Every year the 13 captains of the Maine windjammer fleet welcome thousands of happy passengers to the calm and pristine waters of Penobscot Bay. All season long, they provide delicious food, interesting cruises and awesome adventures to people from all over the world.
But what happens when the season’s over? What do the captains do when the fleet goes under wraps? Do they hibernate with a good book and a warm cuppa until spring? Or are they finding new adventures all winter long? In this column, we’ll ask a few captains to give us a window onto their world, once their windjammer is put to bed. Each month, we’ll hear about how they spend their time when not plying the sapphire waters off the coast of Maine.
Captains Brenda and Brian Thomas
Captain Brenda Thomson of the Isaac H. Evans says, “First thing I can tell you is that we don’t go on vacation and lie on a beach for 6 months! Owning a windjammer is a year-round commitment but I do get to explore lots of other things. Of course, right now, the biggest news is that we are in the process of adopting a baby (hopefully finalizing the details for a little boy being born around March 15th). We’re so excited and waiting for the big day is interesting, to say the least.
“We just love the snow here and I find it’s really important to get out in it. To that end, right after a snow storm, we like to walk up the access road on Mt. Battie and slide down! I built my own toboggan and participated in the National Toboggan Championships for three years. I just love it. I also like to make some crazy snow sculptures when conditions permit: lots of different snowmen and women, a rubber ducky, and a huge swimming pool complete with ladder, slide, and life-size swimmer wearing a bikini! Of course, food coloring was employed to add color.
“I have to say, though, as much as I love snow and winter, I’m so looking forward to this season. Here’s a little known fact: we found two fossils last summer; one on Calderwood Island and one on Middle Island - and I still have the arrow head we found on Russ Island several years ago. That’s one of the great things about windjamming: you never know what you’ll find, be it a new friend, a fossil or some deep relaxation the likes of which you haven’t experienced in years.
Captain John Foss
When snow flies, Captain John of the American Eagle can be found plowing snow, shoveling and restoring a small wooden tugboat. He writes, “I do quite a bit of off-season schooner maintenance and repair and am busy building a new bowsprit from stump to ship. I’m nowhere near done, but I’ll keep plugging away. I’m mostly keeping the home fires burning and when I can, I’ll indulge in the odd country auction to see what I can find.”
Captain Noah Barnes
The Stephen Taber has been in the Barnes family now for two generations. Captain Noah writes, “Our biggest secret is that, during the off-season, our workload is reduced to a mere 40 hours/week, and we have a few chances to escape for a little R&R. It's nice to have family in the South, so we can get out of the cold and visit - but there's no point in living in the frozen hinterland if you can't go out and enjoy it! We love skiing and are out anytime we can get out. This year has been great for snow, that’s for sure.
“Also, we're lucky to have some great musicians in the fleet. A few times a week, we get together and play a little bluegrass. Unfortunately, I’m so busy keeping on the mandolin, I don’t have time to take pictures, but I’ll be sure to send an album cover when it comes out!
“Family adventures aside, however, the winter is really for marketing, maintenance, and shop projects. Right now, we're building new whisker stays for the Taber, as well as maintaining our small-craft and fixing all the other stuff we wore out, so next season's guests can have the best possible vacation with us.”
Captain Mike McHenry
An avid back-country skier, Captain Mike took this photo in Baxter State Park on a recent week-long camping trip. According to Mike, “this curious young moose was making the rounds at South Branch.”
Captain Kip Files
Everyone knows Captain Kip loves to ski…but did you know he also hosts a TV show at Sugarloaf USA? You can tune in for his morning report every Sunday from 7:30-9:00 am on WSKI TV ch17 on online at www.wskitv.com.
Captain Owen and Cathie Dorr
After working all summer on the Nathanial Bowditch, Captain Owen and Cathie catch up on family time. Cathie said, “We love winter sports and participate in both downhill and cross country skiing, ice skating, sledding. As a matter of fact, Owen is going skiing with our eight year old today.”
But it’s not just sports they’re interested in – turns out, Captain Owen has also been working with a friend on one of the islands scalloping and assisting with his oyster farm. Cathie said, “The oyster farm is owned by an old schooner crew member. Owen and Adam Campbell worked on one of the boats back in the 80's or 90's together. Adam and his wife now own North Haven Schooner Co.. The oyster farm is just off Pulpit Harbor, a favorite anchorage for the windjammers. During the summer, we often hail Adam to bring fresh oysters over to the boat for our guests.”
To get the creative juices flowing, Cathie has been recycling old sweaters into felted objects. She loves giving life to old belongings and said, “It’s so much fun and lets the creative juices flow.”
While their interests are varied, they all have one thing in common: really looking forward to the next windjammer season to start!