SchoonerFest Regatta returns to Portland

June 23 to 24, 2018

Six historic schooners have made plans to race in Portland Harbor June 23 to 24 in the second running of Portland SchoonerFest & Regatta according to the event organizer Tall Ships Portland. Last year's overall winner, Schooner Alert, will race against visitors from down east Maine and as far as Gloucester, Mass all determined to win either the Alert Cup or a coveted bottle of Rhum Clement.

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maine students plan tall ship voyages to Cuba February 2018

Students from 4 Maine schools have signed on to sail to Cuba on board the nation's largest civilian tall ship, the Oliver Hazard Perry. Sailing from Florida to Cuba over February vacation, the students and several faculty members will stand watch, navigate, steer, sleep, eat and practice their Spanish while on board. Faculty from the schools will go along to get their own educations at sea. The ship has 17 professional crew in addition to the sail trainees. Last year, students sailed the same ship from Bermuda to Florida. For more information, see here.


la verdad bell in custody of El Galeon. . .For now

Feature Story By Ben Heselton-Clements

For the past year and a half the Spanish replica ship El Galeon has been sailing around the world with an extra piece of cargo: a heavy brass bell from the doomed ship La Verdad, which sank off Bermuda in 1899. Someone, perhaps a survivor of the shallow-water wreck, salvaged the ship's bell which ultimately was brought to America and purchased in 1979 in an antique shop by Thomas Cox then of Peaks Island, Maine.

Tom Cox is an ocean sailor, attorney expert in consumer and banking laws and still lives here in Maine. Inspired by the bell, he did some research on the history of La Verdad and decided to return it to where it belongs, the Canary Islands port of La Palma where La Verdad was launched in 1875. He contacted a tour guide in La Palma, part of the Canary Islands and the dry dock port for La Verdad and for a year and a half they emailed back and forth. The tour guide, Sheila Crosby, told him the Naval Museum in La Palma was interested in the bell. Fittingly, the process of returning the artifact to its homeland is happening at 19th century trade-route pace: Tom wrote to Sheila:

"The ship's bell from La Verdad may eventually reach Santa Cruz de La Palma aboard the Spanish vessel GALEON ANDALUSIA.  That vessel is in Portland, Maine now (at the time Tom wrote, the ship was in Portland as part of the 2016 Tall Ships® Weekend) but we hope that it will eventually reach your city and that the crew will deliver the bell to the Naval Museum.  It may take a year or two." That was in summer of 2016.

Fast forward to winter 2018. The delivery goes on. As of December 5th, El Galeon and her special cargo were touring Spain. But you can’t just set sail for an island chain hundreds of miles away – there are schedules to keep and sailing can be really slow. So now, given the amazing news that El Galeon has given birth to a sister ship, Nao Santa Maria, it may be the sistership that ultimately returns the bell to La Palma. Noa Santa Maria is still under construction in Spain. Under the latest plan, the bell will be transferred from El Galeon to Nao Santa Maria prior to the latter’s January 15th, 2018 launch and will be enroute to America via La Palma this spring. All this, it should be noted, is being watched carefully by Tom Cox, the crews of two ships and the residents of the Canary Islands.

         This journey of the bell from Tom Cox’s house, where he had considered using it for a doorbell, to Spain and finally, in a few months time, La Palma, resonates with me. It’s almost a reenactment of the 15th century Spanish trade routes, when the original El Galeon and Santa Maria were the most advanced commercial vessels of all time. To gift someone a bell was an intractable, unpredictable process involving good will and luck and long waiting periods that are a relief in the modern world. Imagine Amazon delivering a package “in a year or two.”

The bell is an interesting story, and the transportation of the bell by replica sailing ships is equally moving. Congratulations to everyone involved, La Verdad’s bell is almost home.