To really “sea Maine,” you have to be willing to step away from the land, get on a boat, and just cruise off into the sunset, or the sunrise if you prefer. With 5,500 miles of breathtakingly beautiful coastline—and skippers in every port ready to play host aboard yachts, schooners, windjammers and even lobster boats—finding a floating vessel to satisfy every preference is a snap.
According to the state’s Office of Tourism, “Day sailors or private charters can be found at most major harbors along the coast. Maine also has America’s largest fleet of traditional windjammer schooners, offering overnight passenger trips from three to six days.”
Short cruises can last for a morning, an afternoon or an evening. Sunset sails are especially popular, as are daytime trips that provide the opportunity to watch lobstermen hauling their traps. Longer cruises for anywhere from six to 40 participants can last for up to a week.
Gaining in popularity are fall cruises, best taken during September and October, when the days are warm, the nights are cool, the foliage is fabulous and the pace of life has begun to slow.
If it’s marine life you enjoy, there are whale watching tours, and sightseeing cruises that let you enjoy observing puffins and seals in their natural habitat.
“There’s a lot to enjoy in a two-hour trip,” says “Commodore” John McKean, founder of the company that sails the Schooner Appledore out of Camden Harbor. “People always want to see lighthouses,” he adds, “and we can pretty much guarantee that, unless it’s so foggy you can’t see your feet.” He says on longer trips he likes to sail past Dark Harbor in Islesboro so passengers can ogle the large mansions that line the shore. “The average house size is 40-plus rooms,” he says. “It’s jaw dropping.”
McKean says his passengers don’t need to worry about seasickness. “You don’t get seasick on Penobscot Bay,” he says. “It’s so gentle.” What he does suggest is that guests dress in layers, as the temperature on the wharf is usually a lot warmer than it is on the open ocean. “Come prepared with sun cover too,” he says, “but mostly come prepared to have fun.”
If your itinerary takes you farther south to Boothbay Harbor, you may want to check out Balmy Days Cruises, a family business with Captain Bill Campbell at the helm. Following in the footsteps of his father Bob, Captain Bill runs an operation that offers two-hour trips to Monhegan Island, 90-minute sailing excursions, narrated one-hour harbor cruises, two-hour mackerel fishing jaunts and a “living history” tour of the Burnt Island lighthouse and island.