It’s high summer along the Maine coast in 1901, and there’s plenty of activity out on the water. The once-sleepy village of Eden on Mount Desert Island by this time is known as Bar Harbor, the seasonal destination and yachting center for Gilded Age “rusticators” — Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Pulitzer, et al — who had built their “cottages” on the rocky, pine-clad coast.
And so we see a wonderful variety of craft bustling about the pier of the Eastern Yacht Club on this idyllic-looking day, proving there’s more than one way to get out on the water. Here comes the 260-foot Maine-built sidewheeler Frank Jones, proud flagship of the Portland, Mount Desert and Machias Steamboat Co., carrying visitors and vacationers on one of her twice-weekly overnight runs between Portland and Jonesport (making connections with the Maine Central Railroad).
Off her bow, two sleek-looking one-designs have slipped their moorings and, with sails set, look to be off for a little friendly competition. Sailracing was a major sport in those days, covered in great detail by the national newspapers, and the club was home to some serious competitors. Soon, Nathanael Herreshoff’s now-legendary Bar Harbor 31 would dominate the local racing scene.
Then there’s the trio of yachts in the background. The sailboats glide past a large, white-hulled steam yacht with stubby masts, her gangway down and her tender, with a surrey-fringe top, tied up at the pier. And in the distance, a pair of stately topsail schooners, built for luxurious bluewater sailing, ride at anchor in the lee of the island. Could they be the rivals Taormina and Verona? Perhaps a Soundings reader knows.
In contrast, the graceful, timeless little pulling boat in the foreground, easily handled by father, roomy and stable for mother and daughter, pauses in the harbor.
Take your pick of vessels — it’s a beautiful day to be on the water.
This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue.