An introduction to Camden’s Schooner Surprise

Meet Captain Jack and Barbara Moore

Two of our favorite Camden sailors, and the hosts of many of our sailing outings for a variety of packages. We know you’ll have a fun out on The Schooner Surprise.

Captain Jack and Barbara Moore

Captain Jack and Barbara Moore

Did you grow up sailing? How did sailing become a passion?

Neither of us grew up sailing. We began sailing on a whim two years after we got married, started out learning the basics and then dove into it with both feet. We were renting little sailboats for $3.50 an hour on the weekends, and definitely didn’t take formal sailing classes like our grandchildren do at the Camden Yacht Club. We learned to sail by going out and doing it, but took navigation, piloting and seamanship courses through local organization like The United States Parlor Squadron, a group of volunteers who teach courses through schools about sailing rules, charts and navigation. We wish everyone with a boat was required to take these kinds of courses. We also took sailing courses with the U.S. Coastguard Auxiliary. Even though we were already sailing, learning the theories, names and parts of the boat helped fill in the gaps as we went. We’re both certified secondary school teachers, and it’s normal for us to first read about it, then go to the black board and learn about it.

Newly married, our children came rather quickly. The whole family enjoyed sailing together. Being on the water with the quiet and the sails…it quickly became a passion and still is for all of us. We have four kids, two boys and two girls, and three of those four make their living today full time in the sailing industry. We started off living in Boston and sailing in Boston Harbor. We started by buying a little 16 foot boat, and eventually graduated to a 30 foot boat we could sleep and eat on, and lived off of for three summers in Boston Harbor. We were leaving the boat in the morning for work and coming back to the boat at night.

I’ve heard a lot of about the boat called the Milky Way- can you tell that story?

In 1978, we took our two week vacation from teaching and went to the Caribbean in the middle of February. We stayed in a guest house up coast of Puerto Rico, found a boat that a man was taking care of and fell in love with it. We spent the whole week checking it out and exploring it, eventually bought it and paid for it by selling our house. We lived on that boat every day for about seven years total. Four years in the Caribbean, sailed home to New England in 1982 and then spent three years sailing and lived on the Boston Harbor- summers in New England and winters in FL. We started our business 30 years ago with that boat. Milky Way was eventually sold to a writer after we purchased the Surprise; he sailed off into the sunset and we’ve never really encountered either of them again.

Why Camden? You’ve clearly explored so much of the world.

Our business of day sailing expanded with the growth of tourism in Camden. We were very fortunate that we discovered Camden Harbour early in the tourism years. There weren’t as many little inns and B&Bs as there are today, and the Camden Harbour Inn is one of the oldest inns in Camden. We were working in Newport, RI at a place that ran boat shows, and the manager of a wooden boat show came onto our boat for dinner and told us we should be in Camden making more than our $5 an hour wage. Next year, we applied for a license and were in Camden by the summer starting up our business. Camden is one of the few places where you can park your car and the boats are right there- plus, when you leave the harbor and put the sails up, you have limitless places to explore and pretty protected water.

Did you participate at all in this year’s Great Schooner Race?

Many years ago, when we first came here with Surprise, the first year of the Great Schooner Race started on Islesboro, a nearby island with a year round population, off the lawn of what would become Kristy Alley’s house. We raced the Surprise two or three times, even successfully won our class twice, but the changing location makes it difficult to participate. The problem is that the location of the race changes every year, so you never know if it will be close to Camden or not. As a day sailing business, it’s more advantageous to stay close to where we operate. If it’s held in Penobscot, like this year, the finish line is so close that locals can practically touch the boats on the landing and it turns into a wonderful public  event. We’ve started sailing passengers alongside the race so they can get close to different sections of the fleet and take pictures. If we were racing, it wouldn’t be as much fun for the passengers because we would want to be in front, far away from the other boats.

Camden Harbor is one of the biggest windjammer ports on the coast of Maine. Surprise is the perfect small windjammer to compliment the bigger, overnight windjammers. It’s pretty exciting to be in the middle of all of that on the Surprise, and while we’re taking pictures of them, they’re taking pictures of us because the Surprise is 95 years old and much older than a lot of the larger boats- the Surprise is actually the only one on the national historical register.

How did you get involved with the Camden Harbour Inn?

Oscar and Raymond were visiting Maine years ago, already falling in love with Camden and the concept of owning a gracious inn. They sailed with us on occasion, and we like to think we contributed to the delightful disease of falling in love with Camden. Now of course the irony is they’re doing such a great job running such a great place as the Camden Harbour Inn that they don’t have much time to sail.

We were working with Camden Harbour Inn from the beginning- we take a lot of their staff as well as their guests on the Surprise, independently as well as through the Summer Sailing package. Of the whole fleet of boats in Camden, we take the fewest people. Oscar and Raymond like the fact that we maintain a more relaxed atmosphere for adults. It’s a very congenial trip- we even pass around a basket of fresh fruit and cookies. People often get off the boat and say they feel like they’ve just visited a friend’s home- that really means we did our job right. After 30 years in this business, we think that besides making a living, our job is to give people such a great experience that they want to return to Camden. This is the entertainment business, the having fun business and that has become our reputation. Folks like Oscar and Raymond aren’t afraid to send people to us because they know we focus on building a lasting relationship between our customers and Camden.

Can you recount one really extraordinary trip you made in Camden? Have you encountered a lot of wildlife on your trips?

We’re fortunate to see an abundance of wildlife. Porpoises are not uncommon, as well as harbor seals lying on the rocks as the tide is going out. We never promote it, but we have occasionally seen a whale, which is always an extraordinary and rare experience. The best experience is on Friday afternoons when the large, overnight windjammers are back from a week of sailing. They’re out on the bay finding a place to spend the night before coming in on Saturday morning. We sail close and get great pictures, and one of the most frequent comments we get from people is they can’t believe the beauty that we live with every day. We are constantly going– sail four times a day. We barely have time to grab a bite to eat between trips. I like to think our enthusiasm is contagious; we genuinely love our boat, which is clear in how well we maintain it, and we appreciate the sailing ability of Surprise in a wide variety of situations. It’s the ultimate compliment when a repeat customer leaves the boat and says they had their best trip yet- that’s what you always strive for. We genuinely enjoy living here year round, and we love sharing beautiful Camden.

If you could recommend one place to visit on shore in Camden, where would it be?

Everyone recommends Mount Battie- that’s logical answer because it gives you a terrific perspective. But another place we send people is the Camden Public Library. It’s a beautiful, historic building that overlooks the harbor. There are amazing views from the upstairs, and downstairs the historical society has a computer tutorial about Camden through the ages with plenty of amazing black and white photos. It truly is the heart of a great year round community.


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