The annual Lewes Maritime Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 at Lightship Overfalls and Canalfront Park. Lewes, known as the first city in the first state, enjoys both a rich maritime history and diverse current maritime interests.
The event, co-hosted by Cape May-Lewes Ferry and the Overfalls Foundation, and supported by the Zwaanendael Museum, Lewes Historical Society, Lewes Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Lewes, includes exhibits, horseback rides boat, ship tours and activities, all free and open to the public.
A brief opening and commemoration ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. to kick off the day and reopen the Overfalls Lightship (LV-118) for the season. The ceremony will include the laying of wreaths to honor and remember local sailors and members of the Overfalls Foundation who have “crossed the bar”.
“Lewes holds a unique place in the annals of American maritime history, of which the ferry is a part,” said Heath Gehrke, CMLF’s Director of Ferry Operations. “The festival is a fun and interactive way to learn more about our maritime history, our industry and its multiple vocations. Come join us for a great day of activities and exhibits as we celebrate the American Merchant Navy, its historic support of the National Army, and the many careers it offers.
“Our goal for this maritime day is to inform and educate the public about the contribution of maritime resources to the local community and to share the rich maritime history of the community, including that of the US Lighthouse Service and the U.S. Lifesaving Service, forerunners of the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Michael Safina, President of the Overfalls Foundation. “Lightships have played a major role in the safe navigation of ships and their sailors throughout long history of this country, and our guides are thrilled to help bring that story to light. We look forward to the community helping us reopen the ship for the 2022 season.”
The Lightship Falls and Museum property will be open for free tours throughout the day. Various maritime attendees will have exhibits at Canalfront Park near the Overfalls, and some ships will be open for public tours and boat rides. It’s a great way for scout groups, school groups, parents and kids of all ages to spend the day.
Other Marine Day activities include a life raft demonstration near the ferry and a water cannon show by the fireboat Lewes. The finale of the day will be a featured programme, “The DeBraak Wreck”, organized by the Zwaanendael Museum from 2.30 p.m. The program explores the story of the British warship HMS DeBraak, which sank off Lewes in May 1798 and was salvaged by treasure hunters nearly 200 years later. The museum will also have exhibits and demonstrations nautical throughout the day.
Volunteer builders from the Lewes Historical Society Wooden Boat Crew will showcase two unique Delaware ships, the Delaware Oyster Sharpie and the Delaware Ducker. Interpreters from the Lewes Historical Society will introduce unique historical figures from the De Braak to Canalfront Park and the Lewes Maritime Museum – Cannonball House.
Other exhibitors include the 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, US Merchant Marine Academy and US Coast Guard Auxiliary.
In 1933, the United States Congress declared May 22 National Maritime Day to honor the contributions of American Merchant Marines – civilians who have defended the freedom of the United States since 1775 and who have performed the greatest sealift that the world had ever known during the Second World War. The National Maritime Day celebration also pays tribute to the maritime industry and the benefits it brings to Americans in terms of transportation, jobs, property and recreational opportunities.