For those of you who are geographically challenged Maine is often confused with its sister states New Hampshire and Vermont. 90% of the land in Maine is forest (mostly inland) with low mountains. With 3,500 miles of shoreline and 3,000 plus islands along the jagged, rocky coastline Maine borders the Atlantic Ocean on the south and east; New Brunswick, Canada on the north and north east; and Quebec on the north west. With a population of only 1,321,505 the state is 98% white with a large French-Canadian community. It is the northernmost portion of the eastern United States.
I was offered the opportunity to experience a four day cruise aboard the Windjammer Heritage and decided to spend one week along Coastal Maine. For those of you in the New York City area it was a 5 hour drive (290 mile) to Ogunquit- just over the Massachusetts/ New Hampshire border- and my first nights lodging: The Cliff House Resort & Spa. It is only an hour from Boston. The original mantra was “clean rooms, fine food, fresh air, personal hospitality, all in an incomparable scenic location on top of Bald Head Cliff and the Atlantic Ocean.” The Cliff House has been in the Weare family since 1872. Kathryn Weare is the fourth generation operator. Meals are served in the main dining room which allowed me to watch the waves running over the rocks and up to the cliffs. They scheduled me for a signature blueberry body wrap (using organic Maine blueberries) the next morning in the spa which features an indoor and outdoor pool, large fitness center, yoga room, sauna, tennis and a conference area all on 70 acres. The 194 rooms range from $255 to $350(European plan) during July & August. For breakfast and dinner add $60 per person per day.
I drove through Kennebunkport (the Bush family had hosted Russian President Putin the week before) and on to Freeport, the original outlet city. There are 170 stores here including three belonging to LL. Bean. Over 3 million people visit their flagship store that is open 24 hours every day. It was another 1 ½ hours along coastal Route 1 before I reached Rockland. This is the entry point to Penobscot Bay, the most scenic body of water on the eastern seaboard (according to the local chamber of commerce). There are scores of islands, a dozen historic lighthouses and protected harbors filled with lobster boats. Rockland is called the Lobster Capital of the World. Look for Ospreys, bald eagles, puffins, deer, moose and harbor seals. I saw all the above during my visit.
I boarded the 95 foot (145 overall length-24 feet wide) Windjammer Heritage and unloaded my gear in Cabin 10. Built in 1983 from solid oak by Captains Douglas and Linda Lee (and friends) this was my home for 4 days, along with 29 other passengers. My cabin had a sink and upper and lower berth, with only a few feet to stand. I had the cabin to myself but wondered how I would have dealt with two people in that small a space. There was one shower and three heads aboard with a request not to use the shower until after 9AM, reserving the hot water for the galley’s need. This turned out not to be as big a problem as I thought as it encouraged social exchanges between passengers. There were three large tables in the galley and that is where two of our meals were served. Lunch was topside. There was lots of food in large variety all served family style. The cooks used a wood-burning “cook stove” that seemed to work. Water and ice tea were always available as well as lots of coffee. The passengers were a blend of senior citizens with a few “younger passengers.” There was much social interaction and everyone seemed to enjoy each others’ company. The young crew (15 to about 25) was very professional and mixed easily with the passengers. Each night we anchored in a shallow cove and I felt absolutely no movement. I didn’t use the patch or my other sea sickness remedies. Since the ship had no engine (just a push boat) we traveled when the wind was available.
The Maine Windjammer Association includes 12 tall ships from 45 to 135 feet in length. All are privately owned and operated. The day before I arrived there was a Maine Windjammer Parade with the entire fleet participating in an afternoon “Parade of Sail” in Rockland Harbor. The first day out it rained and stormed and it was early to bed. The 2nd & 3rd days the sun shined and it was smooth sailing. We dropped anchor at a small island for a lobster bake. After two I quit. Our last day on the water included a stop at Stonington, a lobster fisherman’s town that had a famous granite quarry used to build many American cities in the early 1900’s. The Deer Isle Granite Museum recreated that era for guests.
I spent two days at the Historic Inns of Rockland. First at the Berry Manor Inn, a AAA 4- Diamond property with 12 rooms in the main and carriage buildings. My room had a six way power shower which I needed after four days at sea. Many of the rooms had working fireplaces. It was Gallery Night in town with wine and cheese served at many of the art galleries. I spent most of my time at the Farnsworth Art Museum showcasing works from three generations of the Wyeth Family. There was a separate exhibition dedicated to Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth. I also managed a visit to the Maine Lighthouse Museum. Dinner was at Café Miranda where owners Kerry Altiero and Evelyn Donnelly have a very eclectic menu. “We don’t serve the foods of cowards.”
The next day I spent 1 ¼ hours on Captain Jack’s Lobster Boat Adventures. Captain Steve is a lobsterman (Jack is his 8 year old grandson). His 30 foot boat takes people out in the harbor to check and refill his traps, all the while learning how to catch lobsters. I moved to the eight room Lime Rock Inn and even had my own private entrance through the garden. I also toured the nine room Captain Lindsay House which was less than a block from the shops and restaurants of Main Street. Lunch was at chef-owned Café Rustica; dinner at In Good Company, another chef owned restaurant. Like at Café Miranda I sat at the counter watching Melody Wolfertz cook in her one person kitchen. The location was a former bank and the wine cellar is located in the old walk-in safe. The afternoon was spent at the Owls Head Transportation Museum (3 1/2 miles outside Rockland), showcasing antique aircraft, autos, motorcycles, carriages, bicycles and engines. Most of the exhibits are in operating condition. I watched a World War II fighter plane take off and circle the field.
It was a long eight plus hour trip back to New York with frequent stops to stretch. Because I had learned to relax during my week stay there was no anxiety about the traffic. I must remember that feeling the next time my pulse starts beating quickly. Maine can sell all of us on that feeling.