The annual downrigging festival in Chestertown, Md., brings a fleet of tallships to town for an end-of-season weekend of sailing, sea music and dockside camaraderie-not to mention slicing a new shallop in two.
Splitting the newly built replica of Captain John Smith’s shallop in two is just the start of this year’s Downrigging Weekend (Nov. 4–6) in Chestertown, Md., when the Kalmar Nyckel, the schooner Virginia, the Lady Maryland, the buyboat Mildred Belle and skipjacks Stanley Norman and Ellsworth will join the schooner Sultana for her last waterside frolic of the year, before the sails come off for the winter.
Starting at 1 p.m. on Friday, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich will help saw the finished shallop lengthwise [see story on page 52]. Then shipwrights will reassemble it and launch it into the Chester River. Unconventional as it sounds, this particular approach to launching the shallop is a nod to the design of the original 1608 vessel, which historians think was built in England, then broken into two pieces for shipment to the New World.
Meanwhile a fleet of tallships, arriving from all corners of the Bay, will have gathered along the waterfront, sails still set, ready for illumination. From 5–8 p.m. the sky will be ablaze as acres of canvas reflect the lights from the harbor.
The Prince Theatre on High Street opens its doors Friday evening for a benefit concert of sea music (8 p.m.), featuring maritime musicians Bob Zentz and Janie Meneely, with Chris Cerino acting as MC. Part of the proceeds will go to re-rig the dismasted Pride of Baltimore II.
Then on Saturday, the visiting ships offer morning and afternoon public sails on the river (reservations required). Zentz and Meneely will be performing again from 1–4 p.m. at Play It Again Sam, a coffee shop on Cross Street.
On Sunday, the ships open for dockside tours (tickets will be on sale at the waterfront). Maritime musicians will be performing dockside as well, entertaining visitors waiting to board the ships.
You can find more information about Downrigging Weekend and make reservations for the public sails (prices vary) by calling 410-778-5954 or by logging onto www.schoonersultana.org.