There’s no arguing about it, certainly not among the guests that sail on the twelve vessels in the Maine Windjammer Fleet. The traditional Down East Lobster Bake is the hands-down highlight of every windjammer cruise. At every Captain’s Call—whether on boarding night or the morning of departure—one inevitable question is: “When will we be having the Lobster Bake?”
The captains of the windjammers collectively purchase about 10 tons of lobster every sailing season! Guests are always in awe of the quantity of lobsters dropped into the kettles of boiling water, and they enjoy the delectable crustaceans until they just can't eat anymore. For the all-the-lobster-you-can-eat picnics, your windjammer will anchor in a quiet cove off one of the many uninhabited islands in Penobscot Bay. Crew members will take you—and all the picnic necessities—ashore by row boat or yawl boat, to a pristine, isolated beach. Once on shore, you'll have opportunities to hike, swim, row, beach-comb, or sit and relax while a blazing fire is built and you wait for the lobsters to steam. Each schooner galley lends its "signature" to what is provided for alternatives and additions to the "Maine" event: appetizers, crackers and cheese, chips, dips, mussels, clams, hot dogs, burgers, sausages, veggie patties, veggie kabobs, corn-on-the-cob, roasted Maine potatoes, salads—Whew! For sure you won't go hungry! And for dessert there may be pie, s'mores, watermelon, cookies or bars; or dessert and coffee may be served on deck after you've returned to your vessel. The captains’ provision is so generous that rarely are all the lobsters gone by the end of a picnic. Eagerly hoping for a second meal featuring the best lobster in the world, guests ask the cook the second-most-often-heard question on any cruise: “What are you going to make with the leftover lobster?” For leftover lobster ideas, be sure to read our Fresh from the Galley article!
The windjammer captains are enthusiastic supporters of Maine’s lobster industry. Not only do they purchase enough lobster to fill several boats—literally—they take pleasure in educating visitors about the time-honored traditions of the lobster business. Brenda Thomas, captain of Schooner Isaac H. Evans, has a license to carry a couple of lobster traps aboard her vessel; she enjoys teaching and demonstrating to interested passengers, especially children, how the lobsters are trapped—but she can’t trap nearly enough for her Lobster Bakes! Like the other captains, she relies on the lobstermen in Stonington, Bucks Harbor, Swan’s Island, Bass Harbor, Frenchboro—to name just a places where windjammer captains purchase lobsters.
Barry King, captain and owner of Schooner Mary Day, grew up in the company of local fishermen. He has tremendous understanding of the lobstermen’s work-a-day life: “They have to be business men, mechanics, expert boat handlers, lobbyists, and, yes, lobstermen. And when the fishing slows down off-season they turn to swinging a hammer, cutting pulp, repairing their boats, fixing gear, plowing snow, or whatever it takes to make ends meet. Most of us in the windjammer business do the same thing. We take guests sailing by summer and make ends meet during the winter with odd jobs, all the while marketing ourselves for the next season, and tackling the never-ending job of maintaining a large wooden sailing vessel.” Captain King says that schooner guests are always amazed when he buys up to 80 lbs of lobster for each of the Mary Day’s Lobster Bakes. They are “amazed when I tell them how hard lobstermen work to provide that dinner we are enjoying. Amazed when I tell them these were caught by the folks in the boat we saw hauling gear while we were sailing across the bay that morning. Amazed at how complicated a fishery lobstering can be when you begin to factor in all the uncontrollable variables that they can't even conceive of.”
The captains’ respect for the work the lobstermen do is combined with a deep understanding that the lobstermen’s day-to-day efforts are vastly important to the continued success of the windjamming business; both industries are concerned about a future of continued and sustainable resources along the clean, craggy coast of Maine. Mutual appreciation of each other’s contribution to the environment, tourism, and economy of mid-coast Maine foster a respect for one another as individuals and commercial enterprises. As Captain King sums it up, “I hope that, if nothing else, at the end of the day my guests gain a little appreciation for what it means to make a living—no, make a life—lobstering.”
Join us for a view of colorful lobster pot buoys dotting the bay, visit quaint fishing villages, enjoy a chance to learn something of a lobsterman's way of life, and feast on all the lobster you can eat—all that and great sailing, too!