I need hookers, haulers, coilers and a few people to flow,” Capt.
Linda shouted out. Whatever that meant, I decided I’d really rather
just chill out, having just awakened from a pleasant little siesta
on board the Heritage, an authentic coasting schooner.
Sailing for a week with my 14-year-old son, I appreciated the
opportunity to help out in the traditional tasks of handling a
large sailboat. Then again, sometimes a nap was the better option
all that fresh sea air, sunshine, camaraderie and incredible food
just wore me out.
The Maine Windjammer Association consists of 14 heavily built
sailing vessels, the oldest dating from 1871 and the youngest from
1983. These traditional tall ships range from 46 to 132 feet in
length, carry between 6 and 40 guests, and eight have been
designated as national historic landmarks. They offer three- to
six-day all-inclusive trips in the gloriously beautiful waters of
Penobscot Bay, filled with over 3,000 islands, off the coast of
The boats operate solely with sail power, just as in the days of
yore, but unlike those days, passengers can now enjoy such luxuries
as hot showers, flush toilets and giant ice coolers in which to
store beer and soda.
We chose the Heritage, authentically designed and built in 1983
according to 19th-century standards by its devoted captains, owners
and lifelong seafarers Doug Lee and his wife, Linda. The only ship
in the fleet specifically fitted for passenger use (the others have
been retrofitted from previous work lives), the 95-foot Heritage
offers small but cozy, adequate cabins for 30, three well-designed
bathrooms and a charming galley. Its woodwork is exquisite from the
stately Douglas fir trees holding up the towering masts, to the
highly varnished Maine pine and oak adorning the public areas.
I found the trip exhilarating, yet sublimely relaxing. Fellow
passengers were a diverse but extremely friendly group. My son,
Henry, made friends with the three other teens on board and enjoyed
jumping off the deck into the chilly Atlantic waters with them. The
kids also enjoyed climbing the ladder up the mast, helping to
skipper the boat they even helped prepare meals.
In the evenings, they enjoyed hanging out with the young crew
members. Henry and his friends especially loved the 4 p.m.
appetizers, after working up a post-lunch appetite. I found it a
perfect trip to take with a teen four of the boats actually cater
to families and accept children as young as 5, offering a wide
variety of special activities for them.
Meals were outstanding plenty of organic, fresh, high-quality
products and produce. Lunch was always a thick soup served with
fresh-baked slices of bread. My favorite was the rosemary olive
bread, a new recipe from the head cook, Rachel, Doug and Linda’s
23-year-old daughter. In between meals, if someone were to get
hungry (not likely!) coffee and tea were always hot and ready, as
well as fresh treats and fruit.
The boats, which follow different itineraries weekly due to wind
and weather conditions, usually dock at several delightful seaside
towns, replete with lovely New England homes and shops, dotted with
wildflowers and gardens. Antique stores abound, as do shops selling
“famous” lobster rolls and ice cream.
An enormous percentage of Windjammer travelers are return
guests. In fact, Capt. Lee, who gives every 10th trip for free, has
had hundreds of passengers who have earned that.
The returnees say that they love the scenery, the sumptuous
food, the on-board friendships that are cultivated and mostly, the
total escape from television, phones and the outside world. Indeed
the Windjammers bring one into the past a world of “heave” and
“hoist” and yes, flow, hook and coil.
Oh, and don’t let me forget that all-you-can-eat lobster feast
on the deserted beach. I did myself proud three lobsters in one
sitting. Not bad for this Colorado landlubber. v
In addition to double and single cabins (all with hot- and
cold-water sinks), the Heritage offers two double-bed cabins with
private toilets. Children 12 and over are welcome. Prices begin at
about $600 for a four-day trip, with the season running from early
June to late September. Prices in general for the Maine Windjammer
Association fleet run from $330-$925 per person, and itineraries
range from weekend trips to six-day cruises. Each boat in the Maine
Windjammer Association (which offers 10 percent commission)