Fifth in a Series:
When Windjammer Barefoot Cruises — known for their casual, relaxed, small-ship sailing cruises of the Caribbean — went defunct back in 2007, many of their long-time regular passengers felt adrift. There simply was nothing comparable to turn to.
So, like any truly dedicated cruisers, they started their own company, offering much the same casual sailing experience. Georgia-based Island Windjammers, run by company president Liz Harvey, rounded up some of the old Barefoot crew and, in late 2009, launched with the 12-passenger schooner Diamant, which sailed the Grenadines in the far southern Caribbean.
Success has followed in its wake. The 24-passenger, 120-foot-long motorsailer Sagitta — our ship for our week-long cruise through the southern Caribbean — followed in 2013, and the 30-passenger tall ship Vela is set for its first shakedown cruises in December of this year.
Itineraries have expanded to the French West Indies (our itinerary of St. Lucia, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique); the Leeward Islands (St. Maarten, Anguilla, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Barts); the Windward Islands (Grenada and the Grenadines, St. Vincent, St. Lucia); and the British Virgin Islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Normal Island, Joost Van Dyke).
You won’t necessarily visit all the islands listed above: the itinerary is ultimately left up to the captain. As Leah, our operations manager put it when one passenger asked if we could go past the Pitons, the famous St. Lucia landmarks, en route to Dominica: “Dude, there’s this guy who steers the ship…” In other words, Captain Matt had the final say, and we would not be sailing past the Pitons if we wanted to make it to Dominica the next morning.
Casual is the Watchword Onboard
While Island Windjammers had no official connection with Windjammer Barefoot, they followed the same philosophy of no dress codes — going barefoot on board is encouraged, while shorts and T-shirts are the height of fashion — along with few organized activities and an emphasis on good food, camaraderie, and traveling to small ports and harbors where big cruise ships often can’t.
While complimentary wine, beer, and rum punches flow freely, Island Windjammers cruises don’t have the reputation for “drunken debauchery,” as one cruise writer put it, that Barefoot relished.
One result is that it’s now more baby-boomer friendly than Windjammer Barefoot was, and if you choose to go to bed early and rise with the dawn, no one will look askance. But expect a fun-loving, sociable group of fellow passengers, no matter the hour.
Life Onboard — the Dinner Bell is the Only Real Obligation
Coffee is waiting for early risers, and breakfast — which may include cereals, yogurts, eggs, pancakes, bacon, or French toast (appropriately served in Martinique) — follows at 8 a.m. The first dinghies headed into shore usually leave at 9 a.m., and lunch — which could range from fried flying fish to a trio of cold salads — is served on deck at noon.
The popular snack and cocktail hour takes place at 5 p.m. in the lounge — this is when the appropriately named Sagitta-rita rum punches are paired with delicious appetizers like plantain chips with sweet-hot sauce, conch fritters, fresh cut-up tropical fruits, and deviled eggs. When the 5 o’clock bell rings — as it does for all meals — you’d better get there quickly before the choice items disappear.
Dinner, served on deck at 7 p.m. at four closely packed wooden tables, is superb: our meals featured fresh fish, a tender lamb shank, a perfectly grilled steak, and chunks of lobster served over pasta.
Cabins Are Roomy — for Most
Double cabins on the Sagitta were surprisingly roomy, with a spacious lower bunk and a smaller upper bunk. (My wife, Catharine, and I decided there was room to share the lower bunk when, during the first night, she stepped on me in the dark trying to get down from the upper bunk.) Each double cabin has its own bathroom and porthole as well.
The two single cabins onboard, though, are not for claustrophobics. Basically you open the door and therein lies a bed, with space at the end of it to hang clothes. (Pack light!) Those two cabins share a bathroom.
Cabins are located on two decks below the main deck, and steps are narrow climbing up and down, so keep that in mind if you have any kind of physical disability. There are no elevators so you have to get up and down on your own, sometimes on choppy seas.
A Final Stop in Terre-de-Haut
On our fifth day out of St. Lucia, Captain Matt sailed us a brief distance around one bend of little Terre-de-Haut — the most populated of the idyllic Iles des Saintes, eight small islands that are part of Guadeloupe — anchoring off a cove that featured two beaches. One, where we headed, was good for snorkeling and swimming, while the other was connected to a hotel where you could rent beach chairs and the like.
After a morning at the beach followed by lunch, we set sail for our last stop, Martinique — like Guadeloupe, an overseas department of France. Sailing in the afternoon provided a chance to engage in one of my favorite cruise experiences: sitting on deck, chatting a bit with fellow passengers, and watching the world go by.
No loudspeaker announcements, no cruise director rounding up passengers to play silly games, no crewmembers trying to sell you overpriced drinks — that’s what you’ll find (or not find) on an Island Windjammers ship.
My kind of cruising.
Next up: Martinique
For earlier posts in this series, go to:
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