ROCKLAND — Usually the “fit out” season to get boats ready for sailing goes from March through late May with a Memorial Day start to the season for the Maine Windjammer Association, the largest fleet of working windjammers in America.
This year, it’s taken until mid-July for boats to start sailing, but the hurdles to start the season have gone well beyond fit-out.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt, according to a news release, until July 1 when Governor Janet Mills allowed overnight windjammer cruises in Maine to re-open.
Throughout that time, members of the Maine Windjammer Association were busy working with the Deptarment of Marine Resources to create guidance for a safe sailing environment, the release noted.
To sail in 2020, the overnight windjammer trips need to meet guidelines for lodging, restaurants and windjammers on top of the rigorous Coast Guard licensing requirements. To date, two of the eight members of the fleet have opted to sail in 2020.
No sector of the tourism industry is required to meet such stringent guidelines, yet for captain Noah Barnes of the Schooner Stephen Taber, the guidelines ensure that passengers will be safe.
“We’ve taken it one step further than the already stringent protocols, and are asking every guest who comes sailing with us to attest to a negative COVID-19 test,” said Barnes, in the release. “This is one way we can safeguard the guests and crew on board this summer,” he added.
In addition, stringent sanitization and cleaning, social distancing and safety protocols will be in place for those sailing this summer.
The Schooner Ladona will be the first to set sail on Saturday, July 18. Schooner Stephen Taber’s first trip will leave the dock on July 23 with live entertainment provided by the Charlie Nobles Band.
“We’re doing everything we can do to help people get out and enjoy a sailing vacation on board a beautiful windjammer this summer,” said Barnes. “We’ve put safety measures and cleaning protocols in place and changed itineraries to visit more remote uninhabited islands to give plenty of room for social distancing while ashore. Will it be the same kind of windjammer cruise everyone knows and loves? Hey, you can’t take the beauty of the Maine coast or the freedom of sailing by wind power away. The rush of jumping off the bowsprit into refreshing Maine harbors and knuckling down on a lobster baked on the beach will still be ingredients of your windjammer trips this summer.”
Six of the Maine Windjammer Association fleet captains have opted to cancel trips this season and are looking toward 2021, for a variety of reasons.
All members of the Maine Windjammer Association have already created 2021 schedules, available on SailMaineCoast.com for those who like to plan trips in advance.
“We’ve had some huge hurdles to overcome in order to leave the dock this week,” said J.R. Braugh, Captain of the Schooner Ladona. “We’re glad that we’re going to be able to offer guests the ideal summer vacation in Maine — sailing aboard a beautifully restored wind-driven schooner taking in Maine scenery and allowing Mother Nature to soothe stressed bodies, minds and souls in the perfect unplugged vacation.”