Sixteen years ago this summer, Lance Meadows came to Maine to work on a schooner.
A native of the Midwest — “I grew up in the bustling seaport of Des Moines, Iowa,” he said with a laugh — he had trained in travel and tourism and said he was “enamored with New England.”
He served as a crew member on the Rockland-based J. & E. Riggin, working for captains Jon Finger and Annie Mahle. He also, not insignificantly, met the woman who became his wife
Though his career has taken him far afield since then, this summer will be a homecoming of sorts for Meadows as he returns to the waters of Penobscot Bay — this time as a schooner captain himself.
Meadows will be at the helm of the Timberwind, which will be offering day-sailing trips out of Belfast Harbor. Once on board, passengers will be able to see the sights of northern Penobscot Bay — lighthouses at Fort Point and Dice Head, the port of Searsport, the towers of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and the northern tip of Islesboro.
Other trips may take visitors south past Bayside, Northport and Lincolnville, and then back along the Islesboro shore.
It will be the Timberwind’s first season based in Belfast, and Meadows is excited to be sailing the historic vessel.
The Timberwind was built in Portland in 1931. For decades she was known as the Portland Pilot, carrying the pilots who guided large ships into the harbor. During World War II, she was taken over by the Coast Guard and patrolled Casco Bay and tended anti-submarine nets at the mouth of Portland Harbor.
Timberwind came to be in 1971, when a two-year project to turn the Portland Pilot into a passenger schooner was finished.
In 1992, the 96-foot boat was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Its listing paperwork states the boat “retains a surprisingly high degree of historic fabric including [white oak] frames, [yellow leaf pine and oak] planking and [yellow leaf pine] decking.”
Timberwind was based out of Rockport for years until she was purchased by Finger and Mahle in 2014, who invited Meadows to serve as captain. It was not a hard sell.
“She was always my favorite boat out there,” said Meadows, standing on the Timberwind’s deck while it was out of the water at Front Street Shipyard in Belfast this spring.
The only challenge was getting Meadows back to Maine. For the past five years, from March through October, he worked on board ocean-going tugboats in the waters off Alaska, hauling huge barges carrying storage containers stacked six deep.
He was there when Finger and Mahle reached out to him, and cell service being what it is in the Gulf of Alaska he didn’t get their message until he reached Seattle.
Meadows, who now lives in Sedgwick, started the company Maine DaySail upon his return. He is chartering Timberwind for three years, and plans to purchase it at the end of that time.
He looked at different places to sail from, but said Belfast made sense for a number of reasons.
“I had always heard Belfast has really wanted to have a schooner,” he said.
The presence of Front Street Shipyard means any necessary repair or maintenance work can be done just a stone’s throw from where Timberwind docks. This spring, the boat was out for sanding, scraping, painting and caulking.
The biggest project was to make a new bowsprit out of a Douglas fir log. Beyond the hull and deck work, Meadows said there was a larger mission.
“We’re breathing new life into her, and giving her a new mission,” he said. While Timberwind had done overnight sails out of Rockport, it will now do three trips each day, six days a week (weather permitting).
Though the boat was built with engines in it, those were taken out when it became Timberwind and the boat is now entirely sail-powered. It does have a 16-foot yawl boat with a 45-horsepower motor, which can push or tow the boat if needed.
The plan is for Timberwind’s first official sail out of Belfast to be on June 21, the summer solstice. It will mark the 44th anniversary of the boat sailing into Penobscot Bay as Timberwind.
Though Meadows has not been on the water for that long, he has an extensive on-the-water resume. He earned a degree in vessel operations and technology from Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) and holds a Coast Guard license as a 1,600-ton master of motor, auxiliary sail, towing and off-shore supply vessels. While at MMA, he spent a lot of time on board the schooner Bowdoin.
His crew has served on board the Riggin and other schooners in the Maine windjammer fleet, and he said they all take their roles as sailors seriously.
“We hold ourselves to a very high standard,” Meadows said. “We take safety very seriously.”
Meadows said Maine DaySail’s mission is a marriage of the traditional and modern. He wants to keep everything that is traditional about the boat as is, while taking a modern approach to the business end.
Tickets can be purchased online, and there are Facebook pages for both Maine DaySail and the crew. The hope is to have a GoPro camera on board the ship and to post videos from it to a YouTube channel.
Meadows noted there is 3G cell service everywhere the boat will sail, meaning passengers can post photos from their trip while they are sailing.
While the rest of Maine’s windjammer fleet is based in Camden, Rockport and Rockland, Timberwind is uniquely positioned in that travelers can avoid Route 1 south of Belfast, which can get congested during the summer months (particularly in Camden).
“It’s strategic,” Meadows said.
Timberwind features a galley, and Meadows said the crew will be able to make soup and fresh bread. The plan is for passengers to be able to bring their own beverages.
Meadows reiterated that his goal in operating Maine DaySail and Timberwind is to preserve her history while taking new steps to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy her.
“We want to reinvent an awesome boat for a great town and have fun doing it,” he said.
* Starting June 21, Timberwind sails from Thompson’s Wharf in Belfast six days a week (Wednesdays are the off days). Thompson’s Wharf is located just off of Front Street on Belfast’s waterfront.
* Timberwind offers two two-hour day sails and one two-hour sunset cruise each day. Day sails depart at noon and 3 p.m. through Aug. 31, then at noon and 2:30 p.m. through Sept. 15. Sunset cruises depart at 6 p.m. through Aug. 10, then at 5:30 p.m. through Aug. 31. Sunset cruises depart at 5 p.m. from Sept. 1 through Sept. 15.
* Day sails are $45 per person ($35 for kids 13 or younger), while sunset cruises are $55 ($45 for kids). From Sept. 16 through Oct. 11, all cruises are at the day sail rate, and departures are at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
* Tickets can be purchases online at mainedaysail.com. Captain Lance Meadows said he is excited about another option called a Getaway Pass, which is valid for five day sails and costs $199 (a savings of $26). It can be used on different trips, or one person can bring four friends or family on one trip.
“It’s like a ski pass,” Meadows said. “It opens up a ton of options.”