Sailing to the Windward Islands

Feb 27, 2019 - Sea Cloud

We had an easy sail from our berth in Barbados. When the sun rose at 6:19 a.m., we were at 13°.35 latitude, and longitude of 60°.21. The wind was from the starboard beam at 19 knots.  Sailors went to their sail stations at 9 a.m. and began the work of unfurling sails. Expedition Leader Tom O’Brien gave an informative introduction to the complex world of square rig sailing and finished it with all of us assembled on the fo’c’sle. There, we looked back at this majestic vessel in billowing full sail, traveling at a speed of 7.5 knots.

Our sails are made of a very durable synthetic material in Poland and have an average life of about five years. Sea Cloud’s 30 sails carry 32,000 square feet of sail (3,000 sq. meters). Today was a great day for sailing and we sailed much of the day. A fact that always intrigues me is that the mainmast on Sea Cloud is 180 feet high. Watching the crew scrambling up the mast in a 20-knot wind with the ship rolling gives me vertigo and makes me thankful for gravity under my feet. Although built in 1931, Sea Cloud was designed to reflect the apogee of square-riggers of the 1880s. The staff was introduced to the guests at 10:30 a.m. After the staff introductions, we heard a short presentation on photography.

For lunch we were treated to a specialty of Barbados: a flying fish cutter. After lunch, there was a lecture on the history of the “Triangular Trade” and the crucial role of sugar production as the economic engine that caused the widespread use of slave labor in the Caribbean. Approximately 12 million Africans, chiefly from West Africa and Congo, were sold into slavery in the West Indies and the continental U.S.

The galley prepared a special treat for afternoon tea and we had Windward Island chocolate (72% pure cacao)! We sailed up to the base of the Pitons on St. Lucia and had a great photo opportunity of these two prominent volcanic plugs and Simon, the hotel manager, provided us with local Piton beer.

Tonight, Captain Nemerzhitskiy formally welcomed us aboard and introduced us to his senior office staff. Our captain has a distinguished career. He was captain of the famous Russian naval training sailing ship Kreuzenstern, and for many years of Sea Cloud II. Kreuzenstern is the last of the great “Flying P” square-riggers, formerly Padua.

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan


Tom, a native of New York City, who has had a life-long passion for travel and exploration, is the Kenneth Curry Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee and the founding Director of the university’s Humanities Center. His areas of interest are anthropology of religions and historical linguistics.

About the Photographer

Alex Krowiak

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

A childhood surrounded by the woods and streams of Pennsylvania initially sparked Alex’s curiosity about nature. That curiosity eventually led him to pursue degrees in biology and environmental studies at Boston College. During his time there he conducted research on carnivorous plants in Iceland and kelp forests in South Africa. Together these diverse experiences provided him with the background and passion to become a teacher. 

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