Q & A with a Jammer

To make up for my absence, you will enjoy (I hope!) more than 300 words in this post.

Last month my husband and I took our sons, Maxwell and Jackson, on a sailing trip from Grenada, through the necklace islands of St. Vincent and The Grenadines. It was our hands — Todd’s and mine — that went up each day when Captain Sly, during “Story Time,” asked:

Who has sailed on the Mandalay before?
Who has been to the beautiful island of Bequia?
Who has been to the amazing island of Mayreau?
Who has been to Sandy Island?

We’re experienced “Jammers.” We’ve sailed now with “Sail Windjammer” (the “new” company) twice, and with Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (the “old company”) five times. Folks always seem interested in hearing about these Caribbean vacations, and I’ll write a feature story about the “Junior Jammer” sail (the week when children age 10 to 17 can sail) soon in Evansville Living. For today, here are the questions I am most frequently asked about these “No Foo Foo Ship” cruises.

Q: I’ve read about “barefoot” cruises off the coast of Maine where you have to work on board. Is this the same?

A: Sail Windjammer was formed two years ago from the legacy and culture of a former Windjammer company which operated for decades from Miami, plying the warm Caribbean waters with, at one time, five tall ships. I would imagine the Maine sailings are very different. On the S.V. Mandalay, Sail Windjammer’s historic ship, passengers are invited to help raise the sails — to the melody of “Amazing Grace.” The deck hands do need the help, and it is appreciated, but not required. Passengers do not cook or clean the ship, of course.

▲ Photo by Kristi Epplin

Q: What do you do on board?

A: As much or as little as you like. Each day the activities director writes (and draws) the day’s itinerary on the board.

We like to sit on deck and soak up the Caribbean sun. (Grenada is just 12 degrees from the equator.) When the ship is under sail, it’s enjoyable to watch the Captain at the wheel.

We sail to a different island every day, and passengers can enjoy the beach or an island excursion. My family snorkeled nearly every day, and even swam with sea turtles at a national preserve. At Union Island, we visited the very unique and famous locale, Happy Island, a man-made island that celebrities, including Alton Brown, visit.

Q: How is the food?
A: The food is excellent! Unlike a cruise ship, passengers enjoy meals in the saloon and bare feet are acceptable. The dinner bell rings and guests choose their tables. Snacks and rum swizzles are served each afternoon around 5 p.m. and early risers get Bloody Marys and sticky buns at 6:30 a.m. Sometimes the crew brings a picnic lunch and bar to the deserted island we are visiting for the day.

Q: How big is the ship? How many passengers are on board?

A: S.V. Mandalay is 236 feet long. Up to 55 passengers can be accommodated in the staterooms. Meet the passengers on our trip!

Q: Do you sail from Florida?
A: Not on this itinerary — that would be a long sail. Most weeks of the year, S.V. Mandalay embarks from Grenada. American Airlines flies from Miami to St. Georges, Grenada, several times a week. Our family arrived a day early, and stayed a day after the sail, at a resort on the quiet Morne Rouge Bay.

Q: What is the crew like?
A: The Mandalay Crew is fantastic. They cannot do enough for the passengers. We enjoy visiting with crewmembers, many of whom are from islands in the West Indies.

Q: What are the islands like?
A: The islands in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are beautiful. Some are uninhabited, like Tobago Keys. Mayreau has 300 residents and Bequia has a population of 4,300 including a large concentration of international expats.

Q: Do you get seasick?
A: I rarely have had problems with seasickness. Because the ship is under sail — and really sailing — passengers will feel the waves. It is advised to have anti-sickness medicine on hand, or, wear the anti-motion sickness wristbands available today. There is almost always land in sight — the ship is island hopping — but on each itinerary there is always one or two big sails, where the captain takes the ship out 50 miles or so, and then sails back down through the islands.

Q: Would you go again?
A: Yes! We don’t plan to stop with our seventh sail on a tall ship!

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