I’ve sailed on small boats, like 420s, so I’d say those are my favorite. 


Cully Richard is a student at Cape Elizabeth High School, who applied to the Tall Ships America scholarship after his parents saw an email about the program and brought it to his attention. It’s a good thing they did, because even though Cully has never sailed before, he thinks that the experience he will have on this ship will be a good first step into the world of. Cully is the only student of the 17 to sail aboard the full rig ship Oliver Hazard Perry, which will be welcoming him aboard in August, due to scheduling issues that prevented a July trip. Cully will be on the Oliver Hazard Perry from August 9th to 15th and will sail on a round trip voyage starting and ending in Newport R.I. 

Q: Given that you are new to sailing, what part of sailing on tall ship are you most excited about?

A: Meeting people on the ship, and getting the firsthand experience of being on a tall ship.

Q: Do you think you have a future in the maritime world?

A: I’m a rising sophomore in high school, so it might be a little early to tell, but I’m interested in engineering. 


Julien Peck is a student at Casco Bay High School in Portland. An experienced sailor after attending and enjoying sailing camp, Julien is looking forward to expanding his knowledge of sailing and becoming comfortable onboard a tall ship. Like Badar, Julien will be sailing on Picton Castle. 

Q: What is your favorite part of sailing?

A: The freedom of being out on the water. 

Q: Do you have a favorite type of vessel?

A: I’ve mainly sailed 420s, and I enjoy those the most, partly because they are a two person craft. 

Q: Do you think you have a future in the maritime field? 

A: I don’t know but I think I want to end up near the ocean. 

Below is a list of all the students who received a scholarship, their sponsors and the vessels they will be on.

Name Vessel Sponsor
Ally Stewart Picton Castle Allen Agency
Ayan Ahmed Picton Castle 58 Fore St/The Portland Company
Julien Peck Picton Castle Iberdrola USA
Naomi Radtke Rowe Picton Castle Iberdrola USA
Badar Omar Picton Castle MPX
Ray Nyarushatsi Picton Castle Epifanes NA
Xander Davenport Picton Castle Eimskip
Dan Morse Picton Castle Portland Press Herald
Nathan Robinson Fritha 58 Fore St/The Portland Company
Austin Cormier Fritha Iberdrola USA
Peter DiNinno Fritha MPX
Alden Siepert Fritha Allen Agency
Annah Rossvall Lynx Iberdrola USA
Zoe Evans Lynx Morgan Stanley Portland Office
Katie Friberg Lynx Morgan Stanley Portland Office
Daisy Furber Lynx WCSH
Cully Richard Oliver Hazard Perry Eimskip

Portland's Exciting Port: Growth In Shipping and New Connections

Tall Ships Portland 2015 is just one element of the busy port of Portland. In the past few years the port has seen a big increase in container traffic as a result of the commitment made by Eimskip, an Iceland-based steamship company.

An Eimskip ship is loaded with containers. Photo by Portland Press Herald Staff Photographer John Patriquin

An Eimskip ship is loaded with containers. Photo by Portland Press Herald Staff Photographer John Patriquin


Since 2014, Portland has become a major shipping hub, thanks to Eimskip. The Icelandic company moves products like fish and blueberries from Portland to Northern European markets, and has reinforced Portland harbor as a commercial shipping center. 

    Eimskip and the Maine International Marine Terminal both provide jobs and continued growth to Portland Harbor, and the expansion of this connection looks to continue, as The Maine Port Authority has recently announced a plan to construct a cold storage facility overlooking Portland Harbor in collaboration with Eimskip. This facility will fill a gap in Portland’s ability to ship goods that must be refrigerated, an issue that had previously stymied Portland shipping. In addition, an expansion of Portland rail lines looks to increase the number of containers Eimskip can ship from Portland. Eimskip’s US managing director Larus Isfeld expressed support for the project in a recent article in the Portland Press Herald, stating: “The more containers that come out of here, the more competitive the region will be.” If the current trend of Portland’s connection with Eimskip continues, the developments in cold storage and rail will strengthen its reputation an economic center in the northeast, with a powerful connection to Northern Europe.

A New Connection to the Arctic

The connection with Eimskip has also boosted Portland’s bond to the Arctic region. In a recent Portland Press Herald article, Dana Eidsness, director of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office, claimed Eimskip’s investment in Portland has lead to Maine joining Alaska “at the forefront of U.S. engagement in the Arctic”. This is borne out by Portland being selected as the site of the 2016 Global Arctic Conference. As the first U.S. state other than Alaska to host this conference, Maine has an opportunity to forge strong bonds with other nations involved in the Arctic like Russia and Norway, as well as get first priority on new Asian trade routes formed by a changing Arctic Ocean. 


If you are interested in Portland harbor and it’s rich maritime heritage, be sure to visit Tall Ships Portland 2015, a multi-day event from July 18-20th featuring magnificent tall ships in Portland Harbor as well as maritime education, delicious local cuisine, and more. Tickets on sale now!