An Historic Maine Windjammer Cruise 19th-century charm in 21st-century style for less than $130 a day, all-inclusive Budget Travel Thursday, Mar 1, 2001, 12:00 AM Budget Travel LLC, 2016
 

 

An Historic Maine Windjammer Cruise

19th-century charm in 21st-century style for less than $130 a day, all-inclusive

As the windjammer Angelique hurtled its way along the Maine coast at about ten knots (approximately 10 mph) on a particularly breezy September day, we struck up a conversation with John, a passenger who takes this voyage every Labor Day. "What do you like about cruising that brings you back every year?" we asked innocently enough. He shot us a pained look. "Don't call this cruising," he chastised. "People go on a cruise for luxury, live shows, and midnight buffets. This is sailing." His admonishment hints at what makes a Maine windjammer cruise special. He might also have added that Maine windjamming, with fares beginning at $775 for a six-day cruise and no exorbitant shore excursions, pricey cocktails, hidden extras, or opportunities to blow a fortune in a smoke-filled casino, is a bargain compared to most mass-market cruising. No luxury! No shows! No midnight buffets! "We'll die of boredom!" we wailed when we discovered that the amenities we have come to expect on a cruise ship would be lacking. As it turned out, we were happy as quahogs; it was like being transported back 150 years, when sailors "were at the mercy of the gods and goddesses of the sea," as another passenger put it.

Built in 1980 and holding a maximum of 31 passengers, the 95-foot Angelique is patterned after a classic nineteenth-century sailing ship and is one of 13 vessels belonging to the Maine Windjammer Association. Seven of these have been designated National Historic Landmarks, including the Lewis R. French (launched in 1871) and the 22-passenger Stephen Taber (America's oldest documented sailing vessel in continuous service). However, the Angelique is one of three fleet members built specifically for passengers, complete with a deckhouse salon featuring such creature comforts as a pot-bellied stove and a piano, making it a good place to duck into on blustery or rainy days.

Anchors aweigh!

We arrived the night before the ship sailed and in the misty rain were ushered to our cabin by Chad, one of the three deckhands. We quickly learn that this 24-year-old first sailed on the Angelique with his grandmother when he was 13, and "never found the exit." By way of introduction, he rattles off a list of dos and don'ts: don't leave the light on in an empty cabin (drains the battery); do take a shower only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.; don't smoke below deck or in the deckhouse salon; do bring any beverage you want onboard (this is a strictly BYOB operation) but don't get wasted and fall overboard; don't take a blanket above deck, because if it blows overboard he'll send us after it; and above all, do enjoy ourselves.

"Cozy" doesn't begin to describe the Angelique's cabins. Ours, some seven by four feet, came with two bunk beds, two reading lights and a wall light, a ventilation hatch in the ceiling (no portholes), and a sink. The other 14 cabins were similarly snug, although two had a double bed and one sported three bunks. Towels, sheets, and blankets are provided, but in keeping with windjamming's hands-on nature, passengers get to make up their own beds. The ship has three "heads" (bathrooms to you landlubbers), and two of them have hot, fresh showers, the hang of which takes some effort. "This is like going to summer camp," somebody quipped.

On our first night (spent dockside), we soon realized how thin the walls were. Nearly everything that went on in the other cabins was audible. Luckily, we'd brought earplugs to drown out the symphony of snores.

At 9 a.m. the next morning, we chugged our way out of the harbor - one of the rare occasions when the engines were used - and met the other passengers over coffee. Unlike the party-hearty windjammers of the Caribbean, the Maine version attracts a more sedate, albeit eclectic, following. There were Marilyn and Bruce, on a six-year driving tour in their RV (covering all 50 states and six Canadian provinces); Ken, a banjo-playing ex-marine with a trove of bad jokes; and Brad and Courtney, a twentysomething bicoastal couple.

Simple but good food is a hallmark of Maine windjamming. Alerted by the clanging of a big brass bell, we trooped into the dining room below deck, where, with a little effort, 31 people managed to fit at three family-style tables laden with eggs, sausages, and pancakes. The meals on the Angelique are the work of the ship's talented cook, Deb, who's been on the job since 1987 (like Chad, she took a trip one summer and forgot to leave), assisted by two cheery "galley slaves," Cheryl and Barbara. This is home cooking at its best, based on the Maine credo of "good food, and plenty of it." In fact, while everyone eats the same thing (though special dietary needs are catered to with advance notice), we found the food better than what the typical luxury cruise ship dishes out. Breakfast might be baked eggs, French toast, or oatmeal. Lunch tends to be a bit lighter - clam chowder, chili, or chicken salad sandwiches. And dinner is hearty fare like baked ham, lasagna, or meat loaf. Somehow we managed to save room for dessert - and a good thing, too; Deb whipped up the best congo bars, brownies, and apple crisp pies we'd ever tasted (past passengers actually write her, begging for FedExed brownies). For those who can't get enough of a good thing, the enterprising Deb sells The Angelique Cookbook: Great Recipes from a Windjammer's Galley, which includes many of the meals served onboard.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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