Three Nights Aboard the Windjammer Stephen Taber

Written by  Denise Mattia

Captain Noah Barnes appeared from the wooden yawl, Babe, a spiffy motorized boat, capable of pushing the schooner Stephen Taber in and out of Maine’s Rockland Harbor.  I snapped images of him, which he met with flair -- true to a theatrical background of having grown up with thespians and former Taber owners, Ken Barnes and his wife, chef Ellen Barnes. 

Noah gave us two important notes about the schooner: stay clear of the galley’s hot chimney, which vents smoke from the antique wood-burning stove, and the heads.  Two commodes flush with sea water, and the paper is flushable. “They’re the best heads on any boat,” boasted Noah.  A list of restaurants in town followed, including Primo, Café Miranda and the local Rockland Café. Twenty of us then spread out for dinner.Back on board, 7A was to be my cabin for the next three nights. Climbing down the stairs backwards, my foot found a square platform, where a small sink hugged the corner.  Hooks and a shelf provide handy spaces for personal items.  Here, I could stand upright.  Beyond, were two almost side-by-side bunks. I spread out, lucky to have the cabin to myself.  At 5'2", however, I had to bend to access the bed, which also had a beam along the center length.  I was able to squeeze into the top corner to read before falling asleep thanks to small LED reading lights, an upgrade to the 147 year-old schooner.I met my next door neighbors, Pat and Mike.  Pat was a slip of a woman, Mike was tall and portly.  (The two fared fine in a cabin the same size as mine.)  Other passengers included several repeat couples, one having been married by the captain the year before, and single guests interested in the experience of life aboard an 1871 landmark schooner at sea.  We were here principally to eat, imbibe, enjoy life and learn a little about sailing.I left my cabin hatch open for the cool breezes to envelop me at night. Despite gentle snoring, creaking wood and a stream of traffic to the all-important heads, I slept.
The aroma of coffee wafted into my cabin from the stove’s chimney.  Allison makes a perfect brew.  Stacks of pancakes with wild blueberries, crisp bacon, Maple syrup and fruit were served on deck.
While some passengers washed dishes, sous chef, Phoebe, when not busy in the galley, doubled as a deckhand. Guests were asked to help first mate Gus and crewmate Cody make the Taber ready to sail. Noah’s nine-year old son, Alex, pulled his own weight too. The foremast, mainmast, stay’sl and jib were unfurled.  The anchor was hoisted and at 11am under full sail, we slipped silently past a cargo rig, while a goshawk focused more on its catch than us.  Soon we lost sight of the harbor and the Rockland Breakwater lighthouse.  We had embarked on our voyage to where ever the wind took us.During the day I studied the map; some were happy to lounge, chat or read on the foredeck or loll on the mat’s aft deck.  Before we knew it, the tops of cabins were covered with table cloths, utensils, napkins and plates. A sturdy beef stew, made with tomatoes, potatoes and carrots appeared.  A salad of arugula, broccoli and tomatoes dressed in mayonnaise, garlic and vinegar was set before us, along with freshly baked bread and butter.  Nut squares were a crunchy dessert.  At 2:42 we passed seals resting on a bare, flat rock formation and sailed past green-fringed Deer Island.  Along the coast colorful buoys marked fishermen’s lobster traps.Noah took us for a jaunt on Babe to a corner of Frenchman’s Bay in Acadia National Park and a few seasoned sailors took the side boat Plain Jane out for a sail, while filet mignon with shallots, onions and herbs seared in the galley.  The aromas drew us back to the schooner. Glasses from Jane Barrett Barnes’ selections of South American wines accompanied Noah’s favorite cheeses: semi-soft, Taleggio, triple crème Brie, Gruyere and a piquant blue. Thinly sliced Genoa salami, Kalamata and black olives, grapes, freshly baked bread and roasted garlic accompanied the spread.  Noah became chef, dredging the zucchini flowers in an egg and flour mixture and frying them to a golden brown.  We sat around the ship happily eating, sipping wine, chatting and watching the sunset.  I retreated to my cabin only after a gigantic harvest moon had risen high above the tree-lined island.
I awoke to see two cormorants on a rocky outcrop usurping snacks from seagulls.  Our breakfast of coffee, fruit, biscuits, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese cake, jam, butter and cereal appeared and, just as I wondered if the crew ever stopped, they and volunteers hauled anchor and set the course for Stonington Island, where Gus and Alex sailed to purchase lobsters before heading to Burnt Island.  Once on land, I helped shuck the corn-on-the-cob to save my waistline from Allison’s spread.  Meanwhile, Gus tended a wood-burning cauldron of seawater.  At boiling point he dropped in the corn followed by more than three dozen divine crustaceans, topped them with seaweed and a tarp to retain the steam.  The result was a fabulous meal.
Back on the Taber, Noah brought out the cheeseboard and Allison set the “table” with another bounty of food.  As we approached Rockland Harbor, Noah, Alex and Gus were joined by Jane, Ken and Ellen Barnes and members of Noah’s family.  Since we hadn’t sung sea chanties, Noah, Alex, Jane and Gus treated us to theirs.  (When not sailing, Noah plays with the Dolphin Strikers in Portland.)
We disembarked the following morning in Rockland.  I’d stayed at the Landmark Victorian B&B, Berry Manor.  Cheryl Michaelsen and associate Mike LaPosta own and run the Inn (, and I spent my last night at the stunning LimeRock Inn, ( owned and run by Frank Isganitis and his husband P.J. Walter.
The Windjammer Stephen Taber had been on my bucket list ( HYPERLINK "", and I now look forward to joining Noah’s partner, Capt. J.R. Braugh on the 82-foot rebuilt schooner, Ladona.

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