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Ahoy! And setting Maine Course
By Ron Kapon, Contributing Travel Editor

New York, NY - For those of you who are geographically challenged, Maine is often confused with its sister states, New Hampshire and Vermont. It is also well to note that 90% of the land in Maine is forest (mostly inland, of course) with low mountains that are the perfect setting and framework for almost any seasonal photo opportunity. 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 has a large French-Canadian community and is the northernmost portion of the eastern United States.

Happily, and with a challenge of sorts, I set out to experience a four-day cruise aboard the Windjammer Heritage, spending one week along Coastal Maine and, happily, not seeking to do any interpretation of "Mutiny on the Bounty" or "Moby Dick." For anyone located in the New York City area or surrounding environs, it is a five-hour drive (290 mile) to Ogunquit- just over the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border but all others more distant have to start checking flight schedules and connecting airlines. Although there are more than enough accommodations available to suit anyone's taste or budget, I opted for The Cliff House Resort & Spa for my first night and, conveniently, it is only an hour from Boston, precluding those connecting flight just referred to. The original mantra of this resort 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." Sounds great, and it was. The Cliff House has been in the We are family since 1872 and Kathryn Weare is the fourth generation operator, carrying on the success of more than a century of lodging. You can have your meals served in the main dining room, from which vantage point you can watch the waves running over the rocks and up to the cliffs followed by a relaxing visit to the spa, where I might suggest their signature blueberry body wrap (using organic Maine blueberries) - yes, I did it and only thing missing was milk and rice krispies. The spa features an indoor and outdoor pool, large fitness center, yoga room, sauna, tennis and a conference facility on 70 acres of pristine property. The 194 rooms of the resort range in price from $255 to $350 (European plan) during July & August and you can add breakfast and dinner for $60 per person per day.

Windjammer Heritage
It is an experience to be aboard the Windjammer Heritage for a four-day cruise.
After all the publicity afforded it, thanks to various presidents, it is worth driving through Kennebunkport for a quick look and some photos, then on to Freeport, the original outlet city. Time to get the credit cards out and make room in the trunk if you drive up, while purchasing one more piece of luggage to fill if you flew in. There are 170 stores here so get on your walking shoes.

It was another 90 minutes along coastal Route 1 before you will reach Rockland, 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 in a place called the Lobster Capital of the World. Look for Ospreys, bald eagles, puffins, deer, moose and harbor seals and have your camera ready.

I boarded the 95-foot (145 overall length-24 feet wide) Windjammer Heritage and unloaded my gear on a ship built in 1983 from solid oak by Captains Douglas & Linda Lee, my home for four days, along with 29 other passengers. The cabin had a sink and upper & lower berth, with only a few feet in which to stand but the reality of it all is that you sleep, change and wash here. That's it. In this instance, happily, I had the cabin to myself but wondered how I would have dealt with two people in that confined a space. With a lady of my choosing surviving would have been dealt with. For the Spartan among you, 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 might be the case as it encouraged more social exchanges between passengers and you had a choice of close friends or none at all. I chose the former route.

Lobster Trap
Taking the lobsters from the trap is the first step before feasting at a Lobsterfest.
Continuing descriptively, there were three large tables in the galley and that is where two of our meals were served with lunch being prepared topside, adding to my sudden "wealth" of seagoing terms. There was more than enough food in a large variety, all served family style. The cooks used a wood-burning "cook stove" that seemed to work exceedingly well and water and iced tea were always available, as well as lots of coffee. The passengers were a blend of senior citizens with a few "younger passengers" setting the scene for abundant social interaction with everyone enjoying one another's company. The presumption is that you did that, retreated to a lonesome spot on the ship or simply jumped overboard and swam home. Friendly was the optimum and desired choice of the day(s) and night(s). The young crew, and they were that although a bit above the toddler stage, was very professional and mixed easily with the passengers. When we anchored in a shallow cove each evening, there was absolutely no movement of the ship and that leant mightily to a good night's need for a patch or other sea sickness remedies. Oh yes, no engine so we traveled where the winds took us and there is always, sooner or later, a good wind upon which to rely when out on the open sea..

As a point of information, the Maine Windjammer Association includes 12 tall ships from 45 to 135 feet in length and all are privately owned and operated. You might want to check on certain festivities worth attending since, 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.

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  • But, back to our cruise. 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. It was nice to drop anchor at a small island for a lobster bake and the 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 recreates that era for guests and is worth a visit...for a quick time travel moment.

    After the cruise, I spent two days at one of the Historic Inns of Rockland, the Berry Manor Inn, a AAA 4- Diamond property with 12 rooms in the main and carriage buildings. You're going to love this if you opt to stay there as well...a room with a six way power shower that was perfect after four days at sea, and many of the rooms have working fireplaces so be on the lookout for that if you go at any time other than the summer months. I was able to enjoy Gallery Night in town (make a note on that one) with wine and cheese served at many of the art galleries. Coincidentally, I spent most of my time at the Farnsworth Art Museum where they showcase works from three generations of the Wyeth Family together with a separate exhibition dedicated to Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth. Try to make it over to the Maine Lighthouse Museum followed by dinner at Caf? Miranda where owners Kerry Altiero & Evelyn Donnelly have a very eclectic menu that says, "We don't serve the foods of cowards."

    Into the final stages of this one, I spent 75 minutes on Captain Jack's Lobster Boat Adventures. Captain Steve is a "lobsterman" and Jack is his eight 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. Not my next occupation but I now understood where those $100 plus meals came from and what it took to get them caught and shipped to restaurants from coast to coast.

    Vintage plane
    Vintage plane at the Owls Head Transportation Museum.
    Attempting, as always, to push as much as possible into a trip, I moved to the eight room Lime Rock Inn and discovered accommodations with a private entrance through the garden. Nice. Another option considered (but how many beds can one occupy in an evening?) was the nine room Captain Lindsay House which is less than a block from the shops and restaurants of Main Street. If your trip takes you along this same route, which I do encourage, go for lunch at chef-owned Caf? Rustica and then dinner at In Good Company, another chef owned restaurant. As was the case at Caf? Miranda I sat at the counter watching Melody Wolfertz cook in her one person kitchen in a location that was a former bank with a wine cellar that is located in the old walk-in safe. I spent the afternoon at the Owls Head Transportation Museum (3 1/2 miles outside Rockland), where they showcase antique aircraft, autos, motorcycles, carriages, bicycles and engines. Most of the exhibits are, surprisingly, in operating condition and, to prove the point, 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 thanks to frequent stops to stretch and the ability to relax and not worry about the traffic. Maine can do that to you.

    Ron Kapon is seeking wine tasters for the New York Tasters Guild. Please go to or email him at