Maine Windjammer Association offers eco-travel at its best

The Maine Windjammer Association (MWA) is the largest fleet of working windjammers in America.  When the fleet gathers, it is inspiring to see the incredible collection of exquisite windjammers, which collectively have preserved hundreds of years of maritime history, all in one location.  For some, it takes their breath away when considering the stories those ships tell above and below decks carefully preserved to allow travelers to experience a little slice of maritime legacy.  The two oldest windjammers in America are part of the Maine Windjammer Association fleet – the Lewis R. French, built in Christmas Cove, Maine and the Stephen Taber.  Both were built in 1871.  The Victory Chimes is the oldest working three-masted windjammer left in America and the fleet’s largest vessel.  And while the other boats in the fleet may be newer, each carries its own impressive legacy.

Maine Windjammer Association fleet gathering for the annual GamMaine Windjammer Association fleet gathered for the annual Gam in June. Ben Magro photo.

The Maine Windjammer Association vessels and their captains take pride in representing the longest-running eco-tourism industry on the Maine coast. Travel by sail is without question a superior way to enjoy the natural bounty of Maine, and the eight-member windjammers are proud of cruising Maine’s pristine coast without relying heavily upon fossil fuels. Association members go out of their way to support eco-friendly business practices, including weekly coastal cleanups, Leave No Trace certification and a commitment to protecting Maine’s natural resources. In addition, each of these vessels are independently owned with a voracious commitment to historical preservation in all the physical details of the boats and the experience they offer.  All of the MWA captains have personally restored and maintain (or even built!) their own windjammers, generously passing along their knowledge and sharing resources amongst the fleet. Collectively, MWA captains maintain and sail the country’s largest fleet of historic sailing vessels, making them eco-entrepreneurs and small business owners all in one, not to mention stalwart marine historians too.

Eco-Tourism

When it comes to shrinking the carbon footprint for vacationers, the Maine Windjammer Association prides itself on providing one of the most eco-friendly modes of transportation you can use to see and experience the iconic Maine coast. When you set sail on a windjammer, each traveler will consume less energy on their vacation than they have all year long. By harnessing the power of the wind, guests are smoothly transported along by this clean and quiet form of energy. While all of the association’s vessels have either a diesel engine or yawl boat to help push them along, they rely primarily on wind power while cruising Maine’s coast. Propelled by this force of nature, you’ll experience the coast of Maine in the most relaxing yet invigorating way possible on a Maine Windjammer Association cruise.

By using wind power, the vessels’ average fuel consumption is only about one gallon per person per week of travel. As for electricity, a week-long windjammer cruise consumes about the same amount of energy that you’d use if you left a 60-watt porch light on for the week. Wondering how your delicious meals are cooked?  There aren’t any gas ranges or full ovens aboard. Galley kitchens are equipped with wood-burning or kerosene stoves, which also heat all the hot water for the vessel. Can you imagine cooking three meals a day for 20+ people without electricity?  Our captains and their first mates are masters of this! A story in and of itself! (recipes included!)

Leave-No-Trace principles are taught to each guest and captains always leave the beaches cleaner than they found them by removing trash that washed ashore. They even bring their own firewood for their beachside lobster bakes.

“The guests participate in an ‘island clean-up’ as the crew prepares the lobster bake,” tells Captain Linda Lee of the schooner Heritage. “It’s not a bad trade-off in their minds – all-you-can-eat lobster in return for performing a good deed. It makes people feel they have helped keep Maine a special place – and they have.”

The eight Maine Windjammer Association vessels use alternative and renewable energy to accomplish tasks most people would consider unrealistic.

Specially themed Cruises

Nearly all of the themed cruises fit into the eco-tourism category.  From whale watching to learning the history of Maine Lighthouses, each of our specialty cruises offers an eco-angle, with the wind an ever-present lesson in the force of nature in addition. Yet, here are some of the 2020 themed cruises that might be of particular interest to eco-travelers.

Windjammer Anqelique sails past Rockland Breakwater lighthoueWindjammer Angelique passes the Rockand Breakwater Lighthouse. Photo by Andrew Durfor.

Lighthouse Cruises

More than 40 iconic Maine lighthouse dot the coastline, islands, and peninsulas of Penobscot Bay. These Lighthouse Cruises take you to the harbors and past coastlines where lighthouses offer beautiful photo opportunities and stories of yesteryear when sailors depended upon these beautiful structures and their lightkeepers to help navigate the way home. No matter which vessel you sail on you are guaranteed to see one, if not more, of Maine’s lighthouses on your windjammer cruise. A couple of the vessels take lighthouse sightseeing to a more competitive level and attempt to bring you to as many as Mother Nature will permit.

Angelique: Aug. 23 – 26 (3 nights), Sept. 27 – Oct. 1 (4 nights).

Heritage: Aug. 20 – 24 (4 nights).

Ladona: Aug. 29 – Sept. 1 (3 nights).

Lewis R. French: Jun. 14 – 18 (4 nights).

Mary Day: Jun. 16 – 20 (4 nights); Sept. 8 – 12 (4 nights).

Stephen Taber: Sept. 6 – 12 (6 nights).

Body, Mind and Soul

Whether you hope to limber up your body, stretch your mind or reconnect with the soul of the sea, one of these cruises are perfect for you.  As if relaxing on a windjammer for three to ten days wasn’t “zen” enough, some of the vessels of the fleet are offering yoga cruises this season that focus on yoga exercise, meditation, and soul-refreshing accompanied by healthy and supportive meals to help bring body, mind and soul back to center. All ages are encouraged to participate. Hiking and kayaking also contribute to wellness, and so we have them listed here, too!

Angelique: Aug. 18 – 22 (4 nights).

Lewis R. French: Jun. 2 – 6 (Hiking – 4 nights), Jun. 21 – 25 (4 nights), Aug. 19 – 24 (Kayaking – 5 nights).

Victory Chimes: Aug 14-19 (5 night cruise with full moon first night).

Star gazing from the deck of a windjammer in Maine

Scott Marx photo

Perseid Meteor Showers / Star Gazing

Not only will you connect with the sea and marine life that surrounds you on a windjammer, but these cruises allow the chance to try your hand at stargazing in skies unfettered with city lights. The maximum of the Perseid activity in 2020 is expected during the night of the 12th August 2020, with plenty of activity for days on both sides of that date. All eight vessels of the Maine Windjammer Association have cruises during this time. The vessels with the Perseids on their calendars are:

American Eagle: Aug. 15 – 18 (3 nights)

Angelique: Aug. 10 – 14 (4 nights).

Heritage: Jul. 13- 18 (5 nights- stargazing cruise), Aug. 8 – 12 (4 nights-Perseid), Aug. 13 – 16 (3 nights-full moon cruie).

Ladona: Aug. 5 – 12 (7 nights), Aug. 13 – 17 (4 nights).

Mary Day: Aug. 11 – 15 (4 nights).

Stephen Taber: Aug. 9 – 15 (6 nights)

An Osprey lands on a nest

An up-close look at an osprey landing on its nest.  Photo by Richard Ball. 

Wildlife and Naturalist Cruises

No one can guarantee a whale or puffin’s whereabouts, but schooner captains have a knack for finding humpback and minke whales and other fascinating sea and birdlife.  Add in a naturalist to some of these cruises and you’ve got a living learning opportunity! From osprey and puffins, to seals and porpoises and sunfish to hundreds of uninhabited islands, a windjammer cruise with any of the eight vessels in the Maine Windjammer Association fleet offers ample opportunity for wildlife sightings and exploration. A few of the vessels have cruises dedicated to this aspect of sailing the Maine coast:

Angelique: May 27 – 30 (3 nights).

Ladona: Aug. 5 – 12 (7 nights).

Mary Day: Jun. 21 – 27 (6 nights)., Aug. 16- 22 (6 nights).

Stephen Taber: Aug. 9- 15 (6 nights).

Victory Chimes: Aug. 3 – 7 (4 night cruise)

Learn the Adventure of Windjamming & Seamanship

Some of the most frequent questions we get are “Can I help drive the boat?”, “Can I take a turn at the helm?”, and “Will I bug the captain or first mate if I ask too many questions?” The answers are yes, yes, and no. All of the vessels will permit you to help sail the boat, conditions and time permitting, and the captains are ever-ready to answer any question you have about windjamming. A couple of the vessels in the fleet, however, make the educational aspect of sailing a core theme, going further in-depth to offer passengers the skills to one day walk in the captain’s shoes.

American Eagle: Aug. 19 – 22 (3 nights).

Mary Day: Jul. 26 – Aug. 1 (6 nights).

(For a complete list of themed cruises in 2020, click here.)

Travel by sail is without question not only a superior way to enjoy the natural bounty of Maine, but the most sustainable and eco-friendly vacation one could ever have.  The eight members of the Maine Windjammer Association are proud of cruising Maine’s pristine coast harnessing wind provided by Mother Nature, using wood grown in local forests for cooking and heating water and supplying endless scenery offered up by Maine’s islands and harbors provided by Mother Earth. 

Visit SailMaineCoast.com for complete details on sailing adventures and schedules.

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