"Where are we going?" the kids asked Captain Kip Files as we clamored aboard the Victory Chimes. "I have no idea!" the Captain declared.
Connor and Charlotte, aged eight and twelve, exchanged happy glances. A clueless captain in charge of a 132-foot schooner? This trip was looking more promising by the minute.
We quickly discovered that Mother Nature, not the captain, makes the call when you're traveling by windjammer. This is true canvas-to-the-winds sailing. The boat is powered by wind, not engines, and run by an energetic crew, not sophisticated electronics. We'd admired Maine's windjammer fleet from the deck of our own little sailboat and couldn't wait to step aboard one of these historic vessels.
The Victory Chimes, the queen of Maine's 13-vessel windjammer fleet, is 100 years old and wears it well. The last three-masted schooner on the East Coast, she's a vision of polished brass, gleaming wood, and tightly coiled lines. Her black spruce masts reach toward the heavens, bearing yards of heavy canvas tethered to oiled-rope halyards.
Although the schooner looks the same as she did a century ago, some creature comforts have been added to woo 21st-century seafarersnamely, hot showers and flush heads (toilets, in landlubberese). Berths are smallish, outfitted with bunks, sinks, and portholes. Downright cozy, in fact.
Our kids, accustomed to rustic summer camps and trailside lean-tos, were unfazed. Still, given the close quarters, we felt that a friendly reminder about shipboard etiquette was in order: "If you two argue, you are so overboard!" As it turned out, the kids fell right into the rhythms of shipboard life.
Tips for Salts
For information about schooners, past and present, check out www.schoonerman.com. If you think an overnight might be too much for your clan, or just want to get your feet wet, so to speak, check out the day-sailing schooners. These include the Downeast Rover out of Manteo, NC, (252) 473-4866; the American Rover (shown above) out of Norfolk, VA, (757) 627-7245; the Liberte out of Annapolis, MD, and Falmouth, MA, (410) 263-8234; and the Spirit of Windjammer out of Maui, HI, (800) 732-4852.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication