What does one do on vacation in a small town? This is the question my boyfriend and I were confronted with when we decided to take a weekend trip to Camden, Maine (more here).
Camden is a coastal town, home to about 5,000 people and a summer destination for wealthy New Englanders who have a penchant for yachts and sailing. As far as tourist attractions go, Camden has two primary draws — the ocean and the mountain (in this post, I will only discuss the ocean).
White boats big and small speckle Maine’s blue waters in Camden Harbor. While the town is home to a yacht club and many private vessels, there are also a few boat tours that make their rounds up and down the coast between Maine’s tiny islands and with a view of the light houses. Although I vomit over the edge of half the boats that I board, I was eager nonetheless to book a spot on the Schooner Olad, a large sailboat. Unfortunately (or as you will see, fortunately), our boat trip was cancelled no more than two hours before we were set to depart. To make matters more inconvenient, the customer service representative informed me over the phone that they were booked solid for the rest of the season. We got a refund and a recommendation for another sailing company. Without hesitation, I called up the other company and booked a ride on the Schooner Surprise, which was to set sail on the same afternoon. But, yet again, I received a call that their afternoon boat trip was cancelled due to wind and that they could take us the next morning. As our time in Camden was short, at this point, we were just relieved that a boat trip was actually happening.
The next morning, we arrived 20 minutes early to board the Schooner Surprise at Camden’s Public Landing. The air was mostly still and the sky was clear (I remember from a college atmospheric science class that this means we are in the midst of a high pressure system). The temperature was in the mid-50s, but we dressed in layers as a sailboat ride naturally means wind. There were about twelve or so of us on the boat with a captain and a first mate. After a quick introduction and instructions on how to access the life jackets and lifeboat, we were off. As much as I want to say we “set sail,” initially to leave the harbor, the captain turned on the engine and navigated us several yards away. However, once we were on the open water, then we “set sail,” which was a coordinated act between the captain and the first mate and included the unfurling of the mainsails on the two masts and the release of the jib, the smaller sail toward the front of the boat.
We sat on the starboard (right) side of the boat and were facing the sun on our departure. Although it was chilly on the water, my legs felt warm underneath my black leggings in the bright sun. The trip out was bumpy as all get out; my shoes got a little wet, but it could have been worse. The first mate informed us that yesterday’s winds were so strong that passengers got positively soaked on the trip — I guess we got lucky that our trip yesterday had been cancelled! Afternoon trips, apparently, are usually breezier, and according to the crew, we were out in near perfect conditions. Regardless and despite preemptive medication, I was already feeling a bit seasick. Eventually, after a choppy ride seaward, we turned the boat around and now the starboard side of the vessel was completely in the shade on our return home. Boy, did this make a difference! The ride back was free from crashing waves (the starboard side was elevated on the way back), however the wind somehow turned icy and my gloved hands and feet were slowly freezing. Even an hour after our return, I still had not fully recovered from the frigid voyage. The boat ride was beautiful, but very bumpy, and suuuuuper cold. Also, I did not vomit — which is a win!!
Aside from the Schooner Surprise (a two-hour ride), Camden also offers sunset tours, private charters, overnight trips, and opportunities to watch as the crew catch lobsters. The best time of the year to be on the water is (naturally) in the summer or, more broadly, between May and October. Our trip was one of the last few weekends of the season and aside from the cold, it was nice.
Camden, as I mentioned at the top of this post, has more than just water, it also has a few fun land activities. More on that in the next post, Dear Reader!
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