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Sailing the Grenadines on the Yankee Clipper Windjammer Ship

Life on the Yankee Clipper


Grenadine Sunset

A spectacular sunset over the Caribbean can be a memorable cruise moment

Photo (c) 2000 Linda Garrison, licensed to About.com, Inc.
After a weekend in Grenada spent sightseeing and driving on the "wrong" side of the road, we were finally ready to board the Yankee Clipper (YC) and sail north through the Grenadines. The YC is a beautiful yacht, and was originally launched in 1927 as the Cressida. After World War II, the ship was purchased by the Vanderbilt family and renamed the Pioneer. They used her for racing at Newport Beach. Don't you know that this ship's bulkheads could tell some great stories! Windjammer acquired the Yankee Clipper in 1965 and added her to its fleet. The ship is 197 feet long and 30 feet wide--no chance of getting lost! The YC was configured with accommodations for 64 and a crew of 30.

Unfortunately, Windjammer Cruises ceased operations in 2007, and the beautiful Yankee Clipper is no longer sailing. This article can be used as a memory for those of us who loved sailing on these classical old ships and those who might be considering a sailing vacation with another company.

We left Grenada after lunch on Monday and sailed in a northeasterly direction all night towards the Grenadines. Before I discuss the stopovers, I need to tell you a little about the passengers and environment on a Windjammer. The passengers were a diverse group from all over. The average age was 40-50, and most everyone was from the United States or Canada. About two-thirds of the passengers were repeat cruisers. One retired executive was spending his 16th and 17th Windjammer weeks on the YC, and a young schoolteacher was spending a month on the Yankee Clipper. The rest of us were just there for the week.

There was one couple with their two children from Germany. These two kids did fine and were no problem all week, but I would not recommend a Windjammer trip for most children. These cruises are NOT for people who need to be entertained or constantly occupied. Daytime at sea is spent lying on the deck watching the rigging sway back and forth or reading a good book. The sailing sensation is mesmerizing and relaxing to most of us, but for some it is sickening. We had one very young honeymoon couple on board. I think she was seasick before we cleared St. George's harbor. The groom showed up at dinner the first night alone, distraught over his bride's condition. None of the rest of us were affected, but they left the ship at our first island and caught a boat or plane back to Grenada. We all felt terrible for them both.

The routine on a Windjammer is refreshing for those of us who have a more formal life back at home. Shorts, t-shirts or swimsuits are always the dress of the day. On the Yankee Clipper, we went whole days without shoes. Make-up is unnecessary, and with the trade winds, any hair style other than wind-blown is impossible. The food is filling and often served family-style, but definitely not gourmet. Instead of using the familiar plastic ID cards used on most cruise liners, paper "doubloons" are purchased and then punched with a hole punch as they are used to buy drinks. Some drinks are free. Bloody Mary's are served in the morning, and rum swizzles are available at happy hour time. Ice water, coffee and ice tea are self-serve all day. You need to drink LOTS of water when in the southern Caribbean.

Our first night's sunset at sea was spectacular, and after sailing all night, we reached Becquia (pronounced Beck-way) at precisely 6:08 am. Captain John was precise in everything. We started each day with a "story time" where everyone gathered around and he discussed the events of the day. They also listed the day's events on a white board for all to see. We had picked this Yankee Clipper trip because we had heard that snorkeling in pristine waters was on the schedule everyday. The definition of "shore excursion" on a trip like this is exactly that. The ship anchors in a harbor, puts the passengers in the launch and takes them ashore! You then settle down on a spectacular beach for some sunning, swimming, and snorkeling until time to have a picnic lunch ashore or go back to the ship. What a peaceful life.

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