It rained briefly on the Parade of Sail.
But nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the skippers and sailors who turned out over the weekend for the 29th annual Gloucester Schooner Festival — or for the spectators who lined Stacy Boulevard and other parts of Gloucester’s waterfront to see these historic, graceful marine vessels sail through and out of Gloucester Harbor Sunday.
In all, nearly two dozen schooners joined in the latest celebration of Gloucester’s marine history and heritage, with vessels coming from as far as Oxford, Md., homeport of the 48-foot Light Reign, and Rockland, Maine, home to the 92-foot national landmark American Eagle, which was built in Gloucester in 1930 as an auxiliary fishing schooner and launched as the Andrew & Rosalie. The American Eagle, in fact, won both the large-boat category and the overall racing competition for the second straight year.
But none sailed with greater pride than Gloucester’s own restored Schooner Adventure, which, after joining in the festival and its Parade of Sail last year, did so this year by leading the parade under full sail for the first time after two trial runs out of the harbor in the weeks leading up to the fest.
“It was just humming — just a great day,” said Tom Balf, the executive director of Maritime Gloucester, which served as host of the event. “It was light wind, so maybe not the most exciting day for racing, but it was a really magnificent sight, with the Adventure leading the pack (in the Parade of Sail).”
The festival once again featured a variety of activities on land as well as sea, including a public and benefit Saturday lobster bake at Maritime Gloucester. Balf said organizers there served up some 600 lobsters, with proceeds going to the Schooner Festival and to local nonprofits who are competing for potential Schooner Festival grants.
Also, while not directly tied to the Schooner Festival, the city’s harbor and waterfront was brightened Saturday by both the annual Boat Parade of Lights, hosted by Cape Ann Marina, and a booming Saturday night fireworks presented by the nonprofit Gloucester Fireworks Committee and American Thunder Inc., of North Reading. That’s the same company that fires up the city’s July 3 fireworks show and last month presented the first-ever major public fireworks display in Rockport.
Host Tobin Dominick’s own river cruise boat Annie took top prize in the boat parade, which drew 10 participants. The Halloween boat, skippered by Scott Pantage, took second prize, while themed lobster boat called the Sleepy Hollow took third.
“The bottom line,” said Balf, “is that, despite the iffy weather, (the festival) was a huge success all weekend long.”