Dreaming of your next cruise? You can sail the Maine coast as early as this weekend

Jul 16, 2020

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For North American cruise fans itching to get back on the water, this is what they call “a start.”

Two small sailing vessels in Maine that do multi-night trips for vacationers are about to resume operations.

The nine-cabin Schooner Ladona will be the first to set sail, on Saturday. The 12-cabin Schooner Stephen Taber will follow a few days later, on July 23.

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Both vessels sail out of Rockland, Maine, and are part of the Maine Windjammer Association. The association is a collection of eight small sailing vessels that offer overnights trips.

“We’ve had some huge hurdles to overcome in order to leave the dock this week,” the Schooner Ladona’s captain, J.R. Braugh, said in a statement sent to TPG. “We’re glad that we’re going to be able to offer guests the ideal summer vacation in Maine – sailing aboard a beautifully restored wind-driven schooner taking in Maine scenery.”

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles 

The nine-cabin Schooner Ladona. (Photo courtesy of Fred LeBlanc)
The nine-cabin Schooner Ladona. (Photo courtesy of Fred LeBlanc)

The Schooner Ladona and Schooner Stephen Taber normally operate in the summer starting around Memorial Day but have not been running this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Six of the eight Maine Windjammer Association vessels have canceled all departures for the year.

The restart of windjammer trips in Maine comes as the number of new coronavirus cases in the state drops close to zero. The state recorded just 12 new cases on Wednesday.

Related: TPG’s complete guide to Acadia National Park in Maine

Maine implemented relatively strict lockdown measures early in the coronavirus pandemic that have resulted in one of the lowest case counts in the country. It has been recording few new cases even as states such as Florida and Texas top 10,000 new cases a day.

The first Schooner Ladona trip will begin Friday with an overnight on the vessel before it begins sailing on Saturday. The trip will be three nights in length.

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The 12-cabin Schooner Stephen Taber. (Photo by P.J. Walter Photography courtesy of Maine Windjammer Association)
The 12-cabin Schooner Stephen Taber. (Photo by P.J. Walter Photography courtesy of Maine Windjammer Association)

The trips offered by Maine Windjammer Association vessels aren’t like traditional cruises. There are no set ports or harbors for overnight stays. The vessels set off on itineraries that are entirely dictated by the wind, weather and whims of the passengers on board.

A spokesperson for the Maine Windjammer Association said Schooner Ladona probably would leave the dock in Rockland on Saturday around 10 a.m., and then head for a harbor or islands. The course will be decided that morning or while underway.

Typically, the vessels will sail for six or seven hours a day and then drop anchor in a harbor for hors d’oeuvres and a wine tasting, or maybe some playtime on the paddleboards that the vessels carry or a row to a nearby island on a dinghy.

The eight vessels of the Maine Windjammer Association comprise the largest fleet of working small windjammers in America.

The startup of the Maine windjammer season this year was put off after Gov. Janet Mills ordered 14-day quarantines for arriving tourists. But the governor has relaxed the policy in recent weeks as new coronavirus case counts have dwindled.

Schooner Stephen Taber captain Noah Barnes performs for passengers during sailings. (Photo courtesy of Schooner Stephen Taber)
Schooner Stephen Taber captain Noah Barnes performs for passengers during sailings. (Photo courtesy of Schooner Stephen Taber)

As part of relaxing tourist policies, the state on July 1 said overnight windjammer cruises could restart. The Maine Windjammer Association says its members have worked with the state’s Department of Marine Resources to create guidance for a safe sailing environment. The vessels will adhere to the same guidelines put in place for lodging and restaurants in Maine.

Related: A beginner’s guide to visiting Maine’s Acadia National Park 

“We’ve taken it one step further than the already stringent protocols, and are asking every guest who comes sailing with us to attest to a negative COVID-19 test,” Noah Barnes, the captain of Schooner Stephen Taber, said in a statement sent to TPG. “This is one way we can safeguard the guests and crew on board this summer.”

Taber said stringent sanitization and cleaning, social distancing and safety protocols will be in place for all sailings.

Because of their small size, the Maine sailings ships are exempt from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current no-sail order for passenger-carrying vessels in U.S. waters. The no-sail order was first issued in March as coronavirus pandemic cases were growing worldwide. It applies to passenger vessels of any type that carry more than 250 people, including crew.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Feature image by Joan Fischer courtesy of Maine Windjammer Association

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