Unplug and Unwind on a Maine Windjammer
The family that unplugs together has the most memorable vacations
Midcoast Maine – Let 2020 be the year for unplugged vacations! After nearly a decade of being tethered to screens people are beginning to rebel and the unplugged vacation is on the rise in the coming decade. In fact, recently, a story appeared on the TODAY Show explaining how Generation Z is bucking the trend and going “social-free”. Realizing for themselves how the “scroll generation” is impacted by the barrage of comparisons that social media creates between kids, many teens and younger children are self-unplugging. From the recent news of data breaches to hash-tag motivated deletions of social media, plenty of people are turning to a less-plugged-in lifestyle and vacations. And when they do, they turn to the Maine Windjammer Association – the largest fleet of National Historic Landmark vessels in the country.
Best of all, a Maine Windjammer Association vacation offers something for everyone in the family. From tweens to teens to millennials, Boomers and Seniors, windjamming checks off the boxes for Gen X, Y, Z, and offers an adventure that all those generations will enjoy unplugged together.
Consider windjamming a little like camping at sea—passengers are welcome to sleep under the stars, there’s storytelling and fun meal activities like cranking home-made ice cream and roasting marshmallows around the fire during the onshore lobster bake. Add to that storytelling, knot-tying and seamanship experiences, sea shanties and it’s easy to see how every generation on board can be entertained.
And when it comes to unplugged, remember that nearly all the trip is unplugged from fuel-driven engines. Guests experience Maine in the most unique way possible—aboard a historic sailing ship that is guided entirely by the wind and the seafaring traditions that established the state. The eco-friendly, unplugged nature of windjamming does not go unnoticed nor unappreciated, at least eventually, by all.
Maine Windjammer Association (MWA) vessels take pride in representing the longest-running eco-tourism industry on the coast. Travel by sail is without question a superior way to enjoy the natural bounty of Maine, and the 8 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 protect 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!
For Tweens and Teens
Windjamming is the ideal adventure for kids aged 10 and up. The eight historic schooners in the Maine Windjammer Association fleet offer everything from beachcombing to s’mores, sailing lessons, and the chance to live like a pirate. Whether they mean to or not, cell phones and video games will soon take a lower priority once the wi-fi signal disappears. And surprisingly, they’ll be too busy to miss it!
Step onboard a Maine windjammer and immediately there are so many new and fun things to discover that devices soon take second fiddle. Once they’ve set sail, the relaxed atmosphere is filled with opportunities to help onboard. Setting sails, steering, polishing brass or learning to tie knots fills the time while underway. Best of all, kids can embark on these activities alongside their parents and grandparents, making it a family adventure.
Each day, the boats are under sail for approximately six or less hours, en route to a different island or coastal town. Once in port, the scene is filled with swimming, beachcombing, skipping rocks, kayaking or playing aboard the schooners’ smaller boats , or possibly learning how to use a stand-up paddleboard. Every windjammer cruise includes a Downeast Lobster Bake on deck or on the beach of one of the islands. For many kids, tweens and teens, the s’mores are the favorite part!
Whether the parents hope to spend a little time alone or engaging with kids or their own parents, the Maine Windjammers offer an ideal setting. From taking a row in the ship’s dory, playing a board game, or enjoying a hike ashore after dinner, parents can enjoy this together or as a family. Crew members are quick to take young kids under their wing, making it easier for Mom and Dad to relax knowing their children are engaged in fun, sailing activities. Taking time to explore the stars on deck with a bottle of wine or craft Maine beer, while kids are safely below deck in their bunks is a pastime often enjoyed by parents too.
For family gatherings, a windjammer cruise takes all of the pressure off the planners—meals are included, and activities happen organically, freeing everyone up to enjoy their time together. Mom or Dad can leave all the cooking and clean-up to accomplished cooks who create fine meals without the use of electricity! And windjammer cooks are accustomed to younger tastes and special diets. No need to ask for kid food, or worry about vegetarian diets, there’s always an option that is readily available or can be on board the Maine windjammers.
The windjammers are a great platform for birding…stable, quiet and on the move. Wildlife spotting is an important part of the experience too. Picture the joy in a salty grandfather teaching his younger-salt how to tie knots or spot birds. Imagine the photos of three generations combing the beach for sea glass, rowing the ship’s dinghy ashore or hoisting sails together. Priceless. And the beauty of a windjammer vacation for the older travelers in the party is that it can be as relaxing or as adventurous as one wishes.
Naps are commonly enjoyed by guests of all ages! There’s plenty of time to enjoy kids and grandkids, but plenty of other passengers to keep conversations fresh. Everyone enjoys the thrill of experiencing a whale sighting, racing past another schooner, keeping an eye out for lighthouses or enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal. If Grandparents are treating their family to a vacation, the price is right…all meals and accommodations are included at a rate of about $200 to $225/person/day. And the priceless part is spending time with everyone in the family together.
Barbara Rogers, travel writer, summed it up well when describing her trip with her teenaged granddaughter aboard Angelique in her story entitled, A Maine Windjammer Sail with Teens. She advised, “There is nothing like flying along the water under full sail, no engine sounds, just the wind in the sails and the slap of waves. The romance of that hooked us all, from the teens to the great-grandparents on board.”
And Lydia Mullen, Associate Editor at SAIL Magazine recalled after her time on board one of the MWA schooners told readers, “On one of the schooners nearby someone was playing a fiddle. Not a single digital screen lit up the night. It was perhaps the single most peaceful place I’d ever been…”
The Maine Windjammer Association offers multi-night sailing adventures that allow visitors to experience an array of Maine’s attractions—from lobster and lighthouses to Acadia and the many fine museums, shops and restaurants in Camden and Rockland, homeports for the fleet. To learn more about the Maine Windjammer Association and details of the fleet, upcoming cruises, plus photos and videos, visit SailMaineCoast.com.
Best time to go: The Maine Windjammer Association season spans from Memorial Day (end of May) to Columbus Day (mid-October). Any of the cruises are wonderful, and each month offers a different experience. Summer months allow hearty passengers to take the plunge off the bow sprit into the chilly waters – always promising a cool-off. Fall months offer amazing views from the water of colorful hillsides ending in the deep blue waters of the bays. Any of the cruises that coincide with the fleet’s special events are always popular and fun too. In addition, there are many themed cruises – from chocolate and wine tasting to photography, music, lighthouse and wildlife cruises too.
What to know before you go: There are a number of pieces of advice we give to passengers before their cruises:
- Know you’ll be unplugged. No matter what company you use to deliver cellular and internet service, it’s difficult for the signal to travel over water, so know you’ll be blissfully unplugged from cellular and Internet access.
- Bring a jacket! Even in the dead of summer, the evening breezes traveling over the water can feel chilly. During the June and the fall trips, we advise bringing a heavier jacket, hat and gloves.
- Cabins are for sleeping. While they’re comfortable, they’re also compact. Pack with a soft duffel that can be folded and stowed under a bunk. Do not bring hard suitcases unless you enjoy sleeping with them!
- Special diets can all be accommodated – vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free… you name it. However, those preferences must be communicated before the trip starts so chefs can leave the dock prepared to prepare your special meals.