There is nothing quite so glorious and exciting as a three masted ship under full sail. Thanks to a group of avid sailors called the Maine Windjammer Association anyone can enjoy that thrill any day of the summer season.
Each of the ships of the fleet is owner operated and fully meets the requirements of Coast Guard for passenger-carrying vessels. As importantly, these ship owners and their crews love what they do and it shows in the huge number of passengers that return year after year. Each ship is different, some, like Victory Chimes are historic, others, like Heritage, of more recent vintage. Some are larger, like Victory Chimes and Angelique, others smaller and more intimate like Stephen Tabor, Mary Day and Ladona. For our first sail we chose Victory Chimes, which has sailed the waters of Penobscot Bay with the Maine Windjammer Fleet for decades, keeping the great days of sail alive.
My first memory of Victory Chimes is seeing her appear out of the fog like an apparition as I stood on a seaside cliff on the coast of Maine’s Acadia National Park. First the bowsprit, then the bow, then the sails appeared from nowhere. Like a phantom she silently appeared and then just as easily disappeared leaving me wondering if that vision had been real or a figment of my imagination.
Built in Delaware in 1900, Victory Chimes entered the coastal shipping trade as the Edwin and Maude. Like most of the other coastal ships of her era in the Chesapeake Bay, she was solidly built with a blunt bow and broad beam for stability. The ship was built to haul lumber and did so along with many other commodities for decades. Escaping German submarines during World War I, she was still at sea for World War II, this time keeping an eye on the anti-sub minefield at the opening of Chesapeake Bay and still hauling cargo until converted for cruising in 1946.
In 1954 a sea Captain named Boyd Guild bought the aging ship and brought her to Maine, renaming her Victory Chimes. In her new role she introduced more lovers of sail to coastal cruising until 1987, when the ship was sold (and the name changed) for a brief period. Between 1987 and 1990 the ship underwent a major overhaul and rebuilding and two of the young captains that worked on her there fell in love with the historic craft. Captains Kip Files and Paul DeGaeta not only restored her name but brought her back to service in the Maine Windjammer Fleet. Victory Chimes is one of only 127 vessels ever named to the American National Heritage List of the National Park Service and is the only surviving vessel of its type. If you happen to have a Maine quarter in your pocket, look carefully, it probably has a picture of the Victory Chimes.
The ‘Chimes is the only remaining three masted schooner in the Maine Windjammer Fleet and the largest passenger sailing vessel sailing under the American flag, a fact that provides plenty of space for the 40 passengers she carries. Snug cabins with bunks are comfortable and there are hot showers available as well as electrical service for things like hair driers. Victory Chimes is well known for the quality of the dining on board. When weather allows, which is often, guests are just as likely to enjoy having lunch dining on the deck as the ship makes its way across a stunning coastal bay. During the evening she drops anchor off small coastal villages and sometimes even rallies with other ships of the Windjammer Fleet.
A cruise on Victory Chimes is as relaxing and kick-back as you want it to be. Wide decks make plenty of space for a corner to read in or passengers can help sail the ship. She sails in Penobscot Bay, one of Maine’s finest bays and at other times sets off to Monhegan and Boothbay, or even to Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island, where I first laid eyes on her. One evening during our cruise we anchored off Stonington, an old quarry port. After wandering the streets of the old village and browsing its craft shops, we sat on deck and watched the sun set, a perfect ending for a day at sea.
The Victory Chimes’ home berth is in Rockland, Maine, a former granite-shipping and fishing port that has come far in a few decades. This Downeast Maine town is filled with surprises. Its Farnsworth Museum has a world-class collection that showcases the genius of Maine artists and those who painted here. The town’s streets are lined with galleries displaying outstanding works of contemporary and other artists, some close to being museums themselves. All along the Main Street restaurants and boutiques, and its outstanding collection of historic buildings and architecture earned it a listing as one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was also chosen as one of the 100 Best Adventure Towns by the National Geographic Society.
The Victory Chimes and the City of Rockland are on the Maine Coast and on Penobscot Bay north of Portland and east of Augusta.