Setting Sail with the Maine Windjammer Association
We boarded in Rockland – a pretty harbour town in Maine. Seven days of glorious blue skies had given way to hard rain and sideways sheets of it soaked the car park. A tall man in slick waterproofs introduced himself as David, the first mate, and took my bag. Behind him, I could see the masts of the historic Victory Chimes – a designated national landmark and home for the next four days.
The Victory Chimes rose out of the mist, her three masts tall and intricate against the heavy, grey clouds. A huddle of guests made their way down the wet jetty – hoods up, fingers trailing the handrail. I followed, unsure of what kind of wellness holiday this was going to turn out to be.
Aboard the Victory Chimes
“Oh, you’re in cabin 17? That’s a suite.” The second mate, Chris, looking like a storybook sailor with twinkly eyes and a moustache, showed me to my cabin. I followed him backwards down the wooden steps, shiny and steep as a ladder. The Victory Chimes creaked around us, reminding me that this was a boat with history.
My cabin was cosy with just enough room for a double bed, sink, shelf, stool, and various hooks to hang things on. There was a tiny ensuite toilet or ‘head’ as I was calling it by the end of the trip, in a separate compartment in the corner. It took me a little while to get used to the smells – damp and ship plumbing – but I reminded myself that this was a 117-year old boat, not a floating hotel.
That first night, the rain stopped us from having an evening yoga session on deck. Instead, we gathered in the galley – a gleaming space with big tables, enclosed by original wooden beams. A mix of men and women, a mix of ages and backgrounds, we laughed and chatted over mugs of tea and glasses of wine. Maybe I got lucky with my group or maybe Maine Windjammer Cruises attract the best kind of people. Whatever the reason, the conversations we had that first night, and for the rest of the trip, were extraordinary.
Most of the 19 guests had sailed on the Victory Chimes before. And although I was the only non-American on board, and one of only four passengers travelling solo, I felt pure warmth and contentment that night. It was a feeling that stayed with me for the throughout the sail.
Maine Windjammer Association cruises operate very differently to conventional cruises. Rather than focusing on destinations, these cruises are all about the sail. Aboard the Victory Chimes, part of the adventure was not knowing where we were going each day. Instead, we sailed according to the wind and the weather, which from the second day on, was glorious.
Captain Kip Files guided us past pine-topped islands and through open stretches of sun-drenched sea. The crew pointed out seals, porpoises, and bald eagles. We watched the coast pass by and saw more lighthouses than I could keep track of. Each evening, after anchoring the ship in a sheltered bay, Captain Kip would get out his map to show us the route we’d taken.
Yoga and Pancakes
Mornings on board started with a 6.30am yoga session on deck. Barbara, our yoga teacher, would take us through a gentle sequence of poses, perfect for loosening up after a night in a small cabin. The first morning, we emerged from our cabins to damp mats and an eerily silver mist. But from then on, we rose to golden sunrises and a sun so orange, it spilled across the sea. We finished each session by lying in savasana, surrounded by lapping waves and the occasional splash of leaping fish.
Breakfast was served at 8 am in the galley. The guests all sat together, helping ourselves to New England-style treats like pancakes, fresh fruit, maple butter, muffins, and creamy porridge. Although not strictly healthy, the food was delicious in a hearty, comforting kind of way.
After breakfast, Captain Kip would entertain us with stories as we sipped coffee. He told us about the history of the Victory Chimes, that it was built in 1900 to carry lumber and was now the last three-masted schooner of its kind. Every story was infused with dramatic detail and told with Kip’s beaming smile.
Wellness Treatments on Deck
The sunny days on deck were blissful. Besides reading and relaxing, we had wellness treatments to choose from. Four wonderful women were leading the Wellness Sail, which is now in its second year. All experienced wellness practitioners, Kristi, Diane, Kay, and Barbara specialise in yoga, reiki, massage, craniosacral treatments, lymphatic drainage, sound therapy, and Ayurveda.
Settling into my reiki session with Kristie, it surprised me how quickly the chatter of everyone else faded away. And how, on a boat and surrounded by sea and sky, it was possible to feel both grounded and completely free. Sailing on the Victory Chimes felt like a total escape from real life – partly thanks to the lack of wifi and phone coverage, but mostly, thanks to the focus on wellness.
Just when the smell of freshly-baked focaccia seemed impossible to resist, the lunchtime bell would ring. Lunch was colourful salads and soups, followed by brownies and banana bread. A few hours later, everyone would tuck into a dinner of fish, lobster, or meat. As one of two vegetarians on board, I was also catered to. (Although, If you’re not a fan of soya meat, I’d recommend letting the cook know before you board). We kept bottles wine and beer in a cooler on deck, which we sipped as the sun glowed and sank.
After dinner, Kristi led meditation sessions around a blanket strewn with feathers and crystals. We meditated, shared experiences, and let ourselves be silly – our faces lit up by the soft glow of oil lamps. Later, we turned out the lamps and watched the stars, billions of them glimmering in the inky sky.
Visiting the Islands of Maine
During our four-day sail, we went to shore twice. We wandered down the country lanes of Bucks Harbour, where the wild blackberries and dewy grass reminded me of Ireland. We explored the island of North Haven on a hot day, passing pretty houses with white picket fences and rope swings. These communities, with their summer cottages and stores selling farm fresh produce, were the idyllic version of Maine I’d imagined.
Just as the Maine Windjammer Association’s cruises aren’t ordinary cruises, the Victory Chimes Wellness Sail isn’t a typical wellness holiday. We laughed over wine in the evenings, ate muffins with breakfast, and didn’t do a whole lot of exercise. Still, it was one of the most profoundly relaxing and refreshing trips I’ve ever taken. My heart was full for weeks afterwards – full of the people I’d met, the wild Maine coastline, and the majestic Victory Chimes.
Planning to sail with the Maine Windjammer Association?
- The Victory Chimes runs a number of themed sails during the year, ranging from Irish music to wellness trips.
- There are nine ships in the Maine Windjammer Association’s fleet and each one is individually owned.
- All windjammer cruises operate slightly differently. Rates, accommodation, and schedule will depend on which ship you choose.
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