Foodies rejoice on a Maine Windjammer cruise with J. & E. Riggin

by Dec 7, 2023Maine, Recipes

Maine Windjammer J&E Riggin Meal Spread

An historic schooner, secret coves, a lobster bake and sweeping ocean views make a Maine windjammer cruise special. Oh, but the food! Thrill your tastebuds on the J. & E. Riggin, with its focus on local, homemade fare – and get an exclusive J. & E. Riggin recipe.

For four days on the J. & E. Riggin Maine Windjammer, I watched Captain Jocelyn Schmidt churn out three creative, from-scratch meals a day – from homemade tortillas and hand-rolled dumplings to made-from-scratch clam chowder and hand-leavened and boiled bagels. All this in a tiny galley on an historic windjammer schooner, using an antique wood-fired stove as the ship plied Maine’s coastal waters.

It became part of the daily adventure to maneuver the narrow stairs into the hot galley below deck to find out what Schmidt was up to for the day. As a hobby cook, I was mesmerized by what she did in such a tiny space with vintage equipment.

Maine Windjammer Jocelyn In Galley

Captain and Chef Jocelyn Schmidt works up in a sweat rolling out fresh tortillas in the tiny galley on the J. & E. Riggin. Note the antique wood-fired stove in the background.

And I got to know well why she and co-captain and husband Justin Schaefer have nicknamed (a bit tongue-in-cheek) their Maine Windjammer sailing adventures a “Foodjammer:” You will not only never go hungry, but you will also find yourself enamored with the mix of traditional cuisine and her creative, regionally sourced, often internationally influenced fare – all crafted with love and passion.

Journey to the galley from the J. & E. Riggin helm

As a co-captain with husband Schaefer, her journey to heading up the galley from sailing the ship came slowly but became a firm part of the J. & E. Riggin windjammer adventure as of 2023. “I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did,” she told me. “I surprised myself, and I also surprised myself how smoothly it ran and how much I enjoyed being ‘down there’.”

By “down there,” she means down those short steps into the galley. Down there, it is always hot with the wood stove stoked from pre-dawn into the evening to churn out pies, biscuits, eggs, soups, desserts, and snacks for a couple dozen hungry mouths. Other Maine Windjammer Association schooners – all based in MidCoast Maine — also have great food, but I think it would be hard to equal Schmidt’s passion, love for, and pride in every dish she creates and serves in the galley of the two-masted National Historic Landmark schooner.

J&E Riggin Joceln Explaining Meal Spread

Captain and Chef Jocelyn Schmidt explains the fresh local oysters, drips and fixin’s for the first night’s appetizers on the J. & E. Riggin Maine Windjammer.

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Longtime sailors and captains, she and Schaefer took over the J. & E. Riggin legacy in 2021 from 24-year owners Annie Mahle and Jon Finger. For their first seasons in 2021 and 2022, the duo had a chef, but it was clear, Schmidt said, they needed a clearer and more consistent galley direction. Although Schmidt liked to cook, running an entire ship’s galley was another matter indeed. Especially since she felt the need to live up to Anne Mahle’s legacy of fine food as a culinary trained chef – something Riggin regulars return for over and over. So, Schmidt started cooking with Mahle a couple of times a month. The goal on the J. & E. Riggin schooner is to maintain the tradition of culinary excellence started under Mahle, but to also allow Schmidt to put her own mark on the menu direction, while emphasizing local and regional products and businesses.

“The food is a huge part of the windjammer experience on the Riggin,” said Schmidt, “and part of that is due to Annie’s legacy.”

Adventurous, homemade, cuisine on the J. & E. Riggin

Schmidt and Schaefer enjoy being adventurous and international with the cuisine, not just traditional. For example, they introduced Middle Eastern Eggs Shakshuka, a Red Thai Curry, and Chinese Dumplings to a menu that still includes some of Mahle’s customer favorites like clam chowder and poached salmon.

Maine Windjammer Joceyln Thai Curry_

Captain and Chef Jocelyn Riggin carrying out the steaming hot Red Thai Curry for a dinner on the J. & E. Riggin windjammer cruise.

With the Riggin’s emphasis on supporting local businesses, farms, and products, Schaefer for example putters off in the skiff the morning of a beach lobster feed. On the nearby island, where the J. & E. Riggin anchors in the cove, he fetches fresh lobsters from a lobster co-op for that night’s bake. Or, right before setting sail the first morning, they scamper off to a local oyster farm to grab fresh oysters for that nights’ first dinner. And the jam-packed chest fridge on the windjammer schooner has bundles of fresh herbs and veggies from a farm near their home anchorage in Rockland, Maine.

J&E Riggin Windjammer Fridge Full_

Captain Justin Schaefer assesses all the fresh herbs, veggies and fruit for a J. & E. Riggin windjammer week.

“We want to put back into the community from a small business to a small business,” Schmidt said. In her first 2023 season cooking fulltime, “I enjoy watching the menu evolve as the produce evolves with the season.”

Of course, making everything from scratch means the J. & E. Riggin galley can very easily accommodate special dietary needs, from keto to gluten-free to vegan. And plans are detailed to eliminate waste – the crew often eats leftovers between sailings, and normally all the garbage after a windjammer sailing adventure is not more than one, 5-gallon compost bucket, she said.

Evolving recipes while maintaining Riggin classics

The first year of the COVID pandemic in 2020 was planned to be a transition year for Schmidt and Schaefer, with the married duo working for the season on the J. & E. Riggin with Mahle and Finger. But the season was canceled (thank you, COVID), and the duo lived at their house in Rockland – and thus cooked a lot more, often from recipes shared by friends. Their newly added dumplings now on J. & E. Riggin dinner menus came from making them with a friend who learned from her mother.

Maine Windjammer J&E RIggin Dumplings Gathering

It’s all hands in the galley for the social affair of making and rolling J. & E. Riggin’s dumplings — including Captain Justin Schaefer.

As is the tradition, filling and making dumplings is a family affair – and that still holds true today on the Riggin. The captains, the crew and interested guests all pitch in, giggling and chatting around the galley dining table, spread with ingredients as they flatten dough into rounds, and fill and pinch dozens of dumplings. On our 2023 windjammer sailing adventure, we found those who weren’t hands-deep in filling, instead tucked in on the deck peering down at the shenanigans.

Maine Windjammer Peeping Into Galley

Although all windjammer guests can help out for making dumplings, some choose to watch the frivolity and fun from the deck looking down.

Once Schmidt and the crew start carrying out food to set the deck for the buffet, everybody starts hovering, wondering what that meal’s goodness will include. When Schmidt comes out to ring the bell for mealtime, she also announces what’s on the menu – including options for special diets.

Maine Windjammer J&E RIggin Meal Bell

Dinner bell! Captain and Chef Jocelyn Schmidt gets ready to explain what’s on the menu after ringing the bell.

When it’s time to eat, guests line up to fill their plates, while Schmidt and the crew hover to help serve, answer questions, or make a dash for any additional needs.

With so much relaxing on a Maine Windjammer sailing adventure, it’s hard not to look forward to a meal with all your new friends. Grab your plate and settle in wherever it suits your fancy on the deck … and enjoy!

Want to make your own J. & E. Riggin windjammer schooner dumplings? Captain and chef Jocelyn Schmidt shared her Chinese dumplings recipe exclusively with us for HI Travel Tales Subscriber Club members. It’s free to join.

Disclosure: Therese Iknoian & Michael Hodgson were fully hosted for this trip by J. & E. Riggin and the Maine Windjammer Association. Any reviews, mentions and opinions here are our own, and are not approved, provided, or otherwise endorsed or influenced by J. & E. Riggin, Maine Windjammer Association, or any of the attractions mentioned.

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