Sailing Maine on a Windjammer

Maine Windjammers sailing together off Rockland in Maine - photo by Robert F. Bukaty
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While sailing on a modern yacht is one of life's great experiences, there's nothing like exploring the traditional, and there are many tall ships offering a great adventurous sailing holidays, sailing as they used to a hundred or more years ago. And then there are the Windjammers.

Windjammers operate out of Maine in the USA in the months of September and October each year (so there's still time for this year if you hurry)

There's no set schedule, no cellphone signal, no noisy motors, and a fantastic experience waiting. The windjammer is the grandest type of large iron sailing ship, built to carry cargo in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, grand because of their romantic appearance with between three and five large masts and square sails.

On such a journey, you set off from Camden, with its white church steeples and a backdrop of beautiful mountains, and head out into Penobscot Bay, with over 200 spruce-covered islands and more than 4,000 miles of roughly chiselled coastline. There are dozens of options daily about where to drop anchor, either to sneak into an isolated bay or to find a small harbour and go ashore.

Sometimes in the mornings it's foggy, sometimes the sun shines through from early morning. Days can be spent just lazing on the deck, helping crew the boat, diving overboard into the fresh clean water or merely searching for dolphins or seals, both of which are usually found in plenty.

Later, after rowing ashore (that's done by the crew) you can perhaps enjoy a lobster bake on the beach, with all you can eat. Does it sound like heaven yet? And the crew is not only good at rowing, because breakfast is likely to be fresh blueberry pancakes accompanied by newly percolated coffee.

One of these elegant old ships, for instance, is the 90-foot Mary Day, which is celebrating its 50th season. Rather than originally being built as a cargo ship, she is the first schooner in the Maine windjammer fleet to be built specifically to accommodate passengers. Its sleeping cabins are heated- and have nine feet (three metres) of headroom.

There are 13 Windjammers operating in Maine waters, and it's something that, once experienced, brings many to come back time and time again. Start thinking now!