How much does the Maine Windjammer Association add to the local economy? You’d be surprised.
Committed to buying locally, the Maine Windjammer Association fleet’s economic impact is far-reaching
Like much of the rest of the tourism community in Midcoast Maine, the eight vessels of the Maine Windjammer Association – America’s largest fleet of working windjammers – is stymied, awaiting word and guidelines for re-opening. Yet unlike many of Maine’s tourism businesses, this unique fleet stands alone as they struggle to fit into the guidelines coming forth from the state. They’re part lodging, part boating, part restaurant and in large part museums of maritime history. Most importantly, their economic impact extends beyond simply guests on board. Together, the Maine Windjammer Association members focus their spending locally. Their local expenditures exceed $1.6 million each year in food and lobster purchases, laundry services, marine services and products, paint, varnish, insurance, banking, personnel and much more. And that’s just the beginning of their economic impact to Maine’s Midcoast.
Together, the Maine Windjammer Association serves up 12,150 lbs. of lobster each summer. They purchase flowers from local gardeners, work with local craftspeople to preserve and maintain their boats, employ more than 50 crew members directly, and work with even more contractors on marketing, social media and more. Their inability to sail impacts not just their own businesses, but all of those they’d normally be purchasing from right now. All told, their purchase power exceeds $1.6 million that might be spent, yet isn’t right now in Midcoast Maine because they can’t yet sail.
In a normal year, windjammer passengers might collectively spend $5.0 million in Midcoast Maine on their windjammer trips, pre-and-post trips, shopping before and after their trips, restaurants, gas, tolls, and additional vacation expenditures. This added to the direct spending of the Maine Windjammer Association to support their guests and trips is a $6.6 million economic impact during the four months of the sailing season.
However, the Maine Windjammer Association’s spending and financial impact doesn’t end there. Because four of the eight vessels in the Maine Windjammer Association membership are national historic landmarks, and each represents a tradition of maritime heritage preserved for decades, enormous funds must be invested to maintain these tall ships. In fact, roughly 60-percent of the entire yearly income (in a good year) from the windjammers is spent on maintaining the boats before they start their season. This year that percentage will be much higher, and it’s already been spent before a single passenger can come on board. Add on another half million dollars spent in maintaining the boats, and that doesn’t include major re-builds like the Schooner Stephen Taber undertook last summer. (Photo shows new planks being added to Schooner American Eagle)
The members of the Maine Windjammer Association have worked diligently together to create standards that exceed the already high expectations from the Coast Guard and CDC. They’re taking these high standards to a higher standard and creating protocols for insuring guest safety and cleanliness on their boats to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus on their boats and ensure that no infections take place. Their new approach will start well before their guests arrive in Maine with pre-screening and continue throughout their trip and afterward. Together, they’ve reached out to the local and state tourism departments, members of the Maine Governor’s team, and local, regional and national congressional leaders in Maine to assure them that the fleet will exceed their expectations for safety and cleanliness. Of course, with extra precautions comes extra costs, so add new cleaning materials, thermometers, hand sanitizer and more to their expense toll.
The Maine Windjammer Association’s plight is not unlike other tourism businesses in Maine awaiting the green light to open. Yet, their impact surpasses just the fleet. Without guests on board, they’re not buying lobsters, flowers, food from local growers and groceries, and the list goes on. The association’s members represent eight businesses, but those eight business’s purchases impact nearly hundreds of additional Midcoast small businesses, artisans, shop owners, fishermen, restaurants and farmers.
Once they’ve been given the go-ahead to start sailing, they’ll shove off, shift sails and shake down the boats. They’ll buy lobsters from local fishermen and women, and they’ll keep their guests safe through new protocols for screening, cleaning and social distancing.
All eight Maine Windjammer Association members are taking reservations. Visit SailMaineCoast.com and use the handy search tool to find a cruise to fit your schedule or contact your favorite windjammer directly. Most of all, soon, let’s all go sailing!