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Windjammer “Mary Day” for Couples

by Barbara Rogers

May 27, 2024

© Quinton Donleavy

Destinations / North America

While most windjammers aren’t appropriate for young children, they are a favorite vacation for parents traveling with adult children. Several of these multigen families shared our recent voyage on the schooner Mary Day, where we also met single parents traveling with young adult children.


The beauty of these ships as a a vacation option is the variety of experiences for active travelers and, for those who just want to relax away from their busy lives ashore, the opportunity to simply enjoy watching the islands float by. Something is always happening on deck, where we spent most of our time.


Sails need to be raised, a job joined by rows of passengers hauling the lines, and furled, a job that also requires passenger participation. Those interested in the skills of navigation can follow the ship’s progress on charts. We were lucky to have an expert on Maine Coast navigation as a fellow passenger, so we learned from her how to use a chart, how to determine true north and how ships use triangulation to determine latitude.


When nothing requires passenger help, we mingle, share travel tales and sailing experiences, compare notes on the books we’ve brought for deck reading, watch for birds and porpoises, and get to know our fellow sailors.


The Mary Day sails out of the postcard town of Camden, north of Portland, Maine, and as we left the harbor on a sun-filled morning, a moderate breeze filled the sails and propelled us into Casco Bay. We didn’t know as we glided over the waves  this would be the last breath of wind until the final day of our week-long voyage.


“Never seen it so calm for so long,” our Captain lamented as we moved along nudged by a small motor-driven yawl. We all paraphrased Annie with “The wind will blow tomorrow,” but it didn’t. And the sun didn’t come out much, either. At least it didn’t rain.


But, for most of the passengers, it didn’t really matter. We found places to perch in deck chairs or on one of the bulkheads and watched the islands float past. Crew members and fellow passengers, several familiar with the area, pointed out landmarks and added local lore.


At Hog Island, once owned by author E.B. White, we put ashore in the tender to visit the Wooden Boat School and the boathouse that was White’s favorite writing spot. Another day we docked in Castine, where we strolled elm-lined streets and admired gardens overlooking the sea.


A highlight of any Windjammer cruise is an evening lobster feast on an island beach with lobsters cooked over an open fire. Other dinners, prepared in the tiny galley and cooked on a wood-burning stove, were served family-style in the grand saloon, a cozy space below decks. Lunches were usually buffets.


On our final night we moored in Pulpit Harbor, which we shared with two other windjammers, and awoke to sun and — hallelujah —  a breeze. That morning we sailed; the eager passenger-deckhands hauled lines, unfurled and furled sails, and we sped through the waves. It was exhilarating, to be sure, and would have been nice for the entire week. But most of the passengers agreed the real fun of the week was living on board a ship, being outdoors and unplugged, and meeting new friends.


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