Summer by the sea yields a host of unforgettable scenes, but few are more captivating than the sight of dignified windjammers under full sail.
Pursuing the irresistible lure of the winds, these vessels ply Maine’s open waters with a blend of presence, power and grace unrivaled by any other craft or ship. For when a windjammer takes center stage on the seascape, an aura of magnificence is always its following sea.
Often times I’ve observed one of these ships far off in the distance with their white sails dotting the horizon in distinctive fashion. Such scenes never fail to provide me with a welcome context to an otherwise vast monotony of blue – all the while giving flight to my imagination long after the windjammer has slipped the grasp of the present moment into the ambit of memory.
What mystery islands did the crew and passengers visit or in what charming ports did the ship drop anchor? Were whales, seals or puffins spotted? How many breathtaking sunsets were admired and what type of adventurous stories might everyone tell?
These are just a few of the questions that race through my mind as I ponder a passing windjammer; regardless of whether their woven sails are capturing the draft of a galloping wind or a whispering breeze.
But if a lone windjammer can punctuate a memory with an exclamation point of seaborne delight, how much more might an entire fleet do so?
Thankfully I do not have to leave the answer to this question adrift on the ebb tide, for on a few occasions each year, the Maine Windjammer Association brings together their historic fleet of thirteen ships for widely popular parades of sail in the harbors of Boothbay, Camden and Rockland.
These majestic vessels, some dating back to the late-1800s, range in size from 46 to 132 feet in length and embody the very essence of the great traditional tall ship from bow to stern regardless of size.
One of these crowd-pleasing parades of sail took place on July 15, 2011 as the fleet gathered outside Rockland Harbor to sail back and forth past the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse.
My family and I were among hundreds of other spectators that packed the south end of the stone breakwater for the best front row seat to this grand show anyone could have. As the parade unfolded, I marveled at the depth of splendor each windjammer exuded.
With crews acting in perfect unison – each knowing their role in this time-honored tradition, and great sails flexing with pride, the windjammers plied their way into the hearts and memories of those in attendance – leaving behind “wakes” of fun and admiration to cascade in the imaginations of all.
The joy associated with this two-hour parade of sail was obvious, but just as evident was how the majestic presence of the windjammers evoked a sense of enduring heritage.
I believe the Maine Windjammer Association sums up best the magical experience of being aboard a windjammer when they say, “Time is unstructured and every day is a new adventure.”
My feelings exactly – and I simply observed the magnificence of the windjammers during a parade!
Did you know?
The Maine windjammer fleet hails from Rockland, Rockport and Camden
Do you know how Maine Windjammer Cruises originated?
“What started in 1936 with a bold idea and an idle schooner has grown into America’s largest concentration of traditional sailing vessels. At a time when ‘working sail’ had begun to diminish and trucks were being used to carry everything from one end of the country to the other, Captain Frank Swift saw the beauty in these old wooden ships and wanted to preserve them as examples of America’s maritime heritage. Confident that the lure of the sea and the graceful lines of a salty old schooner would appeal to ‘rusticators’ who sought to escape from the hustle and bustle of the cities, he offered his first vacation-cruise in 1936 aboard the schooner Mabel. He called his venture Maine Windjammer Cruises…” Source: The Lookout, newsletter of the Maine Windjammer Association, 2011 Season
To learn more about the Maine Windjammer Association, visit: www.sailmainecoast.com