Take the helm in Maine.
Credit: Robert Bukaty

Take the helm in Maine.

The Mary Day has seven sails and no engine so her crew has to be adept at harnessing the softest breezes blowing down east between Rockport and Bar Harbor, Maine. There is always trimming, tightening, and hoisting to be done.

"This is for people who are serious about playing boat," says Captain Jen Martin who, with her husband Captain Barry King, proctors the sailing classes aboard The Mary Day for the WoodenBoat School, which offers a week-long course on tall ship sailing in Midcoast Maine's Penobscot Bay every August.

The course provides landlubbers a chance to learn the old-fashioned sailing basics, from coastal navigation to plotting a chart to reading the wind. If you sign on, it's all hands on deck for raising and lowering sails, manning the helm, and climbing aloft. Because there is no set course for the week – the only definite is that the trip will begin and end in the scenic town of Camden – the Mary Day's sailors can follow the wind.

Each day builds on the previous day's experience so that by the end of the week the students have become the masters and commanders, sailing the windjammer themselves.

"It's a lot of work," admits Jen.

It's a lot of boat. Built 51 years ago as a commercial passenger schooner, the Mary Day has taken thousands of people on trips up and down this stretch of rugged coast. The ship can comfortably accommodate 28 passengers and six crewmembers in the simple cabins below deck. Everyone sleeps soundly after long days of following – and giving – orders.

More Information: Flights are available to Rockland, near Camden, from Boston on JetBlue and CapeAir. The drive up from Portland takes two hours and is beautiful. Summer school at sea costs $1,050 per crewmember.