Aboard a Maine windjammer, those storied schooners of yesteryear, life slows to a good 5- to 10-knot clip. Hoist the sails, take the wheel for a spin, or simply savor the rugged seashore and lighthouse-studded Penobscot Bay islands.
Lately, however, the vessels have been offering specialty cruises that cater to one particular passion, be it music, photography, whalewatching, or astronomy. There’s a windjammer cruise for Irish music lovers, microbrew connoisseurs, or wildlife lovers seeking newly born seal pups. Here’s a sampling of this summer’s offerings on 10 windjammers. For a full listing, visit www.sailmainecoast.com.
Seal pups are born in early May and the best time for viewing is later in the month, when the windjammer Angelique will be offering a special three-night cruise, May 28-31, that will also focus on bird-watching. That is, if you can avert your gaze from this 130-foot-long beauty of a ketch, a replica of a late-19th-century North Sea fishing trawler, known for its distinctive red sails. Cost is $635 per person. www.sailangelique.com/cruises.html
First launched in 1886 on Delaware Bay for oystering, the Isaac H. Evans is now known for its themed cruises, including a pirate adventure jaunt for families, one trip in search of the elusive orange-beaked puffin, and a writing workshop with author Pam Houston. Yet, arguably the most exciting cruise this summer is the chance to go night sailing during a full moon and the Perseid Meteor Shower. Far away from light pollution, you could spot close to 60 meteors per hour. Special guest Roy Hewitt will be on board to teach you a thing or two about constellations. The six-night cruise is $995 per person. www.schoonerisaacevans.com/night-sailing.php
The Victory Chimes was built in 1900 in Bethel, Del., to carry lumber on Chesapeake Bay. Today, she’s the only remaining three-masted schooner on the East Coast. Her much trampled deck is the perfect place to enjoy four days of foot-stomping Irish music, storytelling, and pint raising in mid-August. No musical talent is required, though it helps if you know how to play the fiddle, guitar, or flute. At least come with a voice ready to belt it out at sea. Price is $825 per person. www.victorychimes.com/schedule.html
Besides taking the helm of the first schooner ever created for windjammer vacations, one of Captain Barry King’s hobbies is brewing his own beer. On this six-day Beers of the Maine Coast cruise in mid-June, King will brew and bottle a batch of his own nut brown ale during the trip, and passengers will go home with a few bottles. Guests will also have complimentary samples of Maine beers, and local brews will be paired with each evening meal (baked haddock, ham dinner, chili, chowder, roast turkey, etc.). The Mary Day will also make a stop at Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. in Belfast for a tour and tasting. Price is $975 per person. www.schoonermaryday.com/beers-of-the-maine-coast
Many windjammers take advantage of Maine’s stunning coastline and light to offer a photography-themed sail. One of the best is a four-night cruise starting June 8 aboard the American Eagle, originally launched as a fishing schooner in Gloucester in 1930. Seafaring photographer Greg Gettens will be your skilled mentor for the trip, showing you how to shoot in all types of weather, how to work a tripod on a moving schooner, and how to protect your gear from inclement conditions. Gettens has the pedigree to teach the course, having photographed off small cruise ships from Alaska to Antarctica and aboard the American Eagle on more than 20 voyages. Cost is $795 per person. www.schooneramericaneagle.com/book-a-trip/events/adventure-photography-june-9-2013/
Noah Barnes started sailing the circa-1871 Stephen Taber as a 7-year-old when his parents were captains. When they retired in 2003, he took the helm along with his wife, Jane, a native New Yorker who spent years working in the wine business with Champagne Veuve Clicquot and the Four Seasons Resorts. On their three-, four-, and six-day wine-tasting trips, Noah is at the wheel while Jane introduces guests to a different region of the world each night through her extensive knowledge of wine. Sample vintages from Tuscany, Piedmont, Burgundy, the Rhone, and Napa Valley, paired with meals that complement the beverage. Wine trips start at $708 per person. www.stephentaber .com/schedule.html
Built by the French brothers, the schooner Lewis R. French was launched in April 1871, in Christmas Cove, Maine. Today she is the last remaining schooner from a fleet of thousands built in Maine in the 19th century. You couldn’t choose a better venue to view historic lighthouses on Penobscot Bay, many built before the schooner. On this six-night cruise from June 1-7, you’ll get close-up views of 15 to 20 lighthouses, including Eagle Island Lighthouse near Deer Isle and Heron Neck Lighthouse on Greens Island. Cost is $845 per person. www.schoonerfrench.com/nfschedule.htm
Captains Doug and Linda Lee designed and built the 165-foot-long Heritage from the keel up, modeling the schooner after a 19th-century cargo-hauling coaster. Since the Heritage’s launch in 1983, the couple has been aboard every cruise. Not only are they gifted boat builders and gracious hosts, but they have a voluminous knowledge of the people, islands, and schooners that contributed to Maine’s maritime history. On their six-night Maritime History cruises in June and August, the duo will weave tales of the coast while they sail. Fare is $1,025 per person. www.schoonerheritage.com/schedule.html
Camden’s rich maritime heritage is celebrated at the annual Camden Windjammer Festival the last weekend in August. More than 20 sailing vessels arrive in the picturesque harbor to take part in the festivities. Enjoy an all-you-can-eat lobster feast on the deck of the Grace Bailey and then watch the schooner talent show as crews sing sea shanties. A fireworks show tops off the night. The following morning you’ll sail to a quiet anchorage on this circa-1882 vessel that once carried granite to New York to help build Grand Central Station, returning the following day. Price for the weekend cruise is $545 per person. www.mainewindjammercruises.com/whatsnew.cfm
Ever since Captains Jon Finger and Anne Mahle purchased the 1927 J. & E. Riggin, a National Historic Landmark, they have had a basket of yarn and needles in the galley for those who wanted a small project to work on. A decade ago, they hosted their first knitting trip. This summer they will offer four knitting cruises, ranging in length from three to six days. Bill Huntington, owner of Hope Spinnery in Hope, Maine, will lead two of those cruises and focus on knitting hats. The six-day cruise in September will feature author Margaret Radcliffe, who can assist you on all facets of knitting, from casting on to binding off to making borders. Cruises start at $579 per person. www.mainewindjammer.com/maine-knitting-cruises
Steve Jermanok can be reached at www.ActiveTravels.com.