The Maine Windjammer Association
Maine Windjammer Association Newsletter
April 2018
 / VOLUME 18 / ISSUE 4
Happy Birthday to Victory Chimes, Heritage and Lewis R. French

April is birthday month for the Maine Windjammer Association. We celebrated three birthdays among the MWA fleet in April alone. The Victory Chimes celebrated her 119th birthday on April 15th. On April 16, the Schooner Heritage turned 35 and on April 28th, the Lewis R. French celebrates her 147th birthday, making her the oldest windjammer in America.

credit: courtesy of the Heritage

The crew of the Heritage celebrates a 35th birthday with a colorful cake.

Captains Doug and Linda Lee, owners of the Schooner Heritage, originally captained and owned another schooner, the Isaac H. Evans, which they rebuilt from the keel up. But by the late 1970s, Doug and Linda decided to do what no one else in the fleet has done since – they designed and built their own schooner, which they proudly own and captain themselves. “We built an authentic new England schooner with comfort in mind, including plenty of cabin head room and a large galley,” says Captain Linda Lee. After a year of planning and four years of construction, the Heritage was launched in April of 1983.


credit: Marti Mayne
Captain Doug Lee celebrates the schooner’s 35th birthday by building her a new windlass.

“When we launched the Heritage, our children were just two months and two years old,” remembered Captain Linda. “The kids grew up on this boat. They knew the rules and they followed them. At first guests weren’t sure how they’d feel about sailing with young children, but soon those same guests started booking for cruises when they knew the kids would be on the boat,” she smiled.


credit: Marti Mayne
Linda can’t help but smile when she reminisces about good times aboard the Heritage.

When asked about her best memories of sailing on the Heritage over the last 35 years, Captain Linda looked into the sky from the deck of the boat, smiled and reminisced, “Wind blowing, sunshine, warm summer breezes and starry nights, quiet coves, wonderful rows and great guests.”

credit: courtesy of Lewis R. French

Garth Wells can’t help but smile when he’s on the Lewis R. French.

Since 1871, the Lewis R. French has freighted cargoes such as lumber, firewood, bricks, granite, fish, lime, people and even Christmas trees. The Lewis R. French was brought into passenger service in 1976 after her third major rebuild.

After receiving a degree in business, Lewis R. French’s present captain, Garth Wells, worked aboard several schooners in the Chesapeake. He eventually found his way back to New England and aboard the Lewis R. French, where he worked as mate for five seasons. He spent winters honing his carpentry skills aboard many of the schooners in the Maine Windjammer fleet. Jenny Tobin, Garth’s wife, formerly also sailed on schooners, and her adventures took her as far as South America and throughout the West and East Coasts. Garth and Jenny met when they were both working on schooners in Camden. In January 2004, Garth purchased the Lewis R. French, earning him the distinction of becoming the youngest windjammer captain in the fleet at the helm of the oldest schooner in the country. In 2007, after many years of dating, Garth and Jenny married, and continue to captain the boat together, when Jenny is not at home with the couple’s two young sons.


credit: Christine Tibbits
As you can see, serving up lobsters is another favorite activity for Captain Garth Wells.

“The French has been part of my entire adult life,” said Captain Garth. Since age 24 I’ve been sailing her and I’m 44 now. I met my wife while I worked aboard, got married, had kids,and went from being a big kid to an adult (kinda!). Through those years we’ve met so many great people; crew, passengers, windjammer captains, ships carpenters, marine artists, musicians etc. that we would have never known had the Lewis R. French not been part of our lives. These people, that are for some reason or another captivated by the idea of an old sailing schooner, are just wonderful people to have in your life,” revealed Garth.


credit: courtesy of Lewis R. French
Captain Garth Wells enjoys time spent on the Lewis R. French with his boys.

When Garth was asked about his favorite memories of sailing aboard the Lewis R. French, his thoughts were surprisingly like Linda Lee’s. “My favorite memories aren’t huge events or stories, but the simple, peaceful times on board, when the temperature is just right, the bay is perfect, the wind is ideal and you can take a breath and take it all in,” he recalled. Then he went on to tell a wonderful story. “Nowadays, with our young boys beginning to sail, we really enjoy those moments on the schooner that we are sharing. Whether it's teaching them how to row or enjoying the evenings tucked in our cozy cabin. We had a guest on board last year who brought her watercolors and would spend quiet mornings painting. My older son took an interest, and she generously taught him some tips and shared her supplies. Later in the trip, my son would rise early so they could paint together in the still mornings. Watching them quietly paint side-by-side, working out the shape of our rowboat or a rocky island, is a memory that will stay with me forever,” he said.

Next month, we will focus on the Victory Chimes and her 119-year legacy.

Happy Birthday to the Victory Chimes, the Heritage and the Lewis R. French.

credit: Marti Mayne
Captain Kip Files gets Victory Chimes ready for her 119th season.


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