Dusk starts to descend on the bay; the only audible sounds being the relaxed waves of the Atlantic Ocean caressing the sides of the windjammer’s hull along with the familiar strum of a banjo. In the distance you can just make out the forms of the trees, a lighthouse emerged from the horizon; it’s light creating an illuminated straight line across the ocean surface. The passengers can see Maine in every direction, giving them a view few get to experience. Comfortably buoyed between the mainland and the islands, only letting the breeze set the direction, this is what they came for. It’s a getaway that is equal parts perspective, serenity and nearly endless stories.
You’ll never forget your first Windjammer Cruise. These large wooden vessels, once used to carry freight in the early 1900s, were converted to passenger ships in the 1930s. Chartered by vacationers looking for a departure from the norm, there is no vacation getaway like it.
North America’s largest and oldest fleet of windjammers resides in Maine, vessels carrying from 32-40 passengers depending on their size. Three Windjammers in Maine are on the National Register of Historic Places. Crewmembers represent the salt of the Maine earth, multi dimensional characters that live for the sea and provide wisdom and guidance in all things maritime. As the Captain of the Schooner Mary Day in Penobscot Bay, Barry King describes them perfectly: “People who work with their hands and their hearts.”
These people, passionate for Windjammer sailing, venture out from Memorial Day Weekend to Columbus Day with passengers from every part of the world. Barry encapsulates the experience eloquently. “It’s a trip back in time to a piece of ourselves that wants to explore, that wants to have adventure, that wants to live close to the elements. You can have that experience on a windjammer, you can see nature all around you, you are a part of it.”
Like Barry King, Meg Maiden, Marketing Director of the Maine Windjammer Association, profoundly understands the nature of Windjammer travel. For those ready to set sail, she offers her pointers on what to bring, what not to bring, and how to have the most fun on a Windjammer. She says, “Pack soft and light, the cabins offer plenty of room for your gear, but big suitcases are a big hassle. And you must bring a binoculars and a camera.”
Windjammers also offer the perfect setting for a digital detox, and cell phones in general are frowned upon. Given the constantly changing Maine climate, layers are a must. And small acoustic instruments are welcome. Meg says, “A jam session has been known to break out on board depending on the musical makeup of the crew.” If you’re wondering, Meg also adds that motion sickness on Windjammers is rare; they are large vessels and don’t travel that far out to where seas get rough.
Whether you take a day cruise or a 5-day junket, the Windjammer is Maine at its best. Just imagine yourself docked on an island, during sundown, the Captain preparing the fresh lobster bake, with nothing but you the crew and tremendous camaraderie under the moon.
© 2023 Maine Office of Tourism