The Parade of Boats

This post is part of a series contributed by DRA Trustee Barnaby Porter. Read the previous post here.


lobster boat at sunset

Everyone loves a parade, they say, but then it isn’t always so. I watch this same parade each autumn and come to the same conclusion each time, that the long, stretched-out procession of boats making its way upriver these several weeks is a sad and reluctant affair.

They’re headed up to the boatyard of course, to be hauled out and cradled and made ready for winter… to hibernate through wind and cold and enveloping snow, frozen hard and still, swinging on their moorings no more for the next six or seven months. There’s no celebration to this parade. It’s more a melancholy line of stragglers who have the appearance, each one as it passes my stretch of shore, of having put off this last up-stream passage until the last possible moment, ever hopeful of having just one more good day on the water.

Hauling a boat out at the landingMost are sailing boats, yawls and ketches and sloops, a schooner or two and some double-ended rigs. Pleasure boats, you might say, and I’d agree, but more importantly, these passing vessels are their owners’ favorite possessions, their means of escape from stress and squalor, their best hope of ever being the way we’d all like to be, carefree.

Today I saw three more making their way against a strong north wind, no sails up, just motoring, grimfaced, through the sturdy green waves and a riverful of whitecaps. The sky was leaden between rainsqualls and shafts of sunlight. The backdrop of the far shore was dark green with an overlay of tawny oaks and the pale yellow of birch and paler-still poplars. The entire scene was eerie, beautiful, with a hint of brightness on the horizon, but wild and woolly on the river, where the weather stormed and churned the tide and did things that would make an artist shrink from trying. It was cold too, raw, numbing.

hauling a boat down Main StreetA clam digger’s aluminum skiff whined its way home in the late afternoon, pounding hard and throwing white spray. And then the last boat of the day, one of the parade, ghosted through the trees framing my view – a pale grey ketch with white deckhouse and bare masts. Its little engine droned its last sad song of the season, its bow cutting through those romping, green waves and pushing against the strong wind out of the north, headed upriver for the winter. Sad, yes, but such a wonderful sight. Silently, I cheered.


Barnaby PorterArtist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. Barnaby currently serves on DRA’s Board of Trustees. For more about Barnaby, click here.

Photos courtesy of Barnaby Porter.