Friday, November 9, 2012

The WindJammer sails again!

Full Sail Cruising.

What a beautiful sight. The S.V.Mandalay, while moored at the Grenada welcome center, located within the Carnage at St. Georges, Grenada. All 236 feet of her was rocking gently, waiting for me to board, this beautiful vessel - a  Barquentine - has a 33 foot beam and has enough cabins to carry 58 guests as well as a 22 person crew. 

I had the opportunity to sail on her for a week at the end of October, with the intent of seeing how it must have been to ply the waters of the Caribbean Sea roughly 90 years ago. And, to check out the wonderful food promised to guests, that only fresh, local ingredients could provide.

Once considered the most luxurious yacht in the world, the S.V. Mandalay was designed in 1923 as a three-masted Barquentine by famed naval architects Cox & Stevens. She was the dreamboat of financier E. F. Hutton and his wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post, who named her Hussar at first launch. Over the years she was sailed by an eclectic group of owners, and has logged over one million nautical miles! She is now owned by Windjammer Sailing Adventures of Florida. From her home base (at present) in Grenada she sets out weekly voyages that tour Grenada, Bequia, Union Island, Sandy Island and the Tobago Keys in the Grenadines. It should be noted that the ship could sail to other unplanned destinations as weather or the captain’s mood might dictate.

Our Purser Amy checked me in with a smile that didn’t seem to leave her face all week! It was a simple process and took only about 10 minutes. The crew takes care of all local customs paperwork throughout the week. No line ups for us. 

Once settled in one of the six available Admiral's suites, (very nice BTW!!) I rejoined some of the crew in the Salon located on the middle deck. I was introduced to ‘Mashup’ who would be serving as our bartender throughout the voyage, and Captain ‘Sly’ stopped buy for a few minutes of introduction. I felt comfortable right from the start. I was then handed my first rum swizzle, a house specialty served every evening compliments of the captain, and my adventure had begun.

Our first meal took place in the mail dining area, as we made our way north, sailing off the coast of Grenada. The fare was hearty, home made, flavorful and plentiful. We dined on a buffet that included a wonderful beef curry or grilled chicken breasts with sides of local stemmed vegetables and rice. A fresh green salad was also available. Desert included a freshly baked coconut and spice cake. Gourmet fare this certainly is not (Chef had a tendency to cook things a little too well for my taste), but it was plenty good. A modest table wine (both red or white) was served with the evening meal. A small additional selection was available for an extra cost behind the bar. 

Over the course of the week we were treated to freshly baked pastries and muffins, juices, a full selection of locally sourced fresh fruit, eggs and sausages, strawberry pancakes as well as an assortment of name brand cereals for breakfast. Notably, the coffee was outstanding. One minor oversight was that the Mandalay offered only a powered creamer. Fresh cream or whole milk would have been a better choice.

Lunches were varied in location and variety, as one day we dined on board; the next we were on a beach. One highlight was chef’s Caribbean fried chicken with home cut fries in the Tobago Keys. Another was cheeseburgers on the beach at Union Island. My only criticism was that the noon meal could have been a bit lighter. Having said that, there was always a fresh green salad offered as a side or alternative to the main course. I guess it was up to me to excercise some restraint and resist temptation.

Evening activities began at 5 P.M. Chef ‘Boston’ prepared a late afternoon snack to go with our complimentary rum swizzles. Each evening the offering changed. One day we were nibbling on a selection of fine cheese with crackers, the next, freshly baked pizza or salsa and nachos. This turned out to be one of my favorite times in the day, as we enjoyed each others company while watching the fire of the sun setting over the horizon and feeling the light caribbean breeze envelop me while lingering on the top deck.

This was also the time to get caught up on each others excursions or other adventures encountered on the day. We also took time to plot our fun for the following day or two. Some of us wanted to swim in the sparkling waters of the Tobago Keys, where there would be an opportunity to swim amongst Sea Turtles weighing up to 200 pounds. (I did see six!). I cannot recommend this enough. It was thrilling! Others selected the optional (at additional cost) SCUBA trip. We also prepared ourselves for on-deck evening fun. One night the bets were on as the Mandalay presented it’s own version of the Breeder’s Cup. This time there were no jockeys to be seen, just 6 Hermit Crabs racing down the top deck to the delight of us all. The following evening we were treated to an astronomy lesson from captain Sly. It was a fascinating hour of star gazing, while he spoke knowledgeably about myriad constellations, stars and black holes. All compete with a full insight into the mythology behind each one.

Soon enough our week was over, and it was time to reenter reality. It was a delight to have been aboard a vessel with such a pedigree. As wonderful an itinerary as there was, I came away feeling that the Mandalay was the destination, and the islands that twinkled in the sea, and we visited, were just the icing on the cake.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Experience the best ...

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