When did the urge to go to sea on a Tall Ship first tickle your imagination? Was it while watching Errol Flynn swashbuckle his way through tropical ports, reading Jim Hawkins’ adventures on Treasure Island, humming Crosby, Still & Nash’s Wooden Ships, or perhaps watching Captain Jack Sparrow command the Black Pearl? For old and young, the romance of a wooden schooner setting a course for adventure is compelling and should not be put off a moment longer. Clint and I have just spent 4th of July week aboard a tall ship sailing off the coast of Maine, and it is easily one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken. Come along on our adventure:
July 3rd finds us boarding the historic Windjammer, Grace Bailey, at dock in Camden harbor. The mere site of magnificent wooden sailing ships being loaded with provisions is enough to quicken the heart. What wonders will Penobscot Bay reveal on our journey, what new friends will we meet, will the sun shine on us?….. Captain Ray Williamson will guide our adventure governed by the sun, wind and tides, just as it has been for 75 years at Maine Windjammer Cruises.
A Bit of History
Tall-masted coastal schooners supplied lumber, granite, fish and ice to southern ports for much of the 1800’s. The advent of steamships and automobiles spelled the end of commercial sailing and these grand merchant ships fell into disrepair. Maine Windjammer Cruises was founded in 1936 in the midst of the Great Depression when Captain Frank Swift rescued a decaying coastal schooner and refitted it to carry passengers. So began the tradition of offering Windjammer vacation cruises in mid-coast Maine. Today over a dozen beautifully restored Windjammers bring landlubbers on grand sea adventures sailing between thousands of pristine islands in Penobscot Bay.
Cozy Comforts of Daily Life
Sailing aboard a Windjammer is like going on a movable camping trip – snug sleeping quarters, days spent outdoors in the company of others, beautiful scenery, BUT with a chef to serve up delicious meals and a crew to keep your journey carefree. Three elements punctuate our days; navigating to catch the wind and avoid lobster buoys, consuming a parade of delicious ‘home baked’ wonders prepared by Jack and Becky on a WOODBURNING STOVE (!), and relaxed conversations with newly made friends. Our days follow an easy rhythm of rising at dawn to the smell of fresh coffee and the clanging pots and pans, pitching in to raise the sails, and then venturing off to find a remote fishing village or bucolic island for some exploration. Peaceful afternoons invite prolonged conversations and games of cards, followed by another wonderful dinner, glorious sunsets and then off to bed at nightfall. Come rain, fog, and sunshine; quiet waters and exhilarating runs before the wind, 6 days of pine studded shorelines, gentle seas and quiet harbors pass by all too soon.
This voyage into unblemished habitats has been filled with lasting memories: the call of gulls, the haunting blow of a fog horn, a lovely bay totally filled with merrily bobbing lobster buoys, sea otters and frisky porpoises, the plop, plop, of the water bucket being thrown overboard for filling, laughter filled conversations, eagles chasing osprey, and most of all the camaraderie of seafaring souls breathing in the splendor of coastal Maine . Tales of this adventure will fill our storytelling for years to come, and we leave feeling younger and more invigorated than we have in years. The magic and majesty of Windjammer sailing has captured our imaginations and we can’t wait to do it again!
Who Would Enjoy Windjamming?
Just about anyone with an adventurous spirit who enjoys history, magnificent scenery, abundant wildlife, and meeting new friends. Travelers should have the ability to climb up and down 5 or 6 ladder steps, and good naturedly master marine toilets and showers. If you like camping and RVing, you’d love it on board a Windjammer. Seasickness is rarely a concern as you’re sheltered by passing islands in Penobscot Bay and never out in open ocean. In fact, you are always in sight of land. Families with young children can sail aboard windjammers that specialize in family voyages., as the majority of ships carry adults and teens only.
Where To Find More Information
We sailed with Maine Windjammer Cruises, the original Windjamming company that is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. They own three magnificent wooden schooners, The Grace Bailey, The Mercantile and The Mistress, offering 3 to 6 day adventures. Call for their wonderful brochure 800-736-7981.
More than a dozen tall ships belong to the Maine Windjammer Association and sail for one to six days out of Rockland, Rockport and Camden harbors. Many ships offer specialized sailings such as: family, photography, wildlife, music, wine tasting – and be sure you don’t miss the weeks when the entire fleet gathers for events and competitions.
Ask about specially priced packages that include a pre/post stay in a coastal resort, historic inn, or local hotel. There’s even a great package that includes flights from Boston or New York with transfers right to your boat.
This is absolutely THE BEST way to experience the true Maine!