Fall under the spell of the Caribbean trade winds aboard Sea Cloud
Return to the romantic era of tall ships on an expedition among the idyllic islands of the Caribbean—a place perfectly suited to the aesthetic beauty of sailing aboard an authentic square-rigger. Our iconic ship Sea Cloud will be a movable feast and your base for exploring some of the Caribbean’s gems and lesser-known sites. This historic sailing yacht, a souvenir of a golden age of sailing in the 1930s, is full of the glamour and the sophistication of her era. From the moment you step aboard you’ll feel the soul of the ship—as surely as you’ll feel the trade winds filling her sails.
Discover the enchanting harmony of wind and sail. With reliable 10- to 15-knot trade winds at your back, you’ll trace the history of the islands from native settlers to colonial expansion to modern life. An integral part of what makes them so interesting is how each has settled in with some French, Spanish, and Creole mix of its own. On islands that still belong to France you’ll find everyone speaking French and shops accepting only the euro. Hike the islands and swim and snorkel the Caribbean’s colorful reefs.
The Sea Cloud is fabulous, and being on board and sailing is a real privilege!
Explore with top expedition teams
See, do, and learn more by going with engaging experts who have been exploring this region for decades. Go with an expedition leader, naturalist, historian, Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor, and more.
Veteran expedition leaders are the orchestrators of your experience. Many have advanced degrees and have conducted research or taught for years. They have achieved expedition leader status because they possess the skills, the experience and the depth of knowledge necessary to continually craft the best expedition possible for our guests.
Our naturalists, passionate about the geographies they explore (and return to regularly), illuminate each facet through their enthusiasm and knowledge. Our guests consistently cite the expertise and engaging company of our staff as key reasons to repeatedly travel with us.
Our historians will share the stories, tumults, and triumphs of the people and places we explore. Their colorful personalities and passion for history, from the minutiae to the big picture, make them engaging travel tour guides and companions.
Every expedition aboard Sea Cloud offers an exclusive service—a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructor. This naturalist is specially trained to offer assistance with camera settings and the basics of composition and to help you become a better, more confident photographer.
Enjoy the daily ritual—each evening the entire community gathers on the Lido Deck for an expedition ritual we call Recap. As you enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, your naturalist or historian will give talks and your expedition leader will outline the following day’s schedule.
We dropped anchor in the deep water of
Bay at 7:05 a.m. on a sunny morning with a light breeze. This island paradise is approximately 200 square miles with a small population of 175 thousand. It is the birthplace of two Nobel Laureates: Arthur Lewis for economics, and Derek Walcott for literature. Both men went to the same schools and were born on the same day!
Bay is just to the north and east of the Petit and Gros Piton. The physical setting is very dramatic as the city of
is situated at the west end of an ancient caldera formed some 39 thousand years ago.
After breakfast we came ashore in Zodiacs and boarded minivans for the short ride to the interior of the caldera where the hot gasses and molten waters and rock are still quite active. Here we were able to see and smell (sulfuric gases are pungent!) the seismic activity of the island for the very first time. With the exception of Barbados, all of the islands which we have now visited are the product of volcanic activity as they sit atop the Atlantic and Caribbean plates. Our guide on St. Lucia was Noelle and she was extremely knowledgeable, particularly about plants and cultural matters. We also learned about the local geology and went to an overlook where we could peer into the face of the bubbling mud as it hissed and exploded.
Our next stop was the Diamond Botanical Gardens, one of the unsung gems of the Caribbean. Plants of every sort abound in profusion and Noelle was able to point out the most interesting varieties. I love the bamboo, which is the national plant of St. Lucia—it can grow 8 inches a day and reach 30 feet tall and 8 inches in diameter. As we left, we walked through the formal gardens and saw the exquisitely beautiful jade plant. I cannot precisely describe the color, but it is a cross between an ice blue and crystal. It takes one’s breath away.
We were in these wonderful gardens for about an hour and a half and after our visit, we returned to our vans for the very short drive to the center of
. The public square, which sits in front of the large Roman Catholic church, has recently been redone and in its center is a powerful statue of a slave breaking his chains. The more radical supporters of the French Revolution “the Jacobins” were here in the middle 1790s and set up a guillotine to rid the islands of the aristocracy and supporters of the monarchy.
We set sails for about an hour after lunch and the unfurling was also accomplished with the redoubtable guests who had been coached by Chief Officer John Svendsen. At 4:00 p.m. we watched the fabulous short film of Irving Johnson “Around Cape Horn.” At dinnertime Alex presented the slideshow of guests’ photos. They represent a cornucopia of ways of seeing the Caribbean. I cannot imagine a fuller day, and we all went off to bed utterly satisfied. Next stop Bridgetown, Barbados.
The sun rose off Mount Pleasant in Bequia at 6:10 a.m. and we weighed anchor for our next port, Carriacou, by 7 a.m. We had a great wind and were making eight knots at 11 a.m. Tom Heffernan gave an introductory talk on the Creole languages of the Caribbean, so we were prepared to listen and delight in learning more about the local speech.
We are sailing ever southward on our journey to the Grenadines, nearly 700 miles away from the equator. We are now as far south as we shall travel and not far from South America. Just after noon, some of the guests, who had learned how to handle sails from first officer John Svendsen, joined the crew in hauling down the sails. They soon found out how very difficult this task is!
We dropped anchor in Tyrell Bay and boarded tenders for our exploration of this small but charming island. We were now in the Grenadines—those governed by Grenada, not St. Vincent. This small state consists only of three islands: Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique. The Amerindians called this island
, which meant “the land surrounded by reefs” in the Arawakian-Indian language. Like St. Lucia this island went back and forth between French and British overlords but was finally ceded to the English in 1783 and achieved its independence in 1974.
It is tiny at 13 square miles and has a population of about 6,000. The highest mountain on the island is High Point at a perilous 955 feet. There are also no rivers here—we saw that immediately as we drove through the arid island. Without sufficient rain, they have to bring water in from Grenada by ship.
We met our wonderful local guide Alison at the Mermaid Hotel and began our tour of the town. With two main streets, it is quite substantial! We visited a friendly grocery store where the proprietor showed us the sorts of foods that comprise the local diet. At the rear of the shop I noticed a rum labeled “White Rum” at 139 proof for about $4–sufficient to make one tipsy for a week. Those of us who ended back at the hotel enjoyed a refreshing drink at the bar, just steps from a pristine beach and turquoise waters.
The Carriacou people have a long history of ship-building and fishing and to this day are remarkable fishermen. Many emigrated in the ‘50s and ‘60s to work in England. A great number live in Bedford and have now returned home to retire and build very nice homes.
Those of us who went snorkeling on Sandy Island reported that it was very good. Sandy Island is now a designated wildlife sanctuary and protected. It is a small-uninhabited atoll that sits about half a mile off our other location of the day, Paradise Beach, aptly named.
we had a wonderful meal in the dining room and Simon, our excellent hotel manager, introduced us to his respectable staff.
We furled sails at 8:45 a.m. and had good speed at seven knots over the ground. I spied St. Vincent in the Grenadines at 11 a.m. Bequia is the largest of these Grenadines but is only about seven square miles. It was settled first by the Taino and then the Carib Indians. The demographics of Bequia today—a substantial Euro-American population living with several local and migrant communities—are unlike many of the other islands we have visited. The first European settlers were French, but Scots were brought over quite early as indentured servants in considerable numbers in the early 18
century. They remained here and appear to be the dominant ethnic group today. There are not many surnames, David, King and Olivier being the most common.
As we came in at 2 p.m., I pointed out the Hamilton Battery. Alexander Hamilton’s father lived in Bequia for some time. After taking Zodiacs into the pier in Admiralty Bay, we were greeted by a main street ringed by small tables selling all sorts of local handicrafts: various carvings from calabashes, bracelets made from coral stone and shiny hard nuts, and scrimshaw from whales. The International Whaling Commission allows the native peoples of Bequia to take four whales a year. Since they hunt in the old way with hand-thrown harpoons in small, open boats they rarely ever meet the quota. The whales supplement the diet of the islanders and they use every bit of it.
We began our visit with a trip to the Rastafarian market, which sells local produce, natural juices, and spices. There we met old friends and practicing Rastas, who were happy to have a photograph taken.
Our next stop was Sergeant’s Model Boat Shop. The Sergeants have been building exquisite model boats for generations, chiefly of the local whaleboats, but some years ago they made a model of Queen Elizabeth’s yacht
which the Prime Minister of Bequia presented to the Queen.
We passed the lovely Anglican Church built in 1824, but unfortunately it was locked. The island likely has at least 10 Christian denominations, along with Muslims and Seventh-day Adventists, but the Anglican Church is the largest. A bookstore was opened and, though it’s small, it has a collection of hard-to-find local books on the Grenadines.
Our final stop is always a hit–Jack’s Bar. This famous watering hole sits directly on Princess Margaret Bay and has to be one of the most idyllic spots in all the Caribbean. There we enjoyed all sorts of fruit punches, some with rum in them! The water in the bay was just right, and the color a crystalline blue. I swam out about 400 yards and still could easily see the bottom 25 feet below. Dinner was served on the Lido Deck and after dinner we were treated to our old friends, the Kings of Strings, a group of four local (and elderly) musicians who can bring down the house.
We sailed from Cabritz point in Dominica to the Îles des Saintes and anchored at about 7:15 a.m. in the picturesque harbor of Terre de Haut in the
Îles des Saintes
, or “Isles of The Saints,” named by Columbus on his second voyage in November 1493.
Cloud cover marked the late morning over Terre de Haut
and a misty rain fell intermittently. The capital is simply called Bourg, or the “City.” The town’s two most imposing buildings are a lovely Catholic Church and a town hall, proclaiming the ideals of the French Revolution: “Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité.”
The archipelago consists of seven volcanic islands, but only two have all year residents. These seven islands along with the much larger island of Guadeloupe comprise the French “Départment d’Outré Mer,” or the French Overseas Department. These islands’ relationship with France mirrors that of Hawaii’s with the continental United States. The inhabitants are French citizens, vote in all elections, and use the Euro.
The original 18
-century French sellers were indentured servants, largely of Breton stock. After having secured their freedom from debt they did what they did in Brittany and became fishermen and boat builders. Today the primary industry is tourism from the larger island of Guadalupe. Most goods are brought in by air and ship.
After breakfast we took Zodiacs ashore and went with Tom Heffernan up to Fort Napoleon, built by Napoleon III to honor his uncle Napoleon I. Some of the hardy in the group chose to walk up to the fort and while it is not far—it takes about 20 minutes—it is mostly uphill, while the rest of us took the available taxis. Once I negotiated the visit in French with the fort, we were able to begin. Today, the fort is chiefly a botanical garden with many species of flowering trees and cacti of the Lesser Antilles. In addition to the trees there were wonderful cacti, euphorbia, and aloes. We also visited the nesting areas of the large marine iguanas, spotting about four of these wonderful beasties, the largest of which was about three feet tall.
The fort also has an ethnographic museum—of particular interest is the illustrated “diorama” of the very important Battle of the Saints (April 12, 1782), a rout for the Franco-Hispanic fleet that was seeking to capture the British island of Jamaica. It was the largest naval battle to date in the Americas.
After our visit we took taxis down to the city and spent the rest of the morning freely wandering in and out of the colorful shops. Some of our group went snorkeling at an adjoining island. After lunch on board, the sails went up and by 1:45 p.m. we were sailing along with a nice fresh wind until 5 p.m. Alex gave a fine illustrated lecture on the ecology of the coral reef and soon after dusk, Tom O’Brien gave a very informative and lively talk on the pre-history and history of
After Tom’s talk we were invited to visit the original cabins accompanied by delectable canapés and champagne. All of this abundance was followed by what can only be described as a most scrumptious dinner. Tomorrow we sail to the magical island of Bequia in the St. Vincent Grenadines.
We motored into Prince Rupert Bay in the island of Dominica at 6:50 a.m. shortly after sunrise and docked at 7:18 a.m. The day was unseasonably warm at 29°C.
Columbus, who saw the island first on a Sunday, called it “Dominica” for the Lord’s Day, while the native Kalinago Indians called it
, or “the lady her body is so long.” We boarded minivans en route to the rainforest and passed through the sleepy village of Portsmouth, the second city on the island with a population of some 7,000. As it was Sunday morning, all was quiet. The churches were full. The inhabitants are quite religious and faithfully attend church services.
We took an hour’s drive up to the heights of Morne Diabolotin—at 4,775 feet the tallest mountain on the island and the second tallest mountain in the Antilles. The island in its wettest parts receives upwards of 400 inches of rain a year. In the time before Hurricane Maria we would have been in a dark, cool rain forest; now because of the extensive damage to the vegetation caused by 200-mile-per-hour winds, the sun penetrated the canopy all the way to the forest floor.
Despite the savagery of the hurricane we saw a wonderful variety of plants. We saw an enormous number of trees which are called by their Creole names: the massive gommier tree, the
kwe kew wouge
(the red Kwe Kwe), the
(the hard wood), the
Bwa pistole blan
(the white pistol tree), the
(the “poop” tree), and the
(the fly’s wings). Flowers—hibiscus, anthurium, orchids, poinsettias, croton, and morning glory—were everywhere as well as fruits like mangoes, papayas, bananas, oranges, grapefruits, avocados, coffee, and cocoa trees. We saw bullfinches, purple-throated Caribbean hummingbirds, and my group was especially lucky as we spotted at least two of the Jaco, or the red-necked Amazon, which is endemic to Dominica.
After our excursion to the rainforest and a scrumptious lunch of fresh grilled Wahoo, we visited the 18
-century British fort, Fort Shirley. I gave a brief overview of Cabrits point and Fort Shirley: the massive fort, spanning most of the 200 acres of the Cabrits headland, was begun in 1774 and finally completed by 1820 and built entirely by local slaves. Though the fort’s canons could sweep the entire area in front of the town of Portsmouth, it never saw action and existed principally as a deterrent to protect the Royal Navy at anchor in Prince Rupert Bay.
After a series of treaties, the Fort was abandoned in 1852 and lay derelict, covered by strangler figs and the jungle until a good friend of mine, Dr. Lennox Honeychurch, a native of Dominica, undertook restoration beginning in 1982. It has only been possible to recover a small part of the original, but Lennox is still working on the restoration and has accomplished miracles.
After our visit to the fort, some of us jumped into the inviting sea alongside
for some snorkeling. A profusion of fish of all sorts was seen, despite the stiff current.
Dinner was served on the Lido Deck under the stars in this wonderfully tranquil and beautiful island.
There’s nothing sacrificed by having this traditional relationship to sailing. This is the height of luxury—and the height of luxury these days in many ways could be the ability to get away from it all.