There is something uniquely Maine about a windjammer cruise. Maybe it’s because the state is home to the largest fleet of traditional tall ships in the Americas.
Or maybe there’s some sort of magic that happens out on the blue-green waters of the Atlantic, while under sail, that is indescribably, wonderfully Maine.
To truly experience a Maine Windjammer, you must practice the art of traveling leisurely, at the pace the winds want you to go. Windjammer cruises are the perfect way way to enjoy life, moment by moment.
These traditionally rigged ships provide all sorts of ways to have fun and relax. Once on board, the crew will invite you to help raise the sails, yank the anchor off the sea floor and even steer the ship. Feeling lazy? That’s okay, too. Head to the galley and grab that extra pancake. Take that second - no, third - cup of coffee up on deck with your new novel. Stretch out next to an empty ship’s boat. Watch the breeze snap the sails. Count the sea birds.
Miss the office yet? We didn’t think so.
Over 80 years ago, Maine windjammer cruising was popularized by Capt. Frank Swift. He converted some aging cargo schooners into coastal cruisers that carried passengers on excursions. It took a while, but the business caught on. Windjammers today travel throughout Maine on trips lasting from several hours to more than a week. Specialty cruises offer people a chance to sail while also knitting, playing music and studying photography.
Windjammers are still generally schooners - many of which have been designated National Historic Landmarks. Some are retired cargo or fishing ships. Others are old racers with traditional rigging. A few are newer vessels built for the trade. Unlike large cruise ships, windjammers have bunks and cozy cabins, not monster staterooms and 24-hour buffets. Windjammers are woody and compact below decks. Crew and guests live and work in close quarters. The ship’s galley and dining areas are like your kitchen at home – everybody mingles there.
Despite those eccentricities – or, perhaps because of them – windjammers thrive in Maine. Each year, more adventurous folks discover their charms. Many veterans return to sail on the same ship, often year after year. Because once you’ve discovered the fine art of windjammer sailing, you also discover it gets better with practice.
To find your perfect multi-day windjammer cruise, visit the Maine Windjammer Association or Maine Windjammer Cruises. There are several day sails offered along the coast including Portland Schooner Co. in Portland, Schooner Surprise and Schooner Olad in Camden, and Downeast Windjammer Cruises in Bar Harbor.