The Heart of New England
Cruising Maine's Water the Old Fashioned Way
Windjammer Cruises
by Rita Cook

I wake up to the smell of blueberry pancakes wafting into my cabin from the

I don't even need my alarm clock because I wake up “with the chickens” or in
this case, the fishes.  Sure, it's early morning, but time has somehow managed
to stand still out here off the coast of Maine.

When I alight on deck for my early morning cup of coffee the salt air hits me
and I not only feel, but literally taste what it means to be a passenger aboard
one of the 14 tall ships belonging to the
Maine Windjammer Association.  

A Variety of Ships to Choose From

These ships range in size from 46 to 132 feet and their ages are every bit as
diverse as their dimensions.  In fact, it was with real consternation that I made
my decision as to which ship I would spend my long weekend.   

I had already sailed on the
Victory Chimes, one of the largest ships in the fleet
at 132 feet, so this time I decided to go for the next to the smallest one.  The
Lewis R. French, a national landmark, lived up to my expectations.  The oldest
windjammer of the fleet and even in the United States, the Lewis R. French was
built in 1871 and is 64 feet long. Everything is tucked and stored on the ship in
the most convenient little places and overall the 22 passengers on board don’t
get in one another’s way.

While the French is the oldest ship, it seems only appropriate that her captain,
Garth Wells, is the youngest windjammer captain in the fleet.  He will quickly
find his way into your heart.  Wells knows his business too, since he has been a
sailor since a little boy growing up on Cape Cod.

The Lewis R. French: Rich in History

Maine has always been known for her tall ships, and to this day it is Maine that
you will visit should you get a notion to relive a bygone era.  As for the Lewis
R. French, she once delivered fish, coal and bricks, much like the other
schooners in the area.  

However, merchant sailing ships also epitomize a time still fond in America’s
memory.  It was the 1930’s that these ships were in their glory, when jazz and
swing ruled, Charlie Chaplin was all the rage and life as we know it today was
rapidly becoming a reality with trans-Atlantic flight and the popularity of
steam engines and railroads becoming the norm.

The good news is that even today, windjamming in Maine can still take you
back to a bygone era.

Sailing on These Historic Ships

Every morning as I awoke in my uber-tiny cabin I marveled at the clean, fresh
ocean air, the islands beckoning in the distance and the sun baking down.  

Since I cruised the Maine coast in June it was still cold.  June's weather is known
to be uncertain in Maine and the average temperate hovers around the low 60s.  
In spite of the cold however, it was part of the experience.

I became quite friendly with the ship's cook one day because the breeze on
deck was just too much to endure.  Mainers are hearty folks though and the
attitude you must take aboard a windjammer cruise is one of adventure.  You
won't be disappointed.  

After all, the windjammer experience is one about roughing it while also
relaxing.  You might bring a book, but you probably won't even have time to
read it.  You might bring a watch, but after a couple of days you won't care
what time it is anymore.

As for the sport of windjamming, it is an activity that relies on the wind and
tide to get you where you want to go.  Or, I should say, to get you to where you
end up going.  The captain was never quite sure where we would find
ourselves, just somewhere near one of Maine’s 3000 islands.  

Family Style Maine Meals

For breakfast and lunch the cook creates family-style meals, traditionally
Maine. If it's not too cold meals are served on deck.  On rainy days there are
cozy little tables in the galley and it's a great time to really get to know your
fellow passengers.

One evening we went ashore and enjoyed a lobster bake on a deserted island.  
By moon rise we were back on the ship ready for singing, looking at the stars or
even just getting to bed early.

While on board the Lewis R. French we were
allowed to enjoy as much or as little of
the experience as we wanted.   From hoisting
sails, to taking the wheel (under Well’s
supervision of course), to navigating
or helping out in the galley (I got a real
lesson the day I spent in the galley
as the attitude was if you come down
here you have to work), the experience
is yours for the taking.

Cruising, Maine Style

When you think of cruising, a Maine
Windjammer ship is probably not
the first thing that comes to mind.  

Don't let that stop you.  I found it to be an excellent way to connect with nature
and also make a difference with the environment.  The Windjammer
Association believes in keeping the ecosystem healthy and encourages guests
to participate.  While waiting for our lobster dinner we scoured the deserted
island helping to clean up trash and debris.  In that same spirit, the Lewis R.
French used a wood-burning stove, served only the freshest fruits and
vegetables and one schooner in the fleet has even decided to only use biodiesel

The windjammers of yesteryear rely on
the future to keep the fleet strong.  It is
a unique American adventure and I found
the experience enlightening.  I know
I would not have made a good sailor
100 years ago, however I did find that
living in the moment really is all
it’s cracked up to be.

Know Before You Go:
Each windjammer has a different passenger load so decide which one you
prefer from six to 40 guests and then choose the ship accordingly.

Getting There:
You will either set sail from Camden, Rockland or Rockport.  You can drive
from a major airport such as Boston or Portland or fly on Colgan Air, affiliated
with US Air, into Rockland.

When to Go:
Maine windjammer cruises sail from May to mid-October.

For more information contact the Maine Windjammer Association at 888-807-
Wind or

About the author: Rita Cook is the editorial director of Premier Bride Magazine and
travel editor for Valley Scene Magazine in Los Angeles.  While also working in the world
of publishing she also teaches a travel writing course for a college in New York and has a
romance novel coming out in the fall called “Angel’s Destiny.”
The Lewis R. French - Maine Windjammers Association
Lobster bake on a deserted island in Maine
Cruising on a windjammer
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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