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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.

Huck Fin Meets Indonesian Proa

Good morning everyone. I found this photo while cleaning up some folders in my computer and I just had to laugh. How cool is it that a kid gets to grow up along the Maine coast building boats out of scraps of foam laying on the beach? Answer: VERY! Sawyer actually paddled this thing back out to the schooner anchored a hundreds off the beach. This was during a noon time picnic at Pickering Island and you can see the afternoon storm clouds building in the distance. I remember being antsy about wanting to get off this exposed beach and underway. I had one of the crew follow close by during this epic voyage. Silly, I know, but that is my job. Wearing his Tallship Elissa t-shirt and oblivious to the weather, Sawyer paddled serenely back out to the schooner’s boarding ladder. He wasn’t worried at all. What could possible go wrong?

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

A First Time Guest’s Perspective

Good morning everyone. I do not often get a chance to see our cruises through the eyes of a first time sailor. Chelle Walton and her husband Rob sailed with us. As a travel writer she is no newbie to travel and leisure. She has seen a fair amount of different vacation opportunities. So any words of praise from her feel good. Of course I don’t know what those folks who had a lousy time have to say but let’s start the new year with a positive outlook. Check it out.

Jen, Sawyer, Courtney and I wish you all the best in the year ahead. Of course tomorrow will not
be any different than today really but I like the the idea of starting anew with resolutions firmly in mind. Every new day is really the same. Don’t you think? I don’t know why I wait for December 31st to make my resolutions. So here is my resolution: To treat everyday like December 31st, all year long. Oh yeah, if you don’t mind me saying, I also resolve to go sailing as much as possible next summer. How about you? Anyone else up for a cruise? As my Dad always said,”it ain’t a dress rehearsal here folks.”

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

A Beautiful Sight

During one of our 6 day cruises in July 2010 I was up early one morning and caught a neat reflection of this good looking schooner in Great Cove off Brooklin, Maine. It is one of the loveliest schooners with a graceful sweeping sheer that goes on forever and lovely douglas fir spars that receive a good scraping and slushing every fall. I am a sucker for a beautiful windjammer.

OK, you schooner experts out there. Which windjammer is it?

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Moving Mountains

Good morning everyone. Katie, Jen and I have been wicked busy trying to clean up fall outdoor projects before the snows of winter bury everything in the door yard under several feet of snow. “Twitching” tree length logs from the woods is the easiest way to get firewood to the splitter. One of our woods roads was blocked by the presence of a small building used to house our harbor tug “Chadwick”. Katie was a little taken aback when I suggested we move the building to a more suitable location. “What could possibly go wrong?” Is it me or do all guys in their late 40s say, “Hold my beer. Watch this!” Hanging on to what tiny shreds of youth are still available it is like we pre-geazers are taking one last stab at believing we really are competent in the wrinkled face of our impotence.

Caution thrown to the wind we jacked the building up on to our 16 foot tandem axle flatbed. With this 20’X 12′ building being of economy construction, 2x4s and recycled shrink wrap from the schooner, gross tonnage was hardly the issue. Our old 1941 Ford 9N scarcely missed a beat towing the entire rig up the hill and backing said building into a tight spot between a few other lumber sheds in the back 40. I only nicked one pile of firewood during the journey which is OK by me considering the “house of cards” potential at hand. I think Katie was impressed to have something new to put on her resume. Jen had a crook in her neck from shaking her head at the whole affair. And I, in my dream like state, believe I have staved off the wrath of time for another few minutes. But, isn’t that part of the fun of all this windjammer stuff anyway? The schooner let’s us do this superhuman stuff that folks ashore just read about. Feeling the tension of the wheel in your hand as the schooner scuds along in a stiff breeze gets the heart pounding and makes you feel alive. Now that is a sure cure for anything that ails you.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Our Holiday Topmast

Good morning everyone. Jen, Katie, and I decided we needed a new topmast for the holidays. What was to be a leisurely day became a mad dash when the harbormaster called with the news that the docks at the head of the harbor would be removed at noon time yesterday. Yikes! OK, so the complexion of the day changed dramatically. The holiday season was off in a rush. I am not saying we couldn’t have brought the new topmast to the boat without the docks but it sure did make it a heck of a lot easier.

So with a little chainsaw work the tree was down, limbed to the appropriate dimensions and onto the truck in a half hour. That was the easy part. Decorating an 18′ tall Christmas tree is a little more of a challenge. We decided putting the lights together on the ground would be wisest.

Next step, aloft we go. Katie sent the winter pig stick down and rigged a gantline. Thankfully Bruce stopped by and with a bit of additional Swedish steam from the harbormaster and Capt Wells of the Lewis R French the tree was sent aloft to the cross trees where Katie and I were waiting. Why I didn’t rig the tree like a yard being sent aloft I will never know. No one ever called me smart.

But with patience and perseverance the mission was a success.

Thankfully it was a warm day and the wind was only blowing 15kts from the west. Go outside next time you have a 15 kt breeze and watching the evergreens sway. I am sure the noon time quarterbacks eating lunch at the town landing must have a had a great show. I will be picking fir needles out of my hair for a few more days.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Good morning everyone. Wow. What a difference a day makes. Friday was t-shirt weather and Sunday morning we dressed to make snowmen and shovel the deck. The first big snow event hit the East coast Saturday night into Sunday morning. The wind on the bay was gusting well up into the 30s. The heavy snow brought a pine tree down across our wires blowing the fuse at the end of the driveway. Since it was just us and no one else on the street I knew we were in for a long wait. Thank goodness for the outhouse, the hand pump at the well and 5 gallon buckets that balance well on a sled.

Sawyer and I have been walking the woods looking for something to fill the freezer. Our new game camera allows us to be where we aren’t and see when the deer and other wildlife are passing through. I love being in the woods this time of year, even if I am sitting in a snowbank. The closeness of the trees is no less marvelous than the wide horizons of summer sailing. It is all “chicken soup” in my book. Getting out to ramble around in nature is just the ticket, winter or summer. I have been re-reading Thoreau’s “Maine Woods” while I sit in the dark early morning woods listening to barred owls and coyotes off in the distance. I love this season. I try not get too distracted by the million things I have to do back in the office.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good. And have a wicked happy halloween.

Punch Bowl Ramblings

Good morning everyone. This postcard was sent to me by Oscar Richardson. Oscar and his great Uncle Jack DuBose sailed with me years ago. I thought the world of Jack and he sailed annually for several years running until declining health forced him to “swallow the anchor.” I will never forget Jack, in his thickest southern gentlemanly drawl, asking, “Capt Barry, can y’all have yaw man build me a fiah in the fiahplace?” “Jack it’s 70 degrees and it’s only 8AM!” When Jack was a child his family summered at Sedgewick on the Benjamin River, a beautiful little “hole” off the Eggemoggin Reach with a well marked but none the less tricky winding entrance. I say “hole” because the harbor is literally a hole in the ground running along a fault line that bisects the Eggemmoggin Reach and forms the Benjamin River. In the middle of this small anchorage is what I assume is a glacial pocket 60′ deep, perhaps a kettle hole created when a chunk of ice broke away from retreating glaciers. But that doesn’t have much to do with the picture on the postcard.

Anyhoo, Jack grew up summering with Havilah “Buds” Hawkins, Mary Day, and Jane Hennings at Benjamin River. Jane told me that Jack once took her out sailing and wouldn’t give her one shoe back unless she gave him a kiss. I wonder what Jack did with the shoe? But that still has nothing to do with the postcard. The picture on the postcard is of a 4 masted schooner loading ice at a place we call the Punch Bowl, a little pocket of a harbor along the edge of the Reach just west of the bridge. Ships didn’t actually tie up in the Punch Bowl. Instead, they tied up along side the granite bulkhead still visible today just outside the Punch Bowl. Ask me to point it out next time we are near the Deer Isle bridge. From the other side of the hill came ice harvested from Walker Pond, another glacially influenced depression in the landscape. The ice was elevated up the east side of the hill and gravity did the rest I guess. The three masted schooner pictured here would have carried quite a few ice cubes which was worth a fair penny on a hot and humid day before mechanical refrigeration was invented, especially in southern climates where cutting ice from ponds just wasn’t going to happen. Warm lemonade on the veranda doesn’t sound all that refreshing. Shipping ice was big business once upon a time keeping many schooners busy and huge ice houses could be seen especially along some of the larger rivers like the Kennebec above Bath.

So there you have it. My version of history with all its inaccuracies as related to me through Jack’s experience. I could probably research the truth about ice harvesting at Walker Pond and the ice industry in Maine. There are entire books about the subject. But history through the eyes of folks like Jack is quite interesting as well.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.