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Wanderbird - Western North Atlantic

Photos by Onne van der Wal

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Salty, seaworthy and strong, Wanderbird is a 90-foot North Sea fishing trawler that Capts. Rick and Karen Miles have fitted out for adventurous but comfortable passagemaking to places that invite exploration. Retrofitted with an auxiliary ketch sailing rig and finished below in wood in the classic style of a 1940s yacht, Nova Scotia-based Wanderbird ranges from the turquoise waters of the Spanish Caribbean to Maine to the icy North Atlantic waters of Canada’s maritime provinces and Greenland.

Depending on the itinerary, guests encounter whales, polar bears and Inuit villages, or perhaps leatherback turtles, coral reefs and white-sand beaches. They read and nap and relax, but they also snorkel, hike Arctic tundra and tropical beaches, visit villages and bird-watch from kayaks. If so inclined, they can learn navigation in the pilothouse, record whale songs or spend a week ashore living with an Inuit family. Meals are also part of the Wanderbird experience, with breads and pastries made daily and main courses ranging from rolled, stuffed pork loin to pasta shells stuffed with maple-roasted squash sautéed in garlic.

Rick and Karen operated the 96-foot pilot schooner Timberland off Maine for 15 years, then traded her in for the Dutch-built trawler to extend their cruising grounds. Steel-hulled and with high bulwarks, Wanderbird is tough as nails, having fished the North Sea for the Dutch company Jaczon B.V. for 27 years until her retirement in 1990. Her rust-colored sails back up the 510-hp diesel, and in motorsail mode they steady the ride and save fuel. Her range is 6,000 nautical miles, and she carries 12 guests.
Karen, trained in art and commercial design, oversaw the redesign of the interior. The six double cabins are cozy and comfortable, finished in wood and furnished with quilts, rugs and local crafts. The below-deck saloon is laid out in the style of a 19th century pilot schooner. The coach house on deck, lined with windows, varnished wood panels and bookshelves, lends itself to lantern-lit nights of singing and stories around a shipmate stove.

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This article originally appeared in the Places section of the December 2011 issue.