The Schooner Stephen Taber is a two-masted, gaff-rigged sailing vessel that is part of an 8-vessel fleet of Maine Windjammers. It was my first trip since January, and I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive at first, but being out in nature and looking around at seals, eagles and seabirds took me into a peaceful reality and helped me remember what is important in life.
11 reasons to book your trip now
1. It’s clean, safe and relaxing
I have never had more fun or felt more relaxed and safe, despite these COVID-19 days. All precautions were taken to stay safe and all passengers are required to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of sailing. The crew is tested every week. Hand sanitizer from a local distillery (Split Rock) is available everywhere on the boat to use before touching anything communal. Masks were worn in the tender boat when we were close to each other and when we were walking in towns. All bedding is laundered by a special facility using cold ozone cleaning to completely sanitize. Most of the time we were on deck in the fresh air and maintaining a safe distance.
2. Experience Maine from a unique perspective
This state is blessed with some of the best scenery on the planet. Throughout the trip, we were surrounded by the beautiful colors of a teal blue sea, cerulean blue sky, fluffy white clouds, and purple mountains. The wind blowing through my hair, inhaling invigorating pure air and seeing millions of stars at night unhindered by light pollution was a much-needed renewal for my soul.
3. See places you would never be able to see on your own
Sailing through Eggemoggin Reach toward the quaint lobster town of Stonington and through an uninhabited (except for the seals) harbor like Seal Bay did so much for my psyche. Even on the gray foggy days, I felt enveloped by peace while I listened to a loon call across a quiet bay, heard the chimes of channel markers, and saw many species of seabirds like a Guillemot, which are unique to the area. Knowing there are still places like this means so much to me.
4. Learn how to sail a massive Schooner
On this trip, you will be part of an elite “yachting” group. No need to own a boat, pay a mortgage or even know how to sail. Since all hands are needed to hoist sails, center board, bring up the anchor, and more, the crew was only too happy to help with instruction and share their knowledge. If you don’t want to participate with those tasks, you don’t have to and no one will make you feel guilty. For me, it was a fun and integral part of the trip.
5. Eat amazing food
Galley Chef Bethany Taylor was onboard to create the innovative, hearty and purely delicious meals all on a wood stove. Some recipes included classic Maine cooking like seafood chowder and beef stew. These recipes were handed down from the former owner (and Captain Noah’s mom Ellen) who was the chef for 25 years . Bethany weaves her farm-to-table fusion recipes incorporating Maine produce, regional or French cheeses and locally raised meats. Every meal was incredible and individually plated. Fresh baked muffins or breakfast cakes were served at 6:30 am with strong coffee.
For breakfast one morning, we had Eggs Benedict Rueben (2 poached eggs on homemade rye English muffins), Morse’s sauerkraut from Waldeboro Maine, and delicata squash home fries. Another day, blueberry pancakes were served with blueberry sausages and maple syrup. Our hearty lunches included savory turkey thigh and pork belly Shawarma with bacon mayo on Cuban bread. Appetizers served up cheeses and meats, including Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm’s Moses Sleeper and Bethany-made duck prosciutto. My personal favorite: lime and Sriracha broiled Damariscotta oysters. For California night we had duck breast, parsnip purée with braised figs and lavender balsamic. Unique desserts like poached pears in wine with crème anglaise and vanilla biscotti or pizzelle s’mores, were served after dinner and nothing was ever repeated.
6. Savor the unique wine flavors from different regions
Captain Noah’s wife Jane is a nationally known expert in the wine industry having worked for Veuve Clicquot and Terlato. She personally chooses all wines that are served for each of the themed dinners. For French night, we had Coq au Vin paired with Veuve Clicquot champagne, a Chardonnay from Les Morizottes Macon, and a Pinot Noir from Burgundy Domaine Dumont Bourgogne Rouge. For Spanish night we had Paella with Nessa Alberino, Ribero del Duero Tempranillo and Micaela Cream Sherry. Each night there were at least three choices, never the same wine twice. I was on the wine-tasting week, but the same quality of wine applies on all trips.
7. Enjoy Captain Noah’s sailing experience and personality
Captain Noah Barnes has been sailing since he was six years old on the very Schooner Stephen Taber. His parents Ken and Ellen Barnes owned and sailed the schooner for 25 years before turning it over to Captain Noah who is now sailing his 17th year. I felt very comfortable with him at the helm and would have sailed to the Caribbean. In addition to his massive amount of experience, Captain Noah is very entertaining and is well-liked and respected by crew and guest alike. He is also an awesome guitarist!
8. Sail alongside a terrific crew
Captain Noah also employs a very capable, friendly, and seemingly tireless, crew. They worked from 6 in the morning until 8 at night, always with a pleasant attitude and willingness to help out when needed. First Mate Korina is a graduate of FIT, wears the best sailing outfits, is an in-charge young woman and makes her own sailcloth bags. Second Mate Gabriel is an experienced saxophone musician, sailor and educator from South Street Seaport’s Schooner Pioneer. Intern Robin, at the tender age of 18, is already a good sailor, very mature, sweet, and helpful. She even took me out on the 3-person sailboat, Seeker. Chef Bethany created an unbelievable menu, including her homemade bread (sourdough, brioche rolls, and muffins) all made onboard on a wood stove. Mess-mate Morgan sported funky sailing couture and surprised us with her talent as a singer and guitar player. Fern was a guest sailor and an accomplished violinist specializing in 18th century songs, adding to the cool atmosphere of being on a 19th century schooner. Captain Noah’s niece Hallie was also part of the crew and entertained us with her lovely folk singer’s voice.
9. Be part of history
The Schooner Stephen Taber is a 68 foot Schooner (110 from stem to stern), offers comfortable accommodations for up to 22 passengers, and has been sailing continuously for 149 years. COVID-19 was not going to stop its streak! (Due to COVID restrictions, only 16 passengers were permitted.) When it first sailed, the schooner hauled oysters down the Atlantic coast. In the 1890s it sailed guests to Newport’s fashionable strand and in 1902 guests watched the parade of ships coming back from the Spanish-American War. If only the hull could talk!
10. Have a Lobster Bake
At a private island, we dined on steamed lobster caught that morning, Sambal spiced chicken, grilled steak, corn on the cob and another fantastic wine selection, including California’s Simple Life Chardonnay and a Greek mineral wine called Atma Assyritiko. We played bocce, went swimming, and took out the stand-up paddle boards. A great time had by all!!
11. Walk in places impossible to visit without a boat
The Captain goes where the wind blows, so there is never a planned itinerary until the day of sailing, which makes it all the more fun. The only engine is the attending yawl boat “Babe”. On this trip we visited Buck’s Harbor, known as the inspiration for Robert McCloskey’s “Blueberries for Sal” and other Caldecott winning children’s books and lingered at Farmer’s Market. We also made our way to the deserted and preserved Babson Island, Captain Noah’s “Narnia” with twisted trees, Spanish moss and fern meadows. Experiencing this unique, uninhabited area and walking the loop path alone was a spiritual experience for me.
These are all great reasons to book a trip on The Schooner Stephen Taber, but for me, the best reason is to help you remember what is truly important in life: good food, good companionship, being outdoors, and having fun!
Sounds like an amazing trip and a perfect way to experience something unique and safe during uncertain times. Thanks for sharing!