Ralph Sheaffer, P.E
Number of Cruises: N/A
Cruise Line: Wind Star
Ship: Wind Spirit
Sailing Date: September 7th, 2002
Itinerary: Eastern Mediterranean
The ship presented an awesome sight as she came into view when the bus rounded a street corner in Piraeus. As we ascended the gangplank and each passenger set foot onto the main deck there was Captain Chris Turner, wearing a very friendly smile while in his casual dress-white uniform and having a bit of a British accent, warmly greeted each ,saying: “ Welcome Aboard.” If I recall correctly I believe that Hotel Manager, Herman Souffree, also in white uniform, greeted us. We were then directed to the dining room to take care of some necessary paper work and to turn over our passports for keeping aboard the ship until we finally departed in Istanbul. We were also given two card keys to our cabin. And before getting underway all were summoned to a designated assembly location as an emergency drill. Each were required to appear wearing a life preserver and then each person checked to assure of it being worn properly. We also learned that it had an attached whistle to use in the event we were to ever be in the water and needed to attract attention. Roll call was taken and then we listened to brief welcoming remarks by Captain Turner over the P.A. system.
About an hour after initially boarding Wind Spirit in the afternoon our voyage began on an overnight passage to Mykonos. It was somewhat spell binding to stand at the stern rail watching the turbulence of the sea water being created by the props when under engine power. Any significant change in course could easily be detected by looking at the prop wash astern. At times the engines would be placed on standby, leaving the sails alone for propulsion. It was delightful during the several times this occurred while having dinner, which was great fun and usually lasted until around 10 o’clock. Breakfast and lunch was available at the Veranda on the upper deck where we always had the option of eating on deck or inside. Only once at breakfast did we have the need for wearing a light windbreaker. The variety and quantity of food available throughout every meal was mind-boggling.
The cabin was quite spacious, the mattress on the king-sized bed was firm and most comfortable, and the head with shower stall was roomy. Two large portholes allowed for plenty of daylight and good viewing of the sea. I found it interesting during the night, whenever I had to arise, to take a moment and draw apart the drapes for a quick peek at how well we were cruising. Often I could see lights along shorelines. There were more than an ample number of dresser drawers and a nice sized pull out desk for use that we left extended for the entire time of cruising at sea. With all of these comforts, we still had ample room to move about the cabin. The desk proved quite handy for laying upon it the various things we collected each day. Among these were ships newspaper, the Wind Spirit U.S.A.Times, the daily schedule issued by TAUCK WORLD DISCOVERY, postal cards, books and other odd and ends. And lastly, we had a large clothing closet, Acting on the suggestion of our tour director, we found ample storage for empty luggage under the bed. That was nice in that it was clearly out of sight, out of the way and not having it as a reminder that the odyssey would too soon end.
We had a bit of confusion learning to adjust the water flow of the shower but after two days we had no further trouble. I just hate to ask for help until absolutely necessary. However, I think it would be helpful to have an instruction sheet on the water control system of the shower. Perhaps there was an instruction somewhere and I simply missed it. The one thing I had most trouble with was use of the television. I was interested only in CNN. While I did get it at times, there were other times that I couldn’t seem to get it tuned in because of something I apparently was not doing correctly. That was only a minor irritation as we were not really there to watch television or to use the VCR, even though ample videos were available at the aboard reception desk.
Mykonos was the first of three islands in Greece we visited, the others being Santorini and Rhodes. Upon leaving Rhodes we stopped at the Turkish ports of Bodrum and Kusadasi. The cruise ended at Istanbul.
While this review covers our overall experience aboard Wind Spirit, it also includes touching briefly on excursions to ports of call. The total distance covered by sea from Piraeus in Greece to Istanbul was somewhat in excess of 700 miles. Wind Spirit is a four mast “sailing” ship having four decks, an overall length of 440 feet, with a capacity of 148 guests and carrying a crew of 90. Consequently, it proved to be comfortable and rewarding experience with a very friendly crew. For those wanting to exercise there was a nicely equipped facility available. Early morning walkers could take a certain number of strolls around the upper deck which would constitute a mile. Sails were roller furling in design and therefore could easily be set. In fact all sail control was implemented by the push of a button or two in the bridge, including traveler adjustment. Much credit should also go to the “black hole gang” (the engine room crew) in sustaining reliable engine power for the entire needs of Wind Spirit, including a rated cruising speed of 9 knots, and never allowing us to experience a lack of hot water for showering.
It’s my judgement that about half the guests on board were with TAUCK tour. The others aboard apparently were absent a pre booked tour but certainly had the option, at separate cost, to book shore excursions at the service desk. For the most part these were not necessarily the same as TAUCK’s auspices but I believe that some of the excursions were somewhat similar, although not as extensive.
There were many aspects that pleased us. It’s difficult to rank them in any order of preference. Certainly one of the first ones was a bottle of Pouilly Fuissue we found in our cabin as we entered. It had been sent as a bon voyage gift by our travel agency, Cruise Vacations International, Inc
Presentation and variety of food at all meals was outstanding, including crepes with chocolate ice cream at tea time on the afterdeck. The quality and friendliness in service by all of the stewards could not have been better. The night we spent aboard Wind Spirit while in the Rhodes Harbor, a Greek Folkloric dance group known as the Rhodian Ballet entertained us. It was very lively and was introduced to the basics of performing a Greek dance or two, at least for those brave enough to try it. A Turkish Folkloric group with an Exotic Belly Dancer followed this the next night in Bodrum. It was indeed very enjoyable entertainment. And then all enjoyed a sumptuous buffet BBQ on the afterdeck.
I visited the bridge several times. It was especially interesting at night to look at the large radar screen showing, in yellow, nearby islands and other ships under way, the intended course of Wind Spirit in red and her actual track through the Aegean Sea in green. A myriad of other navigational data was also displayed on the screen, such as the gyro compass heading, latitude and longitude, distance and bearing to targets chosen to be monitored closely, a pop up collision warning message when appropriate, a green circle set for any desired radar range, etc. Several times I noted cruising speed on the radar screen to be about 8 to 9 knots, and one time it was a tad over 11.5 knots. I suppose that we were having a favorable current and possibly a little additional help from the sails.
One early morning when the Captain and Chief Officer were there I visited the bridge. On approaching I said, “Good morning Captain .... here comes the pest again.” As I said that, one of them jokingly responded by saying to the other, “Perhaps we should pitch him over the side.” With that said we all had a very hearty laugh.
Late one night when the Second Officer was in command on the bridge I, with another in our tour, went to the bridge to watch the radar screen. It happened to be during somewhat of an intense time while the Second Officer was concentrating on navigating Wind Spirit through a very tight passage. We stood in rapt silence to watch the screen as Wind Sprit made her way through the tight spot. I must say that the Second Officer was calm and collected as he did an excellent job of navigating. I knew then, without a doubt, that I could go to sleep without any worry so ever for the night and then some.
As a security measure we were required to show a ship’s pass each time we returned from having been ashore. And you certainly should not lose it for otherwise it might be a long swim home. Well, really not quite that stringent though, but nevertheless quite comforting to have security as a measure of safety. I can’t single out everyone on the ship who made the experience so comfortable and enjoyable, for everyone of the management staff and crew could not have performed better. Live music in the lounge in the evening was very nice but I’m afraid that for the most part it was more for the younger crowd. Consequently we had only passing interest in it, and since we had no interest in the casino we never stepped foot near it.
There is no doubt that all services provided under the management of the Wind Spirit are due to their combined dedication to excellence and leadership of these persons. The food and drink stewards provided prompt and friendly responses to our needs, always dressed smartly in their white uniforms. They were all from the Philippines and Indonesia. They were a great delight to be around.
Overall the ship looked to be in fine shape. I judge this to the credit of Captain Turner, his officers, engineering department and deck hands. I couldn’t help but note several deck hands busy while we lay at anchor in Bodrum as they engaged in replacing several burned out light bulbs in the string of lights strung from the stern then over top of each mast to the bow. These were later lit, near to dusk, as a brilliant show to sister ship Wind Star, also with her stern to bow lights lit as she circled around Wind Spirit. That was a fantastic sight to behold as her passengers crowded against the rail, waving bon voyage to us, and then sounding her horn as she sailed away for the next port of call.
Mykonos has a lovely inner harbor. Many architecturally beautiful windmills, no longer used except for offices and homes, sit on a hill over looking out to sea. Mykonos seemed to be a rather popular island with a very nice harbor front and being a busy host to quite large frequently arriving ships.
Wind Spirit’s tender took us into the harbor where we were to catch a ferry for a visit to the ancient ruins of Delos, said to have been established 1,000 BC. But we also had time in the afternoon, while being at anchor, to take advantage of some water sport activity off of the stern of Wind Spirit. As to my wife and I, we opted to kayak into Mykonos but not go ashore. After reconortering the waterfront we paddled back to Wind Spirit and exchanged it for use of a small sailboat, something not unlike the well known Sunfish and Lasers. For close to an hour we sailed in light wind and with enough of a troublesome current to require many tacks to get back to Wind Spirit. To cap off an hour or two of great fun I took a plunge into the clear blue salty water of the Aegean Sea. And what an extreme delight it was!
The following morning, with the sun just peeking over the high cliff of Santorini, we entered the waters of the caldera. The name Santorini is from the Byzantine name of Saint Irene. Some maps also designate the island area by its original name: Thira or Thera. The dictionary defines a caldera as “a broad, crater-like basin of a volcano formed by an explosion or by the collapse of the cone.” As to the caldera at Santorini, history tells us that the volcano exploded about 1,500 BC. It is believed that the explosion was so great that it was the culprit that destroyed the Mineon civilization on the island of Crete, about 60 miles to the south and oldest civilization in Europe.
Our excursion on Santorini took us to the far northern tip to the town of Oia. It offered an outstanding view of the caldera and for an easy stroll through the village. We also visited a historic winery just a short distance south of the main town of Fira, and then to Fira for lunch on our own. It was a most beautiful sight to look down from high atop Santorini to see Wind Spirit secured to a buoy in the harbor. There was also ample time to stroll along the streets of Fira before opting to take the cable car to the dockside of the harbor and catch the tender. There was also the option of riding a donkey down to dockside, but since the donkeys know that feeding is the at the bottom of the long steeply descending series of steps, it can be a wild ride and one to be avoided for a novice donkey rider. Departing Santorini in late afternoon we sailed on a southerly course in leaving the caldera. The passing close by many sheer cliffs on the port side of Wind Spirit provided a scene of incredibly beautiful colors in the extraordinary geological formations left over from the eons of past volcanic activity.
But not to be outdone by such marvel, all of a sudden a Greek Air Force fighter jet came from astern, passing with a roar at seemingly about 100 meters above sea level and about the same distance to starboard. The pilot waggled the wings in a gesture of friendship and the distinct marking of country showed clearly on the fuselage. It was a solid blue dot set within a blue circle, very much like the bull’s eye on a target. And then 10 seconds later, another jet came roaring past port side. I felt that the Wind Spirit must have looked so beautifully to those pilots that they just couldn’t contain their inclinations for a closer look, probably to catch a glimpse of the women sun bathers on the afterdeck. And from what I couldn’t help but obliquely observe, why not?
Sometime later we detected an impressive looking island in the distant haze. Checking a map we determined that it was Anafi. Getting closer it appeared that the top of the island was snow capped. But how could an island in the Aegean Sea, with a height of just 700 meters, be snow capped? And at even a closer look I judged the white to be the color of the exposed rock, probably marble for we saw that stone to be quite commonly used in that part of the world. If it was not marble then it could have been the ubiquitous white housing found on the islands of Greece.
Early the next morning Wind Spirit entered the port of Rhodes; site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was interesting to see so many tugboats and other vessels in the harbor as Captain Turner and the harbor pilot directed the operation in bringing the port side of Wind Spirit to dock. Not that it is important to most but a dock is like a bulkhead built along a shoreline, whereas a pier is a structure extending out from the shoreline. And we would not be secured to a pier until Kusadasi, our next port of call.
Tour on Rhodes began with a bus trip to the village of Lindos, 30 miles distant from Rhodes Town. We rode the donkey to up to the acropolis and looked out upon cliffs where the motion picture, The Guns of Navarone, was filmed. Only one of our group opted to take the donkey express back to the center of the town. We returned to Wind Spirit for lunch and were off again to for a walking tour through the ancient fortress of Rhodes Town. That night we sailed away for the Bodrum, the next port in Turkey.
In the old fortress in Bodrum we saw many names of Crusaders carved into the stones. Afterward our bus took us to the Divan Palmira Hotel at Turkbuku Bay for a delightful lunch. We also had time to just laze about a beautiful swimming pool in a delightfully landscaped setting until around 4:00 P.M. The harbor of Bodrum was very colorful with a vast number of good size boats ready for anyone wanting to charter, with a crew, for a day, week, month or whatever. And best of all, they do all the cooking. The vicinity around Bodrum is the resort area of Turkey. In the evening the Turkish dance group entertained us and this was followed a bit later with Chef Henri’s famous BBQ buffet, held on the afterdeck, or pool deck as it is also called. The event was very party like, with music and heavily festooned with an array of colorful signal flags strung overhead. It was an exquisite event indeed, with all-you-can-eat of barbecued lobster tails or whatever else, and then with the stewards and several other important members of the staff putting on a fun display of line dancing, it could only be described as a blast!
Kusadasi was the next port of call. As we approached the harbor I went to the bridge to observe as Captain Turner orchestrated a tight 180-degree turn of Wind Spirit. I wondered at the moment why, but then it became apparent as the Captain backed her down to lay the port side of Wind Spirit up to the pier. It was a fascinating and orderly display of seamanship, having performed it without the aid of a tugboat. As the Captain put her aside the pier with pinpoint control, Chief Officer Ian Wardhaugh was on the bow, leaning against the bulwark while directing the foredeck crew as well as the local Turkish line handler on the pier. I watched intently as the monkey fist on the end of the tag or signal line was tossed with precision to the Turkish line handler on the pier far below. And then the hawser was payed out and secured to a bollard on the pier. Once secured and at the command of the Chief Officer the foredeck crew began to quickly take in slack and snub the hawser around enormous sized bollards on the bow. This was all nicely accomplished under the voice command of the Chief Officer. All during the operation Captain Turner stood on the port side extension of the bridge directing the operation, while the Turkish harbor pilot and port control officer stood next to him. The Captain and Chief Officer were also in constant contact by walkie-talkies.
After going ashore we toured the remains of another site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. It was dedicated to the satrap Mausolus, hence the name mausoleum. We later visited the extensive remains of the ancient city of Ephesus, where the Apostle Paul preached and saw on a distant mountain top the remains of the building in which Paul had been imprisoned. Later we visited a Turkish rug merchant an learned about the technique of weaving rugs and of knots used in Turkish rug making. Rugs with the fringes tied in knots was a signal that the weaver is ready for marriage, hence to tie the knot is to marry.
Upon leaving Kusadasi, on Friday the 13th of all things, we were in for a full day and night at sea, arriving the next morning in Istanbul. As we passed along the Turkish shoreline of the Trojan War site our tour director assembled us onto the afterdeck and told us the story of that event. It was in an extremely riveting and enjoyable fashion. As he completed the story we entered the famous waterway of the Dardanelles whereupon the voice of Captain Turner was heard over the P.A. system. The Gallipoli Peninsula lay to port and he went on to explain the significance of the Peninsula and the war monuments to the soldiers then clearly in view. These memorialize the British, French and Turkish soldiers that lost their lives in that battle during World War I. The ancient name for the Dardanelles is Hellespont, which in Greek legend is where Helle, while fleeing with her brother on the ram with the Golden Fleece fell off and drowned. Upon passing through the narrowest point of the Dardanelles, where old stone forts prominently overlook the waterway from both sides, we entered the Sea of Marmara. It is an enormous body of water and Captain Turner sailed the Wind Spirit close by towering cliffs. He announced that he did so because he thought it to be more scenic than staying in the shipping channel where we would not see anything but seawater. The following morning we docked in Istanbul.
In summary, the weather held good for the entire cruise and the comfort aboard the Wind Spirit could not have been better. It was always a nice sight to see the Greek flag with its distinct blue and white stripes and single white cross fluttering on a halyard high above the bridge. When we entered Turkish waters the Greek flag was struck and the Turkish flag hoisted, with its distinct crescent and star in white on a field of bright red. This is done as a gesture of etiquette to signify recognition of the country which controls the waters, while the flag or ensign of the country in which the ship is registered is displayed astern. In our case, Wind Sprit was out of Nassau and therefore the flag at the stern was that of the Bahamas.