American Eagle is approaching her centennial birthday. She is one of the oldest vessels and longest-working schooners in the Maine Windjammer Association fleet. Steeped in maritime history, the 125-foot gaff-rigged schooner takes guests for three- to nine-day cruises. She takes them sailing along the pristine Maine coast from May through October every year.
Originally named Andrew & Rosalie in 1930, American Eagle is the last fishing schooner ever built in Gloucester, Massachusetts. After spending more than a decade fishing, she was converted to a trawler and given her new name. She continued to be a working vessel for more than four decades, hauling and carrying seafood around New England.
National Historic Landmark
In 1983, she finished her last fishing trip before heading to Rockland, Maine, for a new life. American Eagle was completely rebuilt over two years. She was restored to her original schooner form, and relaunched as a windjammer in 1986. Then she began carrying passengers on sailing cruises around Maine’s thousands of islands and miles of coastline. Five years later, she was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
In 2022, a new captain took over the helm of American Eagle. Captain Tyler King purchased the windjammer from her longtime owner and captain, John Foss. He had been responsible for her major refit in the mid-1980s. Tyler had already spent years aboard the schooner as a mate. So stepping into his new position at the helm was natural for him. Captain King grew up in a small wooden boat yard in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Now he continues his lifelong love of sailing and windjamming as the steward of American Eagle.
Since both Captain Tyler and American Eagle are originally from Gloucester, they now make an annual trip “home” every September. There they race in the region’s schooner regatta. A repeat winner of her class’s Esperanto Cup, American Eagle is a fan favourite.
The round-trip journey to Gloucester is just one of American Eagle’s specialty sails on her cruising calendar. She also makes a nine-day trip to Downeast Maine. That includes a visit to Lubec, the eastern-most town in the United States. She also visits the beautiful sandy beach of Roque Island.
American Eagle’s unique cruising schedule also includes several nods to the arts. Plein air painting classes and music festivals are among the popular trips around Maine’s Penobscot Bay. Guests are also invited to view meteor showers, or take part in fleet events. They can go hiking on the many islands off the coast. Inevitably there also are a few history lessons during every trip aboard the historic schooner.
Photo credits: Peter Atkinson, Meg Maiden, Mikael Carstanjen, Fred Blanc and John Shipman