Fiddler's Reach Story

When I was first thinking about a business name, trying to develop a brand with the appropriate sense of place and purpose I included the place name Fiddler's Reach on theFiddlerCrop short list. The winery is situated at the western end of Fiddler's Reach; a narrow passage on the Kennebec River just below the City of Bath in Maine. Living in Bath, I was familiar with that stretch of river, but not the story behind it. I first thought that on a calm evening the citizens of Bath could hear a fiddler play down on the reach. I wasn't too far off; though I envisioned the fiddler would be standing on the shore. I did some sleuthing, asking in particular the historian at the Maine Maritime Museum here in Bath what information he had about the name. His, and every explanation of the name included the same core elements. Some stories came with embellishments that I will definitely try to bring to life for you.

Reach_vertCropBath, Maine is called the City of Ships because in it's prime, the latter half of the 1800's, there was a huge shipbuilding industry lining the banks of the Kennebec. The large schooners and clippers that were built in Bath traveled the world moving materials and finished goods in the era when ships had no auxiliary power; it is a testament to the skill of the men who sailed from Bath that fortunes were made because these sailors would deliver their cargo safely. These ships always returned to Bath, and the sailors' experience during their upriver journey gave Fiddler's Reach it's name. The great sailing ships of Bath had to rely on favorable wind and the incoming tide to make a successful trip. The channel is deep and relatively straight until a severe 90 degree left turn followed by a 90 degree right turn hampered these big vessels' progress. The flow of the tide slows and the wind dies through this reach, so a ship would just drift through here until emerging into Long Reach where the city of Bath would come into view and the wind would pick up once again. One of the storiesWineFiddleWeb surrounding Fiddler's Reach has the Captain deploying a yawlboat full of sailors off the bow with a tow rope whose job it was to assist the big boat through the reach while a fiddler kept them entertained, playing on the bow. If the Captain's timing was correct, there would be no need for the yawlboat, but the drift through the reach would be uneventfully slow... except for the sailors' mounting excitement that  they were almost home. With the sailors having nothing to tend, after a voyage of some length (months, or even years), and with home less than 2 miles away, why not have a bit of fun? No longer necessary to ration the mead! The fiddle is a fine instrument to accompany dancing, and joined by a pennywhistle or concertina, a sailor couldn't help but stretch his legs in a hornpipe or jig. Tradition has it that a fiddler always provided the music, but I like to believe that a highland piper would have stepped in to give the fiddler a break!

Sailors will describe various directions of a boat relative to wind direction as a reach; a beam reach, or a broad reach, but at these times you'll be paying more attention to the wind and water ( and your charts!). Not so with a fiddler's reach. When you've finished with the world's business, your boat is shipshape and you feel like celebrating, you'll be on a Fiddler's Reach.