Anyone who loves the outdoors knows that the fun really begins when the sun goes down—that’s when storytelling, spontaneous sing-a-longs and s’mores make a welcome appearance. It’s also when amateur astronomers can pick out the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt and the North Star with maybe a planet or two thrown in for good measure.
Far from the glow of city lights, Maine’s windjammer guests are treated to dark skies every month during the new moon, the best time for stargazing. Some guests make a point of booking their cruises during the Perseids, a meteor shower that can shed 50 to 150 meteors—aka shooting stars—per hour. There are so many to see that passengers often tuck themselves under a blanket on deck to try and count them all.
Once in a blue moon, Penobscot Bay’s night sky comes alive with colorful, undulating Northern Lights caused by geomagnetic storms in the outer sections of Earth’s atmosphere. Under just the right conditions, the Aurora Borealis can happen anytime in Maine throughout the year.
On the flip side, sailing during a full moon couldn’t be more romantic. Imagine a quiet row around a sheltered harbor with the moonlight glistening on the bay and bioluminescence twinkling in the ripples. To take advantage of the bright light of the moon, some of the windjammer captains offer full-moon sailing cruises.
The Maine Windjammer Association’s nine ships offer 3- to 6-day adventures along Maine’s rugged coast. And while the days are packed with gorgeous sailing and delicious, homemade food, something special happens when night falls that makes a windjammer cruise truly memorable: the same splendid sky that enchanted the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians appears in unforgettable relief to the delight of every city slicker.
Whether it’s a full moon or a new moon, windjamming affords passengers the opportunity to reconnect and relax deeply under the shelter of the night sky. For more information about astro-tourism and the Maine Windjammer Association, visit www.sailmainecoast.com or call 800-807-WIND or 207-374-2993.
Special 2017 Sailing Dates for Stargazers
June 9: Full Strawberry Moon
June 21: Summer Solstice (16+ hours of daylight)
July 9: Full Buck Moon
July 28-29: Delta Aquarids Meteor Showers (peak)
Aug. 6-10: Night Sailing aboard Isaac H. Evans
Aug. 7: Full Sturgeon Moon
Aug. 12-13: Perseids Meteor Showers (peak)
Sept. 6: Full Harvest Moon
Oct.5: Full Harvest Moon
Oct. 7: Draconids Meteor Shower (peak)