The best vacation I ever had was a Windjammer Barefoot cruise.
I’ve tried off and on for years to convince my wife that we should take another.
Now apparently it’s too late. It appears the company is going down for the last time.
We took the cruise a long, long time ago with my wife’s sister and husband.
At the time, the jewel of the fleet was the Fantome. (above) It was built for the Duke of Westminster, and Aristotle Onassis later bought it as a wedding for Princess Grace and Prince Rainier.
Fantome, the ship herself, once regal and filled with rumspiced laughter and steeldrum songs as she plied the Caribbean, lies on the bottom of the sea off the coast of Honduras. The 30 West Indian crew members, along with their 32-year-old British-born captain, disappeared with her in the fury of Hurricane Mitch, one of the worst tropical storms in history.
I was so sad when I read about the loss of the Fantome. We didn’t sail on the Fantome, but it played a big part in my best adventure.
Due to circumstances, we ended up on the M/S Yankee Trader, (above – M/S means motor/sail) which was a supply vessel for the fleet of luxury yachts that made up the Windjammer Barefoot Cruise fleet.
(Thanks to Jim for the picture)
Our captain, was Laurie McCloud, the master of the fleet at the time.
We left Nassau with full sails and the bagpipes version of Amazing Grace blaring from the loudspeakers.
Don’t think we didn’t get “looks” from the tourists on the larger cruise ships as we left the harbor. There were 80 passengers of all ages, including kids and a crew of 20 or so. That departure alone made us one group looking for fun.
The sails were quickly lowered as we got out of the harbor (they were just for show) and the diesel engines took us where the winds wouldn’t.
Everyone who didn’t have a bathing suit on quickly changed and that was our attire for the rest of the week at sea. What fun. Bar was always open, free grog in the morning, free rum punch all day, and anything else you wanted, you could mix yourself. Sometimes there was a crew member around to punch your paper doubloon as payment, often there wasn’t.
The food was prepared fresh daily. Breakfast (for those who made it) lunch and dinner were eaten in bathing suits sitting in gigantic wooden booths or on deck.
We laughed, we lied, we ate, we drank, we drank, we drank, we lied, and we laughed a lot!
A couple days out, we hooked up with the Fantome to renew her supplies. A bunch of us from the Yankee Trader road over on the launches to visit this spectacular vessel. There were 300 passengers on the Fantome. Compared to our group they were a tame bunch.
When it was time to leave, my BIL and I decided that it would be great fun if we took all their knives and forks back to the Yankee Trader.
ARRRRR, we was pirates, matey!
They weighed anchor and we weighed anchor to motor around them for a planned water balloon fight between the ships. Laurie McCloud was not a man to be defeated, even during a simple water balloon fight.
As we motored away, McCloud came over the intercom and asked if anyone knew anything about missing flatware from the Fantome.
The crew didn’t really seem to mind that they had to launch a boat and return our bounty. As a matter of fact, we’re pretty sure they were proud of our initiative.
When we left the second time, at least half of the passengers lined up on deck for a fine display of moons.
We fished off the stern and I caught a small (100 lbs or so) shark. We ate shark fritters the next day.
Sleeping on deck was encouraged. We tried, but the thin cushions didn’t compare with the double bed in our room.
On of the other stops was a deserted island with an abandoned light house to explore. The currents were so strong that after we jumped off the bow and bobbed to the surface, we had to look for a rope to grab because the current had swept us past the ship.
We ended our week at sea at Freeport, Bahamas. There are more stories to tell. Perhaps Windjammer Barefoot Cruises will be saved, and I’ll share them with you.
I hope for the best for Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. I would leave tomorrow if I had the chance for another adventure.