October 30, 2019

#195 Maine Windjammer Association

"Sparkling Penobscot Bay, a standout among Maine's 3,500 miles of pristine and craggy coast (the largest stretch of shoreline in the forty-eight contiguous states), is dotted with some 3,000 islands and has been a maritime center since the 17th century.  Little wonder, then, that its waters are home to the nation's largest fleet of traditional wooden schooners, historic late-19th- and early 20th-century ships that specialize in ... sailing adventures, always withing the sight of the pine and spruce covered coastline."

"Going where the wind carries you through America's quintessential cruising grounds ... and enjoying impromptu stops at tiny deserted islands to enjoy a feast of lobsters, plucked live moments before from a passing fisherman's boat."

"Accommodations aboard are generally small and spare, and nightlife is nonexistent except for counting the shooting stars."

This was... an interesting experience.  I'm so glad I did it.  I do not feel the need to do it again.  I sailed on the last sailing of the season on the Stephen Tabor and what I'll probably remember most was how cold it was.  Every night, I'd go to bed fully clothed (including jackets [yes, multiple jackets], hat, and gloves) and still would shiver for a long time before going to sleep.

So, here's the the good, the bad, and the ugly:

  • There was a TV production crew that sailed with us.  They were just always in the way.  The cameraman would film the food (in the most minute detail) at every meal.  Dude, just get out the way, we want to eat.
  • Did you want to take a picture?  Too bad, that camera guy was always there blocking your shot or just generally in the shot.
  • We did a bunch of stuff that seemed designed for them to get the footage they wanted for the story they want to tell.  
  • I'm really curious how the piece will actually come out and will update with a link if I find it.  (They interviewed me because they thought the "why" of me being there was interesting, but I have no idea if they'll use any of it.  I hope they don't.  I looked homeless because I'd been sea camping for a week.)
  • There was one other guest who was super annoying.  SUPER. ANNOYING.

The BAD:

  • Cold, so cold - there is no heat.  The only place with heat is the galley because the wood burning stove is there.  Also, we were sailing during a Nor'easter.  
  • They are not kidding about the spare accommodations. (I was in cabin 4.) There was precisely one 2x2 foot square where I could stand upright in my cabin.  Even in the bunk I couldn't sit upright.
  • Stairs? No, we have ladders.  You will not be able to comfortably take things above or below deck. (Unless you're the crew - they are like sea-gazelles or something.)
  • No seating - especially at meal times.  The seating is pretty limited, in general, on deck, and during mealtime they co-opt most of it to lay out the food and the washing up line.  The one meal we ate in the galley was so crowded I thought I might have a panic attack from being trapped.
  • The head.  Just no. nope. don't wanna do that again.
  • The crew was amazing. Seriously, they were all just fascinating and friendly and super competent, and worked so fucking hard the entire time.
  • Captain Noah, first of all - he inherited the schooner/sailing legacy from his parents and all I can say is - they named him Noah - of course, he was going to end up on a boat.  All of the crew talked about what a great captain he was and how he was different from other captains they sailed with previously.  
  • The food.  Did I mention the wood burning stove?  That is all they had to cook on.  Everything was prepared by our fantastic chef and done with serious space, equipment, and refrigeration limitations.  Add to that that we had a vegetarian and non-dairy eating guest (and me with the shellfish allergy), and she was masterful in that galley.
  • Wine and Cheese.  Captain Noah told us that they made a legit decision to spend their print marketing budget on cheese this year and it showed.  A full blown cheeseboard, from local shops, every night and bottles and bottles of wine to pair.  
  • The other guests (except really annoying guy and the TV people).  I have nothing personal against the TV guys.  They're fine, but they are not there because they really wanted to vacation there, and they weren't on vacation -they were working.  But everyone else was seriously so interesting.  
    • We had a blind guy on our ship.  A blind guy who was sailing for, like, his 33rd time (or something outrageous like that).  
    • There was a couple on their honeymoon (she'd been a PeaceCorp volunteer in Africa, and he was on his 3rd marriage [at least!]).
    • There were a couple of Minnesotans - he was a landscape architect before retirement.
    • A retired doctor (like brain surgeon doctor) and his Finnish wife.  Both fascinating.
    • There was also a travel nurse from Ogden, UT who was there by herself.  Trust me, she will be heavily featured in the TV piece.
    • And because it was the last sailing of the season a couple of the crew had invited their moms.  And they were both bad-ass ladies.