Why small boats are the way of the future for cruising & travel

6th November, 2020 / Maine Windjammers

Schooner Stephen Taber on the BayAs travelers look toward the future, it’s hard at this point to know when travel will once feel prudent and trustworthy. We’re all chomping at the bit to escape the four walls of home, yet for now our houses are the one safe hold we have.  Come spring and summer, however, travel will once again be high on everyone’s list, and it’s not too early to begin planning for that now.

Over the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge increase in desire for outdoor recreation.  Getting outside and  on the water, feeling the wind on our faces and experiencing the beauty of Maine’s coastal waters from the deck of one of the Maine Windjammer Association fleet vessels will be the ideal way to dip one’s toes back into travel next summer. Unlike traditional behemoth cruise boats, windjammer sailing is primarily an outdoor experience, with meals enjoyed on deck and days filled with visits to uninhabited islands or tiny coastal towns.  These experiences offer just the right amount of security that travelers weary of the confines of home yet mindful of the need for safety will seek. 

Six reasons windjammers are the way to go for summer 2021

Independently owned, owner occupiedCara and Sam on Victory Chimes

Much like an inn or B&B, the Maine Windjammer Association offers 8 vessels owned and operated by families dedicated to their preservation.  No corporate constraints bind the decision making for change here.  As the need for additional sanitization, equipment, policies or changes come into light, the captain/owners of the Maine Windjammer Association fleet can act quickly to address and supplement the already strict requirements from the federal and state CDC and the coast guard.  We saw this happen in the 2020 sailing season, and captains have once again pledged this year to meet and exceed safety requirements for operation.  Having the captain on board and accessible means that if there’s a concern for a passenger, they can go directly to the decision maker to address a solution.

Small boats can go where large boats can’t

Angelique and paddleboarderWhile larger cruise boats are confined to Maine’s largest harbors where dockage, services and water depth are available, the Maine Windjammer Association fleet’s playground is just about anywhere on the Maine Coast you might hope to explore.  Each day you’ll set sail to a new cove or harbor and explore islands and tiny coastal towns nearby that you couldn’t reach by car.  Once the windjammers drop anchor, out come the sailing dinghies, paddleboards, and kayaks for harbor reconnoiter and the yawl boats to take passengers ashore for hikes or lobster bakes beautiful coastal islands.

Windjammers proved they could sail safely in 2020

While large cruise ships remain at the dock, the Maine Windjammer Association boats were among a handful of boats available to impetuous cruisers last summer. And while the Maine Windjammer Association season didn’t start until later in July, and only two of the eight members of the fleet decided to sail, schooners Stephen Taber and Ladona proved that they could safely operate while maintaining social distancing, mask wearing and employing stringent cleaning protocols.  Probably the biggest key to their success in 2020 was their adherence to testing.  Taking the state requirements one step further, all passengers and crew were required to tested for Covid-19 within 72 hours of boarding each trip.  This could essentially assure that each trip’s “bubble” was safe, all-the-while adhering to all other stringent guidelines for secure operation. 

Windjamming is essentially all outdoors

View of windjammers in Camden Harbor during the Camden Windjammer FestivalIn her article entitled “10 Reasons A Windjammer Cruise is Perfect During the Pandemic (And Beyond”), Cruise Critic Managing Editor, Chris Gray Faust explained that windjammers are essentially a totally outdoor experience. “The world learned early on that the virus transmission primarily takes place indoors,” explained Faust. “On the Stephen Taber and other schooners, you are outside all the time — including meals, showers and time spent watching the scenery,” she explained.  Many of the cabins are accessed via outside hatches or offer porthole openings to ensure fresh air exchange.  Since cabins on board windjammers are used primarily only for changing clothes and sleeping, a windjammer offers the best of both worlds – plenty of space for socially distanced on-deck fun and a cozy cabin for sleeping.

You actually enjoy unplugging

AngeliqueTravel aboard a larger cruise ship or stay at a hotel and TV and internet access is right around every corner.  You won’t find a TV aboard any windjammers, and we can just about assure you that once you leave the harbor, the phones and tablets will be tucked away for picture taking only.  Windjammer passengers frequently exclaim surprise at the end of the trip that they didn’t even think of checking in on the news or answering email from the office and certainly didn’t miss it.  The natural environment on board a windjammer offers enough stimulation – along with the chance to participate in hoisting or dropping sails – that it’s easy to forget about everything else.  As Associate Editor of SAIL Magazine, Lydia Mullen, told readers as she came to the end of her journey on board windjammer, Angelique, “I was suddenly inexplicably sad knowing that I would have to leave the sanctuary of that windjammer and return to the world of emails and news.” She finished by saying, “As I bid my new friends farewell and climbed down, I already missed Angelique’s timelessness.”

Small is friendly

Food service on Stephen TaberThe Maine Windjammer Association vessels vary from carrying 16 passengers on the smaller side to 40 passengers on the larger side. As cruise ships go, this is tiny.  The smaller nature of windjammer cruises allows one to quickly get to know everyone on board, including plenty of access to the captain and crew. Time after time, couples meet on board then travel year after year together after making steadfast friendships. Small also means dietary restrictions can be carefully catered to, and food is individually prepared. 

All of the Maine Windjammer Association fleet are planning to be in the water with a full schedule of cruises for 2021.  All schedules are online at each of the windjammers’ websites.  Be sure to book directly with the boat you’re planning to sail on next summer.

Maine Windjammer Association, America’s largest windjammer fleet

American Eagle: 1-800-648-45442018 Photo Contest Winner: 1st Place Tracy Sheppard Parade of Sail, Fred's Favorites #3

Angelique: 1-800-282-9989

Heritage: 1-800-648-4544

Lewis R. French: 1-800-469-4635

Mary Day: 1-800-992-2218

Stephen Taber & Ladona: 1-800-999-7352

Victory Chimes: 1-800-745-5651

Photo credits:  Bob Trapani, courtesy Victory Chimes, Sloane Milstein, Fred LeBlanc, Tracy Shepard

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