Windjammers

Seasonal Escapes June 2004

Ship ahoy
Bracing cruise on windjammer whets appetite for chowder
Listen to the snap of the sails as they ripple in the wind. Taste the sea spray, salty and cold. Feel the roll of the ocean beneath your feet; it does not take long to get your sea legs. Watch the clouds through the masts and rigging. Join one of 14 windjammer schooners on a sail from Rockland, Rockport or Camden.

We took the annual Benefit Day Sail out of Rockland aboard the Isaac H. Evans. The day was bright and breezy. Later on, the wind picked up, which added excitement to our adventure. Most voyages are three to five days long; this day sail is unusual. The captain of the Isaac H. Evans, Brenda Walker, offers this shakedown sail as an opportunity to train new crew. Capt. Brenda welcomes returning Evans’ sailors to help on this first run of the season, a dress rehearsal to find any glitches before the cruises begin. The nautical pennants flying spelled out Friends RPL, as the organization benefiting from this sail was the Rockland Public Library.

Raising the sails begins our adventure. We are invited to help, though the choice is up to the passenger. I jumped up at the chance. Capt. Brenda shows her first mate how to tie a starboard knot. Around and under, around and under, then wrap, wrap, wrap and hold the wrap to hold the tension. Time to walk the line; we hold the halyard and haul away. Pulling hand over hand is hard work; this is what those tug-of-war physical education lessons were all about.

I’m too excited and try to watch the sail rise while pulling. The sail fills, on to the next one. We are under way. Speaking of the hardworking first mate, the captain tells us this is the first all-female crew in the fleet.

We gather our layers around us. Yes, the gloves are in my pocket, ready to go. Have you gotten the picture that we got a little chilled? This is just part of the added fun of early or late season sailing. Just dress for the weather and you will be fine. And, of course when you have the added luxury of an overnight trip, you have the added comforts of more space to pack a variety of clothing.

It was smooth sailing as we left the harbor. We were flying along between 6 to 8 knots. Folks say summer breezes have the vessel moving along at about 3 knots. We all agreed that this day’s conditions would be very refreshing on a hot summer day. On this trip, we layered with all the clothes that we brought. There also are warm wool blankets on board for those who need them. I was really impressed to see Capt. Brenda going around personally to the guests to see who might like one.

Lunch is ready

Excitement builds when the tacking begins on our return to the harbor. The call of “She’s coming around!” cuts the air as the deckhands run to loosen lines. The sails flap until the wind catches and billows them out again. The crew tightens down again. We are now going against the wind. You do have to be a little careful since the beam, the heavy wooden base of the sail, swings back and forth during changes in direction. I was surprised that the clearance for headroom is really fine unless you stand. My memories of sailing are on a small wooden catboat, where we had to duck our heads every time we zigged and zagged.

Time for the galley cook to ring the bell for lunch. We ladle ourselves the welcome hot corn chowder, dunk the buttery grilled bagel halves and enjoy the cookies and pastries donated by local businesses for the benefit sail. The excellence of the home-cooked meals on board the windjammers is often heard among the passengers.

Some hints: Bring layers. Pack a dry set of clothes to leave in the car if on a day sail or extra for overnight trips as you may get a bit wet. Bring a hat that ties on, we lost one on our trip; sunscreen; and a sense of adventure. Note that sailing may be behind schedule by the clock, since the wind or unexpected events can change your course.

If you need a refresher or a lesson in nautical terminology, I found a wonderful source on the Maine Windjammers Association Web site, www.sailmainecoast.com

Food: There are many choices in Rockland from chain stores to independent. I stopped at Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro on the way up for a great breakfast. It’s on Route 1, on the right after the intersection with Route 220.

Getting there: Take Route 1 for the scenic route to the coast. The schooners berthed or “parked” in Rockland are located by small gravel roads leading east of Route 1. Follow the wooden signs to find the name of yours. For the Isaac H. Evans, turn right immediately before the Irving Mainway gas station. This is a sharp left if you’re coming from the north. There is a small parking area available, shared with the Heritage and the American Eagle. Note that the road here is a bit bumpy, with many puddles and potholes. You will see the weathered boathouses, then the schooners’ masts bobbing along the water.

Schedules, fees and information: To find details to plan your trip on board one of the 14 windjammers, contact the Maine Windjammer Association. Call 1-800-807-WIND or go online at www.sailmainecoast.com

Edith Churchill is a freelance writer living in Auburn who frequently takes day trips with her family.


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