A Drinking Ship With a Sailing Problem

Windjammer Barefoot Cruises has long been known for its fun-loving ways. But is the party finally over?

I also loved the excursion to Bequia's Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, where Orton "Brother" King, a 69-year-old retired fisherman and free diver, raises endangered baby hawksbill turtles. He keeps them for a few years, feeding them canned tuna and sardines, and then releases them into the wild. We got to watch him release his 841st turtle. That's when he discovers what gender his turtles are, he says. The females sniff around for a while so they'll imprint the setting in their tiny turtle brains and come back to spawn. The males make a beeline for the water. We watched, spellbound, as Brother King gently placed the turtle on the sand. It scurried straight into the surf. (It's a boy!)

And sometimes we just lounged. The beach on Mayreau was dotted with fat-leafed palm trees, thatched huts, pink and purple bougain­villea, and darting butterflies and hummingbirds. Giant starfish sprinkled the soft, sandy ocean floor as if they were in a child's drawing. A short swim away was a small reef with Dr. Seuss-esque, finger-like pillar coral; fan and brain coral; and coral that resembled giant, empty tree stumps. As I snorkeled over the reef, I followed a gliding, otherworldly, black-and-blue batfish. It felt wonderful to be all alone, in motion, blissfully engulfed in silence.

We found another quiet refuge on Bequia--dinner at a romantic restaurant followed by a long walk along the beach while everyone else was either on the Clipper or at a bar on the other side of the cove.

Rumors are still swirling about the future of Windjammer. Will the new investment money materialize? Will the company retain its party-hearty, camping-on-the-high-seas atmosphere? It's a shame that real-world troubles have to intrude on the carefree Windjammer experience--which is all about pretending that there's no more urgent question than what to wear to the costume party. I've never felt as relaxed as the night a pod of dolphins, seven or eight of them, arced up alongside the ship, playing and leaping in the wake. Jonathan and I held hands and giggled like little kids.

Later, when the Jimmy Buffett CD began playing for the umpteenth time, I caught a passenger rolling her eyes. She grinned at me and said, "If my biggest annoyances right now are too much Jimmy Buffett and getting sunscreen on my sunglasses, life ain't all that bad."

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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