Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of Maine Windjammers

In 1936, an artist from rural Maine named Frank Swift had the wild and crazy idea of reinventing the American merchant sailing ship. Once essential in transporting lumber and granite along the Eastern Seaboard, fish from the Georges Banks, and fruit from the West Indies, these vessels were becoming obsolete by the 1930s. Swift knew full well that Maine’s 2500-mile stretch of jagged coastline, where long inlets form sheltered bays, was tailor-made for sailing. No other sport gives you the freedom to anchor in a pristine cove, hike on an untrammeled island, and sleep with a lighthouse beacon as your nightlight. So he went on a shopping spree, buying up old schooners with a vision offering travelers a new type of experience, windjamming. The business flourished and today there are now 9 ships in the Maine Windjammer Association fleet.

Writing about Maine this past quarter-century, the opportunity to hop on one of these vessels, smell the salty air, eat lobster to my stomach’s content, and spend precious time with loved ones is an unparalleled joy. One image in particular, my father taking the wheel of the Grace Bailey and sailing for at least an hour, is forever etched in my memory. Now I get the chance to sail with my daughter, Melanie, before she leaves for college. This week, I’ll be reporting from the Schooner Mary Day, the first windjammer built specifically to carry passengers. Please join me this week and come sail away.