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Answered 2010-10-10 13:00:46

Down East (it's two words, per Webster) came into usage in the late 1700s and early 1800s in the Age of Sail. Ships sailing from Boston to Maine in the late spring through early fall, the prime sailing season, when the prevailing winds were from the southwest, would sail down wind and east to reach Maine. Thus Down East.

See also, the explanation at Down East, the magazine of Maine.

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