C'mon aboard! We sail to ports in the eastern Caribbean, going south to north from Barbados and Trinidad to Antigua. The sun shines warm, the sea is smooth (mostly), and the sails keep us listing leeward as we touch down to explore the flora of the islands that early and often caught the fancy of European and American adventurers.
For novice sailors Barbara and Bob Howard the voyage offered discovery along with frequent waves of nostalgia. From November 1932 through May 1933 Barbara's mother and father, Helen and Lewis Davis, navigated these waters on an extended honeymoon, before returning to the States for forty years of domesticity and ecclesiastical labors on Long Island and in Connecticut. They embarked from Port Jefferson and, after a stop for outfitting and provisions at Preston's in Greenport, sailed forth in Seal I, a 38 foot motor-sail (without a motor that worked!), for the Caribbean. They successfully rode out forty foot waves in a gale off Cape Hatteras, refitted in Florida, made it to Barbados, and sailed north, exploring most of the Lesser Antilles. In their haste to return to Long Island for The Rev. Mr. Davis' June appointment to the Methodist Church in Bellport, they were becalmed off Haiti and, gathering wind, ran aground on a coral reef off the Cuban shore. They abandoned ship and caught a sugar freighter home. Barbara was born in March 1934 and fondly remembers the adventures her parents reported of their honeymoon in the golden Caribbean.
But "golden" has another meaning, besides sunny, to us. On June 18, 2005 we shall be celebrating our fiftieth wedding anniversary. What better way to honor that occasion than by retracing the voyage of the honeymooners of 1932, this time, be it clearly understood, in luxury the Davises could not have imagined.
Sea Cloud II, a ship of Maltese registry and German ownership, is barely five years old. It can accommodate 70 passengers. The cabin was ample, the bathroom private, the food haute cuisine, the libations endlessly flowing, the crew expertly solicitous, the lectures informative and entertaining, and the piano concerts better than Alice Tully Hall.
The voyage from February 5th through February 13th was two-thirds filled with recruits from four different associations interested in botany: Smithsonian Journeys, The Royal Oak Foundation, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, and Massachusetts Horticultural Society. We belong to none of the foregoing. But when we were unable to sail with an earlier excursion sponsored by Williams College, we signed on with the Harvardians et al.
Oh, the sights we saw and the people we met! Herewith is our personal photo album of the what and who of our golden Caribbean cruise.
Let's take a time-out from the "where" of our Caribbean adventure to report on the special thrill of sailing, really sailing, in the Caribbean. Barbara's eyes filled with moist nostalgia as she experienced Sea Cloud II with all canvas up and billowing. Said (more or less) my bride of golden years: "Oh, how my Dad, would love to see this sight and feel the list of the deck beneath his feet."
There were, to be sure, other diversions to our daily regime of sampling local gardens.
After threats of passenger mutiny, the Cruise Director relented and had the Super Bowl game piped into the TVs in our cabins. Which silenced the threats, but caused a communal sigh when we realized the commentary was in French. Touchdowns and outstanding plays were greeted with "O la, la!" and "Sacre bleu!" So we did, after all, get to watch the Patriots take their third title in four years.
The cruise, let it be recalled, was entitled "Gardens of the Caribbean," and to the gardens we did go, again and again.
One of the golden anniversary couple is less a "looker" and more a "talker." In fact, he sometimes volunteers that he "collects people," the way some people "shoot birds" or accumulate Hummels. For him, then, the most enjoyable part of the trip is meeting people and learning the details of their lives' voyages. So here's the "who" of our trip. The photos are not all inclusive, but do provide a good sampling of companions on our golden Caribbean cruise.
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