May 21st, 2022 - 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
The annual Lewes Maritime Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, May 21, at the Lightship Overfalls and in Canalfront Park. Lewes, known as the First Town in the First State, enjoys both a rich seafaring history and diverse current maritime interests.
The event, co-organized by the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and the Overfalls Foundation, and supported by the Zwaanendael Museum, Lewes Historical Society, Lewes Chamber of Commerce and the City of Lewes, includes displays, boat rides, vessel tours and activities, all free and open to the public.
A brief Opening and Remembrance Ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. to kick off the day and reopen the Lightship Overfalls (LV-118) for the season. The ceremony will include laying of wreaths to honor and remember local mariners and Overfalls Foundation members who have “crossed the bar.”
“Lewes has a unique place in the annals of American maritime history, of which the ferry is a part,” said Heath Gehrke, CMLF director of ferry operations. “The festival is a fun and interactive way to learn more about our maritime history, industry and its many vocations. Come and join us for a great day of activities and exhibits as we celebrate the U.S. Merchant Marine, its historic support of the nation’s military and the many careers it offers.”
“Our objective for this Maritime Day is to inform and educate the public about the contribution of maritime resources in the local community and to share the community’s rich maritime history, including that of the U.S. Lighthouse Service and U.S. Lifesaving Service, precursors to the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Michael Safina, Overfalls Foundation president. “Lightships played a major role in the safe navigation of ships and their mariners throughout this nation’s history, and our guides are excited to help in bringing that story to light. We look forward to having the community help us reopen the ship for the 2022 season.”
The Lightship Overfalls and museum property will be open for free tours throughout the day. Various maritime participants will have displays at Canalfront Park, near the Overfalls, and some vessels will be open for public tours and boat rides. It is a great way for scout groups, school groups, and parents and kids of all ages to spend the day.
Other Maritime Day activities include a life-raft demonstration by the ferry and a water cannon display by the Lewes Fire Boat. The day’s finale will be a featured program, "The Wreck of the DeBraak,” hosted by the Zwaanendael Museum starting at 2:30 p.m. The program explores the history of the British warship HMS DeBraak, which sank off the coast of Lewes in May 1798 and was recovered by treasure hunters nearly 200 years later. The museum will also offer nautical displays and demonstrations throughout the day.
The Lewes Historical Society’s Wooden Boat Crew volunteer builders will have two unique Delaware vessels on display, the Delaware Oyster Sharpie and the Delaware Ducker. Lewes Historical Society interpreters will portray unique historical figures from the De Braak at both Canalfront Park and the Lewes Maritime Museum - Cannonball House.
Additional exhibitors include Bowers Maritime Museum, Cape Water Taxi, Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation, Fort Miles Historical Association, Freedom Boat Club, Lewes Fire Department, Lewes Public Library, Groome Church, Henlopen Bait & Tackle, Pilots’ Association for the Bay and River Delaware, Sea Scouts, University of Delaware, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
In 1933, the U.S.Congress declared May 22 as National Maritime Day to honor the contributions of the American merchant marine – civilians who have defended the freedom of the United States since 1775 and who executed the largest sealift the world has ever known during World War II. Observance of National Maritime Day also honors the maritime industry and the benefits it brings Americans in terms of transportation, jobs, goods and recreational opportunities.
For more information about the Overfalls Foundation, go to ww.overfalls.org, and for details about the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, go to www.cmlf.com.