Spruce Point Inn, Windjammer Days, Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Down to the sea for these ships

What is it about a sailing ship that sparks the imagination? Images of privateers and merchantmen flicker across the mind. Patriot sailors hiding in the coves of Boothbay. Settlers not sure which is worse – the Atlantic crossing or the wilderness of this rocky shore. In each case, men and women challenged the deep. Those who understood the waters, winds, waves and tides endured. Some did not.

Yet all who go down to the sea for ships share a fascination with mankind’s love of the ocean from which we come. And those who share the sea with those of us more generally found on land hold a special place in our personal directories of what makes life worth living.

Each year, these skippers – the fraternity of Maine’s Windjammer Fleet – bring their flock of giant white-winged birds to float in Boothbay Harbor. The annual migration is a sight anyone who loves the ocean, sailing ships and the history of the Maine coast should see.

This year, the Windjammer Fleet arrives off Spruce Point on Wednesday, June 29th  (and there’s still room at the inn to wake up to the sight and sound of these beautiful boats anchored in the bay in front of you.)

There are eight boats – classic schooners, some with deep histories, some with great expectations. The American Eagle, 1930, was the last fishing schooner built in Gloucester. Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey, 1894, sailed to within 600 miles of the North Pole, and later brought immigrants to the U.S. from Cape Verde under sail. The Schooner Bowdoin, 1920-21, is the official state vessel of Maine. Built for the famed Arctic explorer Donald B. MacMillan, and launched from Hodgdon Brothers Shipyard in East Boothbay, Maine, she sailed more than 300,000 miles over 26 voyages through the frozen North in exploration and scientific studies.

Harvey Gamage, 1974, was the last schooner built by master shipwright Harvey Gamage of South Bristol, Maine and logged hundreds of thousands of miles on educational voyages in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, most recently around Cuba.  The Alert, a 71-footer  from Bailey Island, Maine and the Heritage are newer schooners.  The Eastwind and the Lazy Jack are homeported in Boothbay.

All are iconic elements of Maine’s cultural and maritime history. As identifiable – and unforgettable – as Maine lobster and lighthouses.

And once the windjammers have logged in your personal collection of ‘oceanside memories made in Maine’ don’t be surprised if you’re drawn back to Boothbay to appreciate the fleet – or even schedule a coastal cruise – because these gracious sailing ladies have stolen your heart and stirred the salty water that still flows in your veins.