Article from Maine Windjammer Association August 2018 Newsletter ()
May 16, 2015
Special Diet? Welcome Aboard!

credit: Fred LeBlanc
Guests with dietary restrictions can throw their culinary cares to the wind when they take a windjammer cruise in Maine! Here the Angelique crosses Penobscot Bay, with the Camden Hills in the background.

Understanding that many people have special dietary needs, the captains are happy to make sure every passenger enjoys their windjamming experience fully and the cooks embrace the challenge of special diets with advance notice.

Loraine Dubeau of the Victory Chimes says, “We try to be as accommodating as possible. Whenever I’m booking someone, I ask if they have any dietary restrictions. Then, when we sail, we ask again about dietary restrictions. We make it clear that no one ever goes hungry and we really appreciate hearing back from people – we’re always looking for ways to improve our menu.”

credit: Fred LeBlanc
Captain Linda has experience preparing meals aboard the Heritage for guests with all types of dietary restrictions. Note the almond milk and gluten-free oatmeal at this breakfast table!

To make it explicit, Captains Doug and Linda Lee of the Heritage listed some of the special requests they’ve accommodated over the years: “gluten free, lactose free, soy free, tree nut free, peanut free, preservative free, meat free, meat only, vegetarian, vegan, certain vegetables free (such as peppers), herb free, garlic free, onion free, spice free, certain oils free, and any other special diet that any of our passengers have requested.”

According to Captain Brenda Thomas of the Isaac H. Evans, for severe allergies they have carried separate pots, pans and utensils because much of what they cook is prepared on cast iron which can retain traces of allergens as can wooden spoons. She says, “We don't want someone to not be able to experience our trips because of a dietary preference or restriction. So far, we've not had to turn anyone away because of a special food need/request.”

And sometimes, you can have quite an array on one trip. Katie, of the Mary Day has already got a cruise lined up that will include accommodations for kosher, vegetarian and gluten free!

Chef Anna of the Stephen Taber loves a challenge, whether it’s special diets or accommodating the weather. What’s more, everything – absolutely everything – is made from scratch. She says, “All the baked goods, the breads, the sauces – everything is made by hand. From the muffins or quick bread first thing in the morning straight through to dinner. Even pasta! If I want to serve pasta, I make it – starting with the pile of flour that I then start incorporating the eggs into to make a wonderfully silky pasta dough to then roll out into lasagna sheets or fettuccini noodles.” Given that everything is hand-made, that makes it easy to accommodate special diets.

When asked what makes being a chef aboard a traditional sailing vessel challenging, it wasn’t the special diets…it was the sailing! Anna says, “On days we are sailing a little harder than usual, you have to secure pots on the stove top, or put a shim under the baked goods in the oven.”

Chef Andy of the American Eagle can relate. He says, “The Eagle is a real fishing schooner; she’s narrow beamed and deep keeled, so she sails like a bat out of hell, but she heels further than some of the other boats. Once we were whale watching off Matinicus Rock and I spilled a half gallon of olive oil on the galley sole. The challenge then was to clean it up without slipping on it and landing on the stove!”

Weather and special diets aside, everyone agrees that preparing scrumptious food aboard a windjammer is creative, interesting and it’s the guests that keep these extremely talented people coming back year after year. Says Andy, “The people who sail with us are adventurous and good-humored; lots of musicians, photographer, writers, artists, teachers and so on. After 20 years many passengers are old friends.”

For more information about the eight vessels belonging to the Maine Windjammer Association, click here.

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