Camden Windjammer Festival 2022
This past Labor Day weekend, Camden, Maine, hosted its annual Camden Windjammer Festival- a two-day festival celebrating Camden’s maritime heritage. All of the Maine Windjammers and their delighted guests arrived in Camden Harbor to celebrate and be celebrated.
The festival is focused on family-fun. Friday’s early events include a Kids’ Treasure hunt, maritime booths and displays, and lobster–hauling demonstrations. But the harbor really comes alive when the Windjammers start arriving mid-afternoon. Watching them motor in, many with only a yawlboat pushing them from behind, is fascinating. There’s little room to spare in the harbor so maneuvering is tight and precise. By 5pm the harbor is filled with 10 Windjammers, many docked side by side, and reminiscent of the early days of sail when Camden was a busy shipping and boat-building harbor. In the 1920s and 30s as steam was replacing sail, many a fine sailing ship was abandoned. But Frank Swift had the idea to save a few of these old schooners by offering “Windjamming” trips to passengers. The first Windjammer trip was offered in 1936 for $35 per week. Today, the tradition lives on almost exclusively in midcoast Maine. Five Windjammers hail from Camden and another six from Rockland. And, one can see all of them, at the Camden Windjammer Festival.
Friday night offers the one-of-a-kind venerable “Schooner Crew” talent show in Camden Harbor Park. The Windjammer captains, crew, and guests demonstrate their “talents”, which range anywhere from semi-professional singer–songwriter acts to comedy routines to homegrown songs and dances. It’s truly uplifting to see the enthusiasm and camaraderie displayed by the passengers and crew on board. One can’t help but admire everyone’s efforts! The winner is determined by crowd applause and this year, the coveted “Schooner Bum” pennant was awarded to Schooner Mary Day for their hoola-hoop, cat rap fusion performance.
If you’re in town and looking for a way to get aboard these vessels, there are two options. On Friday evening the Maine Windjammer Association vessels offer a dinner auction. Festival-goers can bid on a dinner for two on board one of the boats. The proceeds go to support the Festival.
Sample menus from a few of the boats:
Appetizer: Ducktrap smoked salmon carpaccio; Roasted beets with labneh cheese, citrus, and walnuts
Dinner: Maine-raised pork rib roast with end-of-summer peach glaze; Beth’s Farm braised greens; Polenta with Vermont smoked cheddar
Dessert: Made ‘on the boat’ seasonal ice cream
Appetizer: Local Beef Meatballs; Caprese Salad Skewers with Crostini
Dinner: 16hr Slow-Cooked Brisket w/Our House Barbecue Sauce; Stephanie’s Homemade Cornbread with Green Chili & Cheddar with Honey Butter from the Captain’s Bees; Fresh Pasta & Gruyère Macaroni & Cheese; Mashed Local Butternut Squash; Coleslaw with Local Red & Green Cabbage
Dessert: Local Peach & Blackberry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream
Appetizer: Mussels steamed in Allagash White with fennel, orange with pickled jalapeño, and honey aioli served with roasted garlic baguette toasts; Imported and domestic cheeses, selection of Brooklyn Cured salamis, pickles, creamed honey, and fruit
Dinner: Red wine braised duck legs; Shallot Tarte Tatin; Cassoulet beans with pancetta and kale; and summer tomato and herb flower salad
Dessert: Lemon curd cheesecake with blueberry balsamic compote
Events continue on Saturday – the lobster crate races are a favorite – and on Saturday afternoon a few of the Windjammers are open for tours as well. And, of course, if you want to sail on board a Windjammer, check out their schedules. They all have trips that either end at the festival or include it as part of the itinerary.