Yankee Clipper – Grenadine Islands – March 17, 1997

Deb & Rick Ball

Getting There:

After getting up at 3:00AM, we left Cleveland on a cold, snowy, blustery morning. The plane had to be de-iced twice! What a change from the weather that was to come later in the day. Every flight we had was delayed at least two hours: out of Cleveland, changing planes in Atlanta, and changing planes again in Miami to the BWIA flight. After a brief stop in Antigua, we finally arrived at Point Salines airport in St. Georges, Grenada at about 9:15PM, about three hours later than scheduled. We cleared customs with no problems and got a taxi outside for $5 per person. This was my first experience with driving on the left side of the road, and it was unique to see cows and goats roaming on the roadside. We were quite relieved to finally arrive at our destination, the Flamboyant Hotel, in time to enjoy a drink at the bar before they closed at 10:00PM. We were also relieved that we brought only carry-on bags with us as the climb up to the room on a steep hillside was tiring, but definitely worth the view! Our only regret: we arrived too late to enjoy a dinner of Grenada cuisine which we had hoped to sample.

Sunday – Grenada:

After an enjoyable breakfast of fresh fruit and banana bread (surrounded by birds) and enjoying a great view of St. Georges harbor, we spent a beautiful morning at the beach. Flamboyant Hotel is located at the far south end of Grand Anse beach, so the view is great. Very few beach vendors were out because of it being Sunday, but I did manage to buy three spice necklaces from one guy for $17 (didn’t know any better, so I don’t know if that was a good price or not!) Our hotel room was very spacious with a kitchenette and a big shower (the last big, HOT shower we would enjoy for the week! Tee-hee!) We recommend the Flamboyant as the WJ price is not bad and the people are very friendly and laid-back. Everyone speaks English with a delightful Caribbean accent. We also got a quick lesson in “how to slow down” as it took forever to check out, although the desk clerk was very nice.

Took a $10 taxi (again $5 per person) to the dock and dropped our bags at the ship. Our FIRST view of the Yankee Clipper, and she looked great! We had the cab take us over to the Nutmeg as we had heard that was the place to meet other WJammers before boarding; however, since it was only 1:30PM, (the Nutmeg was still closed until 2:00PM) we strolled around the Caranage. (Be advised: NOTHING is open on Sunday in downtown St. George’s, so we advise going to Nutmeg no earlier than 2:00PM.) As soon as the taxi dropped us in front of Nutmeg, a guy approached us saying he “worked part-time for WJ” (yeah, right!) and wanted to give us a walking tour towards the old fort. We were suspicious, so we declined and went the other way. This guy continued to follow close behind us; although never really a problem, he was just sort of a nuisance. He finally left us and we saw him use the same approach with others. Finally, Nutmeg opened and we enjoyed a late lunch of flying fish and positively lethal rum punches! Oh yes!…we met a few of our fellow shipmates there, too!

At 5:00PM, all of us headed for the YC. First Mate, Glenn, met us at the end of the ramp and Capt. John greeted us as we boarded. After setting up our on-board-charge-account with purser, Kim and purchasing our first set of “doubloons” for the bar, we checked out our cabin. We had a Captains cabin on the main deck forward which was slightly bigger than a regular cabin, but certainly not spacious. It would suit our needs just fine though! The a/c worked fine, had a larger lower bed and upper bunk, small refrigerator, and a shower that stayed on without having to push the button! The head is an all-in-one that includes a small corner sink, john, and shower. After a buffet dinner topside, there was a 3-piece Caribbean band for music and dancing into the evening. It was a great feeling to finally be aboard the ship which we had looked forward to for a long time!

Monday – Grenada & Sailing:

Open seating breakfast was from 7:30 to 8:30AM with Western omelets, hash browns, and cereal. Since it was ST. Patrick’s Day, several of our shipmates were showing up with green shamrock stickers stuck on various places! After breakfast was a mandatory safety drill with life jackets on the top deck followed by our first “Story Time” where Capt. John discussed safety aboard ship, “decks can get slippery”, “no sitting on the rail”, and a stern warning against any illegal drugs on board! Purser-Kim talked of the various tours available in Grenada that morning, and we opted for the island tour. Got the launch back to shore and hopped in a van with about 8 other shipmates. Monday was a busy day in the downtown harbor area, so we headed through the traffic out to Amba Kaila Spice Shop, Annadale Falls, and Grand Etang Nat’l Park. Judy, part of a teachers group from Colorado, was our “interpreter” relaying to those of us in the back what the driver was saying up front. Good job, Judy! This tour was fun, but not enough time to see the park at Grand Etang.

After the launch ride back to the ship, had a great buffet lunch with fresh snapper! Then we helped raise the sails to the tune of Amazing Grace! What a feeling!….we were finally jammin’! Several of us felt pretty bad for one of our shipmates, John from Ireland, whose luggage never showed up (until almost the last day of the cruise!) and his wallet blew off the back deck shortly after we set sail that first day. In a typical WJ fashion, he didn’t seem overly upset about it and took it all in stride; we also got quite used to him showing up in the same clothes every day!

The first day sailing was ever-SO relaxing. We headed north for a 14-hour sail to Bequia. Saw a school of about 30 dolphins off the starboard side. Grabbed a deckpad and laid back, staring up into the sails and blue sky while listening to some of my favorite music by Enya (Good taste, WJ!!) Swizzle time about 4:30PM and a great sunset! Dinner was lamb or flank steak. That first long sail “got” to several people as they complained of feeling sea-sick. I was just plain tired (probably from the effects of the Bonine I had taken earlier), so I left dinner early and slept in the cabin until my husband, Rick, returned to the cabin after midnight. It was lovely to be “rocked” to sleep while sailing. A few shipmates slept out on the top deck despite a light rain during the night.

Tuesday – Bequia:

The harbor at Admiralty Bay, Port Elizabeth on the island of Bequia is beautiful! Not a very populated island of only about 10,000 people, but a lot of private yachts anchored there. After breakfast of pancakes & sausage or cereal, Purser-Kim told us the various tours available during “Story Time”: island tour, Moon Rock, or an all-day sail to Mustique where the “rich & famous” live. We chose to just take the launch to the town dock and roam the town for a bit.

Port Elizabeth is a very pretty little town and, as usual, the natives were very “laid back” but also quite friendly. A young teen with a warm smile played “Auld Lang Syne” for me on the small steel drum he had for sale at one of the shops. Bequia was one of the first (and last!) “shopping” islands (the rest of the islands would be virtually unpopulated), so we naturally bought a few T-shirts and then took the launch back to the ship. At this time, since most of our shipmates were still gone elsewhere, we had the top deck virtually to ourselves, so we spent the time taking lots of pictures and even relaxing in the “widows net” on the front of the ship!. Try it!…..You’ll like it!

Buffet lunch topside consisted of crab salad (great!), curry chicken, shell mac’n’cheese, and wonderful chocolate chip cookies. During the afternoon, the launches ran every 1/2 hour to Princess Margaret Beach. Here was our first snorkeling of the trip…on the north end of the beach. The snorkeling here was only fair, but got much better later in the trip. At Bequia and all the islands later in the week, the ship takes the bar to the beach. So we used our doubloons at the beach bar and strolled the beach down to the cave walk at the south end. A great place to take pictures! Launch back to ship at 4:30PM.

Capt. John told us early in the trip that Caribbean time is “ish” time, meaning nothing is precisely exact. That was fine with us! So at 5:30ish, we were treated to crab races on the top deck with 12 hermit crabs. Don’t miss this! A lot of fun and a raucous time with a few bets (no luck – we lost!)

Dinner aboard was either Garlic Shrimp or Duck a’la orange, but we chose to eat ashore at the Gingerbread. Wonderful candlelight dinner with a Caribbean quintet playing and singing while we ate. A real treat! Some of the crew and other shipmates were headed to a “Jump Up” later that evening at one of the bars, but we were pooped from “too much fun”, so we caught the launch back to the ship, ready for bed. Some shipmates (who were mostly hung over the next morning) told us they had a great time at the “Jump Up”. Sorry we missed it!

Wednesday – Tobago Cays and Palm Island:

YC set sail at 5:30AM. Bloody Marys and almond croissants were available early. I stuck with just coffee as the seas were bothering me this morning (i.e. brief bout of seasickness off the back deck). This morning was a “sailing class” with First Mate, Glenn, on the top deck discussing navigation, charting, etc. Very interesting and I learned some things! Since a large cruise ship appeared to be anchored at Mayreau, Capt. John headed us for Tobago Cays which is a “desert-type island that normally gets very little rain.”

After Story Time, the launches took us to the beach where a few T-shirt vendors strung their wares. Several of us took the skinny, sandy footpath to the far side of the island. The snorkeling here was ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS! – a large reef, lots of brain coral, numerous schools of fish, yellow needlefish, etc. Lunch on the beach consisted of sub-sandwiches (delicious!) and macaroni salad. Just as we were eating, a rain shower blew in, so we hauled all our stuff back to the other side of the island. Even huddling under the trees in the rain, we still had fun! We debated whether to stay on the island, but finally were convinced to take the last launch back to the ship where the crew was busy wiping down the whole deck. By the time everyone was back on ship, the rain had stopped. Everyone was still smiling even though we were totally soaked and it would take days for everything to dry out. Hopefully, Capt. John didn’t mind too much that we all made the ship look sort of like a “Chinese junk” with wet towels and clothes strung everywhere to dry out!

Time to set sail for a lovely afternoon cruise to Palm Island. Very calm waters now. Saw a Seabourne ship anchored off of Mayreau. Palm Island is a private island owned by John Caldwell and his family; he and WJ have had a close relationship for over 30 years. Tonight was a beach BBQ with chicken and ribs, but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it much as a young steward from the ship managed to dump a blueberry dessert all over my T-shirt and shorts. So I took the first launch back to the ship to change clothes and soak my clothes. After a short nap, we took the launch back to the beach to meet John Caldwell and had him sign his book “Desperate Voyage” which we bought for $20.

Thursday – Palm Island and Mayreau:

Slept in till 8:15AM as it was a rather cloudy morning, even though some shipmates had taken the 7:00AM “walk/jog/run” around Highway 90 on Palm Island. Breakfast was a buffet of West Indies food. After Story Time at 8:45, the launches again headed for the beach. We opted to just relax and read aboard ship, just what we needed this vacation for! After a 12:30ish buffet lunch topside, we set sail for Mayreau. Enjoyed some great snorkeling off the rocks on a reef at Mayreau; also a nice sandy beach where the sand was tan (not white!) Most shipmates we talked to agreed we would have preferred more time at Mayreau and less at Palm Island.

Back on board for snacks and rum swizzles (I think Rick had a few too many!) Tonight was the B,L,T, &P party (with prizes for best costume!) so many came to the buffet dinner (beef, pork, and ham) in their costumes; some as Black-eyed Peas, a lion, togas, bed & pillow, but we really thought the best one was the girl dressed as a giant tampon. (And if you see Glenn, the first mate, ask him about his “unique” toga!) After dancing away the night topside under the stars and a bright moonlit night, some hardy souls (translate: Rick, First Mate-Glenn, and a few other guys) closed the saloon late into the night with a round of joke-telling. Strokie, the chef, had some great ones!

Friday – Carriacou:

Left anchor early. Breakfast was eggs, bacon, hash browns, and tasty sugar doughnuts! A beautiful sail this morning with bright blue skies, calm waters, and my favorite Enya music once again. Dropped anchor at Hillsborough, Carriacou, and after Story Time the launches again left for shore to the town. Irishman John’s luggage finally arrived this morning! We toured the other cabins below deck with shipmates Jackie & Bob so we could compare them to ours; not a whole lot of difference, although ours was slightly bigger and a whole lot more convenient being on the main deck in case you needed something at the last minute. Jackie & Bob had 3rd-Mate-Julian chart our course on a map of the Grenadines they had purchased – a great souvenir! Lunch was buffet again – fried chicken and french fries.

After a short time motoring to the other side of the island, we took the launches to Clipper Beach. Only two other people were there, and we must have scared them away after our launches arrived, so we had the whole beach entirely to ourselves from the Yankee Clipper! We were warned to be careful and avoid sitting under the manganeel trees which are poisonous. Some of our very favorite snorkeling was here at Carriacou. We were among the first into the water and delighted in being completely surrounded by a HUGE school of thousands of fish! The weather was absolutely beautiful, and it was here that we had the most beach time (about 3 1/2 hours) of any island. A great and beautiful place! We felt like we were “marooned” on our very own tropical isle!

Back on board ship by 5:00PM. This was a melancholy moment as the last raising of the sails and hearing Amazing Grace for the last time. What a gorgeous sail into the sunset off the starboard side as we headed south again for Grenada! Tonight was the Captains dinner (e.g. clean T-shirt) with two seatings. Choices were either prime rib or Wahoo fish; we chose the fish, which was just great! Chief Steward, Kenny, treated us to a Caesar salad preparation, and then we all headed topside for bananas flambeau on the top deck. This was the night for LOTS of pictures in the saloon area with our shipmates and new-found friends. But not too late of a night since over 1/2 of us had to catch the early BWIA flight out the next morning.

Saturday – Heading Home:

After an early 4:15AM “knock-up” (translate: wake-up “call”), we hurried through a quick buffet breakfast to catch the taxis on the dock by 5:30AM. All or luggage was placed into the back of a pick-up truck, and those of us in the front taxi-van endured a careening adventure to the airport following the pick-up about 1-foot off his bumper. For a slow Caribbean island as is Grenada, why this driver had to drive like a New York cabby is beyond me! In any case, it was sad to have to leave the YC and we found ourselves very envious of those that had arranged to stay another week (two shipmates stayed aboard for another week on YC, another left for the next week aboard Flying Cloud, and several others were staying for a few days at the Flamboyant Hotel.) We’ll know better next time!!

Our Critique:

Did we enjoy the Yankee Clipper? ABSOLUTELY!! Will we be back for another WJ cruise? WITHOUT A DOUBT!! What sold us on the Yankee Clipper was the great sailing she did and the fabulous snorkeling at obscure out-of-the beaten-path islands! The weather cooperated most of the time in being quite warm and sunny, despite the brief shower at Tobago Cays and a few drizzles at night for those attempting to sleep on the top deck (something we had hoped to try but never did!) The food aboard ship was fine, not gourmet and not dramatic, but good and certainly plenty of it! The accommodations took some getting used to, but you learn to live “within your means” (small cabin) and actually learned to NOT worry about not having a key to lock the cabin. Nobody bothers anything! The best feeling was that of NOT having to dress up, forget about doing hair and make-up for an entire week (nobody cares what you look like!), and NOT having to wear shoes! If we have any negative comment at all, it’s that we feel we spent too much time at Palm Island and didn’t do justice to Mayreau. However, the ship is beautiful with all that wood, and Capt. John, First Mate Glenn, Julian, Kim, and the rest of the crew are all professional and very friendly!

A word to the wise: 1) Remember to pack light! We had been warned, but we still packed too much even though we had only one carry-on a piece. 2) You are very near the equator in this region, so bring lots of sun block and/or be sure to have a good base tan.

We are VERY MUCH looking forward to our next Windjammer cruise!!!