BROOKLIN — A little more than a dozen years ago, a handful of enthusiasts for small, traditional sail- and oar-powered boats gathered on the Brooklin shore for a casual cruise aimed at replicating the experience of the “raids” popular among European small boat fans.
This year, the 13th annual edition of what has come to be know as the Small Reach Regatta gets underway on Friday, again on the shores of Brooklin, but with some differences.
The once more or less irregular event has long been formally sponsored by the Downeast Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association. Though camping is still the accommodation of choice — at the Reach Knolls campground on the Shore Road in Brooklin — a detailed program sets out times for skippers meetings, organized, though not compulsory, dinners, postprandial music and instructions for storing, hauling and launching boats at the Atlantic Boat Co. yard, the biggest change is in the size of the fleet.
The first regatta drew six boats and, in recent years, the organizers have tried to limit the number of boats participating to somewhere in the range of 60. By March, though, race organizer Tom Jackson said he was seeing a substantial “bump” in applications, including several from first-timers.
“We always expect a drop-off as the weeks go on, so with 80 (83 as of right now), I would expect something final in the mid-70s,” Jackson said at the time. “That still is a sizeable gain from past years. So, all indications are that this will, indeed, be a record year.”
And indeed it is. As of July 15, the number of confirmed registrations remained at 83, with boats slated to arrive at the Atlantic Boat facility on Flye Point in Brooklin starting Wednesday afternoon. The registered fleet includes wooden boats, many built by their owners, that range in length from just over 13 feet to about 22 feet. While most of the boats come from the New England states, several are slated to come from as far away as Pennsylvania and Virginia, with one intrepid participant coming from Florida.
The 21-foot-6-inch Caldedonia Yawl designed by Ian Oughtred is among the most numerous boats in the fleet and several boats designed by Joel White will be on hand as well.
Plans call for three days on the water — Thursday, Friday and Saturday — weather permitting, with the fleet sailing (or rowing) from Herrick Bay, where Atlantic Boat is located, to various islands and beaches around the eastern end of Eggemoggin Reach. Destinations might include the Torrey Islands off the mouth of Center Harbor, Hog Island, which helps shelter the mooring field at the WoodenBoat School from southeasterly winds, Pond Island and Tinker Island, both in Blue Hill Bay.
The detailed regatta sailing instructions make clear, though, that the weather — thick fog, 20-knot winds, strong currents — can be the determining factor on when and where the fleet will go.
“No one is obligated to participate in any day’s activity,” the instructions say. “If you and your crew are not at ease with the route or conditions, the decision about whether to participate, or whether to continue, is yours alone,” adding for boats that might withdraw from a cruise “if you feel you need an escort, do not hesitate to ask.”
As of Tuesday, the marine forecast for the inshore waters between Stonington and Schoodic Point — including the eastern end of Eggemoggin Reach — called for showers and gusty winds on Thursday with winds diminishing through the weekend.