Ottawa Citizen


Fun port stops and lavish dining help travellers savour the Caribbean’s gentle ambience


Greeted with smiles, treated like royalty and floating on top of a turquoise paradise.

Welcome to the world of luxury catamaran charters, elegantly and enthusiast­ically embraced by TradeWinds.

Oh, how I loved sailing aboard JimJams from Marina Fort-Louis on the French side of St. Martin to secret coves and fun port stops along the sandy shores of Anguilla.

Let me count the waves ... er, ways.

1. Sweet seclusion

A remark by a fellow guest sipping champagne aboard our catamaran, garnered knowing looks from the rest of us. How often had we been on a crowded beach and envied the serene look of guests aboard a passing luxury yacht?

Not for them to jockey for position around a pool, or wait for an elevator, line up for a buffet or negotiate a hotel room with a scenic view. Just relax and enjoy the sea breeze with a few other fortunates.

Now we get it.

2. Dream team

South African Captain André de Klerk and German first-mate and gourmet chef Mareike (Micky) Eichhorn shone as a dream team from the moment the couple welcomed us aboard their ocean home, aptly named JimJams as a term of endearment.

Under the TradeWinds banner André and Micky not only provided expert sailing, they joined us on snorkellin­g forays, ferried us to interestin­g ports of call, prepared gourmet meals, and even made our beds.

André, described as “an energetic adventure seeker” has been sailing catamarans for five years and has more than 100 charters under his belt. He’s also a qualified dive master, as is Micky.

She has recorded 3,000 dives, and worked previously in Thailand.

“We genuinely love what we do,” André advised, followed by a cheery nod of agreement from Micky, herself a profession­al captain.

3. Gourmet dining

Sumptuous best describes our dining experience aboard JimJams, with chef Micky at the cuisine controls and Captain André on duty as a fun fruit-platter stylist.

Think lobster, shrimp, mahi mahi, barbecued-on-the-deck steak, Mediterran­ean salad flush with prosciutto and melon. Imagine Caribbean salad of chicken and mango styled to resemble an island, with a palm tree fashioned from a carrot, and topped with a halved green pepper. The frittata and pavlova were delicious, freshly prepared by multitaski­ng Micky. Of course, a selection of wine is served with meals as well as pre-dinner cocktails.

We gathered to dine at an elegant teak table under a canopy on the middle deck surrounded by the deep blue, often turquoise sea.

And if you haven’t had hors d’oeuvres and cocktails served on a paddleboar­d while you and your mates loll in the sea, I highly recommend it.

4. Pristine privacy

Moored for meals and overnight, we travel writers, guests of TradeWinds, were able to privately and leisurely dine while enjoying the gently rolling Caribbean ambience. A 60-foot catamaran with a 30-foot beam, JimJams is one of a TradeWinds fleet of about 45 luxury yachts available for charter. It includes four modern staterooms with ensuite bathrooms and showers. Queen-sized beds are provided in three cabins, with the fourth, a master suite, furnished with a king-sized bed.

A seven-night, five-star inclusive package for two guests sharing one stateroom is US$7,375. The entire catamaran can be chartered for about US$37,000 per week.

For more info, see trade-winds. com.

5. Sense of adventure

We were pampered by our TradeWinds crew, but once we stepped aboard the catamaran we were, to some degree, all sailors — albeit far down the pecking order from our amazing crew, moving like ninjas to perfect our ride.

Still, with wind in our hair we faced down ominous clouds, rain, rocky waves and a slippery deck.

6. Diving right in

Cool to dive from the catamaran and swim to shore, or hitch a ride in the dinghy. Snorkel gear is at the ready, plus paddleboar­ds and kayaks. Deepsea fishing and scuba diving are also options.

Snorkellin­g was our go-to activity, often guided by Micky, who shared her marine life expertise, spotting sea turtles and other Caribbean creatures. I’ll be forever grateful for her tip to “relax.”

Seems biting into the mouthpiece was creating gaps for the salt water to rush in. No more.

7. Spectacula­r scenery

TradeWinds’ profession­al crews also pride themselves on an intimate knowledge of the area. “Crews based in a place for a year know it like their back pocket,” André advised. As a result, we arrive at secluded coves and enjoy spectacula­r views not reachable by larger vessels. A bonus: closeup encounters with pelicans and yellow-footed boobies.

8. Passport, please?

Exciting to traverse four countries in four days. From Canada, we landed at Juliana Internatio­nal Airport on the Dutch side of St. Martin island, grabbed a cab to Marina Fort-Louis on the French side and sailed aboard JimJams to the British overseas territory of Anguilla.

9. Appealing ports

A brief stop at Sandy Ground, Anguilla, while André checked in with the British island’s customs office provided a fun opportunit­y to roam the colourful village and mingle with the locals.

Our approach to tiny Sandy Island was spectacula­r. Even better was setting foot on the tropical paradise of soft white sand, a few palm trees, some hammocks and a beach bar.

Big early-evening waves rocked our dinghy’s approach to Bankie Banx Dune Preserve, Anguilla’s popular beach-front bar and concert venue. Fascinatin­g for us to roam the cosy corners of the sprawling tavern operated by the celebrated reggae musician, known as the Bob Dylan of Anguilla.

10. Magical nights

The combinatio­n of a soft-hued sunset and seasonally lit Marina Fort-Louis upon our arrival in mid-December was a good omen for what were to be three enchanted evenings. A favourite moment for me was climbing a ladder to what I took to be a lighting platform at Bankie Banx bar.

Above the trees, barefoot and with my dress a little wet from the waves, I toasted one very sweet sunset.

Sea sickness played a role in another memorable evening. Rough waves and too long in my suite below deck sent me scrambling to higher “ground.” No gourmet dinner for me, but I did have the top deck to myself to restfully gaze at the moon drift in and out of the sail and clouds.

Micky’s tea and ginger biscuits were a comfort, and so too Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. At first, our volunteer DJ thought my song request on Canadian music night to be a dinner party downer, but then quietly inquired, “Is that your dying wish?”

On the contrary, hearing the legendary singer-songwriter’s voice waft up was absolutely life-affirming — much like the cruise itself.

 ?? PHOTOS: BARBARA TAYLOR ?? It’s a spectacula­r approach by catamaran to tiny Sandy Island, just west of Anguilla.
PHOTOS: BARBARA TAYLOR It’s a spectacula­r approach by catamaran to tiny Sandy Island, just west of Anguilla.
 ??  ?? Canadian guests aboard TradeWinds catamaran JimJams: From left, Loren, Britney, Peter and Violaine toast the start of another gourmet lunch during a cruise off Anguilla.
Canadian guests aboard TradeWinds catamaran JimJams: From left, Loren, Britney, Peter and Violaine toast the start of another gourmet lunch during a cruise off Anguilla.

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