Boats and books: Camden, Maine

When I bought the book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, I never thought I’d consult it as much as I have over the years. With the internet and all, who needs a guide book?

Me. I have highlighted, dog-ear’d, and re-read so many pages – real-life places – in that book. And I use it as the basis for travel planning.

The section on New England is heavily read, and Maine has so many highlights and underlines, you’d think I’m studying the material for a test.

On my first trip to Maine, I focused on Portland and Freeport. In June, I read even more pages in my Maine section and crossed them off my list. Camden, Maine was one of the sections my book listed. And the town did not disappoint.

My handy bucket list travel book told me to go on a schooner or windjammer. And I listened. I booked a day trip sail ride on the Schooner Surprise – a 99 year old Schooner in beautiful condition. Trip Advisor had many great options. So why did I choose the Surprise? The owner’s bios. Apparently the wife fell in love with sailing when she attended summer camp in, wait for it – MINNESOTA! I mean, come on.

I could write forever and ever about the cute shops, including Stonewall Kitchen – get a jar of Wild Maine Blueberry Jam! and Sea Bags. Sea Bags is to Mainers what Duluth Pack is to Minnesotans or Barrington Gifts is to Texans (I’ll talk about LL Bean totes later!). Quintessential maritime handbags and accessories. They even had a line made out of windsurf sails (Wind surfing is my replacement for slalom waterskiing. It’s exhilarating and exhausting)!

I could talk forever about the book lover’s Dream library and book store. Seriously, I went to the Camden library and fell head over heels in LOVE with the architecture and ambiance! I could talk about the great art gallery and the gentleman who owned it and how personable he was and his ties to Minnesota. I could also talk a long time about the Camden Deli. Hello, best deli sandwich, Cape Cod Chips (I know Minnesota is Old Dutch country but I prefer Cape Cod–and the East Coast), and to-die-for desserts. I could talk about all of that for days.

But the main event was the sail boat ride. It’s not ADA accessible, but it is easy enough for kiddos to get down onto the dock. The boat is not big enough for a dog (the couple across from us had a dog and it was very annoying. Can you tell I’m not a dog person?).

My dad and I sat on a bench near the stern of the boat, right next to the captain. Our captain was fantastic. He maneuvered us through the heavy fog, past the Curtis Island Light House and these adorable (albeit very large) coastal homes. One of the houses has a dining room table that seats 100 people. I don’t even have 100 friends. I would literally need 75 teddy bears and dolls to sit around the table like a giant tea party just to fill all the chairs. Clearly, a few houses were incredibly ostentatious, but others were simple, classic homes.

The captain had extensive knowledge of the area, it’s history and fun facts. He talked about the Penobscot Bay and told stories that everyone enjoyed. We saw lighthouses and some wild life, and he kindly answered the 1-50 questions my dad asked him (and was impressed with my dad’s sailing/boat knowledge). Since we sat near the stern, we didn’t have to duck or move when we were tacking (it was a light sailing day – the wind was almost nonexistent so the captain used the 125 diesel for most of our ride).

The first mate was 12 or 20, I’m a terrible judge of men’s ages. And he was Zac Efron’s doppelgänger circa High School Musical 2. I was just waiting for him to break into “What Time Is It?” He didn’t. That was disappointing.
We ate dinner at Sea Dog Brewing Company. We braved the cool temps and sat on the patio overlooking the parking lot and docks. A wedding took place on the Schooner Surprise so we saw the bridal party before and after the “I do’s”. Perfect views as I ate fried clams! Yum-o!

Had the weather been sunny and clear, I would have loved another hike, and have read that Mount Battie has great views! There’s a road side stop on Route 1 called Mount Battie Take Out. It’s on my list for my next trip. The drive from Bangor to Camden is windy and backroad-ish. We had “daylight” for our drive there and back, otherwise it would have been a dark ride.

So for another true Maine adventure, you must go to Camden!


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