BROOKLIN — The harbor off the WoodenBoat School waterfront took on the look of an earlier era last week when nearly a dozen schooners nestled at anchor Tuesday afternoon for the annual gathering of the fleet organized by the Maine Windjammer Association.
Based primarily in Rockland and Camden, the schooners were mostly on weeklong cruises carrying passengers from across the country on visits to Penobscot and Blue Hill bays, and beyond.
The gathering began early afternoon on Sept. 12 with the arrival of the three-masted schooner Victory Chimes. Anchored in the harbor, it was joined in quick succession by American Eagle, Mary Day and Stephen Taber.
Launched in 1900 as Edwin & Maud, the schooner carried lumber and other freight for more than 40 years. After World War II, the 128-foot schooner entered the “dude cruise” industry. In the early 1950s, it was rechristened and came to Maine. The largest vessel in the Maine windjammer fleet, Victory Chimes carries as many as 40 passengers.
Not far behind the first arrivals, Grace Bailey, one of the schooners from the Camden-based “Green Boat” fleet, Lewis R. French, Isaac H. Evans and the red-sailed Angelique, the only ketch in the fleet, sailed into harbor from the westward through the passage between Torrey and Little Babson islands and dropped anchor.
Shortly before 4 p.m., the gathering was completed when Captains Doug and Linda Lee sailed their gleaming, yellow-hulled Heritage into harbor from the eastward. Soon after, it was “yawl-boats and pulling boats away” to carry passengers and crews ashore to the WoodenBoat School waterfront for a party featuring steamed mussels, cider and steel drum music.
Pat and Bob Weaver from Chicago and Judy and Ray Peterson from upstate New York joined the party from Mary Day, launched in Maine in 1962 and built specifically to carry passengers. Two days out from Camden, both couples described their cruising experience as “fantastic,” but that came as no surprise. All of them were repeat visitors to Maine and to schoonering. According to Bob Weaver, skipper Barry King was the captain “with the best sense of humor in America.”
While the Weavers were four-time windjammer sailors, American Eagle passenger Cora Koop of Lebanon, N.H., said her current voyage was “about her 20th” on Maine schooners, including Grace Bailey and Mercantile, another member of the Green Boat Fleet.
Ruth and Robert Katz drove 1,200 miles from their home in Manistee, Mich., to sail on American Eagle.
“This is awesome,” Ruth Katz said as she surveyed the anchored schooners, the scenery and the party.