Down to the sea

Barbara Dyer: Windjammer cruises in Camden

Sat, 05/31/2014 - 10:30pm

CAMDEN — The large sailing vessels have removed their winter covers, and are beginning another busy season as they leave Camden Harbor for a week at a time.  The passengers, who have booked for a week of sailing along the Maine coast, board on Sunday and leave on Monday morning about 9 a.m.  They visit all the nooks and crannies on Penobscot Bay, enjoy good food and have a happy time with lots of singing. The guests onboard see Camden and many places along our coast from a different view.  Some have never been on a boat before.

Captain Frank Swift had the idea and put it to work in 1935.  He bought five old sailing vessels that had once carried cargo, but were no longer usable for that. He patched and painted until they were ready to sail.  It became a profitable business and is carried on by others today.  The Camden Herald mentioned that on June 8, 1942 his schooner Lois Candage set sail for its first trip. It was later joined by the Clinton.  In July, the three remaining ships joined in the weekly excursions.

Swift’s windjammer cruises continued throughout the summer of 1943.  World War II was on so in addition to passengers, the ships picked up pulpwood at various ports and delivered it to paper mills. That year became his best one in the eight years of operation. There were three schooners scheduled through September 15, and the Mattie was booked into October.

In 1944, his windjammers set sail for their ninth year under the name of “Vagabond Cruises.” He bought property on the waterfront from Camden Lumber Company (formerly Ayers Fish Market) for his headquarters.  Swift started his tenth season in June of 1945, when the Enterprise and Indra set sail.

By 1947 he had eight schooners sailing out of Camden.  They were the Lois M. Candage, Mattie, Clinton, Eva S. Cullison, Mercantile, Enterprise and Mabel. 

Captain Frank Swift and his last wife lived in the Hunt-Locke house on 72 Elm Street in Camden  They owned it for 20 years and kept it very much the way it had been, when the house was built in 1810. 

It still had the beehive ovens in the kitchen.

In 1978, in his will, he left the home to his wife as long as she lived or remarried, and when she died in 1989 the estate went to his children by a previous marriage. 

It was sold in 1993 to Mr. and Mrs. Tom Filip, who had returned from a windjammer cruise and started a Bed and Breakfast named “The Capt. Swift Inn.” They also saved the old kitchen and built on an addition with a useable kitchen for their guests.

arbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all her life, so far.

More Barbara Dyer

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Camden Harbor: As old as the last glacier

Mr. Camden Harbor

Memorial Day remembrances