Northern Lights Sailors Go Traditional

Maine Windjammer Cruises was honored to host 27 adventuresome members of Northern Lights Sailing Club of Minnesota onboard the Grace Bailey.  This group's principle sailing ground is Minnesota, known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" including one of the Great Lakes. Aptly named, Lake Superior has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in the world.  Its water could fill all the other Great Lakes plus three additional Lake Eries.  Northern Lights sailors could easily spend their lives exploring these magnificent waterways alone, but they reach beyond; expanding sailing horizons and expertise, organizing charters from the Pacific to the Mediterranean and points in between. 

This fall as NLCS sailors boarded the Grace Bailey, they were about to forego the trappings of modern day sailing, stepping back in time to experience life as it was over 100 years ago on an authentic cargo vessel.  No power winches, no auto furling jibs, no engines, no Kevlar sails or automated systems to be had, they entered the world of heavy canvas, gaff rigs, hemp rigging, sailing at the whim of the wind and the tides.

In the NLSC newsletter, Bearings,  they shared their experiences with fellow club members.  I doubt that any of them will return home and retro fit their own vessels, but from their reflections I think an appreciation of sailing on our authentic traditional cargo schooners was gained. As you read on, those of you who have sailed with us will identify and those who haven't will gain a sense of this unique experience. 

To the sailors of Northern Lights Sailing Club, Thank you for allowing us to share your insightful comments with others! 

Jerry Sicard: Sailing on the Grace Bailey, a 123’ two-mast, gaff rigged ship built in 1882, we spent a week living and sailing her just like the sailors did in 1882 - from hoisting the 1200 pound main sail by hand, raising the anchor using a two person teeter-totter type mechanical winch (a windless-similar to a hand operated railroad cart), to swabbing the decks plus eating our meals cooked on a ShipMate wood-fired cast iron stove which also heated the water for our single shower for 32 people. The week was a walk back in history, the boat, the sailing methods, the first mate even made his own clothing much as a sailor from the 1880`s would have. We became sailors of old. Twas a week for memories.

Dorothy Zimmermann: First off - I'd like to say thank you to all of you that made this adventure so memorable. And a special thank you to you, Jerry Sicard, for gallantly stepping forward to co-chair this charter with me. And Social Director is a very appropriate title for you. Upon first stepping aboard, I couldn't help but wonder what I had gotten all of us into!  It's one thing to see pictures, but like making out a budget, the real thing is a lot different - - -
Then, once settled in, getting into the regiment of the crew's schedule - early morning coffee/homemade muffins - brushing teeth at railing (shaving for some at same railing) my gosh - like camping, only aboard a huge wooden vessel!  The earlier doubts turned into memorable bonding times with everyone - it all became a wonderment and appreciation of the early settlers sailing across the oceans, up and down the coasts - and we had the best of Captain, chef, and  deck hands from whom we all learned 'the ropes'. This compass in the photo is the ONLY compass aboard that the vessel Grace Bailey had for the helmsman. It’s a magnetic compass with only cardinal points - N, NE, etc. (no numbers/degrees). I am totally fascinated that our yawl (pusher boat) plays such an important part in the maneuvering of the big vessel – and in our case- pushing around all the islands when we had no wind the first two days!  We all enjoyed Paul Ciernia’s star talk-“How did Christopher Columbus Navigate?”. Hopefully there will be another trip for those not able to join us this fall - after they see and hear the stories.  Again, many thanks for joining me on my dream adventure.

Nancy Kra  At that moment he was steering a long, tortuous route through a labyrinth of fancy yachts moored along our course, but he swept one arm across the scene and said with some conviction, "There didn't used to be all of this garbage out here.”

 Paul Ciernia: I learned a new nautical term - scandalize. Capt. Ray would instruct the crew to scandalize the main or the fore.  I looked it up, and sure enough it's an old nautical term meaning something like quickly depower a sail. It's derived from scandal as in if you are scandalized, you lose power or something like that.

 Karen Tangen: I still dream of our hot apple crisp dessert; sitting on deck with buddies and everyone laughing; then, enjoying another breathtaking sunset!  Could it get any better?!
The night before we boarded, many of us got together to celebrate my birthday at the Waterfront Restaurant. Birthday...someone once said: "it's not the age, but the mileage". The miles put on during this adventure were pure gold!  What great fun to celebrate my birthday the entire trip with my "salty" friends!...Laughed 'till it hurt!

 Margo Blees: I really loved getting up early on Thursday morn with the crew also up and about. I was the 1st one up of the guests.  One other early bird was up about the same time, but please let me claim this as I never get up that early.  That morning was majestic with the calm ocean with clouds gently mirrored on the still water, and viewing the majestic islands was so calming and beautiful. I really appreciated the quiet dawn, before the activities of early bird coffee and sweets, breakfast, and the nice chatter of people truly enjoying themselves.  This trip was such a unique experience!  The walks in the towns, lobster boil on the beach, the camaraderie, the Wooden Boat show, and just being on an old rehabbed schooner was so unique.  Wow-we were so lucky to have this opportunity!

 Marilynn Kaplan: I was awestruck when I first saw the Grace Bailey – so beautiful. She was built in 1882, restored at least twice, and was declared a National Landmark in 1992. She has a mainsail, foresail, and two headsails (all big, really heavy cloth). No engine. All cooking (and baking) is done over a wood stove. I believe Capt. Ray said her wooden hull is primarily oak, and the decking is made of pine and fir. I shed a few tears when I saw the sleeping quarters, but we lucked out with perfect weather and spent very little time below deck. This pampered princess not only survived, but really enjoyed the adventure. We had such a pleasant, fun group of sailors (us) as well as a very experienced Captain and crew. In addition to several interesting stops, we were treated to the amazing sights of the Wooden Boat Show in Brooklin (also delicious steamed mussels and some fireworks!).  A few of us took a chilling swim in the quite frigid water, great stories were told, card games were played, songs were sung, lots of delicious food was consumed, and many new friendships were made.

 Ron Ziols: I had the best time at a pre-sail Airbnb about 8 miles from Camden in Union. The owner, Chrissy, gave me directions to a delicious cafe to eat at and two wonderful bike rides, one to Camden, - yes it was hilly - and one to the ocean. Meeting the locals gave me a true flavor of Maine.

Another, Karen and I wandered over to a lobster wholesaler while on an afternoon expedition before returning to happy hour - a daily favorite - on the Grace Bailey. The tonnage of lobster caught and contained by one bay was overwhelming. I applaud all those that band the front claws. It’s a highly profitable industry; a single boat can generate a million dollars in revenue.

So many stories, it was a uniquely historical sail. Not soon to forget….

I’m very grateful that Marilynn singled me out to go in for a swim together. Ok, Margo jumped as well!

 Barb Chapman: One thing that struck me about our Maine adventure is how spoiled we are with our many conveniences, and how, after a day or two, we acclimated to "rough camping" and took it in stride since there were so many compensations such as good company, beautiful pristine scenery, and wonderful meals.
Memories: Waking up to the sound of those early risers above us on deck enjoying a new day with fresh hot coffee and muffins which magically appeared at 6:30 am.  Watching Captain Ray maneuver a 123 ft. schooner back to her dock through a crowded Camden harbor with apparent ease.
Surprise:  How smooth the boat ride was.  You could put your water bottle on the "house top" (roof of the cabin), and it would stay standing unlike on smaller boats.

 Paul Cienias's breakfast toast on the final morning of their adventure sums the week up beautifully.


Paul Cienia’s Toast

 A sort of/kind of orange juice toast

We are gathered together on one of Maine’s crisp and bright morns

We, of course, being a bunch of crisp and bright Northern Lights sailors

We’ve learned the difference between throats and peaks

And have been successful in scandalizing sails with tucks and pleats

We’ve learned that if we treat the Grace Bailey with respect and care

She will respond in kind, in heavy or clear air

All of our duties and challenges have been met

Including getting Dorothy to swab the deck

Special thanks go to the crew for their patience and service

That being Capt Ray, Maura, Obe and Travis

So now let’s prepare our glasses to toast

What really matters the most

And that’s to the teamwork and fellowship that grew each day of the cruise

And to the memories that we’ll surely never lose


It was a pleasure to welcome Northern Lights Sailing Club aboard!