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!