When I think of Maine, I envision lobsters, lighthouses, rocky coasts, and, well …more lobsters. Yes, indeed; I’m looking forward to tasting those scrumptious shellfish in every possible way: lobster eggs benedict, lobster rolls, lobster chowder, lobster mac & cheese, lobster salad, lobster tails, and of course, whole boiled lobster.
My travel companion, John, and I will fly from Florida to Bangor, Maine, and pick up a rental car. We plan to spend two days exploring Acadia National Park, overnighting in a bed and breakfast in Bar Harbor. We have booked the lovely-looking inn (but strange sounding) Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Then, we will move on to discover the sights, sounds, and restaurants in the town of Camden. It’s often called the jewel in the crown of the coast. The charming village sits next to the harbor of west Penobscot Bay, Maine’s largest Bay, approximately 30 miles long and 30 miles wide. The Bay includes hundreds of islands and famous lighthouses.
For over 200 years, the Camden harbor has been alive with sea-going vessels, from expensive pleasure yachts to tall-masted schooners, to working lobster boats. I’m sure I’ll notice some differences between the Maine marinas and those in Florida.
After two days and nights in Camden, we will park the car and board a Maine Windjammer. I’m thrilled we will sail on the Lewis R. French, the oldest known two-masted schooner in the United States. Built-in 1871, she is a gaff-rigged topsail schooner and one of a small number of this type vessel still in active service. She operates much as she would have when she was built in 1871.
We’ll spend three nights on board the French in what will feel like cramped quarters, but this is a historic sailing ship. I’m sure we will spend most of our time on deck or outdoors and mainly use our cabin for sleeping.
The Lewis R. French carries 20 passengers in 6 double bed cabins, 2 bunk bed cabins, and 4 single cabins. There is standing headroom, nooks, and hooks to stow all gear. Each cabin includes fresh running water, an opening window, and electric reading lights. I am assured a USB charger is available to charge my iPhone. Linens, blankets, and towels are provided. I also understand that cell service is unlikely, so we will be unplugging from the world for a few days.
Our temporary sailing home offers two heads (bathrooms) on deck, one with a hot freshwater shower. The deck is 65 feet long, with cushions, benches, and folding chairs for relaxation. There’s also an awning to provide cover from hot sun or wet weather while we are at anchor.
The galley is up forward, where the crew cooks all our meals on a wood cookstove. They can serve everyone at once in the galley, though while sailing, they often do buffet-style on deck.
I’ve heard that coffee and muffins arrive on deck at 6:30. Good for me as I am an early riser. Breakfast at 8 might include Maine blueberry pancakes, maple sausage links, real Maine maple syrup, homemade jams, cereals, juice, and coffee. After a morning of sailing, a hearty lunch of homemade soup, salad, bread, and fruit will appear. Dinner might bring pork tenderloin with a side of garlic mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, and hot buttered rolls. Cakes, pies, and crisps are typical desserts.
I look forward to meeting the seasoned Captain, Becky Wright. Yes, a woman captain. At 17, Becky found work in Camden on the Grace Bailey and Mercantile, finishing high school online. She’s been sailing ever since. Highly qualified Nathan Sigouin works as the first mate and two additional crew members.
I admit I don’t know much about sailing, but I am ready to learn the terminology and skills. I’ll learn about the Maine coast and wildlife when I’m not attempting to trim the sails. I plan to use my camera to capture the iconic scenery as we drift past. When the sun sets, the boat will settle into a cozy harbor and anchor. At night I will attempt to photograph the beautiful starry sky,
While at anchor, we will launch one of the rowboats and explore the area. We’ll head ashore for beachcombing or hike around a small Maine island town.
One of the afternoons, we will anchor at a deserted island and row ashore for an All-You-Can-Eat Lobster Bake, a Maine Windjammer tradition.
Once we set out into Penobscot Bay, the destinations are dictated by the wind, tide, and mood. We will let Mother Nature determine the path as the French is pure sail and has no inboard engine. Our anchorages are mostly deserted islands or small island lobster fishing towns. John and I will be genuinely escaping to places few folks ever experience.
The Maine Windjammer Association (MWA) represents a fleet of nine classic tall ships providing affordable all-inclusive sailing vacations from May to October.
Cover photo: Lewis R French at Owls Head
Ed. Note: Contact us for more information about a sailing … at email@example.com