Winter in New England has been described by some as the “quiet time” and by others as a season of hibernation but we don’t relate well to either of these. When the snow adds up we head out to nearby Megunticook Golf Club where the snowshoe trails give us fantastic views of our summer playground on Penobscot Bay. Whether it is 80 degrees on a perfect summer day or 20 degrees in brilliant sunshine after a new snow in January nothing takes your breath away like the view of Vinalhaven and the other nearby islands . The often record-breaking cold of the Maine Coast in the winter months also gives us the chance to appreciate the warmth of our shop as we maintain all of the traditional gear that makes a vintage schooner like Surprise such a magnet for wooden boat lovers and anyone interested in the era that a vessel like Surprise represents. So, it could hardly be called a “quiet time” by anyone who visits us as we listen to Gordon Bok ballads and our lively collection of sea chanties while we sand, oil and varnish every piece of wood in our care. Some of our larger spars like booms and gaffs are in our larger barn in nearby Cushing but since that is a much greater challenge to heat we wait until early spring with a bit stronger sun to help us heat that large post and beam space. Cushing is also surrounded by woods so the temptation to put on the snowshoes and trek to the frozen Beaver Dam Brook is very great and the animals there may be hibernating for a few months but those beavers have been busy building incredible structures in various locations in the Brook. There are also winter days in the single numbers which give us time to plan a season of sharing Surprise with passengers from all over the world. This year, our 30th in Camden, and the 95th Anniversary for Surprise we will be doing a lot to make it a special season. First, we received our bright new working jib from our local sailmaker, Grant Gamble, and we are anxious to bend it on. We are also adding some special sunset sails at the beginning of the season in June when our days are so long we need to savor every minute. Maybe we will add some “surprise” treats to our famous fruit and cookies basket for those evening trips so our passengers can enjoy some spicy Maine cheese with the wine you are always welcome to bring along.
WALKING OUR MAIN STREET VILLAGE
As many of you have already found out, Small Wonder Gallery nearby our table at the Public Landing has exclusive rights to sell prints of a painting of Surprise passing Curtis Island Light (which you can view at the bottom of our Crew Notes page). Just next door to the Gallery is the Chamber of Commerce building, chock full of literature to keep you busy and informed while in town.
One of the consistent comments we hear from visitors is how much they enjoy the small-town village atmosphere of Camden. Frequent visitors to Main Street will be pleasantly surprised at the many exciting changes to our shops both old and new. Camden Falls Gallery and the Maine Gathering moved to 8 Bay View Street where they have lots more space to host exhibits and display fine art. Fortunately, they still have their famous fudge counter. Jo Ellen Designs has done a beautiful job decorating their store with Jo-Ellen and Jessica’s art work. Lavender lovers have been flocking to Glendarragh Lavender Farms, the new shop featuring lots of aromatherapy offerings and other organic treats. As always Bif and Caroline at Starbird Antiques find fabulous examples of true Maine artifacts and antiques from half-models to embroidered pillows and amazing quilts. If all this shopping helps your appetite you have yummy choices from chowder to chili with Cappy’s Chowder House, the Camden Deli and local favorite Boynton McKay Food Company. Of course, the blueberry pancakes at Marriner’s Restaurant start anyone’s day off just “wicked-good”. And, of course, the Smiling Cow is a seasonal spot that is operated by our friends Meg and Paul and has become a favorite for all ages from toddlers to grandparents searching for reasonably priced gifts and mementos. Shoppers along Main Street can’t miss the newly-painted mustard -colored building now occupied by Once A Tree formerly of Bay View Street. This historic building was the Tweed Shop many years ago and was even featured in the movie Peyton Place filmed in Camden in the mid-50′s.
The unique thing about strolling along downtown is there are still hints of those good-old days everywhere you look especially, of course, as you see the mastheads of the windjammer fleet towering above the shops.
Along Mechanic Street is the River District where you will find many shops and restaurants including the Camden Bagel Cafe, the Smokestack Grille and an eclectic mix of businesses in the restored Knox Mill buildings. Russell and Paulette Spera are opening Russell’s of Camden Fine Jewelry directly across form the Bagel Bakery and Cafe. after a brief hiatus from their retail business. We wish them well.
While you are shopping take the time for a stop at the Camden Public Library which is an architectural delight with its natural-light gazebo shining on the downstairs renovation. The adjacent Amphitheater and Library Park have recently been named Nationnal Historic Landmarks. Upstairs at the Library you can enjoy some breathtaking harbor views as well as nautical prints and ship models while you take a break in their delightful reading room.
Many of our terrific inns and bed and breakfasts are within walking distance of all the village attractions. The historic district is just north of town and the Library where strollers can see the gracious Captain’s homes that feature widow’s walks where the wives of sailors watched longingly for their ships to sail in. These homes have been lovingly preserved for all to see. A popular oasis is Abigail’s Inn, where guests enjoy Beth’s scrumptious breakfast while Kipp adds his quick wit as he gives guests lots of historical highlights of their home and the area. Kipp and Beth are both active in local boards. Beth as past president of the Camden Bed & Breakfast Association and Kipp served on the Economic Development Committee. Next door is the lovely Windward House, where the youthful enthusiasm of owners Kristi and Jesse generate five-star reviews from their guests. Jesse ‘s breakfasts always bring rave reviews. Camden Windward House now offers their guests a full complimentary menu that includes several vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Kristi has mastered several vegan cookie recipes. Vegan and non-vegan guests all enjoy the home made afternoon treats. And across the street is the gracious Hawthorn Inn, also just a leisurely walk to the village and the Library . Maryanne and her husband Bill (a classmate of Captain Jack’s at Tufts University) offer elegant Victorian rooms with private deck in the main house as well as a romantic carriage house. After enjoying Maryanne’s sumptuous breakfast, guests can wander through the Celtic rock gardens all just a stone’s throw from town and the harbor. The inn has become very popular as a perfect setting for weddings.
Just up High Street is the Maine Stay Inn. Relaxed, cozy, romantic, and very friendly, the Maine Stay Inn is a grand old home built in 1802 and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places in the High Street Historic District. Each of the guest rooms has individual style and character, all very romantic. Many of them have original wide plank pine flooring. One of the reasons why the guests keep returning is the breakfast, cooked from scratch every morning. The exquisite huge garden, with its trees, paths, flowers and a stream crossing it, invites relaxation. Innkeepers Roberta and Claudio Latanza moved from Italy four years ago and added an Italian touch to the beauty of this house. Check out their web site for a nice biographical introduction.
On the south side of town, Michael Salmon and his wife Mary-Jo, owners of the Hartstone Inn and Hideaway also offer fine dining to the public by reservation. They have been selected by American Historic Inns and iLoveInns.com as one of the ten most romantic inns in the country. The Hartstone was chosen from over 20,000 Inns to receive this accolade! Well done! Superlatives were also invented to describe dinner at the Hartstone. Their second popular cookbook, “In the Kitchen with Michael Salmon” contains spectacular photography guaranteed to inspire you to create his award-winning cuisine. There is also a nice story with photos about Surprise. Michael has been an honored chef at the James Beard House in New York City, where he received rave reviews. Congratulations, Michael!
As you travel south along Elm Street you see the Blue Harbor House which is one of the oldest buildings in town operating as an inn. The Inn’s elegant yet casual atmosphere is a relaxing retreat for all. Expect pampering while staying with them! A full gourmet breakfast is served each morning. You will enjoy the Scottish accents of your hosts, Annette and Terry as much as their hospitality. Another historic lodging just across the street is the Capt.Swift Inn (named for the founder of the windjammer industry) which recently added luxurious and spacious suites to accommodate larger families. This winter they have enlarged their kitchen to better serve their guests. They have also done extensive room remodeling and landscaping. Linda and Norm send almost every guest down to the Harbor for a two hour sail on Surprise. Nearby are the Inns at Blackberry Commons, where guests can choose a guestroom in either the restored 1806 Colonial or 1849 Victorian buildings that are surrounded by almost 2 acres of gardens. Chef Jim’s delectable breakfasts, prepared with herbs, vegetables and berries from the inns gardens, lure guests back for gourmet dinners. Cooking classes and culinary events earned the inns recognition in “Gourmet Getaways – 50 Top Places to Cook and Learn”. When not in the kitchen with guests, Jim is an avid cyclist. The inns host bicycle tours and outdoor adventure enthusiasts, with a sail on Surprise as a Maine “must do”. Just north of the Captain Swift Inn is the Towne Motel where owners Rick and Jane Ellis offer the economy of a motel with the feel of a B&B in their circa 1850 Breakfast Parlor. These cheerful and comfortable lodging rooms are a short 5 minute stroll up Elm Street from the Surprise and town docks.
Just to the east of Elm Street are two delightful B&B’s just off the beaten path. The Camden Hideaway is located on Pleasant St. just behind the yellow Montessori School. It is owned by Michael and Mary Jo of the Hartstone Inn and has been beautifully renovated by them. The new spa center where guests can enjoy a relaxing massage became an instant success. Around the corner on Belmont Ave. is the Belmont Inn, Owner Anita Zeno has spent the winter sprucing up all the guest rooms and common areas. Her gardens are beautiful and guests enjoy relaxing in the rockers on the porch.
While you are walking about town don’t forget to take a stroll up Bay View Street enjoying the restaurants, shops and views culminating in the newly-restored Camden Harbour Inn majestically situated at the crest of the hill overlooking town and harbor. Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest who hail from the Netherlands added a delightful European theme to their grand ocean view rooms as well as their popular restaurant, Natalie’s which serves a creative and delicious menu year round. On the same street our webmaster Jim Dugan and his sidekick Tim Seymour have their office. Many of the local businesses rely on these guys for graphic design and web site design.
When you travel north on the edge of town you will see the driveway to the Norumbega Inn known by most locals as “the Castle”. The exciting news is that the Norumbega has recently been purchased by an enthusiastic couple, Sue Walser and Phil Crispo who are giving this impressive structure a whole new life. Besides water-view elegant rooms and terraced grounds to roam they will be offering guests dinner each night. The couple met at the Culinary Institute of America in New York so guests are in for some real delights. Across the street is a special place for returning guests since the owners of A Little Dream have been welcoming guests for over 25 years. Bill and Joanna give “attention to detail” new meaning, from their breakfast to their room decor. This lodging features everything from warm hospitality to ocean-view rooms that are so perfectly appointed guests must force themselves to go outside. Just beyond Little Dream, on the nearby hillside is Timbercliffe Cottage where owners, Karen and Dave Kallstrand continue to create lots of enthusiasm as guests discover this little gem, which has some spectacular ocean views. Karen’s decorative touches bring out the history of this lovely house.
A short drive north along Route One gives you the opportunity to turn down some winding paths leading to the shore where you can enjoy the hospitality and view at the Inn at Sunrise Point, a AAA Four Diamond resort also known for its hearty breakfasts by the Bay. Owner Daina Hill, who is very active in civic affairs, is looking forward to greeting returning guests, who often choose the same waterfront cottage year after year. Daina has done a marvelous job expanding the inn but keeping it feeling like a place you’ve been before. Her guests tell us that the Inn is so special “once you are there you never want to leave”. Nearby is the Victorian by the Sea where owners Jean and Rob Short serve wonderful breakfasts while guests enjoy the spectacular view of Penobscot Bay and Islands. Greg Ciraldo has shifted gears and now devotes his efforts to Abbington’s Seaview Motel and Cottages. Further north on Route 1, The Inn at Oceans Edge has completed a pool for their guests .The spacious grounds and commanding ocean view give guests a real resort feeling in an inviting atmosphere. A bit further north brings you to Lincolnville Beach, where you will find the Spouter Inn which has dramatic ocean views from every room. Your hosts Paul and Cathryn Lippman completely restored the historic farmhouse and guests marvel at Paul’s carpentry skills evident in every room. Guests enjoy watching the activity at the Isleboro Ferry Landing just across the road. Islanders are a delightful mix of centuries-old families and newcomers from movie stars to adventure seekers who have recently discovered a quiet oasis less than a half-hour away by ferry.
We always encourage our guests to sample some of the nearby countryside out along Rt. 52. On the right you will find the cozy Swan House B&B. Here you will enjoy the hospitality of Ken and Lynn Kohl, who are excited about re-opening this season after a respite for the 3 R’s…Rest, Renovation and Rejuvenation. As you sit in the sunny breakfast room adjacent to the State Park you can plan a short hike from the inn’s back door to the trail up Mt. Battie. As you continue west along Rte 52, you will encounter the beauiful vista of the cliffs on Mount Megunticook and the spectacular view of the Lake Megunticook. A short distance further will bring you to the Youngtown Inn, owned and opertated by Mary Ann and Manuel Mercier. In addition to their elegant guest rooms they offer excellent dining featuring Manuel’s French cuisine. A mile from the inn on Youngtown Road brings you to the Celladoor Winery which offers informative tours, wine tastings and seasonal special events. They have recently expanded with a wonderful post and beam building that offers large groups the chance to sample gourmet lunch and cooking classes while enjoying fine wine .They also have a venue called The Villa which is located at the intersection of Rt. 1 and Rt. 90 in Rockport, where you can also sample their wines and purchase wines and gifts.
Back at the harbor, as the sun gets lower, the locals gather on the benches at the Camden Public Landing to swap some stories and critique the day’s events. Adjacent to the Public Landing is Bayview Landing, with the Grand Harbor Inn offering dramatic views of the Harbor activities in luxurious accommodations. The recent opening of Graffam’s Harborside Restaurant has delighted both tourists and locals who can enjoy fresh seafood year round at this popular spot.
When the warm summer weather arrives the waterfront eateries like Waterfront Restaurant and Atlantica bustle with activity as diners enjoy watching yachts from all over the world arrive in Camden Harbor.. There are new owners at Peter Ott’s Steak and Seafood, two of whom were students in Capt. Jack’s science class. They are adding youthful enthusiasm to their new menu. We wish former owners, Keith and Carolyn May, “fair winds” as they enjoy their cruising retirement.
The larger inns like the Camden Riverhouse and the Lord Camden Inn have spent the past few years carrying out expansions and renovations. Dave Dickey at the Riverhouse has added an extended stay facility right on Mechanic Street. The Lord Camden Inn has completely renovated all their space and now offers luxurious accommodations in the center of town, as well as breakfast in their beautifully restored dining room. We have toured the inn and it is beautifully done. Several of our bed and breakfasts and inns have again decided to offer lodging packages which include a sail on Surprise as part of their options. These include the Capt. Swift Inn,Abigail’s Inn, Blue Harbor House, Camden Harbour Inn, Hartstone Inn, Hawthorn Inn,Windward House , the Inns at Blackberry Common, Victorian by the Sea , Inn at Sunrise Point , Grand Harbor Inn and the Lord Camden Inn. Check with them for details, and also check out the Camden Bed & Breakfast Association website.
We will start our 31st sailing season this year on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 10:30 am. and will continue until October 15. Whether this will be your first sail with us or your thirtieth, we will try our best to make your sailing adventure a memorable experience.
We leave you with a quote from one of Maine’s most famous authors who often deals with the strange and macabre except when he is talking about his home state. In a commencement address at the University of Maine he said to the graduates….
“Stay in Maine…If you leave Maine, you’ll miss it. It slips into your mind. It becomes part of your dreams and inhabits your heart.”
We hope you find out for yourself just what Stephen King meant.
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