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If you ever cruise into Camden, try to get an inner harbor float. Remember that “front row seat” I said we had? Camden is an active harbor, but that activity is definitely worth observing! 

The Camden docks are filled with a variety of schooners, known as “windjammers” and we had front row seats to watch these beauties.

A Navionics plus Google Earth overlay to show the Camden Harbor. The red arrow is pointing to our floating dock.

The term windjammer comes from the English word “to jam” because the sails are so large that they seem to “jam” the wind. The windjammers were originally cargo ships designed for long voyages.  Today, these old schooners cruise the Maine coastline with passengers, some for just a day, but many go out for the weekend and/or up to a week at a time. Most of these schooners do not have engines and rely on only their sails for propulsion. Once in the harbor, small “push boats” are used to maneuver these large ships among the tight quarters of the moorings and floats. 

The three schooners, Grace Bailey, Mercantile, and Mistress, belonging to the Maine Windjammer Cruises fleet were fascinating to watch. This fleet is the original Windjammer Fleet established in 1936.“First to offer the opportunity to sail Maine coast waters aboard former cargo schooners, our National Landmark windjammers continue to provide affordable all-inclusive sailing vacations.” 

Grace Bailey, built in 1882 and restored in 1990, is 123 feet overall (81 feet on deck) and has accommodations for 29 passengers.

The push boats are maneuvering Grace Bailey around the floating docks to come along side her home dock. Notice Kindred Spirit on her floating dock, on Grace Bailey‘s portside.
The push boat does all the work to move the schooner alongside her dock for the passengers to disembark. I love the look of these push boats.
The Caption of the Grace Bailey.
It is a long process to nudge the schooner close enough to the dock.
Grace Bailey underwent a major restoration in 1990 to provide more comforts for guests and still preserve the historic authenticity. The original cargo area is divided into sections, each with several private accommodations and a nearby head.

Ten minutes after Grace Bailey was settled in, Mercantile, arrived. She was built in 1916 and restored in 1989. Mercantile is 115 feet overall (80 feet on deck) and has accommodations for 29 passengers. Her push boat guided her next to Grace Bailey.

These large schooners have no engines, pushed only by small wooden dinghies with what must be some powerful engines and very adept pilots.
The pilot of Mercantile’s push boat was dressed for the part.
Mercantile and Grace Bailey in a selfie with Kindred Spirit. If you look closely, you can just see the bow of the other schooner in this fleet, Mistress, a smaller windjammer.

Mistress is a blend of a traditional schooner and private yacht. Built on Deer Isle, Maine in 1960, on the same lines as the old coastal schooners, but with modern accommodations below decks. Mistress is 60 feet overall and can carry 6 passengers. She was restored in 1992, with modern accommodations for folks who prefer a less rugged cruise. Mistress has the traditional sail rigging on the same lines as the old coastal schooners, but is equipped with inboard power.

Mary Day, with a 90-foot deck length and 23-foot beam can carry 28 guests and 7 crew members. She is the first schooner built only to carry guests on vacations, but has no inboard engine, just sails. She is also the only windjammer with heat in every cabin.

Mary Day coming into the harbor after her cruising.
Mary Day‘s push boats are piloted by women. Girl Power!
Mary Day is docked at the end of the harbor.

Appledore II, summers in Camden and winters in Key West. Built in 1978 in Maine, she circumnavigated the world. Her owners named her for Appledore Island, part of the Isle of Shoals, which was her owner’s hometown.

Appledore II at the dock preparing to board passengers.
This crew member o Appledore spent a long time up the mast, working on the rigging.
Appledore II raising her sails.

Lewis R French, 101 feet overall, 65 feet on deck, was built by the French brothers in 1871, It is the last schooner built in Maine during the 19th Century and has been named a National Historic Landmark.

The Lewis R French is departing with a load of passengers. The schooner can carry 20 guests on each trip and has 3,000 square feet of sail, and no inboard engine.

Here in Camden, the windjammers seem to return on Sundays, and then depart with new guests on Monday if they are going out for a longer cruise.

A crew member on Mercantile does some fancy footwork while preparing the sails for the next departure.
Mercantile departing.

There are windjammer cruises all over Maine. As we cruise along we see the sails of these beautiful ships wherever we go. Camden was a perfect spot to watch them up close. I included the links to each of the ones above just in case you decide you want to try this adventure. Which one would you choose? It looks very tempting to me, however, I think I may have more creature comforts onboard our little Kindred Spirit than there is on these schooners.

  1. Susie

    Glad y’all were able to set that wonderful morning. I think we had the said one. Camden is one of our favorite places….especially during the Windjammer Festival. It looks like y’all are having a great summer.

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