The Schooner Olad, a magnificent vessel sailing out of Camden, Maine, embodies the region’s rich maritime heritage.
With a history spanning nearly a century, the Schooner Olad invites passengers to experience the thrill of a bygone era where wind-powered sailing reigned supreme.
Stepping aboard this classic schooner, visitors are transported to a time when tall ships dominated the seas.
Meticulously restored and lovingly maintained by Captain Aaron Lincoln and crew, the Schooner Olad offers exhilarating excursions in Penobscot Bay.
As the sails unfurl and catch the ocean breeze, passengers are treated to panoramic views, salty air, and the sensation of being part of maritime history.
Following my cycling tour of Acadia National Park, including the Schoodic Peninsula, I had the opportunity to go for a two-hour day sail aboard the Schooner Olad, its first passenger cruise of the 2023 season.
About Schooner Olad
The Schooner Olad’s origin story began back in 1926, the year it was designed by Horace Manley Sr. for Alexander Smith of New York City and Great Island, W. Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
She was built in the winter of 1927 and launched in 1928 from Osterville, MA. The sale price was $21,727, equating to $386,000 today.
The original owner sailed it often between NYC and Massachusetts before selling it during the Great Depression. In the 1940s, Charles H. Mason III bought it and renamed her the Schooner Olad.
After the Masons’ ownership ended, the Schooner Olad sailed south to the Caribbean, where it was available for custom charters. Walter Cronkite is one notable guest during this time.
In the 1960s, she returned to the waters of Massachusettes and, in 1985, was acquired by John Nugent, who brought her to Camden, Maine, where she’s resided ever since.
During the 1990s, she was almost wholly rebuilt, returning the Schooner Olad to her former glory.
In 2000, Captain Aaron Lincoln, a local Mainer, was hired to manage and sail Schooner Olad. Five years later, he bought the ship and has continued to offer sailing cruises ever since.
Captain Aaron has sailed more than 100,000 miles in Penobscot Bay alone, not to mention his time sailing around Cape Cod, the Florida Keys, and the Caribbean.
My experience with Schooner Olad began in Camden Harbor, where I gobbled down a tasty crab roll sandwich from the Camden Deli for lunch so I wouldn’t have to worry about eating it on the boat.
At 12:30 p.m., I and others attending the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s AdventureELEVATE conference in Portland boarded the boat.
Schooner Olad’s capacity is 22 passengers, two deckhands, and the Captain.
My only previous sailing experience was a three-day tour of the Whitsunday Islands in Australia aboard the Apollo, an 80-foot retired racing yacht. The overall length of the Schooner Olad was 57 feet.
Captain Aaron gave us a brief safety chat and introduced his crew (Wilson and Tristan) before we slowly motored out of Camden Harbor and into the bay.
About 15 minutes later, the crew began to raise the first sail with the help of Kevin, who volunteered to assist.
A few minutes later, I volunteered to pull up the smaller sails, which felt more manageable than what I had witnessed with Kevin. Schooner Olad has two masts and four sails in total.
We cruised at a steady clip once the wind caught the sails. I was sitting with my butt firmly planted on the wooden deck.
I used my feet to brace myself as the sailboat leaned heavily toward the starboard. At that moment, I thought, “Don’t fall off the boat, and hold onto your phone!”
Within a few minutes of the sails being raised, we could see a giant bald eagle’s nest in some trees along the Maine coast.
As it was early May, most trees were still without leaves, making it easier for us to spot. It turns out binoculars would’ve come in handy on this trip to Maine.
In addition to bald eagles, seals and porpoises also live in the area, though we didn’t see any of the latter on our cruise.
The weather was terrific, and we had a steady wind. The best sailing breezes occur from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., a fact worth remembering when scheduling your cruise.
You can see the Schooner Olad’s full sailing schedule, including which times are best for wildlife and wind, on their website at MaineSchooners.com.
As I began to get my sea legs, I walked around to the port (left) side of Schooner Olad and asked one of the crew to take my photo.
There are many moving parts on a boat like this, and you’re always in motion with the wind and water, so it’s hard to let your guard down too much.
The safest and most comfortable place to sit on the deck of Schooner Olad is around the helm (steering wheel). I spent about five minutes of the two hours there.
The steering wheel position was interesting to me, as you can’t stand directly behind it. You stand to the right or left, perhaps allowing for a better perspective.
We approached the Curtis Island Lighthouse about 90 minutes into our two-hour sailing trip.
This Maine lighthouse was built in 1836 and, according to Lighthousefriends.com, “used eight oil lamps with fourteen-inch reflectors, which cost $650, to produce a fixed white light.”
In addition to the lighthouse protecting ships along the rocky coast of Maine, the island helps protect Camden Harbor from rough seas.
Once we’d adequately seen the island and its lighthouse, the crew lowered the sails as we motored about 15 to 20 minutes back to the harbor.
Sailing is a quintessential Maine adventure, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to climb aboard the Schooner Olad for a few hours on the waters of Penobscot Bay.
Related: Best Things To Do in Bar Harbor
Plan Your Cruise
The Schooner Olad offers two-hour cruises for $57 per person. Children are $47 (ages one to 11).
It’s also available for half-day and full-day custom sailing charters. These can be used for an office outing, teambuilding experience, family reunion, or even a wedding at sea.
You can see the full sailing season schedule and rates on their website.
The smaller sailing vessel Owl is also available for two or three-hour sailing trips and private sailing charters. It holds a maximum of six passengers.
Food and beverages are not provided; however, you can bring your own, including alcoholic beverages.
I didn’t want to be weighed down by food or worry about trash flying out of my hands once we were sailing, so I ate before boarding.
As for what to wear, a long-sleeve shirt and light jacket are recommended, regardless of the time of year, as it can be cooler on the water once you’re sailing.
Rubber-soled shoes are best for gripping the wood deck. I also highly recommend sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat. Bring binoculars for a better chance of seeing the resident bald eagles.
Schooner Olad and Cutter Owl
29 Main St., Camden, Maine, United States