By Julianne Mosher
Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson will turn into a pirate’s paradise this weekend and it’ll make visitors want to shake their “booty.”
On Saturday, Aug. 19, singers from around the world will head to the Village to share the gift of song, and some history, with tunes that came straight from the seas, as part of the 3rd annual Port Jefferson Sea Shanty & Maritime Music Festival.
Amy Tuttle, program director of the Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council (GPJAC), said that the free event brings in local sea shanty singers and others from all over New England, Canada, and even the UK. From noon until dusk, visitors can sit and sing along in Harborfront Park, located at 101-A East Broadway, or they might catch glimpses of a few street singers walking around town.
“Port Jefferson was a shipbuilding community,” Tuttle said. “A lot of the captains and ship builders lived in these very houses that are still standing.”
Tuttle added that over a century ago, Port Jefferson was one of the largest shipbuilding communities in the state. Not only were a large number of big boats created right on these docks, but a huge number of small, wooden boats, as well.
“Sea shanties were work songs developed by people who worked on and who built the ships,” she said. “They could be considered one of the first genres of world music —wherever there was a port, there would be different influences. It’s really interesting.”
And to really bring the vibe of early century Port Jefferson, across the park at Bayles Boat Shop, which is part of the Long Island Seaport and Eco Center (LISEC) and a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of maritime history on Long Island, will be hosting its annual Sikaflex Quick and Dirty Boat Build.
Now in its 12th year, the event allows would-be boat designers and builders to have a weekend of fun and showcase their creative skills and talents. Using only a provided supply of plywood, plastic cable ties, and Sikaflex/sealant, two member teams must build, paint and then paddle their design around the village dock in Port Jefferson Harbor located just offshore of Harborfront Park.
Several two-person teams will have five hours on Saturday and return on Sunday to decorate their boats and prepare to race them at 3 p.m. Trophies will be awarded after the races for design, decoration, first built and race winners. “People will be able to watch the boats being built, listen to music and sing along,” Tuttle said.
Port Jefferson hosted the first Sea Shanty & Maritime Music Festival in 2021. Tuttle said that for many years, Mystic CT would host a Sea Shanty Festival, but unfortunately, it was discontinued. In the time passing, she heard from many of the artists looking for other places to sing their songs, so the GPJAC partnered with the Village of Port Jefferson and the Folk Music Society of New York to bring this whaling town back to its roots.
Featured performers will include John Roberts, David Jones, David Littlefield, Bonnie & Dan Milner, Heather Wood, Joseph Morneault, Geoff Kaufman, and Deirdre Murtha and Alan Short — plus a grand finale concert featuring all the musicians at around 6 p.m. Pirates at Large will be at the “pirate camp” outside the Village Center in character, singing along, too.
“Each year this gets a little bit bigger and we’re so excited to bring it back again,” Tuttle said. “There’s nothing else like it.” For more information, visit www.gpjac.org.