Chartering a windjammer is a great way to get family and friends together to enjoy a relaxing week. This month, we sat down with David and Liz M. from Philadelphia who have been windjamming a number of times on board Stephen Taber over the last 15 years. While telling their story, they laughed and reminisced while finishing each other’s sentences. What became clear is that windjamming means something very special to them and their loved ones.
David & Liz : We have a long history – it was our twentieth wedding anniversary, and we were given two tickets by Liz’s mother. That was in 1995. We just fell in love. We went with Ken and Ellen Barnes (former captains of the Stephen Taber) for a week. Wonderful week. Then, we went one or two more times with Taber.
I had always said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could charter the whole boat and put in all of our friends and family to go on a windjammer vacation?” Last August, we were able to do that. We went with Captain Noah of the Stephen Taber and even though it was only five days and despite the fact that hurricane Irene came barreling through during our trip, we had the most wonderful time.
David & Liz: We had twenty-one people ready to go but at the last minute, with Hurricane Irene bearing down, a couple people backed out. So we had twenty people sailing – friends and family, brothers, sisters, and a lot of very dear friends. Our two sons were with us and one son’s girlfriend – who is now his fiancé – and her parents. It was the second time we had met their parents. We had been invited for Christmas dinner. We were sitting around the dinner table. I said, we have this wonderful vacation planned…I started to tell them how wonderful the trips are and, as we were leaving, her dad came up to me and said, “Do you happen to have two more places?” I said, “I do but are you sure you want to get on a boat with our entire family?!” We laughed and in the end, they had the most wonderful time and now we’re related. It was wonderful.
MWA: What's your favorite part of windjamming?
David & Liz: It would be easy for me to say the sailing, the food, the camaraderie. But really, I think it’s waking up in the morning in a secluded, protected harbor with the mist on the water with the sounds of the loons and gulls speaking.
You have to understand, I’m not a morning person. My heart doesn’t start to beat until 10 am! For me to stand out on deck at 5 am with a hot cup of tea and watch the world wake up was really magnificent. If you need to unwind, it’s marvelous. It’s so relaxing. You have no cell phone, no computer, no cares.
The sailing is wonderful, the food is spectacular. Even now, I look at the photographs and the cook books and my mouth starts to water.
MWA: What's your favorite part of the windjamming week?
David and Liz: I’m a lobster maven. To be able to go for a lobster bake is wonderful, so much fun. Then again, every trip is different. We’ve been up there to walk around North Haven, Vinalhaven. We haven’t been up for the Great Schooner Race which I’d love to do. This last one had to be – it was not planned, the weekend fell on our 35th wedding anniversary. We didn’t tell anyone until we got there. Turned out Hurricane Irene fell on our anniversary. We were docked in Rockland for that day – Saturday night into Sunday. Because you have the hurricane blowing through, the sailing before the storm and after is incredible. We were doing hull speed from 8 am to 5 pm it was just magnificent.
The crew was absolutely amazing. Captain Noah called me on Thursday, I was in Massachusetts on my way up to Maine. He said, “David we have a problem. It looks like the hurricane is definitely going to barrel through on Sunday.”
I say. “Okay, what can we do?”
He said, “If you can have everyone on board on Friday, we can sail.” So we all got there on Friday and sailed by night and dark and stars. So he gave us an extra half-day on board. I had never been on a midnight sail and it was breathtaking. Under these circumstances with the hurricane – we had to change the plans, keep everybody happy and keep everybody safe – I can’t say enough about them. And at no time did anyone get queasy, let alone sea sick. And some of us were novice sailors.
MWA: Why should someone take a windjammer cruise?
David & Liz: To unwind! To get away from the city! To see the most spectacular night sky they could ever imagine. To enjoy the most delicious food meal after meal they could ever imagine. To get the wind in their hair. You know that when you go away for four days you will come back a new person. I had people on this charter who needed to get away, who absolutely needed a vacation who were at the end of their rope. They were coming back as new human beings. No stress, just relaxed, that’s the reason to go.
MWA: Who is the ideal windjammer passenger?
David & Liz: Somebody who is laid back, willing to tolerate confinded quarters. The mascot is Gumby – flexible. The winds may change, the menu may change, the crew may change, you have to be flexible. If you love the outdoors, fresh air, magnificent night sky, and you’re looking for relaxation. You have to be flexible.
MWA: Any tips for newcomers?
David & Liz: Bring layers, dress warmly, wool socks are always a great choice. Digital camera, binoculars, layers of clothing. The weather goes from 75-80 during the day to 40 at night. Over the course of day the temp can change drastically.
MWA: Are there any myths about windjamming you’d like to dispel?
David & Liz: Yes! People do not get seasick. You’re always within sight of land. The ships are stable and forgiving. No one ever gets seasick. On the four passages I’ve been on, I’ve never gotten queasy and none of my friends have either.
For more information about chartering a Maine Windjammer Association vessel, visit our website.