The end of the summer in the Northeast is the time for several maritime festivals that feature coastwise and harbor workhorses of yesteryear and sometimes a few boats that are still working. Labor Day weekend will see the big Schooner Festival in Gloucester, Mass., and the following weekend will be the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival in New London.
As is often the case when boats are involved, there are links between the past and the present. This connection is especially evident in the case of the coastal schooner Columbia.
The Columbia, built in 2014 by Eastern Shipbuilding Group and its owner and CEO Brian D’Isernia, is a steel-hulled replica of the 1923 Gloucester-based fishing schooner by the same name. The original Columbia was lost in a 1927 storm off Sable Island. Eastern — now known for building workboats but originally established to build commercial fishing vessels — built the Columbia from the plans of its namesake with redesign help from John W. Gilbert & Associates, and is currently working on a sistership to be named Columbia II at its Panama City, Fla., yard.
After journeying down from Gloucester, Columbia will also participate in the Connecticut festival. The second celebration also includes the tugboat Patricia Ann, owned by New London-based Thames Towboat Company, which traces its corporate roots back to the 1860s. Patricia Ann, the overhauled Navy tug Paducah, is active in ship assists around at the Groton, Conn., Navy base across the Thames River from New London, Conn., and is outfitted with underwater fenders for assisting in the movement of submarines.
These festivals — and vessels — serve to remind us how closely the maritime past is intertwined with the present.