Yankee Clipper Feb. 1997
2/17/97 – 2/22/97
Looming large on the minds of many of the passengers for this voyage was the impending American Airlines pilots strike. Had the strike actually taken place (it lasted about 20 minutes until President Clinton ordered the pilots back to work) probably about one third of our fellow shipmates may not have been able to get to the ship. I booked our air arrangements with Fare Share (Windjammer’s travel agency) well in advance. Several weeks prior to the trip I made alternate arrangements which got us off AA entirely. It cost us some extra $, but at least we did not need to worry about the strike.
Friday, 2/14: Barb and I took United Airlines to Miami. Our plane was a Boeing 777, their newest plane. The seats in this plane seem to be a little wider than the norm, but front to back is plenty cramped. Each seat has its own video screen. However, you need to pay them $4 for headphones if you wish to take advantage of it. Ah, the joys of flying. Crammed into a (big) tin can, and they charge extra if you want to use the entertainment. To add insult to injury, the entertainment systems rob precious leg room (of course, if the entertainment systems were not there, the airlines would simply add a few more rows to negate the space gains). Other impressions: the plane seems to be very isolated from the normal noises one hears – the rumble of the wheels on the runway, the raising/lowering of the gear, moving of flaps, etc. In fact, was difficult for me to tell exactly when the plane left the ground. In Miami, we spent the evening at a Budgetel, reservations made through Windjammer. We tried to get dinner at a neighboring Bennigans. They told us they had a 20 minute wait (at 10:30 PM??). We sat at the bar and waited for a bartender to take our drink order. We might as well have been invisible. After 15 minutes of that, we decided we had enough and went back to our room.
Saturday, 2/15: We boarded BWIA 401, which departed at 12:45 (ish). The plane was an MD-80, and seemed much roomier than the United cattle car we flew on the prior evening. Lunch was served; it was some sort of Caribbean chicken and rice dish, and was very good – vastly better than any meals I have had recently on domestic flights. Then we ordered a beer, and they were only $1 US each – I had to ask three times, because I could not believe it. It felt like being in Wisconsin. The beer, of course, was Carib – the beer of the Caribbean. This trip was starting off quite well. Our first stop is Antigua. Barb and I looked out the windows as we approach, looking for places we visited last year when we sailed on the Fantome. After a brief stop at Antigua, we were off for Grenada, where we arrived at about 6:20 PM.
We spent the evening at Coyaba Beach Resort. The reservations for this were made by Windjammer. It cost $185 US per night, and is not all that impressive for the price, but what the heck. We had a good strong rum punch at the poolside bar, followed by Caribs. There we meet Bob and Nancy, from NY. They were unwinding after a very stressful week of not knowing whether they were going to get to Grenada – all their flights were on American. We joined them for dinner, a BBQ buffet with a steel band for entertainment. Food was OK, but dessert was strange – cherry pie with one cherry per slice, the rest being corn starch. At this point we had enough Caribs that we did not really care, although we did almost go into shock when we saw the price of the thing – even converted to US $ ($1 US = $2.4 EC) it was pretty obnoxious.
Sunday 2/16: Up about 8:00, then Barb and I walked the beach. The beach is called Grand Anse Beach. We saw several resort type places on this beach. Also located on this beach is the St. Georges Medical School, whose students were rescued by President Reagan in the 80’s after the Communists killed the Prime Minister and (briefly) took over the island. At about 10 AM, we decided it was time for our breakfast Caribs, so it was off to the poolside bar. The pool has barstools in the water, but since we did not go in the water we did not get the opportunity to try them out. Then we had lunch, which was flying fish sandwiches with fries, and more rum punch. This all was very good, and priced fairly reasonably. Then we went to the beach, with plans to sit on the beach for a while. However, the locals scared us off, because they were always trying to sell us things. We decided it would be safer to just walk the beach and keep moving.
At about 2 PM, Barb and I and Bob and Nancy left the hotel and took a cab to the ship, at St. Georges Dock. We left our bags at the ship (they will take your bags early but you can’t board until 5 PM), and set off for a walking tour of St. Georges. Along the Carenage in St. Georges we met up with a local hustler who calls himself Michael the Main Man, who was hell-bent on giving us a walking tour of the town. This guy stuck to us like a fly to dung. He took us over a hill to a little local snack shop called Deyna’s Tasty Foods, where we had Caribs in bottles that look like they date from the 50’s. Then we headed back towards the ship, taking a different route which led us through a one lane tunnel under the hill. This tunnel was built in 1890-something. We got to a bar called Nutmeg, where for $10 we finally got rid of Michael. Nutmeg is a cool little bar that looks out over the Carenage. We ordered beers, and sat and enjoyed the view. Barb and I ordered Guinness stout, which on the islands is 7.5% alcohol content. No wonder the signs all over the Caribbean that proclaim “Guinness is good for you”. I sure do wish Windjammer served Guinness on their ships.
We left Nutmeg at about 5 PM and walked to the ship. There we immediately were served rum swizzles, checked in and received our cabin assignments. We were in cabin #4, a deck cabin on the port side, close to the bow. It has a double bed, with an overhead bunk (handy for storing junk), and a refrigerator. The head is very small; you can use the toilet as a shower seat if you want. No problem; it gets the job done. Windjammer allows passengers to order bottles of wine or champagne prior to the cruise, and these libations were to be in the cabin when we arrive. We checked, and only the champagne and the bottle of cabernet were in the cabin; the bottle of chardonnay that we ordered was not there. We contacted our steward, who quickly remedied the situation.
Back on deck, we had snacks, more swizzles, and Carib. We had a nice view of the setting sun, but just when it was starting to get good, a big floarived at about 6:20 PM.
We spent the evening at Coyaba Beach Resort. The reservations for this were madin on the other side of the dock and blocked out the view. They were attempting to get to Bequia, but the seas were too rough so they decided to dock at Grenada. Wimps. About 7 PM the people from the Sunday BWIA flight began to arrive in several taxis, plus an oversized pickup truck carrying their luggage. About a dozen of these folks were in one group from around Cleveland; they were clearly here for a good time. Shortly thereafter dinner was served on deck, buffet style. Some sort of oriental style beef, chicken, shrimp, and rice. Very tasty. We filled our plates and went to the dining room, as it was a tad windy for outdoor dining. A band started playing soon after dinner. Barb and I called it a day around 10 PM.
Monday, 2/17: I was awake around 4 AM. About 5 AM they pulled the ship away from the dock and moved it to the middle of the harbor. There were other ships due to come in, and if they did, the harbor would be so tight that it would be difficult to maneuver away from the dock. So they pulled the ship out to prevent problems. At 6 AM, I left the room to grab a cup of coffee. By my standards their coffee is pretty wimpy, but when out on a ship next to a beautiful island, who cares? Off in the distance I saw a Star Clipper ship, lit up like a Christmas tree. At 6:30 AM, the sticky buns came out. Raisin sweet rolls. I really do not care for raisins, but these were pretty good. They bake all this stuff aboard the ship. Amazing. Then the skies let loose with a brief shower, and I decided it was time for my shower. There was enough hot water, but very little water pressure. Just like the last time I was on the Yankee Clipper five years ago. It got the job done.
At 8:45 AM we had a fire drill (which is normally one of the first things that happens on WJ, as a fire at sea is a very serious thing), followed by story time. We were introduced to the crew. The captain is Captain Max. He is what one would call a floater; a captain who fills in when the regular captain is on leave (the regulars work something like 3 months on and 1 month off). Captain Max is very British, having served on the Royal Navy before coming to Windjammer 10 years ago. The First Mate is Glen, who is very new to Windjammer, having joined up only a few weeks ago. My initial impression of him was that he was a bit of a grump, but first impressions are not always correct. The Purser is Kimberly, the Chief Steward is Kenny, our steward is Oxford (from Mayreau), and Country (now there is a name you don’t hear every day, although Windjammer has another fellow named Country working for them) is the all-important head bartender.
Kimberly described the activities available to us for the brief time we are going to be on Grenada (we needed to be back to the ship by 1 PM). Barb and I signed up for the island tour. We were driven though town, went to the top of a hill where there is a cemetery with the grave of the recently assassinated prime minister, then off to Annandale Falls. The waterfall is nice, but walking to it we were confronted by at least half a dozen panhandlers wanting us to pay them to jump off the waterfall (about 30 feet). Very annoying. I don’t remember it being that bad the last time I was here. There are lots of vendors here selling spice. We bought some, then had a Guinness at the little bar they have on the premises. On the way to our next stop, our driver stopped at a roadside spice stand, where the proprietor handed him a bottle of Carib, which he drank along the way to our next destination. Perhaps their laws are a bit different than here in the states. Next we drove through the rain forest to Grand Etang Park. We stopped briefly here, then back into town, where we caught the launch back to the ship.
Back on board the ship, lunch was served on deck. Fish sandwiches, salads, and brownies. As with most of their food, it was very good. The launch was hosted up to its normal berth along side of the ship, and we began to move away from the harbor. About 1:30 the sails were raised, accompanied by the playing of Amazing Grace. As always, a very moving experience. The plan is to set sail for Bequia. Captain Max thinks we should be able to get there by early the next day if all goes well. He has heard that the winds have died down somewhat from what was out there the prior day, and if that continues we should be OK. Sailing north, going against the wind (don’t ask me how that works), it can get rough if the winds are too strong. Sometimes they will give up their original destination if it gets too rough, which I believe is what happened the last time I was on the Yankee Clipper. Captain Max, however, is determined to get to Bequia, and will not give up unless the waves start to crash over the bow of the ship.
As we sailed up the west coast of Grenada, it was not too rough. However, the further north we went, the rougher it got. Soon we were seeing 7′-10′ waves. One of the Ohio group has brought a guitar, so they begin a sing-along (mostly Jimmy Buffet stuff, until one unnamed inspired person started singing “Why don’t we get drunk and screw”, which prompted them to seek new material). The sing-along gradually degenerated into a heave-along, as those with queasy stomachs dashed for the Leeward rail. About that time we looked off the starboard side and saw a pair of dolphins swimming along, jumping in and out of the water.
Barb and I went for dinner at the early (6:30 PM) seating. Dinner was a choice of grilled Wahoo or pepper steak. Naturally we sat on the uphill side, to avoid wearing our meal. It was a very busy time, because every time there would be a big gust of wind or a big wave, the ship would lurch and try to throw all the food off our table. We sat with the First Mate Glen, who told us a bit about his background. He has an extensive background in the merchant marine, coast guard, and probably more that I can’t remember. He worked the north Pacific coast off Canada. He said that the weather we were seeing was nothing compared to what he was accustomed to. Glen and Barb and I, along with our other tablemates, John and Nancy from out east somewhere, weathered the storm just fine. Others had problems, however; we probably had roughly a third of the first seating bail out before they were done. Dessert was a delicious cherry cobbler; Glen remarked to me that we should have no problems getting seconds of this. He was right.
We went back to the deck, where we sat, watched the stars and tried to stay out of the way of our shipmates who were headed for the Leeward rail. It was really rocking and rolling out there. I was reminded of the advice given by Captain Max earlier that day. On rough seas, it is helpful to look at the horizon (which doesn’t move) as a way to prevent seasickness, but the sure cure for it is to sit under a large tree. At about 10 PM, Barb and I decided to call it a day.
Tuesday, 2/18: Up at 6 AM for coffee. We actually slept quite well, considering all the bouncing around we were doing. The seas were still very rough. The plan was to get to Bequia around 6 AM, but we were nowhere close. The word was that we had another 3 hours or so of sailing before we got there. At 6:30 they put out some blueberry muffins. It was hard to handle them in the wind. Even the coffee threatened to blow out of the cup (Reminder – bring along a covered, insulated coffee cup next time. That breeze cools off the coffee all too fast). Now that’s a breeze. I heard someone say that it was blowing something like 35 knotand Etang Park. We stopped briefly here, then back into town, where we caught the launch back to the ship.
Back on board the ship, lunch was served on deck. Fish sandwiches, salads, and brownies. As with most of their food, it was very good. The launch was hosted up to its normal berth along side of the ship, and we began to move away from the harbor. About 1:30 the sails were raised, accompanied by the playing of Amazing Grace. As always, a very moving experience. The plan is to set sail for Bequia. Captain Max thinks we should be able to get there by early the next day if all goes well. He has heard that the winds have died down somewhat from what was out there the prior day, and if that continues we should be OK. sengers were now nearing Bequia. We sailed around the southwest point of the island, where the waves were very large – they must have been in excess of 10 feet. We sailed towards port, and as we did so the wind ripped one of the sails. As this was happening right above where we were standing, we quickly moved out of the way lest we get whipped by sail fragments. Finally, at about 10:30 we dropped anchor off Bequia.
Once we were all situated, it was story time. Bequia is an old whaling port, although they don’t do it any more. There are plenty of places here that will sell you scaled down ship models; just bring lots of $. Captain Max pointed out some of the sights. Next to us was the sailing ship Sea Cloud. This is a cruise ship owned by a German company, and one could think of it as sort of a high-buck Windjammer (costs about twice what WJ charges, but at least the rooms have full size bath tubs). This ship was once owned by E.F. Hutton. It is the ship he bought when he outgrew HUSSAR, a.k.a. Windjammer’s very own Mandalay.
The opportunities for the day included island tours, or a tour of some houses built into the volcanic rock (didn’t quite catch the whole story), shopping in town, snorkeling, or just sitting on the beach. Barb and I, along with Bob and Nancy, went into town with plans to walk to the beach. I cashed some travelers checks at a local bank. They are very slow compared to our rushed US standards. Nobody seems to move too fast on these islands, except when they are driving. We stopped for some ice cream. One of their flavors is Guinness. We tried it, and it is quite good.
From town, we walked along the waterfront en route to the beach. There are lots of nice little shops along the waterfront, as well as some expensive looking hotels. The walkway along the waterfront ended, and we had to climb a hill, on the other side of which may be found the beach. At the top of the hill we looked down on the harbor. The water was many shades of blue, and there were a lot of sailboats anchored there, including ours. We went down the other side of the hill, then found a spot on the beach. We spent the afternoon there, not doing much of anything. There is some decent snorkeling at the ends of the beach, although we did not partake of it. I spent a lot of time in the water, observing the activity. Lots of sailboats are anchored off Bequia, and there is quite a service trade supporting them. I saw water taxis, and one boat that would take your laundry. Another boat would sell you fuel or fresh water, and yet another one was a honey wagon – they would pump away your waste. Not something we get to see every day.
The crew brought a cooler full of beer to the beach, so we made good use of our doubloons and kept well refreshed all afternoon. While there I had a conversation with a gentleman from Quebec who spends his winters in his sailboat. He was saying that there have been heavy winds in this area for the last month or so. He left me with an amusing story about his dog, who was swimming along with us. He likes to have the dog swim where there are snorkelers; it really freaks them out when they see the dog’s paws paddling around as they snorkel. Later in the afternoon we found a local who braided Barb’s hair. Much smarter than last year when she waited until the last day to get the job done. By then it was about 4:30, and we took the launch back to the ship.
Snacks and swizzles (chicken wings, cheese, etc.) were served at about 5 PM. They got a local (but originally from the US) band to play on deck while we had snacks. They played pretty much through the first dinner sitting. We went to dinner at 6:30 PM, choices were chicken parmesan or seafood pasta. Barb and I went for the seafood, which was quite good but much too heavy for my taste. Dessert was some sort of coconut cake, also quite good. It was very quiet on deck after dinner – we almost had the whole deck to ourselves. Most of the others took the launch into town. Last launch back to the ship was 11 PM, but many chose to stay later and take a water taxi back to the ship (seems they were celebrating Glen’s birthday). We popped open our bottle of champagne (Domaine Chandon), which we enjoyed before calling it a day.
Wednesday, 2/19: At 5 AM I awoke to the sounds of the ship pulling up anchor. At 5:20 I dragged myself out of bed (we slept quite well since the ship was at anchor and not bouncing around). I got a cup of coffee, and was ready to watch the ship pull out at 5:30. Nobody else was up yet; I had the deck to myself. I watched as we gradually pulled away from Bequia. Off towards the northeast I saw the lights of the island of St. Vincent, and above the islands I saw the first traces of light in the sky. The sleepyheads miss all the good stuff.
The seas were much smoother than the day before. Sticky buns came out at 6:30; they served almond and blueberry croissants, which were very good. Barb got up about the time that the sticky buns came out. At 7:30 we went for breakfast, which was corned beef hash, scrambled eggs, and grits. I decided to take a pass and just have a bowl of cereal. The only time I have ever had hash was on the Yankee Clipper 5 years ago. I didn’t like the hash then and I doubt that my tastes have changed. During breakfast the seas started to get a bit rougher. The food flied a couple of times, but still nothing like what we endured Monday evening.
Back on deck, we watched as we sailed around the southwestern end of Bequia, heading south. Our destination is Mayreau, which the Windjammer brochure describes as having “one road, one pick up truck and more farm animals than citizens”. We sailed south along the west side of the island, passing a beach with many sailboats and palm trees (not native to the region). We also passed by a lot of very small islands, just big hunks of rock, a few with trees. We named one of them “lump island”, and we got to see it several times over the next couple of days. We dropped anchor off a beach near the southwest corner of the island at about 10:30. Story time then followed, where we heard the plans for the day. The day was to be spent on the beach, departing at about 4 PM for our next destination, Palm Island.
The launches then took us to the beach, and the bartender set up his cooler next to the T-shirt vendors. Nancy, Bob, Barb and I set up under a tree. They brought their snorkel gear, and tried it out several times during the day, actually seeing some fish. We mostly just sat around, going into the water occasionally. Lunch was served on the beach, sandwiches and salads, with cookies for dessert.
After lunch Barb and I walked to the other side of the island. To do this required walking on the “road” (sort of like a double wide sidewalk) through town. The road is a very steep climb approaching town – one wouldn’t want to walk it when wet. The town has a few shops, mostly little restaurants, bars, and grocery stores. I’m not sure what these people do for a living. Later we learn that Oxford, our st’s paws paddling around as they snorkel. Later in the afternoon we found a local who braided Barb’s hair. Much smarter than last year when she waited until the last day to get the job done. By then it was about 4:30, and we took the launch back to the ship.
Snacks and swizzles (chicken wings, cheese, etc.) were served at about 5 PM. They got a local (but originally from the US) band to play on deck while we had snacks. They played pretty much through the first dinner sitting. We went to dinner at 6:30 PM, choices were chicken parmesan or seafood pasta. Barb and I went for the seafood, which was quite good but much too heavy for my taste. Dessert was some sort of coconut cake, also quite good. It was very quiet on deck cutting into my toe, and Barb’s shoes were chewing on her heel. Back on the beach we just sat around and drank Caribs. It was a very relaxing day. Large cruise ships will often drop anchor off this island and bring their passengers in for a day on the beach. Fortunately no other ships showed up (had there been another ship here when we arrived, we would have headed for a different island). The locals are well set up to make money off the tourists, selling any sort of T-shirt you could want and renting beach chairs for $2 US.
At about 4 PM we took the launch back to the ship, then we set sail for Palm Island. Snacks and swizzles followed at 5 PM. Something different – fried coconut, liver sausage, and the usual cheeses. The coconut and liver sausage was very good. I get seconds (thirds?). The weather was perfect as we watched the sun get nearer to the horizon. At about 6 PM we arrived off Palm Island. About the same time the sun was almost setting, but as with other nights, some clouds popped up on the horizon which spoiled the sunset. We entertained ourselves by watching planes land on the short strip at Union Island. The planes must drop rapidly once they pass over a hill. It is not as bad as the airstrip on St. Barts (where rumor has it the taxis driving the hilltop road have wheel marks from passing planes), but looks like a wild ride nonetheless.
Palm Island has a very strange history, some of which (what I can remember) I will pass on here. Around the time of the Second World War, a fellow by the name of John Caldwell married a lady named Mary, after a very short courtship, in Australia. John soon thereafter got separated from Mary, probably because the Army or whatever sent him away. When all was said and done, he was thousands of miles from Mary in Australia with no way to get back to her. Thus he devised a plan to get a boat and sail back to her. Which he did. It was a harrowing journey, and he was almost killed doing it. He finally ended up somewhere in the south seas before he was totally wrecked and could go no further. Fortunately for him he was close enough to his destination that some kind souls helped him go the rest of the way.
Later John and Mary ended up in the Caribbean. He got the bright idea that he would like an island of his own, on which he could plant Palm trees (not native to the Caribbean), just like in the south seas. He approached the government of the St. Vincent Grenadines, and made a proposal. After much dickering, John ended up with a 99 year lease on the island for $1 per year.
John and Mary then “developed” the island, planting their palm trees. A private resort was built on the island. Today the island is a private resort, where one may rent an apartment or a villa for some extravagant sum. However, John, being the nice guy that he is, allows Windjammer to visit. Its a good deal for all. We get to see a really neat island, and John makes a lot of money off us from drinks and sales of his autobiography. Oh, by the way, John and Mary still live on the island. Mary is one end, John is on the other with his mistress. They have two sons there who manage the business affairs of the island.
We took the launch to the island, and headed for the Sunshine Bar, where we ordered beers. The beer choices are Hairoun, from St. Vincent, and EKU, a German beer brewed under license in the islands. $2 each for a 10 ounce bottle. No wonder they like us. Dinner followed shortly thereafter; it was a barbecue, ribs and chicken. Very good. After dinner, there was dancing for those so inclined. John Caldwell then showed up to autograph copies of his autobiography ($20 US). We didn’t buy one. After sitting at the bar a while, Barb and I caught a launch at about 9:30 (they were running them until 11 PM) and went back to the ship.
Thursday, 2/20: Wow this week is going fast. I got up at 6 AM. Nobody else was up. A few people were sleeping on deck. I got my usual coffee and watched the eastern sky light up. At 6:30 they put out oatmeal raisin muffins. I lucked out and find one with no raisins. Even with the raisins they were very good. At 7 AM a group of us took the launch to Palm Island for a run/walk around the island. Nancy, Bob, Barb and I brought up the rear. Barb and I were not fit for fast walking, much less running, because of the abuse we inflicted on our feet when walking on Mayreau. We walked around the island on “Highway 90”, the name of the path around the island. We got to see some of the rental apartments and villas along the way. Looks like a nice place to spend a week. Too bad its so hard to get there (fly to Trinidad or something like that, puddle jumper to Union Island, boat to Palm). After circling the island once (the ambitious runners, mostly crew members, went three times around) we got in the launch and went back to the ship.
When we got back to the ship at about 8:30 AM, we immediately went to the dining room for breakfast. On this day they served sausage and french toast. Then back to Palm Island, where we spent the day on the beach, sitting on chairs in the shade near the gift shop (an easy walk away from the bar). Later in the morning Captain Max and First Mate Glen started a game of volleyball. They alternated between games of volleyball and cooling dips in the water. We chose not to participate.
Lunch was served on the beach – burgers and fries (cheeseburger in paradise). I used flambeau sauce in place of ketchup on my burgers. This definitely made them more interesting, although it increased my beer intake. The rest of the afternoon was spent on the beach doing nothing but drinking EKU beer (which we did until they ran out, then we had to switch to Hairoun). I preferred EKU to Hairoun, the EKU being smoother. At about 4 PM it was back to the ship to clean up in preparation for the evening festivities. Boarding the ship, we were soothed by the sounds of classical music – a very welcome change from the usual overdose of party music. This became a daily thing for the next two days – quiet music preceding swizzle time.
Snacks and swizzles followed shortly thereafter. Today it is some sort of fried fish, plus the usual assortment of cheeses and other stuff. Then Kimberly started to set up for the crab races. Nancy threatened to kidnap the crabs, with ransom being two weeks on the Mandalay. Kimberly’s response was that she would have to cancel the crab races. Nice try anyway. The crab races were announced, the crabs were introduced, and bets were taken. Then the big race was run. Three preliminaries and a final, something like that. We lost no money, although we did not bet any. I concentrated on the sunset, which again was sort of so-so.
By this time we were anchored in a sheltered area just off Union Island. There we would remain until the next day. There were a few small sailboats anchored in the same general area. They probably thought they had found a nice quiet place to spend the evening. We were to prove them wrong. This was the big night as far as on board affairs of the island.
We took the launch to the island, and headed for the Sunshine Bar, where we ordered beers. The beer choices are Hairoun, from St. Vincent, and EKU, a German beer brewed under license in the islands. $2 each for a 10 ounce bottle. No wonder they like us. Dinner followed shortly thereafter; it was a barbecue, ribs and chicken. Very good. After dinner, there was dancing for those so inclined. John Caldwell then showed up to autograph copies of his autobiographple of photographers (Nancy did this). Bob wore a clear plastic garbage bag and claimed to be a prophylactic. Captain Max was in drag, as were several other crew members. Glen was a pirate. One woman pinned numbers on to the front of her shirt and claimed to be a phone.
About 7:30 dinner was ready. About the same time it started to sprinkle. We started going through the line and about when we were halfway through the heavens opened up. We got through the line and went to the dining room. The food was quite good. Four meats, mashed potatoes, etc. We finished our meal then left so that others would have room to escape the rain. I went back on deck to get a few more tidbits. Most of the food was thoroughly rained on – even though it was covered, there was quite a bit of wind. That was a shame, as it was quite a spread. Since it was still raining, we went to our cabin, where we sat out the storm.
Later they were judging the costumes. We found a place to hide from the crowds and drink our bottle of Chardonnay. It was good that the others did not find us, because we heard the next day that those silly enough not to dress up were pressed into service as judges.
Friday, 2/21: Last day. Up at 6 AM for my last opportunity to enjoy my coffee on deck at sunrise. About the same time the anchor was pulled, and we began to sail toward our next destination, Tobago Cays. At 6:30 they brought out the sticky buns. Today it is donuts, the fried kind. Sunrise again was so-so, but there was some interesting color in the clouds. We went for breakfast at 7:30; today it is bacon, fried eggs and hash browns.
Back on deck after breakfast we continued to sail towards Tobago Cays. We had come from Union Island going north, then sailed around Mayreau, and headed east toward Tobago Cays. We could see the three islands on our starboard side – Palm Island, Union Island, and Mayreau. I got a picture with the three islands. About 9:30 we dropped anchor off one of the islands. The Tobago Cays is several uninhabited (or at least no permanent inhabitants) islands, and is sort of a national park. In the distance on the beach we could see the bright colors of the t-shirts being peddled by the locals.
As soon as we are anchored it was story time – our last one. We got some final instructions and fill out our departure cards, which Kimberly took along with our passports over to Union Island. This is necessary because we were leaving St. Vincent’s jurisdiction and entering Grenada’s. We would need this paperwork in order to enter Grenada. We were told the plans for the day. We were to go to the beach today. Last launch back is scheduled for 1 PM. A cooler would be brought along so that we do not go thirsty.
After story time, Barb, Nancy and Bob caught the launch to the beach. I stayed behind for the engine room tour. The ships engineer took us (mostly guys) into the bowels of the ship. The stairs going down are very steep; more like a ladder. At the bottom of the stairs are a row of washers and dryers, all being used. Then into the engine room. Lots of plumbing and A/C apparatus. All pipes and such are color coded so it can be seen at a glance what they are used for (my favorite: the color code that meant “kill-a-fella”). There are two generators, although only one is used at any one time. They are fully enclosed and powered by 8V71 Detroits. Further back is the main propulsion engine, a MAN V12, no turbo, about 17L (I could not hear very well) displacement. On the way back to the deck, I looked in on some of the crew quarters toward the front of the ship. They are very cramped, and must ride pretty rough in heavy seas, given the extreme position.
While waiting for the next launch, I walked around the ship taking more pictures (I didn’t do that enough last year on the Fantome). I got the dining room from several angles, the lower level cabin area, and even the rear sitting area off the dining room (which most people did not use). Then I boarded the launch and joined the rest of the gang on the beach. We had a couple of the ship’s foam mats to sit on this time, so we did not need to sit on a sheet or a towel. About 10:30 we raided the bar for a Carib. Last chance to drink Carib. Our time on this island was spent pretty much as time was spent on the other islands. Barb and I alternated between sitting around and going in the water, and Nancy and Bob did the same, and snorkeled too. The snorkeling here was said to be quite good, although the current was strong.
We took a short walk to the other side of the island. I climbed up the top of the hill. It was a rather rugged trail through tall grass and over rocks, but the view from the top was worth it. Then it was back to the beach where we continued to drink Caribs until it was time to catch the launch back to the ship. Most of the others had the same idea – the bartender had to send for more beer. Toward 1 PM the beach slowly started to empty out, although there were a lot of us who wanted to stay here as long as possible, being our last chance to be somewhere like this for a while. Finally we got on the launch and went back.
Lunch, or what was left of it, was waiting for us when we got back. The breaded (coconut breading) shrimp went the fastest. They had made enough for 6 each, but it seems some of the pigs took something more like 16 each. Barb and I did get a few. They also served ham with pineapple, which also was quite good. Dessert was a chocolate marble cake; there was plenty of that and I was able to get my share and more. After lunch I settled up our charge account with Kimberly. We left the suggested standard tip, which was $50 per person. It is nice the way they do it, with no tipping for anything during the cruise, just one big one at the end. The tips are then split among the non-officers. We also bought a couple of bottle jackets, which should be handy for camping. At the same time, about 1:30, the sails went up for the last time. A group of pirates decided to mutiny (trying to get another week), and the pirate flag went up.
The afternoon was spent on the deck doing nothing. Virtually everyone was doing this. We were sailing without the engine, and it was very quiet. Compounding the quiet was the mood on the ship, with this being the last day. At 5 PM the snacks and swizzles came out. Today it is pigs in a blanket, some sort of fruit-filled croissants, and fruit. The pigs did not move too fast, so I got plenty. About an hour later the sun was starting to set. It looked like it was going to be a good one, the first one of the week. Unfortunately, as the sun neared the horizon, some clouds popped up from the edge, ruining any chance of a perfect sunset.
At 6:30 PM, we went to the dining room for the Captains Dinner (attire: wear a clean t-shirt). We sat with Bob and Nancy, and a couple from out east, can’t remember their names. We heard that one of our shipmates (name withheld to protect the innocent) had good news – they fixed his toilet seat. Earlier that afternoon, a large waven at a glance what they are used for (my favorite: the color code that meant “kill-a-fella”). There are two generators, although only one is used at any one time. They are fully enclosed and powered by 8V71 Detroit’s. Further back is the main propulsion engine, a MAN V12, no turbo, about 17L (I could not hear very well) displacement. On the way back to the deck, I looked in on some of the crew quarters toward the front of the ship. They are very cramped, and must ride pretty rough is usual Windjammer practice (like the Caesar salad), Captain Max arrived to offer a champagne toast. Before that he provided some entertainment, with a stuffed raccoon that he made to look almost as if it were alive. Very entertaining. He closed with the toast, and also talked a bit about the other ships he has skippered. He said the Yankee Clipper was the best sailing shop. The Fantome and the Mandalay are very nice. The Flying Cloud visits some very nice islands. Finally, about the Amazing Grace, he said he was not old enough to sail it, and neither were we.
We had fairly smooth sailing for our last dinner. We only needed to catch our utensils a couple of times. There was just enough rolling so that our last dinner would be memorable as a dinner enjoyed while truly sailing. However, it did get rougher as the dinner progressed, but that mainly was something for the second seating to deal with. We finished dinner about 7:45 and went back to the deck. Over to the east was Grenada. The moon was reflecting off the water. It was one of those perfect evenings, although there were some clouds out that looked threatening. Nothing came of them except a few sprinkles. Barb and I and Nancy and Bob just sat out there on the deck, enjoying the moonlit evening, but in a rather somber mood as our last minutes together on this ship passed by.
At 9:15 PM, everyone was done with dinner and it was time to make the peach flambe (another Windjammer last evening ritual). The peaches were soaked in 151 proof rum, then set aflame. Once everything was heated up good (but before the booze was burnt off) the flames were extinguished, the peaches were ladled onto ice cream, and we were served. It was very good, and there was still a lot of rum left. Nancy and Bob, who hate rum, said maybe they were developing a taste for rum. They ate the whole thing.
A few minutes later we uncorked our last bottle of wine – Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon. Our last chance to drink wine under the stars. This is a lot like drinking wine when camping, but the view from the ship beats sitting around the campfire. At about 11 PM we finished our wine and we reluctantly left the deck and headed for our cabin. We did not get much sleep that night. There was a lot of commotion with the Grenada people coming on board and checking out the paperwork. Also Grenada requires that their pilot bring the ship in to port, and the story is that this particular pilot was not terribly competent.
Saturday, 2/22: Up at 4:45 AM. We pack the rest of our stuff, then went to the dining room for breakfast. While there we picked up our passports and landing cards from Kimberly. There were a lot of people here – because we were all on the 7:40 AM BWIA flight. Same time as the flight out was the last time I sailed the YC in 1992 – don’t they ever change it? Breakfast was sort of a smorgasbord of all the breakfasts and sticky buns from the prior week. We certainly did not go hungry. The lucky people taking a later flight out were served lunch on the ship, which was different from the Fantome last year – we had a 4 PM flight and we on our own for lunch. Overall, I can’t say I regretted leaving so early. The ship does not feel the same after the cruise is over – it is sort of like the life has left it (of course, on the other hand if one were doing a back-to-back the perception may be different).
At 5:30 it was time for final good-byes, and we went to the taxis. They had about six taxis hauling the people, with the luggage hauled by an oversized pickup truck covered by a tarp to keep the rain out. Because we kept our luggage in the room until the last minute, it was loaded last. Then it was off to the airport. Our caravan of taxis wound through the streets. There actually were a fair number of people out and about, although they did not appear to be doing much. When we got to the airport the advantages of having ones luggage loaded last became obvious. Our luggage was among the first unloaded, so we were able to get in line for check-in and customs quickly. Not that we were pressed for time, but it just got us through the (very) slow moving line that much quicker. Once we got to the counter we breezed right through. Having passports here helped, because it helped us to easily avoid the departure tax (the stamps on the passports proved that we had been here less than 24 hours.
By 6:30 we were at the gate, waiting for our flight. At about 7:10 it arrived, having completed the first leg of the flight from Trinidad. We boarded at 7:20, and got seats 14A&B. It was an MD-80, so we had the two seats to ourselves. The plane was only about half full – mostly just our shipmates. Once aloft they served us pastries – some sort of cheese things, which I did not eat – but appearing to be of vastly superior quality to what the domestics usually serve.
About 55 minute after departing Grenada, we arrived at Antigua. On our approach I could see Heritage Quay, where we sailed from last year on the Fantome. We hope to visit this place again, sailing the Mandalay on its two week itinerary from Antigua to Grenada. The Mandalay alternates its itinerary – sailing north from Grenada to Antigua in two weeks, then reversing and going the other way for the next two week cruise, and squeezing in the odd one week cruise. The southbound itinerary is preferred – all the big islands are visited during the first week, so the second week is more relaxing. Also the sailing is smoother since it is more with the wind. Looking down on Heritage Quay I could see the Sea Cloud, E.F. Hutton’s old ship which we met at Bequia. The Sea Cloud must have continued northward for the rest of the week, while we turned around and went south. This ship was also in Antigua last year when we left the Fantome. Small world.
At Antigua we picked up a lot more passengers, almost filling the plane. A lot of these people had been on other (foo-foo) cruises. Lunch was then served. Some sort of Caribbean chicken dish, and it was quite good. Again, vastly superior to the so-called food that the domestics serve. The flight was uneventful, and we arrived at Miami on time – about 11 AM. We got through customs OK.
We then checked the flight monitor. Our flight was not scheduled until about 8 PM, but there was a 12:45. We made a bee-line for the gate (enduring a baggage search, perhaps because the x-ray picked up the spice grater we got from Grenada) and checked in for standby. We did get on the flight, which was a 757 cattle car. Fortunately we were seated next to petite people. The flight was uneventful, lunch stunk (pizza – seems that’s all United serves these days), and we got home by 4 PM. This made Bo very happy, because we were able to get him out of the kennel a day ahead of plan.
Recap: Overall this cruise met our expectations. We preferred this one over the Fantome, mostly because of the less crowded ship and the relaxed, unpopulated islands it visits. Arriving a day early is also better than what we did last year, arriving at almost midnight on Sunday. This cruise was particularly pleasant because Captain Max pressed on northward Monday evening, regardless of the rough seas. This gave us plenty of time for relaxed island hopping during the rest of the week. We have no complaints, except perhaps the on-board activities have become too predictable. On the other hand, nobody forces us to participate, which is fine by us. I recommend Windjammer to anyone considering a cruise or a Caribbean vacation.