A Sailing Diary
Beauty of Royal Clipper Under Sail
by Linda Coffman
Dress lights. That's what they are
called, those bulbs outlining Royal Clipper's five masts and
yardarms. I didn't know that until it was explained to me by a
seasoned sailor. I didn't know what a yardarm was either.
What I still don't know about true sailing
could fill the 42 sails that power Royal Clipper, the world's largest
full-rigged sailing ship. But I was eager to learn and thrilled to
be sailing for a week-long cruise through the Grenadines on a ship
I'd long admired from afar. Actually, her dignity and grace has
inspired me for years. I've had her photo pinned to my office wall
since she was launched.
Travel weary, I reached Barbados three airplanes, four airports,
and twelve hours after leaving home. Nearing the cruise terminals in
Bridgetown, though, I perked up. Once my taxi made the turn into the
port I tried to spot Royal Clipper... the first ship was too small,
the second one too orange. Around another corner and I gained a new
appreciation for the term breathtaking. I was afraid that my first
glimpse of Royal Clipper would be disappointing because it was dark.
I couldn't have been more wrong--her dress lights set her profile
apart from any other vessel.
Nearly speechless, I nevertheless
recovered my composure long enough to hand over my single 22"
rollaboard suitcase. Grasping my big tote bag, I was transfixed by
the masts towering above the gangway. Due to my late arrival, the
terminal was closed and I headed up the stairs to check-in on board.
At eye level with the main deck, I caught a glimpse of passengers
gathered around the Tropical Bar listening to the cruise director.
At that point a cheery steward relieved me of the tote bag and led
me to the Purser's desk for my key card/boarding pass and then to my
nearby cabin. My rollaboard awaited unpacking as I examined my
small for casual sailing--your closet is behind the mirrored
While in the planning stages, I was
advised to "do carry-on" luggage if possible and I was
glad I followed that advice. Resort casual attire is all that a
Royal Clipper cruise requires and over-packing would result in
stuffing too many unnecessary garments into a compact hanging locker
and narrow bureau drawers. On my own for this cruise, there was
plenty of room for my wardrobe.
Pleased that I had stowed my gear
in short order, and not really hungry (we were served a meal on
British West Indies Airline!), I headed topside for a cold drink and
to await our 10pm departure and the raising of the sails. I found
other like-minded passengers at the outdoor Tropical Bar, the hub of
Royal Clipper's social activity, and was quickly welcomed into their
circle. Seems I was in the minority as many passengers were
repeaters to Star Clippers cruises.
After toasts to new friends, the
good fortune to be together, and our good taste to have chosen Royal
Clipper, everyone, first-timers and repeat passengers alike, headed
up to the Sun Deck for sailaway. As the strains of Vangelis'
symphony “1492: Conquest of Paradise” were piped over the PA
system, the first of 42 sails unfurled. It was spine chilling. Other
than the haunting music and the calls of the line handlers, there
was absolute silence until every sail was in place.
As the wind carried us into the
Atlantic, the waves put the anti-roll tanks and bilge keels
(stabilizers) to the test. The result? A pronounced, but not
unpleasant side-to-side roll... sufficient to insure that the
bathroom floor would be wet after my shower and just enough to lull
me to sleep afterwards.
More Sailing Diary
Life on Board
The Royal Clipper