On Being a Groupie (Or the Saga of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises)

MandalayI am tired about talking about me. So, let’s talk about something else. A couple of months ago, a friend and I took a cruise on the S/V Mandalay, a semi-sailing ship that is part of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (WJ). I say semi-sailing ship because although it has sails, they are barely used.  Wind is an unreliable power source for a cruise ship, especially when passengers have expectations of arriving at destinations. We cruised the San Blas area of Panama. It is a beautiful area, with dotted little sandy beaches.

What we did not realize when we took the cruise was that the company was in dire financial distress. It was offering very cheap, last minute, fares in order to continue operating; notwithstanding its loyal group of passengers. This customer base likes the illusion and fantasy of being on a sailing ship as imaginary pirates. They keep coming for more and more. It is close to being in a cult. It is as if Jim Jones put a spell on them. See the flotilla.

Windjammer’s saga is the common story of children fighting for the control of their parents’ business. The children of Mike Burke, the founder, have provided enough material for the production of “Falcon Crest by the Sea.” You can see a version of the story being played in a Miami court here: Pdf copy of complaint.

But the real saga is the loyal passengers. I can understand how you can get addicted to a drug, but be addicted to an illusion of being a pirate on a sailing ship? If Mike Burke was a preacher, I bet a lot of these passengers would have followed ala Jim Jones. I am glad that we got to cruise once on his ships.  I can smell the spell: The captain’s hour, the playing of Amazing Grace constantly, the illusion of pulling the sails, the feeling that you are part of a happy crew. Oh well, illusions are illusions. The problem is when illusions make you shed tons of money, specifically the failed “LaMer” scheme of buying a timeshare on a converted sailing ship. Even then, those “investors,” who may never see a refund of their money, are still hoping that the magic will continue.

Who said magic did not exist?  

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One thought on “On Being a Groupie (Or the Saga of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises)

  1. You have no idea . you came in at the end of a” free ride” of reporting ,you have missed the bigger picture……

    ” kick when the other guy is down”

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