The Lewis R. French (P.O. Box 992, Camden, ME 04843/ Tel: 1-800-469-4635) offers three-, four-, and six-day cruises from Memorial Day through the beginning of October. The schooner can accommodate twenty-two guests in single or double cabins that are cozy but comfortable; there are two heads and one hot shower. Every cruise includes a lobster cookout on a secluded beach. The Maine Windjammer Association (P.O. Box 1144, Blue Hill, ME 04614/Tel: 1-800-807-WIND) represents the French and nine other schooners and can send information on all of them if you want to shop around.
Limousine and bus service can be arranged from the Portland airport, but if you drive you shouldn’t miss the chance to take a day or two to look at the coast from the land side. If you do, start with Portland’s lovingly refurbished waterfront; many of its warehouses and industrial docks have been turned into very attractive seafood houses and shops. Just up the road from Portland, you can do any last-minute outfitting in Freeport, which has grown around L. L. Bean into a bustling downtown of fashionable outlet malls. At Brunswick take a detour south on Route 24 over a chain of islands and you’ll reach at the end the unspoiled fishing village of Bailey Island, arrived at by the world’s only stone crib bridge, a marvel built in 1928 of huge granite slabs laid with wide spaces between them for the tide to flow through. Eat dinner at Cook’s Lobster House (207-833-2818), on its own neck of land overlooking the bridge, and then, for a truly unusual step into the past, spend the night at Bailey Island’s very old-fashioned Driftwood Inn (207-833-5461), a weathered-shingle-and-raw-pine hotel on a bluff above the crashing waves whose present owner has been running it since 1935 and has hardly changed a thing except to add a few cabins back under the trees.
Driving up Route 1 toward Camden, you might stop in Bath at the Maine Maritime Museum (207-443-1316), where you can watch apprentices work at building a wooden boat much like the French . Pause just before Wiscasset for an excellent bowl of chowder at the Sea Basket (207-882-6581); in Wiscasset itself you’ll find interesting antiques stores along a main street whose eighteenth-century Federal architecture recalls a time when the village was a lumber and salt port that is said to have rivaled Boston. In Thomaston you’ll pass not only a state prison but a state-prison store, full of handicrafts like model ships made by inmates. Arriving in Camden in time to put your bags on the boat and have dinner in town before settling in for your first night aboard, you can do no better than to eat your last landside meal at Cappy’s (207-236-2254), right downtown. Have the fish stew, a delicious dish made with Portuguese sausages, scallops, shrimp, whitefish, and tomatoes, a real bargain at $5.95.
For full information on the whole Maine coast, call the Maine Publicity Bureau (1-800-533-9595).