It's been no secret here -- whether on our boards or in our news coverage -- that Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, one of the last family-owned cruise lines in America, has been struggling mightily to survive. The company has been arrears with vendors, port facilities and even its own crew; ship maintenance has deteriorated to such a serious degree that its own captains reportedly won't sail the line's vessels.

In August, the situation was so bad that representatives from Windjammer's Miami office flew down to Panama and Costa Rica with fists full of cash to pay off vendors for foodstuffs and other supplies just so the week's cruise could depart. And yet, the company seemed to be hanging on. Rumors flew -- all unsubstantiated since Windjammer's officials did not respond to calls for clarification -- but the only item the line commented on was that a deep-pocketed buyer was in sight.

And yet, Cruise Critic members tell us the end appears to be near. The fleet's four ships are all stranded, at least for now: Yankee Clipper is in Trinidad; Mandalay is in Panama; Polynesia is in Aruba; and Legacy, its flagship, is in Costa Rica. The company has said, according to the boards (no official confirmation is available), that cruises are canceled for the next week and possibly beyond.

The Windjammer Web site no longer seems to exist. The company has famously not been communicating with passengers booked on near-term voyages and certainly hasn't started to become more forthcoming this past week -- and naturally, speculation of the direst form ensues. And as a result of the vacuum of information, member Vincey notes: "The company appears to be heading straight towards the reef with no hope of recovery."

Member Ed Green wonders, in a thread titled "Is it Over?" on the Windjammer forum: "Is this, in fact, the end? I hope not, but it sure begins to look like it...."

We'll follow up this week and keep you posted -- as well, feel free to drop a note to us at if further news develops.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor