ROCKLAND, Maine — It’s been said there’s nothing quite like the moment when the wind first catches the sails of a boat, lifting it up and pulling it forward across the waves into a world where everyday cares and concerns are left behind on the receding shore. It’s a crack in time that Annie Mahle and Jon Finger have been lucky enough to experience on countless occasions in their lives.
Just over twenty years ago, Mahle and Finger—who are married—bought the J & E Riggin, a two-masted schooner built in 1927 as an oyster dredger and later turned into a member of Maine’s windjammer fleet. Each year when May arrived, Mahle and Finger and their two daughters would head out to cruise the Maine coast with boatloads of paying passengers, taking trips that lasted from a few days to a week, introducing people to the magic of sailing down east.
“In all the places I’ve sailed around the world,” says Finger, “this is still one of the best cruising grounds you can find anywhere. It truly is a special place.”
The plan was to sail the Riggin for about twenty years and then start a new chapter in their lives. The summer of 2020 was to be their last season on the water—but 2020 took the plan and tossed it overboard. Because of the pandemic, the Riggin never left the dock. “It was agonizing,” Mahle admits.
In October, they’ll transfer the ship to its new owner, a one-time mate who started sailing on the Riggin when he was nine. Mahle and Riggin never got to say goodbye to the dozens of repeat customers who booked trips for this summer, never got to savor one last sunset. Annie, for one, gets a bit misty-eyed when thinking about what they’ll miss most of all. “The people,” they say. “The people and the bay.”