Sailing Adventure: Windjammer Cruise in Maine

Sailing Adventure: Windjammer Cruise in Maine        

“Raise the mainsail!” Captain John Foss calls, and we eagerly move into place. It’s our first day of sailing on our windjammer cruise, and we can’t wait to get going.

There are 21 of us aboard the American Eagle Schooner this week. Half of us line the starboard side, while the others move to the port side. Following the crew’s calls, we grab and pull the rope in rhythm.

The 2,000-square-foot sail is heavy, and it takes all our efforts to raise it almost 70 feet. After it’s in place, the crew raises the foresail, hauls up the anchor and raises the headsails.

With a snap, the wind catches our sails, and we’re off, completely powered by Mother Nature. The sight of a tall ship bending with the wind is majestic and strangely moving. Ben and I sit down on the gleaming wood deck with the others, watching the sight with wonder.

American Eagle at anchor. Photo by Ben Rader
American Eagle at anchor. Photo by Ben Rader

American Eagle Schooner

Cruising in Maine is a unique experience. Instead of massive cruise ships with swimming boards and shopping malls, a small fleet of historic wooden tall ships ply these waters, offering small group cruising to adventurous and nature-loving passengers.

This week, our home is the American Eagle Schooner, which was built in 1930. For 53 years, the American Eagle was a member of the Gloucester fishing fleet. Captain John Foss bought it in 1984, and carefully restored her to her current glory. The vessel is 92’ long, and can hold up to 26 guests.

The American Eagle is one of 10 traditional tall ships in The Maine Windjammer Association; most of the vessels have been designated National Historic Landmarks. A few are more than a hundred years old.

The fleet sails along Maine’s rugged coast in the protected waters of Penobscot Bay. The coastline of Maine is wild and beautiful. Though it’s 293 miles long, the coast is so jagged that stretched out, it would reach more than 4,500 miles long.

Caption John Foss looks content as he heads the American Eagle out to sea, coffee cup in hand. “In what other job do you have someone cook for you all summer and you get to go sailing 120 days a year and meet interesting people?” he says.

Captain John grew up in Maine and has been sailing most of his life. “Maine has an incredible cruising area,” he says. “There is a good little harbor every couple of miles. We’re lucky that the area has never been industrialized. Things here are well cared for.”

“This is one of the two best places in the world to sail,” he jokes. “We don’t know where the other one is.”

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