By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,616)
Guests at the Portland Yacht Services Open House on Thursday, June 16, 2016 will have a unique opportunity to visit the legendary schooner Harvey Gamage tied up at its main dock. The Gamage has just returned from an exploratory trip to Cuba. The event runs from 5:00 – 8:00 pm Thursday.
The Open House at 100 West Commercial Street is a celebration of a modern state-of-the-art facility that opened last fall. The boat yard moved from its historic location at 58 Fore Street, also known as the Portland Company. It is currently under development by CPB2, Jim Brady, the managing partner, who purchased the almost ten acres from Phin Sprague, Jr.
“Americans go to Cuba and act like cowboys. You can’t impose on them. You have to work with them,” said Sprague this afternoon. “Cubans have to trust you,” Sprague was referring to the efforts of Greg Belanger, executive director, of a new non-profit developed to run youth sailing programs between the newly recognized Cuba and Portland. Emphasis will be on marine science and other academic programs.
The Harvey Gamage was one of the last boats built by South Bristol boat builder Harvey Gamage. Between 1924 and 1976, over 288 boats were built there. The Gamage was built in 1973.
Sprague and Belanger spent a large part of the last four (4) months in Cuba proving they could support such a program for students. Logistics were the greatest concern. “The Cubans haven’t had any systems in place for the past fifty (50) years of American and self-imposed isolation. We had to be sure we could get boat parts when needed. The people are wonderful. They are all brothers there. When the Russians pulled out after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban economy collapsed,” Sprague said. It was like a baseball team – the people learned to work together – to survive together.
Due to an agreement between Belanger and Sprague the Harvey Gamage was restored by Portland Yacht Services over the past fourteen (14) months. The Westward is currently undergoing restoration at 100 West Commercial Street also. The two yachts will form a team that sail south in the winter to Cuba and down east during the summer.
“It was windy. About 35 knots,” said Sprague this afternoon. He arrived last night in Portland after sailing from City Island, New York, where he’d taken over the helm for the final leg of the Gamage’s trip back from Cuba.
The Harvey Gamage will spend next week in Boothbay Harbor participating in the annual Windjammer Days.
Attend the Open House on Thursday and you will have an opportunity to see these historic yachts, learn about the student educational program, and learn more about doing business in Cuba. It’s very different.