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A Day in the Life of a Great Lakes Windjammer

Part 1

 For those of you who have yet to experience the joy, exhilaration and relaxation that are part and parcel of sailing a windjammer, we thought we’d give you a taste.  So let’s get a feel for a typical day aboard the Great Lakes windjammer Manitou.

For starters, what the heck is a windjammer?  The term windjammer has held somewhat different meaning over time.  The generally accepted definition these days is, a traditionally rigged passenger carrying sailing vessel offering participatory multi-day excursions.

Hmmm…..”participatory;” is that a euphemism for slave ship?  Not at all!  As we tell all of our guests when they come aboard, “You BX6A1888can do as much or as little as you like, but you should never feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do.”  Our goal in offering these cruises is to give folks a taste of what it might have been like to be aboard one of these majestic tall ships back at the turn of the 20th century.  Many people want to get involved in the operation of the schooner to really take full ownership of their time aboard.  We feel that you’ll walk away with a deeper, more rewarding experience if you become a part of the fabric of the vessel, but there is no wrong answer to how you should spend your time aboard.  This is your vacation and our number one goal is to make it one of the best you’ll ever have.

So, what’s a typical day?  The glimmer of pre-dawn filters into my cabin through the port light as my eyes flutter open.  What am I doing awake at dawn?  I’m on vacation; I should be sleeping in!  But I can’t; I’m too excited about the day to come and what may lie ahead.  Besides, I was so tired last night, after a full day of sunshine and a fresh breeze that I could barely keep my eyes open past 9:00 pm.  The captain was right, this is like camping on the water; early to bed and early to rise, but the food is way better and I haven’t had to cook any of it! 

After splashing some water on my face and brushing my teeth, I head up on deck.  The whispering swish of mops greets me as I emerge from below.  The deckhands are already hard at work.  These guys (and girls; yes, there are many women crewing aboard tall ships) never seem to stop; mopping, polishing, wiping, and scrubbing.  There always seems to be something to do aboard ship, and this cheerful bunch of twenty-somethings go about their tasks, large and small, with the single minded determination of a well-oiled machine.

Coffee,tea, and pastry greet us each morning.

Coffee,tea, and pastry greet us each morning.

But let’s get down to business.  I smell coffee and a number of my shipmates are already up on deck, sipping from a steaming mug and munching on something fresh baked and, no doubt, delectable.  Delectable indeed!  I scoop up a lemon poppy seed scone, grab my coffee, and find a quiet perch to watch the sun break the horizon.

Soon I’m lost in conversation with my new found friend Denise.  She and her husband Keith are teachers from southern Michigan.  It turns out these two are enjoying their tenth cruise aboard Manitou!  “It gets in your blood,” Denise muses.  “There’s just something about being on the water, a feeling of peace and connection that’s hard to tap into when we’re ashore.  This boat and her crew almost become like family.  We’ve known Captain Dave for over 15 years, now, and he’s become a good friend.  And it’s so exciting to see Captain Brendan move into a position of command.  We first sailed with Brendan when he was a deckhand, and now look at him!  It’s like watching your children grow up!”

“Captain Brendan; he strikes quite a figure,” I chuckle.  Our fearless leader cuts the image of a Hollywood pirate; an imposing six foot tall hulk with dreadlocks down to his waist and a patchwork of tattoos.  But beneath this intimidating figure lies a soft spoken, kindly soul with a passion for literature and a natural air of authority.  He directs his crew with an easy confidence that inspires respect.

A hearty breakfast!

A hearty breakfast!

Ding! Ding! Ding!  That’s the breakfast bell.  We anxiously file down to the main salon in anticipation of a hearty meal, and we’re not disappointed.  The tables overflow with an assortment of homemade goodies:  Bacon, blueberry pancakes, heaping platters of fresh cut fruit, yogurt, and, just in case that’s not enough, those ridiculously good scones have been brought below and added to the mix!  Oh, and did I mention that everything is cooked on a wood burning stove?  Yup, when they say, “Taste of the past,” they’re not kidding.  We dig in with gusto.  After all, we’re going to need our energy to pull up the anchor and set sail.

To be continued……


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