The Victory Chimes’ last cruise of the season this month could also be their last in Maine.
The 128-foot sailing vessel, immortalized in Maine’s state district in 2003, is for sale for $385,000. Although it has been on the Maine coast for half a century, there is no guarantee that its next owner will keep it there.
For the current owner of the three-masted schooner, keeping the ship afloat is more important than where it is docked.
“My goal from day one was to save the ship, to continue telling its story, and if that happens anywhere other than Maine, so be it,” said Sam Sikkema, 35, the current owner and captain.
Originally built to haul cargo, Victory Chimes now sails pleasure cruises of up to six nights along the Maine coast
On Monday morning, while docked in Rockland, crew members gave safety briefings to more than a dozen tourists as they prepared for a six-day cruise. Meanwhile Sikkema stood at the stern near the steering wheel and talked about the future.
He said he loves his schooner but that sentimentality must give way to harsh economic realities.
“Really at that point we just weren’t able to make ends meet financially, especially post COVID,” he said.
The ship requires bow repairs to comply with Coast Guard regulations. But all of Sikkema’s savings have gone towards dock fees, insurance and other expenses that still had to be paid when the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to go out of business in 2020.
Built in 1900 in Bethel, Delaware as a merchant ship known as a Tall Ship, the original owner, Robert Riggin, named her after his own children, Edwin and Maude. It spent nearly 50 years in the Chesapeake Bay area, working in Baltimore, Alexandria, Virginia and Seaford, Delaware. It transported a wide variety of cargo, including lumber, gravel, coal, and even gourds.
“If you can imagine that, she dragged it,” Sikkema said.
That changed in 1946 when her then-owner gave her a new name, converted the holds into berths and turned her mission to tourism. In 1954 it moved to Rockland, where it has remained ever since.
Fifty years later, Victory Chimes secured a place in Maine history. From 1999 to 2008, the US Mint printed quarters celebrating each of the 50 states. In 2003, the likeness of Victory Chimes was displayed in the Maine neighborhood.
Daniel Carr, a mint sculptor and president of the Moonlight Mint, a Loveland, Colorado-based mint, helped design the state quarters for Maine, New York, and Rhode Island. Carr said he wasn’t from Maine, but in May 2001 he had a colleague, Jim Pendleton, who had family in Rockland, and suggested the picture of the Victory Chimes be included.
The final design features Pemaquid Point Light overlooking the rocky shoreline with Victory Chimes sailing nearby.
Should Victory Chimes leave Maine, the state would lose much of its state district with New Hampshire. The Old Man of the Mountain in New Hampshire, a rock formation featured atop the state district minted in 2000, collapsed in 2003.
Relocating Victory Chimes from Maine would not change the coin’s value.
Carr said state quarters were never intended as collectibles. A coin’s value to collectors is tied to its rarity, and state quarters were mass-produced. For example, the mint produced nearly 500 million of Maine State Quarters.
“They don’t have that much value today,” Carr said.
For nearly two decades after the Mint issued the coin, the Victory Chimes continued to provide tourists with scenic cruises along the Maine coast and to the islands. This is the fifth season Sikkema has spent aboard the Victory Chimes, including four years as captain. This will be the schooner’s final season in his ownership, officially ending October 1st.
He hopes the proceeds from the sale will save him from bankruptcy at the end of the year.
“It sucks. You spend a lot of life and love making this work,” Sikkema said.
Though he’d like to see Victory Chimes stay in Rockland, he said, “I’d rather not see it languish and die here.”
Sikkema said he didn’t know if he would remain captain should the schooner leave Maine.
“Depends on how it goes,” he said. “If someone wants me to do it and it works, I would consider it.”
The final cruise of the Victory Chimes is scheduled to begin on September 27th.