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Castine, Maine

Posted by on October 12, 2012

We awoke Sunday and we moved a little closer to the town of Castine after the strong winds abated. Sabrina went ashore and I got a chance to work on some things on the boat and catch the Cleveland Browns game on CBS (they lost.) Monday we went in early to take the walking tour provided by the Chamber of Commerce, (a map that takes visitors on a self-guided tour of the historical sites of the town). It was truly a Chamber of Commerce day – warm sunshine, gentle breeze, and beautiful fall colors. It was Columbus Day, so most of the students from Maine Maritime Academy were home on break.  We followed the map, walking out to the lighthouse at Dyce Head and past the historic homes and markers listed on the map. Castine is the site of the failed “Penobscot Expedition,” the worst U.S. Naval defeat until Pearl Harbor, the loss that effectively ended Paul Revere’s military career. The British constructed Ft. George before the battle, and now that location serves a dual purpose as both a historic site and the town’s athletic fields.

We continued walking through the tree lined streets, eventually arriving at the building for the Castine Historical Society. We were pleasantly surprised to find the door open, and decided to check it out. The docent explained that currently they had a large exhibit dedicated to Douglas MacMillan, the schooner Bowdoin, and Bowdoin’s service in WWII. Sabrina and I found this rather serendipitous, having been intrigued by MacMillan’s life when we learned about it at the Pilgrim Museum in Provincetown, his birthplace. Now we were learning more about the schooner that carried him on his journeys and also served in WWII as an arctic active duty vessel. After viewing the exhibit we realized that Bowdoin is currently a teaching vessel for the Maine Maritime Academy, and can be seen in the harbor!

The Castine Historical Society also has a great multimedia exhibit pertaining to the Penobscot Expedition and the disgrace that met the military commanders when they returned to Boston. There’s a diorama showing the locations of the British and American forces as the siege proceeded, and how the American commanders failed to properly coordinate and engage the British.

Back at the harbor front we quickly located Bowdoin. Unfortunately, because of the holiday there was no one to take us aboard. We were able to take a great tour of the training ship the “State of Maine.” Our tour was led by Dylan, a sophomore at Maine Maritime Academy. He took us through the bridge, the main decks, the engine room, the galley, and even showed us a cabin that was currently in use by one of his fellow students. To accustom the freshmen to life aboard, the students use the 500’ ship as a dormitory while it is in dock. Dylan also sailed over the summer to Curacao and the Caribbean, spending a summer at sea as an integral portion of his course work.

Tuesday morning we took Joint Venture into the Castine Town Dock to see if we could get a quick tour of Bowdoin before we left. We ended up getting a fantastic tour by the 1st Mate! He showed us through the Bowdoin, answering all of our questions and filling us in on the construction and future refit for the aging wooden boat. During MacMillan’s expeditions, the Bowdoin had spent an entire winter stuck in the ice in the arctic. Contemplating how the crew had existed in that bitter cold while touring the boat was awe-inspiring. Currently Bowdoin is used as a training vessel, and captain, mate, cook and up to 16 students could sail on the 88’ boat when she sails north to Nova Scotia for the summers.

We had come ashore in Castine expecting to find a sleepy little town closing down for the winter, but the history of the town, the working ships of the Academy, the tree-lined streets, and the gorgeous homes made it one of our favorite places here in Maine.

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