The future of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises is uncertain at best as the tall-ship cruise company canceled its sailings at least through this week, took its Web site off line and is not answering calls to its Miami headquarters.

A message on the company's telephone line said that all cruises for the week of Sept. 29 were canceled, under guidance "from a statutory authority." Only one week ago, an operator at Windjammer told Travel Weekly that the business was operating normally.

"The safety and well-being of all crew, passengers and ships was considered when we made this regrettable decision," the message continued. "Our offices are not closed, and we ask for your patience through these trying times."

There has been no official word from Windjammer on its status, and its headquarters did not return several calls from Travel Weekly.

But at Jammerbabe.com, a Web site for Windjammer fans, posts from the line's devotees tell an unfolding story of the niche line's situation going from bad to worse to critical.

According to many current and past passengers, all of Windjammer's ships are stranded in the Caribbean, with no fuel or food, and at times no power. The Mandalay is apparently under arrest in Panama. Some former and current passengers have taken up a collection to pay the ships' crews, even as they wonder about getting refunds for their own canceled cruises.

Information on Windjammer's problems began surfacing in late August when the Miami Herald reported that a private equity firm would take a controlling stake in Windjammer.

The Herald reported that TAG Virgin Islands, a company with no apparent U.S. presence, would take over the small-ship line. However, TAG never made a formal acknowledgment of the report and there are unsubstantiated reports from people familiar with Windjammer that state that TAG has since bolted.

In late August, the Yankee Clipper was detained by port authorities in Grenada because crewmembers complained they had not been paid thousands of dollars in wages; at the same time, the Polynesia was apparently also in dispute with its crew due to a wage conflict.

The Herald report stated that Jerry Ceder, a Miami-based adviser to TAG, said that Windjammer would compensate guests for any inconvenience. Ceder, though, never made any official confirmation of TAG's takeover of the company.

Windjammer's fleet of ultra-casual (passengers and crew actually walk around barefoot) tall ship sailboats had been run by a family company since 1976.

According to records filed with the State of Florida's Division of Corporation, on Aug. 10 the company filed a document with the division that said that an officer or director of the company had resigned; Daniel Burke was listed as the line's president in its latest annual report, which was filed in May of this year. 

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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