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SailAway
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My wife and I recently completed a short cruise on the Grace Bailey, one of the schooners in the Maine Windjammer fleet sailing out of Camden Maine. It was a great experience I thought I would share.

We live in Maine so the drive up to Camden was short. We were scheduled to board at 10am Friday so were able to leave that morning for the 2 hour drive up. We arrived in Camden to find the boat not in Camden harbor so would have to be shuttled to the boat. The remaining passengers arrived and we were on the boat a little before lunchtime. We took the yawl over to the boat which we could not see from shore as the famous Penobscot Bay fog was very present. We had the first of many excellent meals on board which was clay pot beans, ham, salad, bread etc. Very tasty in the damp and chilly air.

Following lunch we set out in fog thick enough that we could not see land in any direction. There had also been chatter on the radio about a tanker somewhere in our path, no one knew quite where, so delayed until we were sure it had passed. No one wanted to see that bearing down on us, not on the first day anyway. The day was spent quietly sailing to Castine in conditions that would persist all weekend. Gray, little to light winds, cool and damp.

We arrived in Castine, tied up to a dock near the Maine Maritime Academny and explored the town before dinner. Our evening meal was a surf and turf where I ate way too many lobsters and sides but just could not stop, it tasted too good. A few drinks at a shore side pub to get to know our ship mates a little better.

We set out the next morning and made our way VERY slowly to Isleboro. I would be generous to say the winds that day were light. It was very quiet and relaxing and gave us a good chance to read, relax and see the spectacular coast of Maine as it slid quietly past. One of the crew took the time to show me some marlinspike and how to weave a rope mat. We dropped anchor that night in a quiet bay off Isleboro and enjoyed another fabulous meal of New England boiled dinner on board. We finished the cruise with a short sail back into Camden harbor Sunday morning.

The trip was a little disapointing in that there was very little wind and the gray and cool conditions. The rain held off fortunately until the ride home which was a blessing. As a sailor though I know the weather is what you get and you make the best of it so no big deal. There were things that completely made up for it.

One of these things was the crew who were absolutely outstanding. They were all very competent, fun loving, attentive and always ready to do what was needed. They clearly love doing what they do and it shows in their attention to the boat and passengers and just overall good nature. The captain was especially good and it was clear he was both liked and respected by the crew.

The other aspect of it was the boat itself, an 80 foot restored schooner. The Grace Bailey was amazing, truly living history. Nearly everything on the boat is at is was when she was first launched and she is still run the way she was back then. The only modern items on board was a battery bank to run cabin lights, GPS and VHF. Nothing else modern, everything else was original. Sails were canvas and all lines where manila rope, no high tech rope anywhere. She had no engine so any motoring was done by using the yawl with a 55hp turbo diesel to push her along which she did at a nice clip. Cooking was done on an antique wood stove in the galley which also provided hot water for coffee, tea and showers. There were no modern pumps, water pressure to the galley was provided by gravity with water that was hand pumped to an oak cask on the deck. She had no electric bilge pumps but an original deck mounted pump that had to be primed, no self priming there. The 250 pound primary fisherman style anchor was raised by hand with the original hand operated capstan. It was lifted into its place along the rail with block and tackle in the rigging. We did not have to use it but were told the 500 pound storm anchour could be hard to raise. The big gaff rigged sails were of course raised by hand with a call of "all hands" calling everyone willing to pitch in to line the rails and hoist the sails. She is a wonderful craft and so refreshing to see that old technology like that still works so well. She has no need for mylar sails, double braid line or stainless steel. She does take more work though.

Overall, it was a great cruise despite the poor weather and one I would recommend.
 
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