AUBRA FRANKLIN @JeffMitchumGalleries


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Imagine spending 6 days on an old diesel powered boat exploring and photographing the Galapagos Islands. Imagine waking up, stepping out onto the deck, and, seemingly from nowhere, this old wooden sailing vessel appears. It was surreal. I was in awe of the the beauty of this ship. Add to that, even more surreal light illuminating the sky and this glorious vessel.
As I clicked the shutter, my imagination went wild with wonder of the places she'd sailed and the sights she must have seen.
Little did I know.
Now for the rest of the story.
The Mandalay is truly an historic ship. This 236-foot barkentine was built in 1923 for financier E.F. Hutton and christened Hussar. In the 1930's she was sold to shipping magnate George Vettlesen who re-christened her Vema. Later she was put into service by Columbia University sailing over a million miles worldwide. Evidence gathered on her voyages confirmed the theory of the continental drift.
For many years, the Mandalay sailed in the Caribbean, where she established an enviable reputation for delivering joy to her guests . She had a very loyal following, with "Jammers" repeating year after year. Then in September of 2007, that world ended. Windjammer Barefoot Cruises went bankrupt, its remaining assets were auctioned off and all her loyal "Jammers" mourned.
But the Windjammer dream never died -- It was a culture. And it was a fragile culture - one that had a rare balance of fun, adventure, informality and one that would-be imitators never understood. On January 18th, 2012 the Mandalay was purchased, with a commitment to maintain the culture of "Windjammer." The Rum Swizzles, crab races, story time, Bloody Mary's, peanut butter pates, sleeping on deck and the playing of Amazing Grace are back, as are many of the former crew. Mandalay has been refurbished to recall her former glory. Always a favorite of Windjammer Barefoot sailors, Mandalay is welcomed back to the fleet of tall ships! ~ Aubra Franklin