|Life Aboard a Maine Windjammer|
|A Maine windjammer sloop or schooner is not a cruise ship. In fact, it's just the opposite.|
What comes to mind when you hear "Maine windjammer cruise"? A large, elegant, commodious vessel with ample staff and all the comforts?
A Maine windjammer sloop or schooner is just the opposite of your typical cruise ship:
Main motive power is by sail, with an auxiliary engine or yawl boat for calm days. The wind really does move you along, and if there's no wind you go slow, or anchor until the wind rises.
Economy of Space
By shore or cruise ship standards, all spaces on board are small. The cabins, the common areas, the galley (kitchen), the heads (toilets)—there is just enough room for every function, with no space wasted. When you first come aboard, you may feel a bit of claustrophobia, but after a few hours you'll get used to it and wonder "why did I think I needed more space?" You'll come to admire the economy and ingenuity of a trim vessel's design and construction.
Electricity, Phones, Wifi
Some of the larger windjammers have standard 120-volt, 60 Hz electrical current powered by a generator at certain times during the day. Most also have a low-voltage system to power low-wattage lights, ship-to-shore radios and navigational instruments, and most provide power at least to charge small electronics, but you may not be able to plug in a high-wattage appliance such as a hair dryer.
Check with the individual vessel of your choice for specifics.
Phone signals vary depending on location and distance from shore—you won't be able to connect at all times. There is no Wifi aboard, though you may be able to connect via your phone.
Noise & Quiet
If you make a noise—any noise—someone else, perhaps everyone else, will hear it. When under sail, a blissful quiet reigns, with only the occasional creak of a line, luff of a sail, patter of rain on deck, or the gentle ripple of water along the sides. When maneuvering, the thrum of a diesel engine in the vessel or in the separate yawl boat may cover other sounds, but normally the diesel doesn't run much.
Plan to use your electronic devices with headphones, not speakers, so as to preserve this wonderful ambiance.
Sinks, Toilets & Showers
Most windjammer cabins have a sink with cold (and also, on some vessels, hot) running water. Heads (toilets) are usually on the corridor and shared, though more expensive cabins and suites may have their own. Many vessels have shared hot and cold showers.
You Are Auxiliary Crew!
The crew takes care of most shipboard tasks, but voyagers may be asked to help hoist, lower and furl the sails and other simple tasks requiring many hands. There are usually plenty of hands, and you needn't help if you don't care to. Depending on the vessel and sailing conditions, you may be permitted to try other tasks if you like: swabbing the decks, polishing brasswork, even taking the helm and playing captain for awhile.
Except for mealtimes when everyone comes together, your time is your own. Read, chat, nap, play games, shoot photos, look for birds.... If your vessel offers themed cruises—music, yoga, cooking lessons, wine tastings, etc.—you may participate or not, as you wish. A windjammer voyage is active at times, passive at times, social when you want it, solitary when you need it, as you choose.
Meals & Shore Dinners
Meals are prepared onboard in the galley, and include non-alcoholic beverages. (Some cruises may include wine or beer at dinner, or you may bring your own beverages.) Dinner on the first night, when you board the vessel, is usually NOT included, but breakfast on the last morning, before you debark, is included.
Meals are prepared fresh onboard. If you have special dietary needs—vegan, vegetarian, allergies or intolerances—be sure to advise the vessel in advance so the chef can lay in the necessary supplies before departure.
Most cruises include a lobster dinner. Crew and voyagers may tender to an island beach, spread out appetizers and salads, then boil up a few dozen lobsters. Sit on the beach, the rocks or a piece of driftwood, pull your lobster apart with your hands and enjoy!
(All litter—including the lobster shells—goes back to your vessel for proper disposal.)
Weather or other considerations may make it necessary to dine on the vessel rather than on shore.
No smoking is allowed belowdecks. Smoking on deck, in the open air, may be allowed. Check your vessel's rules in advance. If smoking on deck is allowed, be considerate and do it downwind from others.
Parking & Tips
If you drive to your port of embarcation you will need to park your car for the duration of the voyage. Windjammers provide parking, sometimes free, other times for a fee of $15 to $25 per night or per cruise, depending on the vessel.
As for tips, it's traditional to tip the crew 10% of your cruise fee, or about $15 per day. It's supposedly up to you, but most people see it as an obligation.