Windjammer Cruise Along the Maine Coast

A small fleet of wooden ships that hauled cargo during the 19th century now provide ocean tours along the Maine coast. Here is a week-long diary describing one such windjammer cruise.

| May/June 1983

A century ago, majestic schooners dotted this country's coastal waters, carrying cargo up and down the northeastern seaboard. Today, of course, most of the powerful clipper ships are gone (or relegated to museum moorings). With them has disappeared a unique lifestyle.

From the sheltered harbors of Maine, however, a number of two-masted schooners still set sail as they did in that earlier era, their cargos of pulpwood having been replaced by companies of passengers.

The Stephen Taber, owned and operated by Ken and Ellen Barnes, is the oldest of the 12 schooners in the Maine Windjammer Fleet (the Taber has never missed a season in her 112 years of service). Originally designed to haul brick on the Hudson River, she now plies the sea along the rugged Maine coast, taking adventuresome folks on week-long sailing excursions from June through September.

Last summer, staffer Emily Stetson had an opportunity to sign on for a week's windjammer cruise with the crew of the Stephen Taber, and to experience this vacation alternative firsthand. The following article is taken from her log of that trip. 

Monday Log

I was up at 6:30 this morning, anticipation of the week ahead making me bolt out of bed like a kid on Christmas Day. Climbing up on deck from the cozy cabin I was sharing with three other women, I discovered that I wasn't the only one eager to begin sailing! A few of my shipmates were already washing their faces in basins of salt water. Others, clad in light jackets against the cool of the Maine dawn, were gathered around the galley hatch, sipping mugs of steaming coffee. The sun was just creeping above the trees on shore, and the only movement on the water of Camden Harbor was the mirrored flight of a gull overhead.

And although I was still rubbing sleep from my eyes, it was obvious that the crew had long been awake. Our first mate Mike and deckhand Judy were scrubbing down the deck, and — as I could tell from the aroma of frying bacon and the smoke from the woodstove — the ship's cook (and co-owner) Ellen was fixing breakfast in the main galley.

At 8:00 a.m. Janet, the mess (or assistant) cook, rang the Taber's brass bell, and the ship's company piled into the galley. The pine tables' drop leaves swung up to accommodate all 22 of us. With kerosene lanterns rocking from the beams and old pictures of the schooner hanging on the walls, we ate a lavish meal of bacon and blueberry pancakes (with Maine blueberries, of course) drenched in real maple syrup.

Then, after stowing the week's supply of groceries on board and taking one last stroll through the 200-year-old village of Camden, we hoisted the anchor and got under way. The Taber's yawl boat (an inboard work craft) towed us out of the harbor. Once in the clear, we set sail. It took two teams, each consisting of five or six of us heaving on a halyard, to raise the canvas sails: first the mainsail, then the foresail, the jumbo, and the jib. A porpoise greeted us as we reached open water. Looking back, we could see Mt. Battie dooming up behind Camden. We were off!

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