By Jim Ferri
“Sail naked” said the t-shirt, “it adds color to your cheeks.”
Although it was probably the 30th tongue-in-cheek Maine t-shirt I’d seen in the past two days, it still made me smile.
I was in Maine’s Boothbay Harbor and had been smiling a lot and not just at t-shirts. The scenery was beautiful, the food superb, everything that could make a vacation worthwhile just seemed to come together. Maine’s the kind of tranquil place you come for a week and wind up wishing you could spend a month.
I wound up in Boothbay Harbor on Friday just for an overnight on my way back to Boston. Since I had heard so much about the Boothbay region I wanted to get a taste of it.
On Saturday morning, out wandering about at 8:00am to get a feel for the place, I was surprised to find the town already abuzz. Obviously something was happening, or about to happen, with people all over the streets walking around carrying things and setting things up. I learned it was the annual Windjammer Day Festival and a large crowd was expected to watch the annual parade of windjammers as they sailed into port.
It was rotten luck for me though, since I needed to leave at midday. Making things worse, I soon realized that the balcony of the room in my hotel, the Fisherman’s Wharf Inn (where I unexpectedly had a fantastic scallops dinner from room service the night before), provided a primo spot for watching the festivities since it was at the center of the action on Commercial Street at Pier One. (Dulling the pain a bit was the memory of the incredible scallops I had at the Inn the night before). I decided to walk about and at least get a taste of the town pre-festival.
Walking along Commercial Street I came to the Byway, a smallish street renamed “Artist Alley” for the weekend and now open only to pedestrians, where artists were setting up their stands. As I walked along the Byway, and later elsewhere around town, it soon become apparent that there are a lot of artists in Maine.
All about town you could feel the festival fervor. Some shops were festooned with bunting and flags and up on the corner of Commercial and McKown Street I found a craft’s fair being set up on the lawn of the town’s Memorial Library. A block away a Budweiser truck had begun to bring in needed provisions. I just ambled about taking in the whole thing.
I walked down along the waterfront on Commercial Street and across from Capt. Sawyers Place, a picturesque B&B, passed a tugboat converted into a restaurant. Around the corner a little shop called Enchantments had launched a fleet of colorful whirligigs across its front lawn. Nearby I came across Finns McCools ice cream shop. I wanted to keep walking but had to get moving back towards Boston so I headed back to my hotel to collect my car from the valet.
I remembered from the previous day’s drive how appealing the drive along Route 27 in the Boothbay region was with its rolling hills and forests and I was looking forward to seeing it again. This time, however, I wanted to stop at Boothbay Railway Village, which I had spied on the way in.
The village is a collection of historic buildings that were brought to Boothbay from around the state, with the exception of the town hall that was already here. The attractive station was brought in from Freeport in 12 sections and then reassembled. When I arrived I found that I was the only visitor at the moment so I stopped and chatted with engineer Tom Wriggins who was sitting on a bench outside the station.
His engine was a small-gauge engine brought to the US from Germany after the war. “Now, I don’t know if it’s true or not,” Tom told me, “but the rumor is that after the war an Army Lieutenant came across these engines – hundreds of them – in a German train yard. He bought 80 of them and had them shipped back here to United States and given to different museums. We have four of them.”
I had to be off after a short while and as I continued along on Route 27 I found myself thinking about another Boothbay experience I had as I came through here the previous morning when I decided to stop off in the little village of Georgetown to get a look at another little pocket of coastal Maine. The coast is exceptionally picturesque and because of all its nooks, crannies and islands actually has more miles of coastline than California.
But the real reason for that foray was to visit Five Islands Lobster, a little lobster shack that’s a favorite with many people for its lobster rolls. Although they don’t open until 11:30am, when I arrived at 10:30 there were already people waiting. I waited patiently with them on the little pier until opening time and then paid for my little prize. It was delicious and exceptionally fresh, something you just can’t replicate outside of Maine.
As I walked back to Five Islands’ tiny parking lot I saw more people sitting at picnic tables set up by the water’s edge in a little makeshift park enjoying their rolls. And as I pulled out I was met by a line of cars coming in.
It was all typical Maine … a place where people will drive 30 miles out of their way down a small winding road for no other reason than just to get a good lobster roll.
If you go:
Maine Office of Tourism
111 Sewall Street
Augusta, ME 04330
Tel: (207) 287-5711
Fisherman’s Wharf Inn
Pier 6 – 22 Commercial Street
Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538
Tel: (800) 628-6872
Boothbay Railway Village
586 Wiscasset Road
Boothbay, ME 04537
Tel: (207) 633-4727
Five Islands Lobster Co.
1447 5 Islands Road
Georgetown, ME 04548
Tel: (207) 371-2990