The notion of cruising across the water at the will of the wind is impossibly sensual: bare feet firmly planted on the wood deck, salt air caressing my skin and the startling snap of full sails as the vessel comes firmly about. Perhaps I've read too many books in which these tall ships are as vivid to me as any well-drawn character. I've always loved to watch them in action in movies like Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean.
You can imagine how stoked I was to learn that I can actually vacation on one of these ships, and along the way learn a thing or two about celestial navigation and hoisting the canvas and feed my dive jones, too. A Windjammer cruise may just be the perfect blend of adventure, relaxation and full-on immersion in many of my favorite blue spaces in the
Dedicated dive operations aboard Windjammer ships have doubled in the past few years, so most itineraries are fair game for divers. Since it's walls that I'm after, the M.V. Legacy is my vessel of choice.
For a summer trip I pick the Bahamas, just so I can acquire a story to tell that includes the words "Tongue of the Ocean." OK, so the tongue happens to be at 6,000 feet. But Andros Wall the third-largest barrier reef in the world begins at 70 to 90 feet and then plunges into the depths. Hanging Gardens, at 100 feet, drips with sponges, sea whips and gorgonians. At 120 feet, natural steps called Giant's Staircase merge with the wall into the abyss. A crevice called Turnbull's Gut opens at 90 feet and then shoots you out on the wall at 120 feet, directly over the endless abyss of the Tongue. Just who was Turnbull, I wonder?
In the winter months, cruising the ABCs (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) is pretty appealing: arid islands, little rainfall, incredible viz and protected marine sanctuaries. For walls, I'd sign up for every dive offered while in Curaçao.
A lovely multilevel two-in-one dive starts at around 90 feet on the wall at Director's Bay just southeast of the pretty Tugboat in Caracasbaii. The wall is known for its lush hard and soft corals, which provide a hangout for thousands of creole wrasse and schools of soldierfish, damselfish, snappers and trumpetfish.
Cornelius Bay, near the Ocean Encounters dive shop, is a relatively new dive site that's still being explored. Also, be sure to look for the Lost Anchor. You shouldn't expect to find it, but you'll have fun looking for it along the sheer wall.
Clearly, there's plenty of underwater adventure to be had aboard a Windjammer ship; for divers it's really a hybrid of a live-aboard and a sailing cruise. The diving couldn't be easier, with a crew that loads your gear as you walk the gangplank to the 24-foot dive boat. Or start your morning with a signature bloody Mary and a novel instead true sacrilege.
One thing's for certain: Each night I'll be rocked to sleep in the cradle of the sea as visions of vertical dance in my head.