Maine Maritime Museum Boat Tours
Region: Maine’s MidCoast & Islands
Activities: Boat tours, museum visitation
The Bath area was founded on shipbuilding and the sea. So it’s an ideal place to explore by water.
Maine Maritime Museum has opened its warm-weather boat tours this summer from its location on the banks of the Kennebec River. Leaving from the museum pier, the tour boat Merrymeeting sails on several different excursions down rivers and up the coast. Some trips leave daily while others are scheduled several times a week or weekly. All cruise fees include two-day admission to the museum.
On a short (one hour) ‘Shipyards & Lighthouses Cruise,’ you’ll motor past the adjacent Bath Iron Works, which builds advanced warships for the US Navy, and to diminutive river lighthouses including the Doubling Point Light and Kennebec Range Lights. For lighthouse lovers, there are a pair of longer tours (up to four hours), during which the Merrymeeting sails by up to ten lighthouses, including river lights such as Squirrel Point and off-shore stations such as Seguin Island Light. One weekly tour takes explorers to the boat’s namesake, Merrymeeting Bay, and wends through the bay’s unusual ecosystem, created by a confluence of six coastal rivers.
The Merrymeeting offers an open upper deck and enclosed lower deck. Normally, the little ship can carry 50 passengers. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, that number has been cut to 20 to comply with social-distance guidelines. Face coverings are required on the enclosed lower deck and when social distancing is not possible. Given the smaller passenger count, people are generally able to spread out and enjoy themselves.
Before or after a tour on Merrymeeting, take time to tour the museum itself. With its 20-acre campus - including the former Percy & Small Shipyard - Maine Maritime offers hundreds of exhibits for fans of the state’s deep history of shipbuilding, lobstering and seafaring. This summer and fall, the museum is presenting Interwoven: Threads of Power in the Domestic Sphere, which uses historic and contemporary fiber arts to explore the influence of women in Victorian shipbuilding families.
And remember to visit the museum’s riverside lawn to experience New England’s largest sculpture. The white metal installation offers an enormous outline of what was Percy & Small Shipyard’s greatest achievement: the schooner Wyoming, launched in 1909. The sculpture is 444-feet long and has six flagpoles representing the ship’s six masts. When launched, it was the largest wooden sailing vessel built in the United States.