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Flying Turtles, Hidden Treasures: My TradeWinds Adventure

Have you ever seen a chelonian fly?

I was basking in the Caribbean sun on the trampoline when it happened, watching the twin bows of JimJams, our 60-foot catamaran, pierce the waves as we sailed with the wind toward the island of Anguilla.

It was a hawksbill turtle, pale yellow and mottle-backed. He shot out of the water with his flippers spread wide like wings, leaving a trail of glittering seawater in his wake before disappearing once again beneath the surface.

It happened so quickly – and was so extraordinary – that I would have doubted myself had it not been for first mate Micky Eichhorn, who bellowed from her perch on the yacht’s mast, 15-feet above my head. When I looked up, she was hugging the mast, a foot and a hand each dangling free, grinning wide at what we’d both just witnessed.

Photo: @britneylhope

I looked to the cockpit above, where Captain Andre de Klerk was chatting with my fellow passengers from his spot at the helm, but clearly, none of them had seen the turtle. They were all thoroughly mellowed, draped across a semicircle of soft white cushions, cradling icy rum punches in their laps. Their mouths moved occasionally to speak or to sip, but their bodies were otherwise slack with the delicious leisure of it all. Hats and sunglasses concealed any legitimate attempts at consciousness. Phones laid forgotten in the cabins below.

It hadn’t taken long for any of us to ease into the TradeWinds lifestyle. To anyone on a neighbouring boat who caught a glimpse of our party loafing around the deck, highballs in hand – or being served rock lobster by Micky and Andre – as we luxuriated in the utter absence of task or technology, they may have thought we were the kind of people who lived that way all the time. Based on the available evidence, they may have surmised we just slept, snacked and sailed every day. We certainly looked – and acted – like we owned that chartered yacht.

Of course, when it comes to TradeWinds, that’s entirely the point.

Photo: @britneylhope

Guilt-free luxury and surprise moments of natural wonder are all part of the package on a TradeWinds luxury charter. Whether sailing across the Caribbean, Central America, the Mediterranean or the South Pacific, the intimate size of this five-star catamaran company means voyagers seeking a slice of their own private paradise can explore the sort of latent locales otherwise unreachable by traditional cruise ships.
With premium yachts offering customizable, private or shared charters to some of the world’s most beautiful and untouched destinations, guests can stroll along the shores of uninhabited enclaves, swim in quiet seclusion, or simply soak up the serenity of quiet sunsets over open waters.

We did all that and more on our voyage around St. Martin, Anguilla and the countless little islets scattered in between. Mornings were defined by the fresh coffee, charcuterie and tropical fruit overlooking the sunrise on a secret beach. One afternoon found us snorkelling at the foot of a remote cliff face while Micky, a skilled diver, moved mermaid-style among the reef, pointing out parrot fish, barracuda and at one point, a spiny purple urchin to our collective delight. In the evenings, we were plied with meals like fresh-caught Mahi Mahi, perfect homemade pavlova, and exceptional South African wine. Bedtime was often early; once filled to the gills with the kind of sun kissed, multi-sensory extravagance that never failed to take us by surprise, we’d all retire below deck to the gentle rocking of our queen beds, drift into sleep, and dream of the diversions that were yet to come.

On our final night, we all resolved to stay up late – to make the remaining hours last as long as we could. Taking to the front deck, where I’d once seen my now famous flying turtle, we stretched out on the lacework of the trampoline under what I swear was an entire galaxy of stars. We were moon drunk, laughing about how easy it had been to disconnect, to forget about our worries, jobs or favourite TV shows. We swapped barely-made memories from the week, like when we’d jumped in the ocean for sunset, sipping Mai Tai’s off the back of a surfboard. As we were all seasoned travellers, the conversation inevitably turned to our former adventures, and we began to wax poetic on all the beautiful sights we’d seen, the things we’d tasted, our most unforgettable wow moments, and our all-time favourite exotic escapes.

That is, they were our favourites, we all agreed – before TradeWinds stole the show.

Photo: @britneylhope