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Home » TRAVEL AND LODGING in ME » MAINE (all topics) » Schooner Mary Day
Schooner Mary Day

A Vacation Aboard Ship, Camden, Maine

By Sheila Grant | July 30, 2012

Living aboard a historic tall ship for several days gives a whole new meaning to being “unplugged.”

The schooner Mary Day is a 90-foot wooden vessel with kerosene lanterns for evening deck lighting, a wood stove for cooking and provision of hot water, and no inboard motor. This may sound a bit primitive, but the ship offers much in the way of creature comforts.

The Mary Day, launched in 1962, was the first coasting schooner built specifically for the windjammer trade, and as such, offers roomier accommodations than most tall ships. Cabins have nine feet of headroom, and feature skylights and windows that provide fresh air and sunshine.

Boarding takes place the evening before departure on cruises available for three—six nights in duration. The late-afternoon boarding leaves guests time to enjoy refreshments on deck, explore the lovely coastal town of Camden, ME, have their evening meal at one of the many local restaurants, and to become acclimated to the ship.

Cabins are cozy, to be sure, but there’s plenty of storage for clothing and personal care items, and room to stow luggage under the bunks. On each bunk, guests find a plastic bucket that may be used to bring hot water back to the cabin. The bucket contains other necessities, including: a plastic tumbler for drinking water from the sink found in each cabin; soap dish and soap; aloe gel (in case of sunburn); and lip balm.

There are also fun items in the cache, including The Schooner Mary Day Log of Discovery, a booklet providing a history of the ship, space to enter the names of all crew members, a diagram naming parts of the ship, space for notes and photos from the voyage, a quiz on nautical knowledge, how-to information on knot tying, two of the most requested recipes from the ship’s galley along with space to write down additional recipes, and space to record contact information from fellow passengers. Because this is the fiftieth anniversary of the ship, commemorative pencils and lager glasses are also included in the swag, along with a baggie of custom-printed M&M candies.

Attention to detail doesn’t stop here. Throughout the cruise, the captains (Barry King and Jennifer Martin) and crew work continuously to provide a relaxing, carefree experience for passengers. Departure day begins with coffee on deck at 7 a.m., followed by a delicious breakfast with enough choices to please any palate. “Captain Barry” makes his first appearance, greets the guests, and gives his “no cell phone” speech, which includes offers to coat the little gadgets in sun screen before seeing how many times they can skip across the waves.

“By leaving behind laptops, smart phones, Blackberries and iPads, and treating yourself to a technology-free vacation, people are finding that they are able to completely relax,” said the captain.

While total relaxation is the goal, guests are invited to hoist sail, coil rope, (and furl sail at day’s end), and every guest is given an opportunity to steer the ship, if they wish. Otherwise, days aboard the Mary Day are spent sunning, reading, chatting and napping. The strategy must work, as at breakfast on day two, when asked their favorite part of the cruise thus far, guests answer wistfully, “The nothing -- the whole lot of nothing to do.”

The trip is far from boring, however. Depending on the wind, the cruise can be tranquil, or accomplished with the ship at a 15-degree angle, and a lot of tacking to make way across Penobscot Bay. The scenery is stunning, with other tall ships to watch on occasion, and sightings of pelagic birds, birds of prey, seals and porpoises.

There’s an all-you-can-eat lobster bake on a secluded beach during each cruise. Guests can also swim, or paddle about in rowboats. The ship finds safe harbor at a different anchorage each evening, and for those who don’t know – sunsets at sea are spectacular!

The meals would be considered fabulous under any conditions, but the fact that each is prepared (for the most part with locally sourced foods) on an old-fashioned wood stove somehow adds even more flavor to the repast. Some lucky guests get to crank the old-fashioned ice cream maker in preparation of an evening ice cream sundae buffet on deck.

There’s a special sort of magic that takes place aboard the Mary Day. On that first evening, many guests have never been aboard a ship, and most of the guests don’t know each other. By the time she sails back into Camden Harbor, the guests are not only on more intimate terms with the ship, but with each other.

As in days of old, with no electronic distractions, people have spent the quiet hours talking to each other, learning not only names, but occupations and aspirations, and sharing tales of family, friends and other travels. Many exchange contact information, and there are hugs all around as guests depart the ship and head back to reality a little lighter of spirit than when they arrived.


The Schooner Mary Day

P.O. Box 798

Camden, Maine 04843

(800) 992-2218


For availability and more information, please check their website:


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