23 Sep 2014

Merry Time at the Nantucket Maritime Festival

“I’m gonna build me a boat with these two hands…it’ll be a fair curve from a noble plan,” croons Jimmy Buffet. I wonder if the Nantucket boat enthusiasts had Jimmy’s soundtrack playing last week while they were crafting their own boats? The “homemade boat” race was just one of the many events that were part of the annual Nantucket Maritime Festival this past Saturday where hundreds gathered to celebrate the thrills and challenges of life on an island.

Hosted by the Egan Maritime Institute each September, the festival showcases the skills and passions that are at the core of our maritime heritage …from sailing, to fishing, harpooning to scalloping, paddle boarding to oyster shucking. Although plenty of adults were on hand to enjoy the fun, the activities were geared primarily toward the young people of Nantucket. There was a large play pool filled with sea life for the kids to study and touch, a harpoon throwing contest and a lesson in scalloping. Throw in the traditional fare of clam chowda and lobsta rolls for lunch, along with a little local music and it was the perfect day to celebrate our island.

I’m in awe of the multifaceted talent and skill that’s part of the “self-sufficiency” of Nantucket life. From the local fishermen and scallopers, to the sailors, ship captains and boat builders…all play an important role in the seafaring life we all are accustomed to. Perhaps the most heartwarming reminder from the Maritime festivities was how important it is to live in community when your hometown is a tiny piece of sand in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

It was fascinating to watch seasoned locals instruct the young people in all the details that are part of the fabric of island life. Many of the children were born and raised here and don’t know any other existence…but they’ll need the skills and knowledge of their forefathers if they plan to make Nantucket their permanent home. One of my favorite scenes of the day was watching two of our National Coast Guardsmen teach some young people how to throw a rescue line to some imaginary fellow seafarers in distress. The kids were absolutely captivated and the onlookers were reminded that we all need to have the basic skills necessary to assist our friends and neighbors on the water should the need ever arise.

If you missed this year’s Maritime Festival, there’s plenty of opportunities to celebrate the many dimensions of Nantucket living. Recreational scallop season opens next week and you can dig for dinner. There’s still time to set sail with the Endeavor or rent a boat from Island Boat Rentals. Or perhaps you could take a tip from Jimmy Buffett and try your hand at your very own custom made vessel.

Build a boat.

Shellie Dunlap


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