Last month’s East End Maritime Festival in Greenport, N.Y., was blessed with perfect early autumn weather that drew bigger-than-expected crowds. Located near the tip of Long Island’s North Fork, Greenport’s history is intertwined with maritime activity. Today, the one-time whaling port serves as the northern terminus for Shelter Island’s North Ferry, which operates three boats: Mashomack (2002), Menantic (2005) and the Manhasset (2008). All three vessels were built in the Florida panhandle by the now defunct Freeport Shipbuilding.
Greenport is no stranger to shipbuilding. The town enjoyed a bustling industry at one time. In the mid-1800s, Greenport was home to a strong menhaden fishery, which later gave way to an oystering center in the first half of the 20th century. The East End Seaport Museum sponsors the annual festival as part of its mission to preserve the diverse maritime heritage of the area.
Present-day Greenport maintains important links to the water. The exclusive enclave Shelter Island is accessible by water only from Greenport to the north (via the aforementioned North Ferry), or by South Ferry, which links the island with the hamlet of North Haven (adjacent to Sag Harbor on the South Fork).
The maritime festival showcased past and present. Not far from the ferry landing, in a cluster of educational displays, OceansWide showed off its unique twist on experiential learning. The company uses remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to teach students about underwater environments. The organization’s founder, Campbell “Buzz” Scott, originally a fisherman, launched OceansWide after a stint working with scientists in Antarctica and Monterey Bay, Calif. He explained that the ROV that he pilots is a specially adapted unit originally built by Seaeye in the U.K. (part of Saab Underwater Systems). The company’s electrically powered ROVs are widely used in the oil and gas industry. During the festival, the OceansWide ROV offered visitors a unique view below the surface of Greenport Harbor.
I’ve written about maritime festivals before and always appreciate the important link they provide between the past and present. Festival season is drawing to a close this year, but these events are well worth checking out in 2017.