When I decided to sail on one of the Maine Windjammer Schooners, I couldn’t help but think about the earliest seafarers who worked these waters for more than a hundred years. The Victory Chimes dates back to 1900, built as a commercial sailing ship in Bethel, Delaware to carry lumber, gravel, building supplies, even pumpkins. When it couldn’t it compete with motorized ships for speed, it began as a passenger cruise vessel, allowing generations of sailors to enjoy her three-masted sails.
Today, Victory Chimes, is a National Historic Landmark, the largest in Maine’s fleet of Windjammers. She can carry up to 41 guests with a hard-working crew of 8 and departs out of Rockland, Maine, an easy two-hour ride from Portland. Choose from 3 – 6-night sails with delightful music and wellness themes to enhance the experience. “The Victory Chimes has been the most successful 3-masted boat in history,” said owner Captain Sam Sikkema. “It’s the only one of its kind still in operation. When you sail on Victory Chimes, you’re sailing on a piece of American history. The most challenging part of sailing,” says Captain Sikkema, “is working through the elements like the winds, water currents and tides, none of which you have control over. We go where the wind takes us.”
Captain Sikkema continued, “Guests sail with us for a sense of peace and relaxation. It’s a chance to connect to the natural world from the water and unwind, unplug and let go of their responsibilities. Their favorite part of the sail is seeing the coast of Maine with all of its charming little islands. We stop at several coastal towns like Isle Au Hait, Vinalhaven and North Haven, one of Maine’s 14 unbridged island communities. We go ashore on small motorboats and they get a chance to explore.”
Wellness and Irish Music – Oh, My!
I chose the Wellness and Irish Music Cruise, and let the sounds of mandolins, fiddle, flute and guitar fill my soul, led by the Wells Farm Band out of Rhode Island. Each night, they serenaded us with traditional and contemporary Irish music. Their bawdy ballads and folk songs matched the sounds of the breezes gently blowing. It was beyond perfect. Each morning, instructor Kristy Otterbach led the group in a series of yoga poses, movement and meditative classes to begin our day with a sense of purpose and enlightenment. Afterwards, I would grab a cup of steaming hot coffee and watch as the crew unmoored the ship to set sail.
Adventure on the High Seas
Guests who want to assist are encouraged to help with hoisting the sails, bringing up the anchor, maybe even steer. The best part is, whether you’re port or starboard, you’ll learn the traditional commands like “heave” and “ready on the peak.” The sails are raised and then we’re off to sail the coast of Maine with white clapboard houses, tiny islands, tall Maine pines and sailboats dotting the landscape. The ship takes in the gentle breezes as the passengers gaze out into the calm sea. Then the gusts pick up and the crew must adjust the sails to catch the wind. Late in the afternoon, Captain Sam pulls out the map and shows us where we sailed that day.
Gastronomy to the Max!
Guests can look forward to gourmet, chef-inspired meals. A sumptuous breakfast is served at 8 a.m. down in the salon with everything from wild blueberry pancakes to eggs, breakfast meats and the yummiest fruit I’ve ever tasted. The lunch buffet up on the deck features salad, chicken, shrimp, pasta and always a fabulous dessert, all while taking in the bay breezes. Before you know it, Chef Adam brings out appetizers before dinner and then announces tonight’s fare. Will it be fresh seafood? Or an ethnic choice? No matter what, it’s guaranteed to be delectable! For those who are vegetarian, gluten-free or have other dietary restrictions, the chef makes every effort to serve his guests according to their regimen.
The main culinary event onboard is the lobster bake, served with all the trimmings including corn-on-the cob, slaw and of course, fresh lobster boiled on deck.
Perhaps the best testament to the popularity of the Victory Chimes is the number of guests who return to experience it all, summer after summer. For many of my fellow passengers, this was a repeat sail. I’m hoping to be among them.
Before or after you set sail, plan a visit to Portland. Here’ more information: https://splashmags.com/index.php/2021/08/31/discover-portland-maine-the-historic-seacoast-town-on-casco-bay/#gsc.tab=0