Marketing Successes and Challenges for Historic Maine Windjammer

By Nancy Marshall

Monday Maine Maven

Happy Monday! Today’s Maine Maven is Captain Barry King, co-captain of the beautiful schooner Mary Day in Camden with his wife Captain Jennifer Martin.

Barry and Jen are both Coast Guard licensed masters and have extensive sailing and educational backgrounds. Barry has voyaged to Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and along the Canadian maritimes to Newfoundland. Jen’s sailing career took her to Florida and the Bahamas before becoming captain of Figaro IV, a classic ocean racing yacht, here on the Maine coast.

Barry is a Registered Maine Guide, and a Nationally Registered Wilderness EMT. He also sails as an officer aboard the 1877 barque Elissa. Jen is a nationally certified Wilderness First Responder.

Jen and Barry met as students with the Audubon Society’s Expedition Institute while earning master degrees in experiential environmental education. This program gave them in-depth experience in a diversity of human and natural communities ranging from a sub-artic fishing village in Labrador to the native American desert southwest.

Captains Barry and Jen with their children Sawyer and Courtney aboard the schooner Mary Day

Barry and Jen were married aboard Mary Day and live year round in Maine with their children Sawyer and Courtney.

Combining their enthusiasm for people, wilderness, and beautiful traditional sailing vessels, Barry, Jen, Sawyer and Courtney will be happy to welcome you aboard.

1.) Barry, what differentiates Mary Day from other schooners in Maine?

Celebrating her 50th anniversary this year Mary Day was the first schooner built for the windjammer trade. She was built by people, for people and and has never done anything else.

With graduate degrees in education, our passion is to see our guests get involved to whatever extent they feel comfortable.

The cabins were built with passenger comfort in mind and feature skylights, 9′ of head room and a unique wood-fired heating system that keeps the accommodations warm and dry on those occasionally chilly evenings late in the sailing season. The main cabin features a fireplace and a 19th century parlor organ.

On deck Mary Day has large uncluttered decks with plenty of places to relax and cabin houses for laying in the sun with a good book. Unique to Mary Day is the big rocking chair back by the wheel which has become her symbol of the relaxation and comfort that we hope all guests find while they are aboard.

2.) What have you found is the largest obstacle to marketing schooner vacation trips and how do you address it?

The schooner Mary Day. Photo credit to Shannon Gallagher.

Unfortunately we are one of Maine’s best kept secrets.

In this day and age, an all -inclusive overnight adventure vacation like this is competing against the media hype surrounding large cruise ships, theme parks and well known shopping experiences with advertising budgets that we can only dream of.

Word of mouth advertising is our largest source of new guests and our highest compliment from the many returning guests we see every year.

New guests often wonder why they hadn’t heard of us sooner when they realize that there is this incredibly personal vacation aboard a historic schooner with the breathtaking scenery of the Maine coast only a short drive from several major population centers.

Like a good camping trip, we get people away from their cars and cares ashore back to a simpler way of life well off the beaten path but with some nice creature comforts, great home cooked meals and no leaky tent!

3.) What marketing tools do you utilize to spread the word about Mary Day? Does social media play a role in your work?

Frankly, we are living these dual lives with feet in two different centuries a hundred years apart.

Advertising through social media seems foreign to us when you consider that we spend a fair amount of our year on a 19th century sailing vessel. We are coming to realize that in order to compete with all of the other vacation opportunities out there that we have to let people know we exist through whatever outlets have our guests’ attention.

I started a blog back in 2007, the first year of which is still online, that gives a wonderful view into the lives of our family, our business, and the kind of experience we provide. At the time I didn’t know how to turn that into an advertising mechanism. It was mostly a chance to stay in touch with the guests we already had.

By opening ourselves up to today’s opportunities we can share our lives with our guests and they can share it with their friends who can pass it along to others.

We still don’t know how to make the most of the internet but that is why we work with Nancy Marshall and her talented staff. We have tried pay-per-click advertising and paying for links. Those certainly seem to have some rewards.

It seems odd that we, in a business that is all about sharing with people, haven’t embraced social media opportunities sooner that seem to need more creative attention than big wads of cash. You can find us on Facebook.

Unfortunately, we are just Mom and Pop raising two beautiful children and taking care of a historic schooner. Maintaining a balance is akin to the spinning plates in the Chinese circus. We run to the plate that seems to be wobbling the most and give it a whir before we run to the next one. We have found a whole new meaning for the word “breathtaking.”

Thanks so much to Nancy Marshall and her talented staff.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.