‘Windjammer Wharf’ almost a reality

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A proposed federal bill would help dock Maine’s windjammer fleet in Rockland Harbor

A proposed federal bill would help dock Maine’s windjammer fleet in Rockland Harbor

Schooner owners in Rockland, Maine, are making progress in their plans to create a home in the city’s Lermond Cove, even securing the help of a U.S. Senator.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has filed a bill to deauthorize a part of the federal navigation channel to make way for the proposed Windjammer Wharf. The bill is one of five she introduced early this year, intended to help her home state’s harbors.

“Lermond Cove is perfectly situated in the Rockland Harbor to be the new and permanent home for these cherished vessels,” Snowe told fellow senators when she introduced the bill. “The proposed Windjammer Wharf will also provide a safe harbor from storms, as it is tucked nicely near the Maine State Ferry and Department of Maine Resource piers.”

The bill was introduced Feb. 18 but the wharf project has been in the works for some time.

A few years ago the owners of the schooners Ellida, Victory Chimes,

J&E Riggin, Stephen Taber and the Nathaniel Bowditch formed a non-

profit organization, Maine Maritime Tradition Center. Their goal was to create a safe and permanent home for Rockland’s schooners, some of which are members of the Maine Windjammer Association. The schooners’ previous home was exposed to the wind.

“When the wind blew from a certain direction we had to move our boats,” says Anne Mahle, who owns the J&E Riggin with her husband Jon. Also, the dock owners were raising prices.

The schooners temporarily moved to the MBNA docks until Lermond Cove became available.

The wharf, they say, will also help in the town’s efforts to revitalize the waterfront. Visitors can stroll the piers and look at the picturesque vessels. The docks will also be available to visiting vessels, such as the educational vessels the Harvey Gamage, Lettie G. Howard and the Spirit of Massachusetts.

“It benefits us because we’ll finally have a safe harbor,” says Kristina Williamson, who owns the Ellida with her husband, Paul. “It’s also a great spot where people can walk around the harbor and see the schooners.”

The project has the support of the Army Corps of Engineers (which helped draft the language of the bill), the Maine Department of Transportation, which runs the ferry line, Rockland city officials and the Rockland Port District. An act of Congress is necessary because part of the federal channel falls in the Cove, although it is rarely used, says Mahle. The Engineers hasn’t dredged that section in years, she says.

The project is a unique collaboration between the city, schooner owners and Rockland Port Authority, with funding from local, federal and private resources. The schooner owners are paying for the docks and the infrastructure, while the port authority is paying for much of the dredging. About 10,000 cubic yards of silt and sand will be dredged to restore the harbor to a depth below a low mean water of 12 feet.

“We’re looking forward to working with the city,” Williamson says.

If all goes well, the schooner owners hope to be in their new home next summer.

“It’s been a long haul but we’re getting there,” says Williamson.

The city of Rockland has hosted the windjammer fleet since 1955, and has become a destination for schooner lovers from across the nation. According to Snowe, the state relies on the windjammers in part to boost tourism and help maintain working waterfronts. Some estimate that the windjammers have an annual economic impact of around $3.8 million, according to Snowe’s office.

In addition to the legislation to help Rockland Harbor, Snowe proposed four similar bills. Snowe proposed deauthorizing the federal channel in Tenants Harbor, St. George, to help alleviate concerns about mooring space. According to Snowe, several people seeking permits for moorings that have existed for 30 years have been notified that those locations are in the channel.

She also drafted a bill to create more recreational moorings in Northeast Harbor. Snowe told senators that the harbor surrounding Acadia National Park has reached capacity at both the moorings and the docks.

Snowe also introduced bills to revitalize the Union River, including redesignating a portion of the river as an anchorage area, and a proposed shore mitigation project at Camp Ellis. She says the legislation is needed to complete the project since it will cost more than authorized under current law.