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It all started with Captain Frank Swift in 1936. Steamships had ended the golden age of sail and Swift hated to see the graceful schooners disappear. He figured one way to save these beautiful vessels was to interest people in becoming passengers for a cruise along Maine’s scenic coast, lhe word “windjammer” was originally a derogatory term used by steamship captains, but Swift’s business changed the meaning completely.

His “windjammer” business worked, and by the 1950s other captains joined the effort. When Swift retired in 1961, he left a (lour ishing industry that has spread to ports beyond Camden, including Rockland. Boothbay, and Bar Harbor.

The schooners vary in size, which limits the number of guests. Accommodations vary as well, lhe duration of trips ranges from a short two hour harbor cruise to one night or even a week. Some vessels may be chartered for a group sail.

Part of the charm of a windjammer cruise is the opportunity to help with the work on board hoisting sales, swabbing decks, anything that needs doing or not. Choose a cruise to coincide with the events centered around the windjammers, such as Windjammer Davs in late lune, the Great Schooner Race in earlv |uly, the Wind jammer Parade in mid July, or others.

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Often passengers will get to enjov a real Maine clam/lobster

Many of the sailing vessels in the fleet are venerable craft, some designated as official national treasures, while a few were built exclusively for the business. A few notable vessels that have graced the fleet over the years include the Adventure, one of the last two existing Gloucester fishing schooners, now restored and residing in Gloucester again; and the Bowdoin, built in Maine for Admiral MacMillan’s Arctic explorations, and now serving as Maine’s official vessel at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. bake during a cruise-maybe even on an uninhabited island. Sometimes the vessel will drop anchor in a quiet cove with no houses in view (this is still possible in Maine) and passengers can usually go ashore to explore. Seeing a whale is not guaranteed, but often happens. However, there’s no doubt passengers will see osprey, bald eagles, and many other sea birds, as well as seals and porpoises.

The season begins in June and ends in September. There are specialty cruises catering to a wide range of interests, including beer Lasting, chocolate Lasting, photography, pi rate adventures, lighthouse cruises, storytell ing/humor cruises, and whale-watching.

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