An enchanting way to spend a week at sea is aboard the J. & E. Riggin, a 120-foot-long, two-masted schooner that cruises Penobscot Bay out of Rockland, Maine, from May through October. The tall wooden ship, a 1927 oyster dredger, has been lovingly restored with space for 24 passengers and a crew of six.
"There's something about being on the ocean under a vast sky," says Captain Annie Mahle, who owns the Riggin with husband Jon Finger. "You're with new people, smelling smoke from a wood-burning stove and fresh bread baking. Everything about the experience is brand-new! We love providing this adventure, because we understand how powerful it can be. Jon and I made this our life's work because it still takes our breath away."
Pictured here is a view from aboard the Riggin on a calm day on Penobscot Bay.
Photographs by Colleen Duffley
Written and produced by Carroll Stoner
A fellow windjammer sails the waters of Penobscot Bay.
Although the six-member Riggin crew can handle the work on its own, many guests bring sailing or work gloves so they can pitch in with ropes, sails, and anchors. For them, running the boat and keeping it shipshape is part of the fun of the cruise.
A crew member checks out the all-important rigging.
Captain Annie produces memorable meals in a galley kitchen. She is a trained chef, a newspaper food columnist, and a cookbook author who makes frequent television appearances, including on the Today show. Everyone loves her creative, homey food-especially her New England Boiled Dinner and desserts like her Congo Bars-and passengers hang out in the galley, helping or just observing.
Passengers are often struck by a profound sense of quiet. There is no engine on this twin-masted boat other than a small yawl to push the Riggin in or out of harbors when necessary. Instead, people live with the ship's sweet white noise-the creaking of the seasoned wood, the flapping and straining of sails and riggings, the whisper of wind and water. Sketching is just one of several lovely way to pass the time on deck.
Ella, the captains' younger daughter, takes her chores seriously.
Each day the flag, called the "Colors," is hoisted and lowered with fanfare-and who doesn't like to see the Stars and Stripes lovingly handled in such breathtaking surroundings?
The Riggin is a family business for Captains Annie Mahle and Jon Finger, along with daughters Ella and Chloe.
Fly into Portland, Maine, and rent a car or take the shuttle for the two-hour trip to Rockland. The season runs May 31 through October 6, with three- to six-day cruises priced from $579 to $1035 per person. Accommodations are nine double and two triple cabins (small, clean, and cozy) with cold running water. Two communal toilets and a freshwater shower are on deck. For more information, call 800/869-0604 or visit mainewindjammer.com.
Wonderful windjammer cruises are also available through the Maine Windjammer Association, which includes 12 member vessels offering three- to six-day sailing trips out of Camden and Rockland, Maine. Most of the vessels are National Historic Landmarks. All of them feature traditional New England fare, including a lobster feast. For more information, visit www.sailmainecoast.com  or call 800/807-9463.