Sailing the Grenadines on a Traditional Schooner

The schooner Jambalaya

The wind is slow and lazy, so slow, in fact, that we are barely going anywhere, and the boat rocks as gentle as a cradle. I’m measuring our progress (such as it is) by comparing our position to the occasional island; a very slow turtle (the land kind, not a sea turtle) would make faster progress.  It feels lovely as I lean back with a drink that is in no danger of spilling and a plate of fruit and seafood that won’t tip over. The only sounds are the waves lapping against the boat.

In Your Bucket Because…

  • It doesn’t get any more relaxing than this.
  • The itinerary depends only on your whims (and the whims of the weather, wind, and waves).
  • Good for groups of friends or a family vacation, sailors, and snorkelers.

I feel that I have sailed back into another century, and in a way I have: Jambalaya was built by hand along the lines of a traditional Caribbean cargo vessel.

And, although she is built to handle wind and waves, there will be none of that adrenaline-seeking nonsense today. Today we are on Caribbean time, through and through.

“I got the idea for this in the Mediterranean,” says Jeff Stevens, owner, captain, and designer of the schooner, who is leaning back in the captain’s chair and looks a whole lot more relaxed than you’d expect of someone who is actually at work. “I was sailing in Turkey, where traditional boats take tourists along historic trade routes. The Caribbean has a long history of boat-building and cargo ships, so I thought I coud do the same thing here: maybe take a traditional sailing vessel and outfit it for chartering and touring.”

Building the Jambalaya: a Traditional Caribbean Schooner

As it turned out, rather than retrofit a traditional vessel, Stevens built his Jambalaya in Carriacou, a historic center of the Caribbean boat-building trade. Using techniques that are fast being lost to modernization, he built a ship that is true to the traditional designs of the Antilles. The keel is made of greenheart, a wood so dense it sinks. Wood for the framing had to be cut in the bush in Grenada — an exhausting and painstaking process, because the wood had to be be the right shape to fit the boat.

The process, which included following local strictures such as cutting the timbers only when the moon is waning, took three years. The 65-foot schooner was finally put in the water in 2003.

Jambalaya Sailing Itineraries in the Southern Caribbean

Petit St. Vincent

Jambalaya’s home waters are just off Petit St. Vincent, a tiny island at the southern tip of the Grenadines. (It’s a private island and home to the luxe and lovely Petit St. Vncent Resort.) From there, Jambalaya sails the Leeward and Windward Islands. Trips can be single-day sails, or customized week-long adventures calling in at islands like Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and the various small island in the Grenadines chain.

A day sail from Petit St. Vincent usually includes a stop at Tobago Cays Marine Park, where the waters are that postcard-perfect Caribbean blue, and where sea-turtles are abundant. Snorkeling here is a highlight, and a typical sailing day includes a stop in this pristine and protected area.

The Little Sister: The Beauty of Petite Martinique

In November, 2008, Jambalaya’s little sister, the “Beauty of Petite Martinique,” was launched in a ceremony complete with the local custom of killing chickens on both the fore and aft decks. The bishop blessed the ship, the boat was pulled into the water, and the music of local celebrated the moment when another hand-crafted traditional Caribbean schooner hit the waves.

Sea Turtle in the Grenadines


Jambalaya can host up to seven guests in surprisingly (for a boat) spacious cabins, but she is more comfortable with four. The crew prides itself on good food, which is beautifully presented, including fresh-caught fish, lobster. and barbeque. Local fresh fruit and vegetables are purchased at local markets.

Activities can be arranged on a custom basis: Snorkeling gear is available on board, but it’s also possible to arrange for excursions like scuba diving and fishing, and even hiking and horseback riding, when you stop at various islands.

Note that the best-laid itineraries of man and boat are subject to the winds — it may take much longer to get from Point A to Point B than expected.








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