AMELIASBURGH - The great days of sail and steam on the waters ebbing and flowing off the shores of Prince Edward County may be long gone.
But they're not forgotten, says Paul Adamthwaite, a retired navy sailor who has spent his life the seafaring way and today is working to preserve it.
In an address Saturday to the members 'Of the Seventh Town Historical Society, Adamthwaite recounted 200 years of general shipping history on Lake Ontario and said the spirit and adventure of the water will come alive yet again this summer.
The executive director of the Archives and Collections Society - a non-profit marine library and academic resource centre on local waters - said his organization is planning a festival celebrating all things nautical in relation to Prince Edward.
Dubbed the UltraMarine Festival 2001, the inaugural fest will showcase a sea of artisans, sculptors, musicians, and singers. Love for the water will also be espoused through the works of model boat makers, authors, and videoographers.
"Atlantic challenge rowers are coming from Brittany, France, to share with us their ongoing love and passion of the sea, boats, and history. This is a first event for our society and is quite unique," said Adamthwaite.
"The festival will begin an exchange between our two cultures that is expected to develop into stimulating possibilities for years to come. It is planned that next year, Canadians will be going to Brittany and share their works and talents in France."
The budget for the festival will hover around $130,000 and Adamthwaite said he hopes the celebration will only increase in size as more and more visitors slake in the historical observation of the heady days of travelling by water in early Upper Canada through to the early days of Confederation.
He told members of the Ameliasburgh historical society he has leased the Crystal Palace at the Prince Edward County for six days of the festival's duration from Aug. 19-24. The Regent Theatre will also house part of the festival.
Adamthwaite said work committed to the festival, to date, has been legion and would not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts of a stable of other volunteers and organization in "the county" since the idea was first floated
Celebrating maritime heritage in Picton
Taste the County, the Prince Edward Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, Prince Edward Arts Council, Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and countless volunteers have been heavily involved.
But why mingle the arts with old boats that are no longer with us?
"The goal is to celebrate our maritime heritage through the arts. This will foster an appreciation of the arts and our history, creating an important legacy for the future .... Our local, rural culture with a rich 200-year history of shipbuilding and waterborne commerce as well as fishing, will be shared with the Atlantic maritime French culture of sailors and fishermen."
In his address, Adamthwaite recounted the days of the early 1800s, when after the War of 1812, shipbuilding on Lake Ontario took off to dizzying heights spawning a flotilla of trade and commerce along the northern shores of the lake and between Upper Canada and the American side.
He said many of the schooners that plied the waters in the 1800s were built on the beaches surrounding prime Prince Edward County farmland and later carted grain, corn, barley - often with inexperienced sailors - to other ports of call to unload the season's harvest.
Adamthwaite, however, noted that the age of the great canvas-laden craft was
doomed from the start given the first steamer, Frontenac, was built near Kingston in 1816 and heralded a competing class of vessels on the lake which eventually replaced the sailing ships.
"It really was the beginning of the end for the schooners."
For details about the UltraMarine Festival 2001 in Picton Aug. 19-24, call the Archives and Collections Society at (613) 476-1177