Museum to Celebrate Founder’s 90th Birthday (8/23/23)

by | Aug 16, 2023

Rockland’s Sail, Power, and Steam Museum will host a special celebration on August 23 in celebration of their founder, Captain Jim Sharp’s, 90th birthday.

Starting with a Community Open House, the museum entry will be free for all from 10am – 4pm.  At 3pm, there will be a celebration with music, special guests, and (of course) cake!

Winner of this year’s Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce Community Person of the Year Award, Sharp’s impact on the Midcoast has been wide reaching.  Long a fixture on the Camden waterfront at Sharp’s Wharf (now Bayview Landing), Sharp ran windjammer tours on historic vessels such as the Gloucester fishing schooner Adventure and the Essex built schooner Roseway.  He also owned and restored Admiral McMillan’s arctic explorer, the Bowdoin.  All three of those vessels are still in service with the Adventure designated as a National Historic Landmark and an official project of Save America’s Treasures; the Bowdoin designated as the flagship of the State of Maine and still making trips to the Artic under the ownership of Maine Maritime Academy; and Roseway, traveling the globe as a sail training vessel with the World Ocean School.  For a while, the old steam tug, John Wanamaker, even called Sharp’s wharf “home” as a unique and popular restaurant.

As a young man, he inherited his father’s love of sailing, purchasing the Alden yawl Malabar with friends and offering Chesapeake and Bahamian charters.  At 24 years old he was hired as “mate” onboard the schooner Mattie (now the Grace Bailey) and his love affair with Maine began.  From there he purchased the Stephen Taber and his life course aboard these old vessels was set.

As he reached retirement age, he donated Adventure to the city of Gloucester, sold his waterfront property in Camden, and then owned a series of unique vessels. Sharp and his wife and museum co-founder, Meg, traveled, exploring the coast, canals and rivers America, Europe and beyond.  Finding themselves with a lifetime collection of nautical treasures they began to contemplate what to do with it all.

As fate would have it, in 2007, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School vacated their home on the shores of Rockland Harbor and put their property up for sale.  A friend of the Sharp’s talked them into going to look at the space, and they began to dream of opening a museum.  No longer a young man, they contemplated the realities of starting a new business, and decided to flip a coin.  As Sharp recounts the story, the coin was flipped and the answer was a resounding “NO!”  But they looked at each other and decided to put an offer in on the property anyway, and lo and behold, their offer was accepted.

Now, 16 years later, the Sail, Power, and Steam Museum is a thriving entity and a visitor destination in Rockland’s South End, next door to Snow Marine Park and at the entrance to Rockland’s Harbor Walk.  With thousands of visitors (both local and from away) each year, the museum also has an active waterfront and runs the Midcoast Sailing Center which holds programs in sailing navigation, sailing lessons, and Sharp’s pride and joy, SKFF (Sail Kids For Free), a free youth sailing program.  “It’s important to get these kids out on the water,” says Sharp.  “This is the heritage of our local area, and it’s a wonderful way to encourage independence, leadership, teamwork, and an appreciation for our environment.  The board of the museum and I firmly believe that cost should not be a barrier for these kids, so we offer this beginning program for free, and have scholarships available for those who want to continue.”

A 501c3, the museum’s mission is to celebrate, honor, experience, and share the story of Maine’s maritime heritage.  “Our vision,” says Sharp, “is that Maine’s maritime heritage helped to shape this nation, and it is our hope that it will continue to influence and inspire our future. It’s important to continue to tell the story to keep the history alive. “

While saving vessels like Adventure, Roseway, Bowdoin, Stephen Taber and others for future generations was a lifelong passion for Sharp, the museum is truly the “crowning accomplishment” for this nonagenarian.  Housing a collection which continues to grow almost daily with cherished donations from families around the country; rebuilding and saving vessels such as the Black Jack (the oldest surviving Morse built sloop and listed in the National Register of Historic Places); hosting speakers, movies, and music, the museum continues to focus on Sharp’s personal passion:  telling the story of Maine’s maritime heritage.

Richard Crossman, Vice Chair of the museum’s board of directors notes, “Jim is truly the “EverReady Bunny”!  He works at the museum daily and keeps the Board of Directors on their toes with a continual flow of new ideas, projects, and ways to reach out into the community.  As a board, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate Jim and all he has accomplished in his 90 years.”