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
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
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
Windjammer's fleet of
ultra-casual (passengers and crew actually walk around barefoot)
tall ship sailboats had been run by a family company since
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.
contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].