Great-sounding trip for teens – Chewonki’s Solar Sail

Chewonki Solar Sail boatThe other evening, the editorial staff here at Chine bLog got flipping through one of the kids’ copies of Ranger Rick magazine, the venerable publication from the National Wildlife Federation. Usually the magazine is a source for pre-teen wildlife education, but this one issue actually contained Chine bLog fodder: a picture of a gorgeous, traditional open boat with a gaff-headed ketch rig. The article discussed a program called Solar Sail, a Maine coastal adventure for teenagers. We had to dive in to this story.

The boat is part of the fleet owned by Chewonki, a one-time summer camp in Wiscasset, ME that has grown into a broader environmental education organization. We know of it first because we spent a week there in fifth grade and secondly because it is just up-river from a former Chine bLog family property. The area is all kinds of mid-Maine gorgeous and the organization well-regarded.

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The Solar Sail trip is for girls and boys ages 13-16. It begins with land-based education on sustainability, but then takes to the water in one of these lovely boats for a multi-day camp-cruise from Montsweag Bay to Mount Desert. Obviously the trip is fully “naturally” powered – sail and oar to move the boat and solar for the safety electronics.

We couldn’t find much about the boat itself beyond the pictures. It looks to be about 30’LOA, double-ended, and fully open. She appears to be wooden and has attractive, rough-hewn spars. The rigging looks traditional and relatively simple. I love the plumb stem and raked stern post. Can we convince the kids to join up in a couple years?!

6 Comments for “Great-sounding trip for teens – Chewonki’s Solar Sail”

Ben Harris


Hey Tim, the boat pictured is a 26′ Mackinaw boat whose lines were taken from Chapelle’s American Small Sailing Craft. It was built at Chewonki in the 70s, along with a 25′ Crotch Island Pinky and two Albemarle Sound boats, also from Chapelle. They are great boats. Sturdy and very able and great teaching platforms.

I lead trips for a bunch of great summers in these boats. At the time, Chewonki ran 3- and 5-week co-ed trips for kids on them. We covered the coast between Wiscasset and Jonesport, sailing when there was wind and rowing when there wasn’t. Chewonki has permission to camp on a lot of private islands, which was great because the sleeping options were a bit limited.

I’m not sure what boat(s) Chewonki uses for the Solar trip nowadays, but I would send my own kids on it in a minute , if they were old enough.


A+ comment, Ben! Many thanks. I hadn’t realized you’d led Chewonki trips – that must have been very cool. Of course your sailing training WAS impeccable. 😉

I hadn’t connected this boat with the Mackinaw, though that makes sense. I feel like the other one I have seen, at WoodenBoat, is lapstrake and has a much higher-aspect ration gaff rig, though that may be just bad memory. Made me ask for Chapelle’s book for x-mas. No excuse for not having it already.


Wow, if I had know there would be a grade, I would have studied more. You’re right of course, sailing at CYC *was* good preparation for the long trips. I’ll ping Lee Huston, the longtime Chewonki boatbuilder, on Facebook to see if he can answer your questions about the Mackinaw boat.

The gem of the fleet, in my opinion, was always the Crotch Island Pinky. Much finer ended than the more familiar Eastport Pinkys, she was rigged as a dipping lug cat-ketch when I worked there, though I think she has been re-rigged with gaff main and mizzen. She was much nimbler to weather, dry,and easy to handle. Plus, dipping that lug main could easily keep a crew of five teenagers busy when it was windy. Here she is with a reef in:

Thanks for the blog, Tim. It’s a fun read.



Hi, Tim! Thanks for the mention. While writing the story I kept wishing I could go on such a trip. Though I’d surely end up tangled in the ropes or something. Those kids are so lucky!

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