PENOBSCOT BAY — The schooner, Victory Chimes, an American National Historic Landmark that sails in the Maine Windjammer Association Fleet and appears on the Maine State Quarter (minted in 2003), has been sold. The new owner is Captain Sam Sikkema, a seasoned sailor.
Captains Kip Files and Paul DeGaeta purchased the Schooner Victory Chimes in 1990 and returned her to the Maine windjammer trade. This prompted the Maine Legislature to bestow the honor of “Official Windjammer of the State of Maine.”
Originally launched as Edwin and Maud in 1900 at Bethel Delaware, the schooner carried lumber along the Eastern Seaboard. She sailed as a coastal merchant vessel in both world wars and was enlisted to check the Anti-submarine minefield at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay during WWII.
After the war she was converted into a “Dude Cruiser” sailing out of Annapolis until sold to a Maine group. She arrived Down east to Maine in 1954 was renamed Victory Chimes and sailed out of Rockland. Capt. Frederick Boyd Guild purchased her outright in 1957. He sailed her as the “Queen of the Windjammer Fleet,” a name Downeast Magazinebestowed on her, until he retired in 1985. Two men from Duluth, Minnesota had purchased her and attempted to sail her in the Great Lakes. The attempt was unsuccessful, and the schooner fell on hard times.
In 1987, Tom Monaghan, then owner of Domino’s Pizza and the Detroit Tigers Baseball Club, purchased the vessel and put her through an extensive restoration at Samples Ship Yard in Boothbay, Maine.
DeGaeta had been the Fleet Captain for Monaghan’s five vessel fleet, and had hired Files to captain the schooner, then named Domino Effect. In 1989, Dominos put the infrequently used vessel up for sale. The only interested party had plans to ship her to Japan and use her for a sushi restaurant.
That’s when DeGaeta and Files stepped in to try and keep her in America.
“We tried desperately to find an American buyer,” said Files. “We didn’t want to see her leave the country. My dad, a US Navy fighter pilot in WWII, was furious that the Japanese might end up with her.”
As time went on and the deal with the Japanese looked imminent, DeGaeta and Files considered options that included a plan to buy the vessel, put her back in the windjammer trade to buy time to find an American buyer.
“That’s what we ended up doing,” said Files. “We figured we could sail her to cover the expenses and that bought us time”
DeGaeta added, “Only problem; America wasn’t on the same page as us. Before we knew it, 28 years had passed. Kip and I have joked that Victory Chimes likes her men young, so she can have long relationships with them. We grew old aboard her, as did R.E. Riggin her first owner/captain and Captain Guild. It is almost like the vessel choses her captains, not the other way around.”
Files recalled a few memorable moments: “We are proud that we brought her through the National Historic Landmark Process. We celebrated the 100th anniversary of her launching in the Chesapeake Bay. It was also great when the US Mint asked me to speak on the Mint Release day of the Maine Quarter. The celebration was at Pemaquid Lighthouse. Paul had the vessel offshore, but in typical Maine fashion, it was so foggy, you couldn’t see her.”
Files feels Captain Sam Sikkema is the right fit for a schooner that’s had only about 12 men sail her for any length of time in her 118 years.
“When I was asked to sail the Charles W. Morgan in 2014, Sam Sikkema was the mate,” said Files. “He has also filled in on Victory Chimes. He is a great sailor, been around the world twice, and for a vessel this size you need the right person and the right license. Paul and I have long talked about being Victory Chimes’ caretakers. We couldn’t be happier with how fate put Sam on this vessel. He is young, energetic and we feel he and his wife will bring some great ideas to the vessel, and the fleet. We look at him as the person we’ve been waiting for all these years. He will be another strong link in the chain of caretakers that have delivered this vessel 118 years from when she first splashed, that day in 1900.”
DeGaeta adds a final note. “I don’t think America realizes the historical significance of Victory Chimes, one of the last large (3-masted or larger) schooners still sailing form America’s Golden Age of sail. I don’t see how you can argue the fact that she is one of America’s most historic vessels. After 118 years she is still defining her legacy. No American Square Riggers or Clipper Ships have come close to the longevity she has. She is still doing what she was designed to do; making a living working under sail.”