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A Brief Historical Background of The Southwest Harbor Fleet

In the early days of the Southwest Harbor summer colony, sailing in and around the Great Harbor of Mount Desert Island was mostly a question of a half day charter of a Friendship Sloop that was sailed by her owner who fitter her out to carry a small party of “summer people”. The Southwest Harbor Fleet, started by Richard E. Rowse, began as the Southwest Harbor Yacht Racing Association in 1959 and was later incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1963.

Initially, Cape Cod Bullseyes, a 16’ fiberglass replica of a Herreshoff 1914 small sloop design, were rented by the half day from Jim Willis’ Boathouse but were subsequently purchased by enthusiastic sailing families. Later, a second class of sloop, the O’Day 23’ Tempest was added to a growing fleet. Fleet activities consisted of weekly series races every Friday during July and August plus other special races such as a single-handed race, all-day regatta, sweethearts’ race or overnight cruise. Volunteers acted as a Race Committee and many non-racers followed the  day’s racing in family powerboats.

The main, non-racing feature of the organization has been its traditional after-race teas each Friday. The Fleet has no physical assets so teas were hosted in the homes of various members and were very popular, fun gatherings for all ages.  Besides general socializing, races were hashed over, future activities were announced and large quantities of cookies, tea and cokes were consumed. Good fun and comradeship for all!

(Much of the above was excerpted from a document dated 6/13/75, authored by R. K.  McInnes)


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