Just spent a fabulous week on Vela, one of Island Windjammers (IWJ) three sailing tall ships—we sailed out of St. Lucia and visited the French West Indies, in the southern Caribbean. For us, there is nothing better than being on a tall ship, sails up, wind in your hair, beautiful islands, sunny skies—and on this trip, dolphins! So many dolphins on two days, running and leaping alongside Vela's bow as she sliced through the seas, full sails up.

The islands we visited were not impacted by last fall's hurricanes, except for Dominica, which was hit hard, and happy to say, that island is well on its way to being whole once again, six months later. The people are proud, determined and coming back strong. And we on Vela were happy to do our part to help re-start her economy just a wee bit by taking an island tour (including chocolate factory) or a river tour—and enjoying rum drinks at one of the beach bars. We learned that the Caribbean islands that actually were slammed by Irma and Maria last year are coming back, just like Dominica....and that's great news!

Vela is a 150-foot triple-masted sailing ship that can carry 26 passengers. Cabins are everything from cozy singles to larger suites....every cabin with its on A/C and bathroom. Her public spaces are beautiful: lots of woods. Crew of 10. My husband and I are longtime windjammer/tall ship afficionados and love everything about a windjammer-style sailing ship, and Vela certainly fits the bill: totally casual (Vela has sign posted onboard: If you're not barefoot, you're overdressed!), sails up, no lines, three full meals daily (no menus, but really really good and beautifully prepared), totally fun crew, great fellow passengers, small bays and coves that the big ships can't access....a laid back and so relaxing vacation. Most of our fellow passengers this time were escaping the frigid northwest.

A Vela day began with a full breakfast, followed some mornings by a sail from one island to another—or on other days by exploring an island reached during the night. Vela offers a rope swing, paddle boards and snorkle gear at no charge, and her tender goes to shore on a regular basis when Vela is at anchor. Lunch on board, then more opportunities to explore, play in the water or just enjoy a good book....but everyone makes sure to be on board by 5pm for the daily Happy Hour, with the rum drink-of-the-day and sumptuous snacks. Dinner was always on the aft deck, under the stars. Chef Robert was a master not only of meals, but of desserts! Oh wow. Something decadent always, after both lunch and dinner! Evenings under the stars, sometimes under sail. For those who can handle the action of a large sailing ship, this is just too much fun. To find out more about Vela and the other two IWJ ships: islandwindjammers.com.
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Next: IWJ's windjammer/tall ship Diamant Oct 2018

Since 2000: only on sailing ships
Arabella (7), Diamant (4), Vela (3), Mandalay, Polynesia, Sagitta, Star Clipper (3), Star Flyer, Wind Star (2), Wind Surf (2)

Pre 2000: on small cruise ships
Caribe I, Seabreeze, Oceanbreeze, Renaissance III, Columbia Queen