Hard Wood Keeps Us Rocking and Rolling on the High Seas!
By: Julia Yarbough
August 8, 2012
Do we create odd-ball adventures and situations, or do oddball situations and adventures follow us? That’s the question I can’t help but ask as Silva and I trade notes on the “official” start to our Windjammer Sailing Adventures Caribbean cruise aboard the SV Mandalay - YIPPEE!!
The island of Grenada is beautiful but hey... let’s set sail already! Easy for us to say, considering when the appointed time to board our shuttle bus from our hotel to the dock...well, uh... we were late! Don’t ask how or why...suffice to say, the bus was pulling out of the property as the two of us trotted down the street to climb aboard. Did we set the pace for the rest of the week? Uh... yeah!! From the start, our new found friends and family were a bit suspect of the two girls in the Highway to a Husband t-shirts!
Once on board the Mandalay, the allure of the Windjammer lore quickly set in. This isn’t just any ole’ cruise... this is sailing the high seas on board HISTORY! The 236 foot Mandalay was build in 1923 - wow!! This ship has seen the world - sailing over 1 million miles, continent to continent. A classic, wooden tall-ship, walking the upper deck or sliding your hand across the wood railings or touching the thick ropes that control the canvas sails...well, you can’t help but FEEL the power, strength and history of this ship. It’s truly a beautiful vessel. And talk about an aura of mystique and intrigue! Maybe Silva will tell you how she just “knew” we would be safe on board this decades old legacy of the tall-ship sailing world. (Hey, I’m not saying my friend has spooky powers or anything...but sometimes she says some spooky things)
Our cabin was pretty nice too! Number 11. We snaked down a narrow steep stairwell to reach our quarters for the trip. I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or nervous that there was a fire-extinguisher and alarm box right outside our door and each bunk(yes...we had bunk beds!!!) was equipped with an over-sized, bright orange life-vest. If nothing else, I figured should some horrible “Titanic-esque” situation unfold...we just might make it out alive.
Wanting to dive right into the mix of the Windjammer history of offering “fun and adventure” to passengers, Silva and I, the two ‘virgins’ on-board (because this was our FIRST Windjammer trip) dove right into dinner on the top deck, mixing and mingling with fellow passengers and dancing to Caribbean music as a live band kept us entertained well into the evening before pulling out of port. By the time I fell into my upper bunk, I was excited yet exhausted and ready for sleep. Sure, it could have been due to the three Dramamine pills I took before getting on board - geez, those make you SLEEPY! Better a bit groggy than the alternative... ( I saw a number of people looking green and queasy as the evening progressed)
Let’s just say Rock ‘n Roll took on a whole new meaning! Somewhere between Grenada and the small island of Bequia - our destination for the night - Mother Nature decided to show us who is in charge. About three o’clock I woke up to the ship swaying HARD - rolling side to side, being tossed around in the ocean! I won’t lie - images of dying a slow death, drowning in the beautiful Caribbean ocean flashed through my head. What would people say? “Oh, at least she died doing what she loved.”
With every shift and roll and crash of the waves outside our portal window, fear was lurching up in me. I looked down to the lower bunk...Silva was sound asleep. Damn her! Didn’t she know that in my head I was about to perish in the ocean??? That I was hatching an escape plan should the ship capsize and water come rushing through the bottom deck? Okay, okay - I’m being melodramatic, but seriously...I was freaking out! I’m not a good swimmer!
The heavy thud, crash and boom of our camera gear and other personal belongings being flung off the counter-top from the heavy rolling of the ship woke Silva. At least if I was wide awake and restless, I no longer would have to imagine my watery-demise alone - LOL.
Needless to say, we made it through the night unscathed by the massive waves sent down upon us by Poseidon’s wrath. (Okay, there was no wrath...just some large swells. But when else am I going to be able to evoke ancient Gods in this blog, hmmm??)
The tumultuous seas made for great morning-after breakfast fodder. Our fellow passengers all had stories of surviving the night; of almost being tossed out of their beds, of feeling sick to their stomachs from the motion in the ocean. IT WAS GREAT!!!
And that’s when we had our second taste of why Windjammer passengers keep coming back for more. There’s something that happens when you FEEL the ocean on a sail boat. It’s like you become ‘one’ with the sea. The experience imprints in your memory and in your spirit. No wonder when Windjammer Barefoot Cruises went bankrupt back in 2007 so many faithful “Jammers” were heartbroken. No wonder when we boarded Mandalay, and the crew hoisted the sails to the musical bagpipe version of Amazing Grace, did so many old-timers shed tears. Tears of sadness of what was, and the resurrection and hope for a new life for Mandalay and her crew. No wonder the man at the helm, Captain Sly, became emotional at the unfurling of a classic Pirate Flag to represent the ship.
In a mere 24 hours, the lure of the sea was calling and wrapping her watery arms around us. I couldn’t help but wonder, had this ship ever been boarded by real pirates? Was its bounty pillaged? Did a handsome swashbuckler hoist himself aboard and win the heart of a beautiful damsel? Had she occupied cabin 11? HA HA...sorry, wishful thinking!
The adventure continues;