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Maine Windjammer Association Newsletter
MAINE WINDJAMMER ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER

Friday, July 20, 2018 May 2013   VOLUME 12 ISSUE 5  
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2013 Special Events

The Fleet

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April 2013
April 30, 2013
Vol. 12 Issue 4
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Vol. 11 Issue 10
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Newsflash from the Maine Windjammer Association
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Vol. 11 Issue 6
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Vol. 10 Issue 4
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Vol. 11 Issue 4
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Vol. 10 Issue 1
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Vol. 10 Issue 9

[MORE]
Windjammer of the Month: Isaac H. Evans!

photo: Fred LeBlanc
The Isaac H. Evans begins her day along Maine’s spruce-clad coastline.

photo: Hazel Mitchell  
 
Captain Brenda loves every aspect of windjamming, but especially teaching and sharing Maine’s coast with her guests.  
Captain Brenda Thomas
was born and bred in Maine and she grew up spending summers with her grandparents on one of the many inland lakes learning how to swim, fish, water ski and power boat. Her family moved to the coast when she was 5 and she’s been there ever since. Her career path veered into
accounting, economics and banking law and she worked at a bank for almost 6 years when she had the chance to spend an overnight on the small schooner, Wendameen. She says, “My connection with windjamming was instantaneous. It was magical and still plays like a movie in my head. Despite the security and stability that came with my job at the bank, I signed up to crew aboard the Wendameen. The president of the bank predicted I'd be back in six months; but here I am twenty seasons later - still sailing!” 

“Mom, I own a National Historic Landmark!”

In 1995, Captain Brenda first sailed on the Isaac H. Evans as mess mate. She became the galley chef the following summer and then the First Mate for two summers before the schooner came up for sale in the fall of 1998. “When I purchased the Evans in February of 1999, I didn't yet have my captain's license. I spent that whole winter working on the boat and studying for my test. It was an absolute rollercoaster ride but about two weeks after the sale became final and the reality was finally starting to sink in, I called my mom and said, ‘I own a National Historic Landmark!’”

Since 1994, Captain Brenda has not only sailed in and around Penobscot Bay, but she’s also worked on several other vessels in the Chesapeake Bay, throughout the Caribbean from Trinidad to St. Thomas, through the Panama Canal, and up the west coast as far as Los Angeles. “Although all those experiences were great in their own way, every time I sail somewhere else I appreciate our idyllic Maine coast even more.”

“I had no idea what I was getting into!”

Every captain knows that owning a windjammer involves more than just sailing. Captains need to perform the duties of electrician, carpenter, plumber, janitor, teacher, painter, camp counselor and business owner. Captain Brenda laughs and says, “I’ll be totally honest when I admit that I had no idea what I was getting into! Thankfully, I was surrounded by knowledgeable captains who were willing to help when I needed it, I learned quickly, and the old girl is patient with me. Now I'm just as happy and confident with a paintbrush as I am with a wrench, saw, mop, computer keyboard, multi-tester, caulking iron, welding rod, fork truck or hammer.”

courtesy: Isaac H. Evans
Captain Brenda hosts an island lobster bake on every cruise.
 
"The quiet peace of just sailing.”

But was it the right career choice? With so many duties and challenges, can it still be rewarding? Captain Brenda has a long list of passion points involving windjamming. She says, “I love being outside and I love being self-employed. I worked at a bank for six years and wore business suits, high heels, make up and panty hose. I can't imagine working inside all the time now. I love the feeling of casting the lines free from the dock and heading out into the harbor to set sails and then there’s the quiet peace of just sailing.

“I love sitting on an uninhabited island and looking out at the schooner at anchor and listening to happy people enjoying lobster and conversation. I love the excitement everyone has as they come aboard for the first night and the hugs and tearful good-byes at the end of the trips and then the cards and letters and packages during the winter. I love hearing that people that met on the boat are still in touch years later. I love witnessing weddings, proposals and family celebrations. I love seeing whales and seals and porpoises and exploring tide pools with kids. I love the islands and the scenery. I just love Maine.”

“It’s a year-round commitment.”

“Even though we sail for just over four months of the year, the business is a year-round commitment,” says Captain Brenda. As an owner-operator, Captain Brenda has the business to tend including everything from website maintenance, bulk mailings and tax preparation, to sanding, painting and varnishing that happens each year with an older wooden vessel.

Still, Captain Brenda finds time to cultivate a number of hobbies including the National Toboggan Championships, ice hockey, steel drumming and hosting a weekly show on a local radio station.

photo: Hazel Mitchell
As the morning fog lifts, passengers aboard the Isaac H. Evans enjoy their delicious breakfast (see “Fresh from the Galley” for breakfast recipes from MWA’s award-winning chefs!).
 
“Everyone learns something.”

Captain Brenda has made a point of bringing the windjamming experience to families and has been very inclusive of a younger crowd by welcoming children as young as age 6 on all of the Evans adventures. While all the Maine Windjammer Association vessels welcome younger sailors on specific family trips or charters, the Evans rarely has a trip that doesn’t have at least a few younger passengers – especially when school is not in session. Says Captain Brenda, “We not only allow children on our cruises, we enjoy spending time with them and their families, playing games, showing them how everything works, and watching them experience something completely different than they are used to. We don’t stress education, but everyone learns something about nature, maritime history and teamwork on a schooner. We even carry our own lobster traps and fishing poles.”

A woman’s touch!

The Evans is one of the smaller boats in the fleet. “She appeals to guests looking for a more intimate experience. I pay particular attention to a lot of the details that many have referred to as ‘the woman’s touch.’ Quilts and soap stone bed warmers are especially appreciated on cool evenings. There are complimentary toiletries (soap, lotion, shampoo, tissues, ear plugs), chocolates and fresh flowers in each cabin. The mugs in each cabin are souvenirs at the end of the trip. I decorate a lot of cakes throughout the season when we have birthdays or anniversaries and many are decorated with my handmade gumdrop flowers or chocolate schooners. I also provide a free poster at the end of each trip on which I retrace our course as well as sign and date.”

The Evans offers a large variety of themed trips and shorter cruises. While the shorter cruises are tailored to the younger crowd, they also appeal to newcomers to windjamming, many of whom sign up again for a longer trip!

She says, “I take great pride in the Evans and its accomplishments. We were recently named a top attraction in New England Travel's Inaugural Readers' Choice Awards. In 2001, I received a Maine Tourism Award from Governor Angus King for my work with the Evans and Maine tourism. In 2006, we sailed the Evans into The Basin, a deep-water hurricane hole surrounded by the island of Vinalhaven. I had never heard of anyone in the fleet doing it before and it was always in the back of my mind as something that would be unique and exciting. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever experienced.”

“I also take great pains to care for our environment. Windjamming is inherently one of the most environmentally benign vacations there is, using the wind to get from one place to the other rather than the gallons and gallons of fuel big cruise ships use. But I go a few steps further. I attended a day-long extended Leave No Trace (LNT) training workshop in 2000 and set up a half-day training session for all of the captains in the Maine Windjammer Association in 2004. I always teach the ideals of LNT on board as well as encourage guests’ support in our compost and recycling efforts. We don’t throw anything overboard!”

For more information about the Isaac H. Evans and the rest of the fleet, visit our website.

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