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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.