BROOKLIN — A dozen years ago, a handful of traditional small boat enthusiasts gathered on the shore of the WoodenBoat School to enjoy their own version of the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta — the premier race for wooden sailboats in New England. They dubbed their event the “Small Reach Regatta.”
Last week, a fleet of 57 boats gathered at the Atlantic Boats boatyard on the shore of Herrick Bay in Brooklin for the 12th edition of the event. Now organized under the aegis of the Downeast Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association, the fleet of small, traditional wooden pulling and sailing boats — many built by their skippers — came from all around Maine to sail on Blue Hill Bay, but it wasn’t a fleet of just “homers.” Boats came from all around New England — New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut — as well as from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and distant Virginia.
Tom Jackson, a senior editor at WoodenBoat magazine and for all intents and purposes the founder of the event, said the fleet included both old-timers and newcomers.
“This was our 12th year, and for me it is a delight to see both veteran boats returning once again and new boats showing up for the very first time,” Jackson said Tuesday.
Among the constants were boats such as Cushing sailor Ben Fuller’s boat Ran Tan, which has been in every SRR, often with designer Anthony Dias at the helm.
Among the new boats were several built from kits created at Hewes & Co. in Blue Hill, including several Ian Oughtred-designed Caledonia yawls.
Initially, the weather looked like it might be a problem. Thick fog packed Blue Hill Bay and Eggemoggin Reach on Wednesday morning but “it lifted that afternoon, though, and we ended up with absolutely pristine weather throughout,” Jackson said.
According to Jackson, the fleet, which sailed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, “generally had light winds each morning,” but there was enough breeze for the boats to reach lunch spots Babson Island the first day, Harriman Point the second, and Pond Island — well out into Blue Hill Bay — on Saturday.
The dependable sea breeze came up every afternoon, “making for some fine Maine Coast sailing,” Jackson said.
The small pulling and sailing craft were all kept under the watchful eyes of a chase fleet of numerous powerboats under the command of marine surveyor David Wyman of Castine.
Though most of the boats in the SRR fleet are distinctive, perhaps the most unusual was Centennial, built by Dan Noyes of Newbury, Mass. The boat is 20 feet long and a faithful “reconstruction” of the very high-sided and decked Banks dory rowed by Alfred “Centennial” Johnson on his 1876 solo trans-Atlantic voyage. The original is in the collections of the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester.
While the fleet launched and stored its boats, and stored their trailers, at Atlantic Boat, many of the participants camped a few miles away at Oceanfront Camping at Reach Knolls. For those who cared to join in, catered dinners were available, including a chowder dinner Wednesday evening and a shore dinner featuring lobster on Saturday.