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August 31, 2018

Seasoned seafarer buys the classic windjammer Victory Chimes

Courtesy / Sam Sikkema New owner Sam Sikkema, seen here aboard Victory Chimes, is finalizing the schooner's sale this week.

The 118-year-old schooner Victory Chimes, one of the larger passenger vessels in the Rockland windjammer fleet, has been sold to a seasoned seafarer who will continue to run the boat out of Rockland.

The Maine Windjammer Association announced Aug. 29 that Captain Sam Sikkema purchased the boat from captains Kip Files and Paul DeGaeta.

Reached by phone in Nova Scotia, Sikkema told Mainebiz he was born and raised in Michigan, lives now in Nova Scotia, but plans to relocate to Rockland.

“I started sailing the coast of Maine on the Victory Chimes with Kip about four years ago,” he said. “I fell in love with the area and I fell in love with the vessel.”

The boat does multi-day trips of three to six days along the coast, carrying 40 passengers plus nine crew, Sikkema explained. The season starts in early June and wraps up by Oct. 1, and Sikkema plans to keep that schedule.

DeGaeta, interviewed via email while in Florida, wrote that he and Files originally listed the boat for $1.5 million and at an unspecified time dropped the price to half that. All parties declined to cite the ultimate purchase price, but Sikkema said mortgage financing is provided through Camden National Bank.

The sellers did not see much potential buyer interest, DeGaeta wrote.

“Victory Chimes wasn’t a typical Maine Windjammer Association schooner,” DeGaeta wrote. “She is massive and because of her size, she intimidated potential buyers and even museums. Also because of her tonnage, she required a much more advanced USCG [U.S. Coast Guard] license. The interest we saw ranged from museums to people wanting to convert her into a restaurant. There were a few people who were proverbial tire kickers, but we knew they weren’t serious.”

Victory Chimes is the largest original passenger- carrying sailing vessel under the American flag, he wrote.

Original structure

Courtesy / Fred LeBlanc
Victory Chimes, seen here under sail, was sold to a long-time captain who will continue to sail out of Rockland.

Sikkema and Files have been working together for most of the summer “so he can transfer as much knowledge to me as he can,” Sikkema said.

The plan is for Files to remain on-hand to help with vessel operations for the remainder of the season.

Victory Chimes is Sikkema’s first entry into the ownership and operation of a passenger vessel. However, he has plenty of experience in the business.

“I’ve been working on sailing trips for 15 years,” said Sikkema, who is 31. “I’ve sailed around the world in training ships and big square-riggers. I’ve spent a lot of time working in museums in rigging, carpentry and marine preservation work. All of those things things, combined, make Victory Chimes a good fit.”

Sikkema, crediting Files and DeGaeta, said Victory Chimes is in excellent shape.

“There’s an amazing amount of the original structure intact,” he noted, adding that one of the reasons he bought the vessel was his desire to see maritime history preserved.

“I feel it’s important we preserve these vessels in a way that they’re not just sitting at a dock,” he said.

According to a Maine Windjammer Association’s news release, Victory Chimes was built in 1900 in Delaware. It sailed as a coastal merchant vessel, served in World War II in the Chesapeake Bay, then was used as a recreational cruiser, sailing out of Annapolis, Md. It arrived in Rockland in 1954 and was sailed there as a passenger vessel from 1957 to 1985. Two Minnesota men purchased it for sailing on the Great Lakes. That endeavor failed, and the schooner fell on hard times.

Domino's Pizza boat

Courtesy / Fred LeBlanc
Victory Chimes' previous co-owner, Paul DeGaeta, at the helm.

In 1987, Tom Monaghan, then owner of Domino’s Pizza, purchased the vessel, had it extensively restored at Sample’s Shipyard in Boothbay Harbor, named it Domino Effect and ran it as a corporate yacht. At the time, DeGaeta, a Florida native, was fleet captain for Monaghan. DeGaeta hired Files, who grew up in Bangor, to captain Domino Effect.

In 1990, when Monaghan contemplated selling the boat to foreign interests, DeGaeta and Files stepped up to purchase it, named it Victory Chimes and return it to the passenger trade. In 1997, the National Parks Service named it an American National History Landmark. In 2003, it was selected to appear on that year’s Maine State Quarter. According to the Victory Chimes website, the boat is the oldest U.S.-built three-master still sailing.

Files met Sikkema in 2014, when Files was selected to sail as master on the final voyage of the historic U.S. whaling vessel Charles W. Morgan; Sikkema was the mate. Sikkema subsequently filled in on Victory Chimes.

Files was running Victory Chimes this week but spoke with Mainebiz through spotty cell phone coverage. He said that, after 28 years with the boat, it was time to slow down.

Files said that, after this season, he’ll be available to Sikkema on an advisory basis.

“I want to make sure he’s successful,” he said.

Although Victory Chimes enjoyed extensive rehabilitation in 1990, keeping an old wooden vessel in service requires an ongoing program of maintenance and repair, Files said.

“It never stops,” he said. At the time that Victory Chimes was built, he noted, boats of its type were not built to last forever.

“These vessels were built to last maybe 10 years and then you build another one,” he said. “It was cheaper to build new than to rebuild an old one. Labor was the cheapest thing you had at the turn of the century.”

So, what made it possible for Victory Chimes to endure 118 years?

“She was built with great wood, to begin with,” Files said. “And she always found an owner who would take care of her.”

In the release, DeGaeta noted that no American square-rigger or clipper ship has come close to Victory Chimes’ longevity.

In a tribute posted on the Victory Chimes Facebook page, he noted that, counting himself and Files, there have been fewer than a dozen captains in its 118 years. The extensive tribute noted his enjoyment of the vessel: “Mother Nature raging, sea life galore and the dream-scape anchorages of Penobscot Bay — the adrenalin rush of operating in dense fog and squalls, and how it makes one feel so alive.”

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