A sea-and-island idyll

Personal Journeys

A Memorable PlaceThere are three...

September 06, 1998|By Robert Lidston | Robert Lidston,Special to the sun

A sea-and-island idyll; A Memorable Place

There are three things that float on the water," growled Capt. Neil Carmichael as we stood on the deck of the four-masted Polynesia anchored in Phillipsburg Harbor on the island of St. Maarten. "Boats!" (He gestured at nearby small sailboats.) "Ships!" (He gestured at our schooner.) "And pieces of feces!" (He pointed to a nearby cruise ship but used a more common word than feces.) Thus began last summer's Windjammer Barefoot adventure for my wife, our 14-year-old son and me.

A few hours later we were among the volunteers who helped hoist the sails while "Amazing Grace" (penned by a once-dissolute Scotsman home from the sea) wailed on recorded bagpipes. We couldn't escape our connection to the elements as, sails stretching before the wind, the leviathan began to push forward through the waves.

At Anguilla we dove off the ship's plank into Crocus Bay. On St. Kitts my son grew when our rain-forest hike guide sent him ahead up a sometimes jungle-encased, 800-foot ridge to show our straggling hiking group it could be climbed. In the meantime, my wife snorkeled along a reef, exploring an 18th-century shipwreck. Looking up out of the water, she gazed into the beak of a pelican who, unstartled, saw just another sea animal.

Sleeping on the open deck beneath the distended sails as the Polynesia cut through the Caribbean from Nevis to St. Barts, I awoke at 4 a.m. and looked up at more stars than I had ever seen. The view and the trip's other liberating experiences - no suits and ties, no telephones and TVs - brought me near tears. They also brought me closer to the natural world and my fellow travelers.

On St. Barts our teen-ager laughed unabashedly with his parents as we jeeped up and down narrow goat paths to unspoiled beaches with unbelievable views and ate cheeseburgers in this paradise at LeSelect, the bar where Jimmy Buffett wrote the song. The next day, back on St. Maarten and dreading the plane to reality, I had to flee the air-conditioned tourist shop where my wife looked at Lladro porcelains and other things no one really needs. She was no less affected by the trip than I, but was wise enough to balance the real and the ideal.

Under my gray suits and starched white shirts, the multicolored friendship bracelet tied on my wrist at St. Kitts still takes me back to our idyll.

Best of all, the three of us are going back, on a sister sailing ship to other Caribbean islands, most of which we have never even heard of. We can't wait for another trip that may turn from an adventure to an experience.

Robert Lidston lives in Cockeysville.

Eagles Mere, Pa.

Anne B. Hackney, Upperco

"It's the town that time forgot, a lovely mountaintop lake with sailing, canoeing, fishing, hiking and biking paths. A great place for families. The athletic association has many activities for all ages, as does the conservancy."

Acadia National Park

David J. Smith, Parkville

"Recently, my wife, 4-year-old son and I spent 2 1/2 weeks camping there as well as in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. For our son, the most exciting parts included going on the Confederation Bridge (which connects New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island); visiting Cavendish, the Prince Edward Island setting for 'Anne of Green Gables'; and taking 'The Cat,' North America's fastest car ferry, from Nova Scotia to Maine."

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Pub Date: 9/06/98

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