Our Wonderful Week
Aboard the Wanderbird
Hosted by Karen and Rick Miles
The Wanderbird begins her trips at the Winterport Terminals, a real working dock where fish and cargo are still unloaded from ships and transferred to trucks to be delivered all over New England.
We were welcomed aboard by Captains Karen and Rick Miles who own and operate the Wanderbird. After meeting the crew and some of the other passengers, we were given a tour of the ship before being shown to our cabins.
The Wanderbird is a former fishing vessel that was built in Holland in 1963. Karen and Rick purchased the vessel in Europe and sailed her across the Atlantic Ocean to Maine where they then began a two-year conversion project. The result is one beautiful boat!
We were taken below to become acquainted with the cabin that would be our "home" for the next six days. We were pleased to find that, not only was the cabin appointed with lots of beautiful varnished mahogany, but there was also plenty of room for us and our gear. Each of the six double cabins was named after a favorite harbor that Rick and Karen have visited in their travels.
Our cabin was called Rockland, named after Karen's home town in Maine. All of the cabins have facilities including a vanity with a brass sink and faucet, a shower, and a composting toilet. We stowed our gear and made our way back on deck where most of the other passengers were sitting with the crew, talking and eating some fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. We all chatted and got to know each other for a few hours. When we went below to our cabin around 10:30, we were soon fast asleep dreaming of the adventures that awaited us aboard the Wanderbird.
Being early risers, we were up just after sunrise and made our way aft to the galley. Here we found our breakfast cook, Captain Rick, who was busy making poached pear crepes with blackberry sauce, chilled fruit cups and homemade maple "sorta" sausage for breakfast which would be served in about two hours at 8:00 a.m.
We were thrilled to discover that there was also a large blue and gold Macaw named Junior and a beautiful tiny spice finch the captain calls Finchy-Miles. This explained the wild and exotic birdcalls we had heard!
We helped ourselves to coffee and tea, and chatted a bit before we headed out on to the sun deck to enjoy the coming of the day in the teak lounge chairs.
We got underway around 10:30 after the crew loaded on truckloads of fresh groceries and Captain Rick had given us a safety talk. The first ten miles found the Wanderbird and her happy crew steaming south on the Penobscot River bound for the open water of Penobscot Bay.
Lunch soon appeared and we all opted to eat on deck in our deck chairs and at the picnic table up at the bow, or front, of the vessel. Karen had prepared a wonderful creamy carrot ginger soup and whole wheat rolls with rosemary and caramelized onions...."yummy."
We anchored at 3:30 in a lovely harbor called Bass Harbor where Captain Rick brought us all ashore in the ship's launch to stretch our legs and visit some of the little shops and the lighthouse nestled at the water's edge. We were back aboard in time for a snack of homemade hummus, fresh baked curried pita chips and a taste of local fruit wine prior to dinner which was served at 6:00 p.m.
We all sat comfortably in the beautiful coach house for the evening meal. This area was designed by Karen and was modeled after the great cabin on the famous square-rigged clipper ship Red Jacket built in Rockland, Maine, almost 130 years ago.
The view from here is incredible with large windows all the way around. The walls are all paneled mahogany that has been finely varnished to a glass like finish, and there is even a small cozy wood stove to heat this area should the need arise.
Tonight's meal was started with a delicious Wanderbird house salad that included fresh greens, mandarin oranges, almonds, sunny yellow bell peppers and a homemade ginger shiitake dressing. The main course was a roasted portabello topped with herb, mushroom, and apricot stuffing accompanied by savory sweet potato cakes with julienne vegetables and fresh peas. What a treat! If that weren't enough, Karen finished off the meal with coffee, tea, and individual mini non-dairy chocolate cashew cakes!
A couple of the crew members appeared with a guitar, and we spent the rest of the evening singing sea chanties and old folk favorites. Another fantastic day had passed and our cabins were calling us below to sleep in comfort, safely tucked in the sturdy hull of the Wanderbird.
During the next few days we had great weather with only one or two brief rainsqualls, and even these were hardly noticed as we moved inside, out of the weather into the coach house. We stopped at small fishing villages with names like Burnt Coat Harbor, North Haven Village, Port Clyde, and Stonington.
The birdwatchers among us were rewarded with almost non-stop viewing of many types of sea birds like Atlantic Puffins, Common and Sooty Shearwaters, Gannets, Petrels, Gulls, Terns, Cormorants and lots more. One of the highlights was the day that Captain Rick took us "offshore" to Mt. Desert Rock that lies 17 nautical miles off the coast. This is where the giants swim!
We arrived at the rock around 10:30 and Captain Rick shut the engines down. The Wanderbird is rigged with a traditional ketch sail plan, and we sailed for most of the day among humpbacks, fins, minkes, and even one highly endangered right whale. This was something that I will remember for the rest of my life. We all watched in silence as one after another of these magnificent creatures swam near us to take a look.
The silence of Wanderbird, with her engines quiet, gave the whales no reason to be nervous, and they came close by so that we could actually see the markings on their tails. The sound that they made as they breathed was awesome; each breath held enough air to fill a tractor- trailer truck. One humpback "breached"; its entire 40-ton body leaped straight out of the water and with a twist, it splashed down on its side showing us its white flipper. I didn't want this day to end, but I have lots of pictures that I will surely treasure.
The delicious meals were non-stop. We all looked forward to the ship's bell that rang to announce that it was time for another mouth-watering repast. I couldn't believe that it was the last night of the trip when Captain Rick sat with us in the lantern light and read ballads of the Maine Coast to us. What a very special evening and a fitting conclusion to a most excellent trip!
Our last morning aboard the Wanderbird found us steaming back up the Penobscot River headed for the dock in Winterport. It was hard to believe that just six days ago we had all come aboard the Wanderbird as strangers, and now we were all exchanging addresses like old friends. We had been transformed away from our hectic lives and had learned the simple routine of life aboard ship. We had helped to sail the Wanderbird and had even gotten to take a turn at the wheel as we sailed among spruce clad islands and through scenic thoroughfares.
There were hugs and not just a few tears as we said so long and reluctantly headed back to the real world. A few of our shipmates have already spoken to Karen and reserved cabins for the same week next year. We plan to join them.
Here's a Wanderbird sample vegetarian menu:
Hearty Soup of Roasted Eggplant in Coconut Milk and Vegetable Broth with Onions, Colorful Julienne Peppers, Carrots, Asparagus and Scallions
Oriental Broccoli Peanut Salad
Marinated Sesame Portobello Steaks
Total Chocolate Eclipse Cake (A Wonderful Cake made with Dates, Flax Seeds, Unsweetened Cocoa, Pure Vanilla Extract, Pure Maple Syrup, Tofu, Cashews, Carob, etc. - It is moist and delicious!)
Served Along Side a Heap of Chunky Sweet Potato Fries with Spicy Homemade Catsup
Iced Green Tea
Handmade Raviolis Stuffed with Maple Roasted Squash and Sautéed in Olive Oil, Vegan Pesto and Pinenuts
Fresh Rosemary Focaccia Bread
During the quiet winter months they make their own fragrant, natural veggie based soaps.... (animal friendly and people tested) for everyone to enjoy while aboard Wanderbird
To contact the Wanderbird, you can call toll free at 1-866-SEA-BIRD, (1-866-732-2473), or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Wanderbird's website is at http://www.wanderbirdcruises.com