My husband Tim is a sailing ship nut who could happily spend day after day standing on a swaying deck watching the sails billow and the shore slide past. Born a century earlier, he might have run away to sea as a cabin boy. But would 12-year-old Mary and I share his enthusiasm for a week on board the 28-passenger Maine Windjammer Angelique? We’d soon find out.
In Your Bucket Because
- The Maine coast is beautiful, and especially so viewed from the sea.
- A week on a sailing ship with no specific destination is the ultimate in getting away from it all.
- Good for those who love the sea, sailing, congenial company and low-key vacations.
Angelique was not alone in Camden harbor, one of two ports – along with neighboring Rockland – where Maine’s Windjammers are based. After stowing our luggage in our cabins, we walked along the docks, past Mary Day, Lewis R French and several other sailing ships on our way to dinner at a waterfront restaurant.
Mary and I shared a compact cabin, where we had just room enough to stand beside the stacked bunks. Mary quickly claimed the top one, without any argument from me, and we found they were long enough so we could keep our luggage at the foot of each bed. Hooks on the wall held our rain gear. Tim was next door, and three other cabins shared this section of the ship, which we accessed via a ladder-like stairway. We decided the deck was where we’d spend most of our time.
And we did. Watching the workings of the ship – which we took part in from time to time as needed – and the passing shoreline proved surprisingly absorbing. Little islands prickly with pointed fir trees looked like a row of hedgehogs swimming past; larger islands had the occasional cottage or lighthouse on the rocky shore.
Sailing Past Stonington
That rocky coast provided Stonington with its name and its prosperity. We could see the granite change as we approached the town, from ragged irregular cliffs to smooth pale-gray ledges. This was the same fine-grained granite that built Boston and New York, huge blocks of it quarried, cut and sent off by ship in the 1800s. Sea walls are made of neatly cut granite blocks, as is a large waterfront building. Houses around the harbor and up the hill are of wood, but it was granite that built them nonetheless – the money from the quarries, stoneworks and shipping made Stonington a prosperous port. We could almost read its story from the waterfront as we slid past.
The quarries are long closed, and harbors like Stonington’s are now more concerned with pleasure sailors and seafood. Almost everywhere we sailed the waters were dotted with bright lobster buoys, and early in the morning we passed boats pulling the traps these buoys marked. Like the Stonington granite, most of these lobsters were destined for cities. Along with lobster and fishing boats, we passed sailboats and occasionally another Windjammer.
In the evenings we’d put in at some deserted cove, or once in a tiny island village where we went ashore to visit studios of local artists and buy ice cream to eat on the dock. One afternoon we stopped in North Brooklin to visit a wooden boat school and the home of author E.B. White, alighting at a dock under the boathouse White had used as a writing studio.
Life Onboard Angelique
Mostly we sailed the waters of Penobscott Bay. During the day – and we were lucky with a week of beautiful August weather — everyone found a piece of deck, in the sun or shade, where they could stretch out or sit propped against a chest or in a canvas chair. Mary’s favorite spot was the flat roof of the deckhouse, where she was handy to Angelique’s red sails when it was time to furl them – a job she became quite skilled at.
When she had too much sun we sought shade inside the little deckhouse, lined with cushioned benches where we played Bananagrams. Passengers and crew members invariably stopped to create a word or two, and as mealtimes approached Mary would drift down to the dining room below, where we ate breakfast and dinner each day, to help set tables or make a salad.
Chowder and Hot Biscuits
Adjoining the deckhouse was the tiny galley. We could look into it through the windows to watch our dinner in progress, and Mary soon found her way inside to help prep the fresh vegetables – Angelique supports local farms, fishermen and food producers in provisioning for its voyages.
Lunches were served on deck, generous buffets that might begin with the creamy fish chowder we’d watched the cook chopping Maine potatoes for that morning. Hearty salads, quiche, grilled meats, smoked salmon, cheeses, hot biscuits, fresh fruit and always some fresh-baked goody — it was hard to believe that all this food came out of that tiny galley where crew members worked in a tightly choreographed ballet.
Dinner and breakfast were served family-style below, at three long tables. The system worked well after the first night, when we identified the man who scooped half the beef Bourguignon onto his plate and left one end of the table sharing what was left. We migrated to another table, where we met people we would spend many hours talking with throughout the rest of the trip. A voyage without the distractions of daily life encourages conversation, and we found most of our fellow passengers well-traveled and interesting.
Lobsters on a Driftwood Fire
The second day out Mary watched with great interest as the crew opened a deck chest and splashed seawater into a clutch of lively lobsters. She monitored their welfare daily with great enthusiasm until the night we dropped anchor off Deer Island and she watched the lobsters go ashore ahead of us. While we swam, hopped rocks and explored the island’s wooded interior, the crew built a driftwood fire on the beach and prepared our feast of fresh corn and lobsters.
All week we followed the winds and tides, often not knowing where we were in the long stretch of waters between Portland and Bar Harbor. Or caring where we anchored that night. We played tag with porpoises, waved at sailboats, glided past seals sunning on ledges and watched osprey and the ubiquitous gulls overhead.
All the while sailor-boy Tim was on deck, hauling lines (a job we all joined in), occasionally taking the wheel, conversing with the captain or reading charts, always with a big grin on his tanned face. And me? I was content to let the sailors man the ship, the cooks prepare my meals and Mary help whoever invited her. I was on vacation, far away from email, phone and deadlines and I found Angelique just the right place for it.
- Angelique sails from Camden, Maine from late May through early October. Our voyage was six nights, but there are also three- and four-night cruises, some with special themes (one coincides with August meteor showers).
- Highlights are cruises that include the annual Windjammer Parade, Race Week, Fleet Rendezvous and the Camden Windjammer Festival.
- Angelique welcomes children aged 12 and over.
- A 6-night cruise costs from $680 to $995.