Windjammer Days is a festival held every year in the last week of June in the Boothbay Region of Maine to commemorate the enormous sailing ship known as the ‘windjammer.’ This year, it takes place from June 25 to July 1. Providing all ancient boat lovers with a fun way to begin their summer, the Windjammer Days events cover an entire spectrum — from maritime tours to antique boat parades to live music on the shore. They kick off this event with the Blessing of the Fleet tradition, which is celebrated internationally too.
History of Windjammer Days
We only had one form of transportation before motorways, motor vehicles, and the interconnected world — ships. These ships not only transported people, but they were also the only means of transporting products to other parts of the world.
The windjammer — our ancient sailing ship — was of a very specific category. With square-shaped towering sails — three to five to a ship — these vessels could glide over the water effortlessly. They also had loads of space in them to carry a larger amount of goods. The windjammers’ high utility and cargo capacity made them perfect to transport low-priced goods like food grains and fertilizers to ports of extreme hardship. While the commercial marine industry mostly ignored these ships, they retained their popularity among a smaller section of tradesmen.
Then, in the 19th and 20th centuries, modern steamships came around and stole everyone’s spotlight. Sailing ships not powered by motors didn’t have much use and began to be scuttled.
This was when an ex-navy man named Frank Swift turned the tide and introduced a whole region to leisure sailing on windjammers. Attracted to the older sailing ships since he was a little boy, Swift only hit upon the idea of windjammer sailing for people on a trip to Maine after seeing derelict coasting schooners in the harbors. Instead of scuttling them, he wanted to refurbish the vessels and carry vacationers back and forth. And so, with a little help from his sailing friends, Swift began to offer special passenger cruises on windjammers, continuing operations for 25-odd years even as cargo schooners were being replaced with modern sailing vessels everywhere else.
Windjammer Days timeline
Steam-powered modern vessels are much faster and easier to manage; they successfully replace the sailing vessels of that era.
The first official passenger cruises begin in Maine, with three lady passengers on board.
Frank Swift’s passenger cruises now have an extra load — the vessels transport pulpwood to paper mills to help in increased paper production.
This entire week — and related events — are organized by the nonprofit community organization Friends of Windjammer Days.
Windjammer Days FAQs
What is a windjammer on a ship?
It is an informal term for a commercial sailing ship that has multiple square-shaped masts and operates on wind power alone (for the most part).
Why are they called windjammers?
The term is likely a mashup of ‘wind’ and ‘jam,’ the latter to describe how the large masts of this vessel seem to ‘jam’ the wind.
How many crew does a windjammer have?
A windjammer can hold from 16 to 40 guests along with four to 10 crew members.
Windjammer Days Activities
Celebrate the sea and sailing
If you love the water, learning to sail is the perfect summer pastime for you. Search for classes near you, and get friends involved too. You could also explore different water sports and activities taking place in your surroundings. If none of this is possible, simply head to the closest water body (real or even man-made) and spend some time enjoying the view.
Learn all you can about windjammers
These ancient sailing ships have a unique and long history. Read all you can about these vessels, or check out a few documentaries and movies that have been made on this subject.
Participate in the Windjammer Days Festival
Kickoff your summer by taking a trip to Maine for the Windjammer Days Festival. Have fun watching the various sailing events and participating in different shore-side activities.
5 Windjammer Facts To Float Your Boat
What's in a name?
The word 'windjammers' was initially used in a derogatory manner by steamship sailors to mock the bigger and slower sailing ships.
They don't have just one name
Windjammers are also sometimes referred to as 'tall ships' because of their height.
Windjammers get recognized
Most of the windjammers from the Maine Windjammer Association — the largest group of sailing schooners in America — are officially designated as National Historic Landmarks.
Windjammers are big on sustainability too
The J&E Riggin won the Maine DEP Environmental leadership award in hospitality in 2007, the first windjammer to ever do so.
Windjammers need a little assistance too
Windjammers run on wind power alone, so if there's no wind, they use a little gas-powered boat rigged behind the ship for assistance while moving.
Why We Love Windjammer Days
It sparks a passion for the sea
The more we learn about these high-sea warriors, the more we are inspired to keep celebrating windjammers and the sea year after year.
Windjammers are the best
The ships themselves look very majestic sailing up and down Maine's rivers. Plus, these guys are an incredibly sustainable way to travel, with the windjammer not even using any motor or gas most of the time.
Flashback to the good old days
Remember when travel was not as fast and people could relax and take their time enjoying the sights? It is a callback to a simpler and calmer era of travel, which turns into the ultimate vacation for today's fast-paced world.
Windjammer Days dates