Mandalay – 1995
Differences today- 2016:
- We can’t land on Palm Island anymore. The new owners don’t allow it.
- Visits now may include
- Union Island
- Happy Island ( a fun beach bar in the Clifton harbour)
- Sandy Island has been restored and stabilized, after having disappeared and reformed. It is now a park preserve).
This is a report covering the voyage of the SV Mandalay, July 31- August 5, 1995. It was our 9th week of sailing with Windjammer/ Barefoot Cruises over the last 8 years. It was, however, our first trip on Mandalay. SV Mandalay normally sails for 13 days, but this cruise was set for one week, which only happens on months with 5 Mondays. If was a good chance for us to see the “The Queen of the Fleet”. Since we decided to go only six weeks in advance, we made all our reservations directly with WJ, including air. The prices we got were much less than our travel agent quoted for airfare, saving over $300.
SUNDAY . Getting there is often a hassle for us. We set out at 4am for the two hour trip to the airport in Philadelphia. Checking in was much better than our experience last October at BWI. The trip to Miami was uneventful. Once we withed over to BWIA, we hung around the lounge, and began meeting some of our shipmates. Most were new to WJ, like Jackie and John, who I met on the Prodigy Travel BB. Another couple was John and Kathleen from Minn, who have been sailing Mandalay for many years, but always before in February. We traded WJ stories and clued the newbies into some, but not all, of what to expect. We eft Miami an hour late, and after a sop in Antigua, arrived in Grenada about 45 minutes late. We were met at the airport by the WJ agent, Guston (who looks like a miniature Magic Johnson). We were amazed when he recognized us and some of the other passengers who had sailed before. Guston arranged taxis for all of us, and got us to the ships in short order. Mandalay was anchored in the middle of the Caranage, so it was a short launch ride out to her.
Once aboard, we were greeted with Rum Swizzles, and shown to our cabins. I was, of course, barefoot by that time. Dinner was also waiting, a beef curry and shrimp, both of which I love. Yankee Clipper was also in port, and the passengers were invited aboard for a live band, which played until late. There was much mixing, but it HAD been a long day, so we turned in a little early.
The standard cabin was nicely done and paneled. There was hanging space (no hangers however), a good number of shelves, and ample storage under the lower bunk. There were the standard WJ bunks, 1 person-wide above and 1.5 wide below. There was a porthole. The Bathroom/shower combination was standard WJ, with hot and cold running water. There was more floor space than we found last year on Fantome. A few nice touches in the cabin were a couple of built-in handholds, and a step/seat on the rail of the lower bunk, making it easier to get to the top (mine).
MONDAY: Monday dawned sunny and warm in St. Georges. I had expected it to be hot, as the Caranage usually is, but a breeze made it comfortable. That morning we had our first Storytime, where we met Captain Mick, First Mate Kofi, Purser Sarah, bartenders Jackie and Mashup, and the rest of the crew. We also had Peter aboard from the home office. Peter is director of food operations, and his presence and personality added a great deal to the trip. Tours of the island were laid on, but since this was our 4th time in Grenada, we chose to walk around town, up to the fort, and around the Caranage. There were fewer Frigate Birds around, but many more Laughing Gulls than we see in October. The Flamboyant Trees were in bloom. It was a lovely day. We even visited the YC, which was tied up at the dock. YC had relieve Captain Guyan aboard. YC had 38 passengers, about 10 of which were children. We had rarely seen kids aboard in October (obviously), and later found out that crew worked hard to avoid some of the usual WJ humor and events in deference to the children. For instance, there was not a boat race when we met YC later in the week.
YC sailed at 12:30, and it was a beautiful sight seeing her leave port. We had our safety drill and prepared to sail at 1:45. We had 58 aboard, with 5 newlywed couples. As we left the harbour to Amazing Grace, I felt as I always do, and the salt on my cheek wasn’t from the sea. The wind was brisk, and we made good time, shutting down the engine. The wind lasted for a half hour. Some of the passengers invented a new game, using some of the rubber mats. When lined up and wetted, they made an excellent slip’n’slide! Swizzle time came and went, as we were becalmed. We drifted to and fro until after dinner, when the wind freshened a little, and we were off! After dinner (Garlic pork or Marlin), we laid out on deck under the stars for hours. Once, we got a slight rain with no clouds visible! It was a wonderful evening!
TUESDAY: Late that night, we anchored for the night off Carriacou., and in the morning moved around the point into Hillsborough Harbour. We visited the town and walked a way out of town and back. The main street in Hillsborough was as busy as ever, although it doesn’t cater to tourist like some places.
After lunch, we moved over to Sandy island, for an afternoon of beaching and snorkeling. Sandy Island is a regular stop for WJ. The island is basically two small islands, joined by a short sandspit. Reefs surround the islands on three sides. Over the last few years, the easternmost spit has lost its Palm Trees and vegetation. John Caldwell has planted a few to replace them. There seemed to be more sand than the last time I was there, and the sandspit was higher. There is hope for Sandy Island! The Snorkeling was EXCELLENT, although the wind and chop made it difficult for some of the new divers out on the deep water portions of the reef.
Back on the ship, at swizzle time, we were joined by group of islanders that have a Parang Band. They played for us for a couple of hours of “interesting” music. That night was the PPPP party, which I became Popeye, and for some reason I reached the finals(maybe bribing the judges does work!). In the dance off I was paired with a 6’2″ 200 lb. California “Lass”, dressed as a Polynesian. For some reason, we also won, and he and I won bottles of Campaign.
For those that keep track: Breakfast, banana pancakes; lunch, shrimp and sweet/sour chicken kabobs and some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have had; Dinner, Lamb or Turkey.
WEDNESDAY: We set sail for Palm Island, just a short way. As we passed Union Island, we startled a number of turtles at the surface. We anchored off Palm Island, and went ashore after Storytime. Karen and I decided to walk around the island on the beach, as we had once before. The beaches seemed a little narrower than we remembered. We ran into John Caldwell, owner of Palm Island, out for a walk with two grandchildren. We stopped and chatted for a minute before continuing. When we ran out of beach, we joined Highway 90. Water shoes are needed, as the beach rocks in some places, and stickers in the grass make for uncomfortable walking. We returned to the main beach for a day of beaching and snorkeling. The current running over the south end reef was quite strong, so we restricted our diving to closer in. Saw a number of the common fish, including an eel, and a stingray, both of which I gave wide berth to.
Back on the beach under the trees, there were many annoying gnats, which I hadn’t seen in such numbers before, except at Palm (and then only a few). They didn’t seem to bite, but the next day it seemed as if they had, like our Delaware No-See-Ems. I has a number of small itching bumps from them. When I go back to Palm Island, I am taking bug repellent! OFF! was being sold in the island store.
About 4:30 Yankee Clipper came sailing in, flying the Jolly Roger! Captain and crew were dressed for the parts. An ensuing broadside of cannon fire, returned in equal measure by YC, failed to keep them from coming along side and anchoring. We allowed them to join us for snacks and sizzles, as long as they brought the proper tribute in Rum, which they did.
That evening, we had a beach Bar-B-Q at the bar, with Steak, Marlin or Chicken. Music, Dancing and moonlit beach walks continued until last launch at midnight.
THURSDAY: Dawn sailing to Bequia, with Peter playing Amazing Grace on his flute. The day dawned very cloudy and threatening, and would live up to its promise. But on the way, about 100 dolphin surrounded the ship, a seamans sign of good luck. As we arrived on the harbour, we found the wind coming from the north. For the old Caribbean hands, that portends trouble. Captain Mick told us that there was a tropical wave 300 miles east. He felt we could have our day ashore, and beach time in the afternoon. We would then make a 5pm run for Mayreau, which would be a better anchorage for the storm. We went ashore and visited the shops in town, which has a nice selection of boutiques, and of course, the famous boat shop (same prices – expensive), and the bookstore. Bequia is (still) a whaling port, and the theme shows up throughout the town, and in the souvenirs. Scrimshaw is available everywhere. Some of the passengers took an island tour, which included the Whaling museum, which is in the home of the one remaining harpooner (age 70)on the island. One of the visitors compared the size of the museum to his cabin. Nevertheless, the tales and myths are similar to those of old Nantucket. Other passengers went fishing, and others had the option to visit the private isle of Mystique. WJ usually can not go directly there, as there is a 25 passenger limit. The isolation does draw the rich or famous, however. Diving was also available, and one couple took two dives during the day.
Watching the sky, we decided to go shopping in town. After an hour or so ashore, we saw the first shower come over the hill. As it got darker, we decided to go back to the ship, just ahead of a deluge that would continue for most of the day. The wind also picked up, and swung around to the east, where it remained. The higher wind made for some interesting launch rides. By noon, most passengers were back aboard. Surprisingly, everyone was enjoying the weather, and I didn’t hear any grumbling about missing the afternoon beach trip. The winds blew out of the east all afternoon, averaging 30 Knots, with gusts to 45 Knots (picking up the top of waves, and blowing them horizontally). We watched the yachties try and re-anchor their boats, and even one windsurfer. At one point, one of our life rings blew overboard, and the launch was detoured to pick it up. Not far from us, the Rogue was anchored. This is a smaller sister ship to the Grace, and will be making the supply runs for a month while Amazing Grace is in drydock. Someday (2000?), Rogue may join the fleet as a full-time supply ship. Peter began a game of “Name that Tune” in the afternoon, playing selections on his flute. As the day moved toward swizzle time, it became clear that the best anchorage was the snug harbour at Bequia, and the Captain passed that information on to us. We all really enjoyed watching the forces of nature at work, and imagining what life must have been like living aboard ship. At least we had reasonable forecasts, even if the main storm arrived 24 hours early. The Rogue left, heading north, in late afternoon. We later learned that YC had stayed at sea, reaching speeds of 9.5 knots, and deck heeling of about 20 degrees. That must have been some sailing!
After a dinner of coconut shrimp or Game hen, we had a “Newlywed Game” with Sarah playing the role of Chuck Eubanks. There were no fights or divorces this week! The winds began slacking around midnight, and it was a comfortable evening, snug in the harbour of Bequia.
FRIDAY: The day dawned nicely, clearer and with much less wind. We found a new officer aboard, Matt. He had come aboard to fill in for Kofi, who is getting married soon. We sailed for Mayreau at 6am. Peter played Amazing Grace on his alto sax. The seas were about 4 foot, and east chop on top. Mandalay rode through this VERY smoothly. We arrived at Mayreau, and made for the beach. Mayreau is a small island with a 300-foot hill and about 300 residents. The island is privately owned, except for the beach (30 feet from the water, Grenada law), the road, and the homes. During the winter, cruise ships come 4 days a week, advertising their “Private Island”, for which they pay $2000/per visit to get the use of beach chairs. The lawyers are trying tell WJ to pay $800 per visit the public beach. You can imagine the response. The merchants on the island back WJ. It may be that some day WJ will grace another island. There are more islands than days of the week. The beach and snorkeling was very nice, and made for a wonderful last day. Some of the passengers walked up to the school on the hill. We stayed on the beach, enjoying the sun and water. Lunch came ashore, hamburgers in paradise. We stayed ashore until last launch, then took a quick swim off the side of the ship.
Back on the ship at swizzle time, we had crab races, were I made a little money for the third year in a row! There were also tours of the engine room, which is the cleanest I have EVER seen. I even looked at the cable runs overhead. Clean! You can take the tour barefoot!
We set sail for Grenada after the crab races to the sound of bagpipes and Amazing Grace. It was indeed a melancholy moment.
That night was also the Captains Dinner, with prime rib or Mahi-Mahi. We stayed up as late as possible, given that we had to get up before 5am for our 7:30 am flight back to the real world.
I throughly enjoyed my first cruise on Mandalay. The ship sails very smoothly. The crew is professional, and the food excellent. The layout of the ship is very nice, and the open saloon is much cooler than on the other ships. Will I go again?? Absolutely!! I can’t wait for trip 10!
I’ll be happy to answer any questions.
Dean – Sea Dog in Southern Delaware