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Paul Motter April 2nd, 2008 12:36 PM

Who are the Burkes, Really?
Windjammer Cruises had an incredible following in terms of loyal repeat passengers. On my last cruise, a sail ship somewhat similar in looks to a Windjammer ship (because it used sails) I met some past Windjammer cruisers who described their love of Windjammer ships to me.

The onboard atmosphere at Windjammer was descrbed to me by members of the message board "Flotilla" and the ones I met as like no other.

The reason, simply enough, was the crew. The boats were actually in ramshackle shape, needing paint and the sails repaired. But everyone loved the crewmembers. At cocktail hour free rum was dispensed, along with wine at dinner. After dinner, entertainment was free-form, but it often centered around the crew.

The crew would be on deck to interact with the passengers - there were presumably no rules requiring them to stay in their quarters. Some people on my last cruise told me the crew would come out and sell their own handicrafts to the passengers, for example.

But this is the Windjammer people remember. Meanwhile I personally never sailed on one. So my recollection only has to do with my dealings with the owners of the company - the Burkes, and my interviews with people who knew them directly.

The Burkes took this cruise line and used it as a front to convince hundreds of people to part with their hard earned dollars; pre-paying for cruises in blocks of five and ten, which they were never to receive.

First of all - pre-paying for cruises five or ten at a time is NOT a standard practice at all. I had never heard of it before. I am not even sure it is legal (I heard from one expert it is not).

Even worse, they convinced many of these people to do this with a glossy brochure of a time-share ship they were "in the process" of building, but they never even started to build it. The ship hull they bought to make this vessel is rotting away in Trinidad.

So, bottom line. While the cruisers loved Windjammer the experience, the people running this company took full advantage of this "love" to take lots of money from these people which they have never paid back. Research shows that as much as $10 million was taken in as pre-paid cruises, and that possibly $3 to $4 million worth of those cruises are probably still outstanding and will never be fulfilled.

So, my question to people who were bilked out of your money is, how do you feel about the Burkes? Are you in the mood for "healing," as described by the webmaster of the Flotilla, presumably mourning your loss on the way to letting it go?

Or are you more in the mood for seeing the Burkes brought to justice and getting at least the satisfaction that they will in some way have to pay for what they did?

Lars April 2nd, 2008 04:28 PM


State of Florida doesn't seem to give a damn.

richstacy April 2nd, 2008 04:38 PM

We just returned form two weeks back to back on the Crown princess. I suppose part of the answer is that the assets, including the ships, will eventually be sold to satisfy debts, unfortunately, commercial creditors will get priority.

We had one pleasant, nostalgic and somewhat sad surprise on this cruise. As we strolled down the gangway in Aruba, we looked up and saw, tied up on the opposite side of the dock, the old “Polynesia,” a four masted sailing ship formerly of the apparently bankrupt Windjammer Barefoot cruise line. It was our very first ship, back in 1986, and at probably not more than 400 tons, by far the smallest we’ve ever been on. We had great fun on her! Now the rust is coming through, and her once gleaming teak decks are grey, weathered and marred. She just sits there, tied up and awaiting her fate. Before sailing on her all those years ago, I remember reading a very good article about her in the National Geographic -- 1978 I believe. She was a converted Portuguese cod fisherman. I took a few pictures of the Crown Princess and the Polynesia side by side – the old and the new, the first and the last, the tiny and the gigantic.

She looked pretty forlorn!

Paul Motter April 2nd, 2008 04:46 PM

My sense is that there are people out there who do "give a damn" but they will certainly give MORE of a damn if more people complain.

Unfortunately, the correct process for filing complaints was not well documented at first. Few people knew where to go to do so.

My position was to wait and see what happened in April. That was the time WJ said it needed to reorganize. It now appears that was really more of a ruse to just disappear, but the majority of people seemed to want to give them the benefit if the doubt.

I have to say I was surprised to hear that only about 60 people all told had even contacted the Florida Sellers of Travel. However, 150 did contact the Atty General. That was just the wrong course.

The more people who complain the greater the final "punishment" will be.

My goal is to send a clear message to the Burkes and future "Windjammers" and other travel scammers, that this kind of behavior is not acceptable. That you will pay the price if you break the rules.

Would it give you any satisfaction for your money knowing that at the very least you sent a strong message to the people who took it?

By the way - it is possible to file a small claims lawsuit. They will likely just ignore it, so you will get a judgement by default. I don't know the law, but maybe a lawyer can tell us if outstanding judgements have to be satisfied before any assets sold can have the proceeds distributed.

richstacy April 2nd, 2008 05:06 PM

Paul, I'd be surprised if they don't file for bankruptcy shortly in federal court in Florida. Then all the creditors, including those who have paid for cruises will have to have their claims adjudicated by the bankruptcy judge. A trustee in bankruptcy will represent their interests. It is not my area of the law, so I don't know who gets what priority, but secured creditors come first.

A secondary consideration is that if they took money, genuinely knowing that they did not intend to stay in business, then they may be guilty of criminal fraud. Fraud is easy, it is simply lying to get money.

Lars April 2nd, 2008 05:08 PM

Paul, we looked into it. The Burke's are pretty much judgment proof in this country and they know it.

If the Florida Attorney General is not willing to bring a criminal complaint on what he's already got, nothing is going to happen.

As WJ was a very small company, doing business mainly overseas, and with mainly out-of-state customers, I get the feeling they'd be happy to just see the problem fade away. No upside for them, just more court costs and bad publicity.

txjammer April 2nd, 2008 05:28 PM

The Florida AG has no jurisdiction over consumer fraud?

Paul Motter April 2nd, 2008 09:06 PM

I am sorry, but I find it hard to believe they are "judgement-proof. " They may be broke as a corporation, but I believe they have plenty of assets, including personal ones.

Remember - these folks took millions of dollars collectively. That money went somewhere, it wasn't used for kindling, and at least three of their opporations were US-based corporations; WBCL, The SeaChest and the LaMer operation. That LaMer money was siphoned off, but that doesn't mean they are judgement-proof.

Bankruptcy laws have changed a great deal. You can't just tell people "sorry, I don't have the money" anymore.

Another very serious avenue that has been overlooked is the Admiralty Law which is prosecutable in the United States in the Federal Courts.

Take a look at this article: (Scroll down to where it says United States')

I think one of those hot Miami Maritime attorneys will get on this soon enough if there is anything there.

Another factor not to be overlooked is whether the Burkes have been paying taxes on this money they brought in. I think the US government will be rather upset if they find out US consumers spent millions of dollars in the US and our government didn't get its fair share.

richstacy April 2nd, 2008 10:23 PM

Paul, have you forgotten the reason people do business as a corporation rather than as individuals? It is precisely to avoid individual personal liability. That is, in fact, the main reason for anyone to incorporate. The sole reason for most! You can't lose your personal assets.

Incorporating does not however defeat individual criminal liability for such crimes as fraud, if indeed such crimes occurred at all. (I am not sufficiently apprised of the fact to be able to judge that.)

Paul Motter April 3rd, 2008 07:49 AM

I personally believe the records will show there was illegal activity here, especially regarding the statutes of the Florida Sellers of Travel. I have no idea if those have any teeth or not, but they should, precisely for cases like this.

You do have a point about corporations, In this case almost all of their assets, including their homes, are in various corporations so the Burke corporations are not completely broke. The IRS did a good job of piercing the Burke's business shells in 1999.

I would say that getting people's money back will be the hardest thing about this case, but if there are still any assets (and there appear to be) I would hope at least some of it will go back to people.

Lars April 3rd, 2008 12:00 PM

Paul, you can win a judgment easily. WJ isn't even contesting them anymore or bothering to show up in court. Everybody is winning by default.

Collecting is the real trick.

We reviewed it, and we'd have more money into the lawyers than we'd ever get back. And that's why I said they are "judgment proof". Now, we could sue them out of sheer spite, but it's going to be a very expensive game, with no winners except the lawyers. At some point, you have to quit throwing good money after bad.

I really hope the Florida AG goes after them, but I doubt he will unless he figures out how to seize some assets too. Or the Burkes p.o.'d one of his campaign supporters. :wink:

Paul Motter April 3rd, 2008 12:51 PM


I totally understand what you are saying, for single-party consumers it is very tough. The whole question of why a class action has not been filed yet is pretty much answered by the thought that there is not enough in assets to collect anything.

I really don't know if that is true - the ships and the shipyard all together are probably worth several million, but it would take a lot to tie them all together because they are so scattered in different corps in different countries that it is a mess. It is even said the Burkes themselves had forgotten how to claim title on some of their ships.

Even the FDAC suggests you can go to small claims court which is NOT a bad idea because it only costs a few dollars (in most states) to even file a claim and there are no lawyers. No doubt, some of the subpeonaes Sobegal saw when she rode by the closed home office on her bike were such.

If they don't answer you get a default judgement which can be up to the limit - and most states are at $5000 now.

Still, I understand the only satisfaction now is likely going to come from seeing them prosecuted somehow, but the more people who complain the more likely that will be to happen, and the worse the final outcome will be.

richstacy April 3rd, 2008 02:35 PM

Paul, I would hope that as many people as possible can get their money back. It was very sad to see the old Polynesia looking so rundown and forlorn in Aruba. sigh. I'd post a pic if I could remember how. :oops:

Paul Motter April 3rd, 2008 03:01 PM

I have seen the pictures, but if YOU have one the thing to do is to post it in our Photo Gallery.

Then once it is in there you can post it here in our message boards by pasting the URL here n a message, highlighting it, and clicking the "img" button above.

deepthroat April 22nd, 2008 12:10 PM

joey burke operates the "june b" named after his mother, and in the same fashion, the charter hire has been syphoned out of the ship, little money has been spent on maintence and now she's operating on borrowed time, with no spare parts, long over due for an enginer overhaul and drydocking, it's only a matter of time before the ship has an accident at sea and the burke's are again responsible for the fate of the seafarers onboard

there is a trail of debt following the ship, joey like his father before him is a master of stringing out the bare essentials or conning his charterer to absorb husbandry expenses in order to keep the ship moving just a little bit longer, he borroed the money to buy it from his mother and to my knowledge had not paid her back

although you can arrrest a foreign ship in us ports for outstanding debts, it's risky, as you will bare the custodianship costs, which at this point, the vessel is in such a state of disrepair, it's worth little more then the scrap value, and costs to keep her crewed, maintained and layberthed until a suitable buyer could be found at auction could quickly exceed her value, joey knows this learning from the lessons of his father, and continues to con local vendors out of repair services that they will never be paid for and have no ability to collect

the ship today runs back and forth from haiti to fernandina beach florida carrying frozen poulty products

there is no way to connect the st.vincent company that onwns the "june b' to windjammer but i though it would provide interesting insight to a legacy of poor ship management left by captain burke, piracy is alive and well in today's world, as seen in recent events off the coast of somalia with the french yacht, or spanish fishing boat this week, the burkes, although not armed with ak-47's, are nothing more then white collar pirates

Paul Motter April 22nd, 2008 12:52 PM

New Windjammer Corporation
Deep throat ...

It sounds as if you have had some personal dealings with Joey Burke lately. It sounds like they didn't turn out so well.

I am curious if you know who Richard York is?

The following people did register Windjammer Cruises Inc, Address 1717 North Bayshore Drive:

Anastasios - Ioannidis P/D
Arth 25
Kastoria, GR, 51200 (Greece)

Richard A. York VP/D
1717 North Bayshore Dr
Miami, FL, 33132

Herbert W Abramson S/D
1717 North Bayshore Dr.
Miami, FL, 33132

Edward E Baez VP/D
1717 North Bayshore Dr.
Miami, FL, 33132

The registered agent for the company is Herbert W Abramson.

Principle Busness Address and Mailing Address:

1717 Bayshore Dr
Miami, FL, 33132

deepthroat April 22nd, 2008 02:16 PM

yes you could say i have experiances with joey burke and the june b, on a recent google search came accross you 4 part article from last november which i found very interesting, they should sell the rights to hollywood, it would make an excellent movie

my interest in windjammer is only vicarious, i am many decades in shipping, always in the husbandry side, mostly cargo ships, but from dealings with joey, became attached to the windjammer saga and the strange cult like following these boats had, it's a truly amazing story

i do however have quite a bit of experiance in the operation of cruise ships
and management of flag of convienance companies, it amazes me how easily some people are parted with their money, ignorance is not bliss, and although it's tragic, i can't say i feel sorry for some of the fools that fell for the con and lost money, and it's not just windjammer, there are plenty of bad cruise deals out there, anyone taking a cruise should research the company and the ship closely before spending their hard earned cash

as for the june b, she struggles on, i have never lost a dime as knew better to fall prey to his con's, but many others were not so lucky

keep following this story, appreciate your excellent reporting, will be sure look for updates to this story, will post be sure to post what clues i pick up on

LeliaMac April 26th, 2008 07:57 PM

Lelia A. Mackin
444 Layton Terrace
The Villages, FL 32162

April 26, 2008

Mr. Michael D. Burke
Windjammer Cruises
1759 Bay Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139-1413

Dear Mr. Burke:

In your e-mail (see attached copy) to me of October 24, 2007 you stated that I would receive a full refund of my $500 deposit for my scheduled sailing on the Polynesia on December 22, 2007: Booking # 3550650 which Windjammer Cruises cancelled.

I have made telephone, e-mail, and fax requests for this refund, but I have not received my refund.

Because you have delayed so long in making the refund you promised, I can no longer make a request through my credit card or bank which apparently was your intention. My bank recommended that I initiate a claim through my Small Claims Court which I intend to do if I do not receive a positive response to this letter and my $500 on or before May 8, 2008. A copy of this letter will be provided to the Small Claims Court along with all the other documentation I have. If my Small Claims Court action is not successful, I intend to ask my personal attorney to take appropriate legal action against Windjammer Cruises.

My parents, my sister, and I are repeat vacationers on Windjammer Cruises. It’s most unfortunate that our relationship has to end in this manner.


Lelia A. Mackin

Pat Hunte-Cusack April 15th, 2009 09:51 PM

Just registered and still mourning loss. All that you say is true about loyal, repeat customers and it is a real crime that this has happened. Shame on the Burkes. If the old man isn't still alive, then I'm sure he must be turning in his grave. Such a shame.

Gazelle2 May 3rd, 2010 04:24 PM

Our Windjammer cruise in 1987 on the Fantome out of Trinidad was our first cruise EVER. Every time I revisit this thread it makes me sad. I was not one of the loyal souls who lost a ton of money to the later scam but the loss of the Fantome to Mitch and the loss of the fleet to greed hit me like the loss of a good friend.

The memory of helping the crew haul up the sails on the first evening as the bagpipe version of Amazing Grace filled the main deck is as clear to me now as it was then. I loved every minute of that cruise and I deeply regret that I will never be able to do it again....Phil

Skipper's Mom May 3rd, 2010 07:29 PM

We took our first Windjammer cruise on the Yankee Clipper in 1974 out of Roadtown, Tortola, BVI. We were new to sailing and this trip was the dream of our lives at the time. Nine months later, we again sailed on the Yankee Clipper out of St. Martin. A few years back, we were sailing into an anchorage on a private Moorings charter and passed the YC again. What a day! Sad to know that the fleet is not sailing and that the Windjammer dream is a thing of the past.

Crusoe August 13th, 2010 07:43 PM

Hello Paul,
I just registered for this forum and it is interesting to say the least.

I liked your posting and I wanted to comment on "Who are the Burkes" To be honest the founder of this company "Captain Burke" was a very salty sailor with a flare for liquor, pretty women, and a dream of sailing beyond belief, and he had the right idea at the right time and somehow he knew how to make it work, and it did for over 40 years.

He was just the right man at the right time to start the best and most fun cruises in the world. If it had not been for him, many fabulous ships would have been scrapped long ago, and no one would have had a chance to sail on real sailing ships and experience the real McCoy and have all the rum you wanted,, and everything else you can emagine having on your vacation, and feel safe a free to have all the fun possible and no mtter what someone was watching your back. LOL... It was a dream of dreams if you ask me and I loved it, and I loved him, and for over 40 years it worked like a fine Swiss watch.

He was a semi-ruthless and savey guy who could sell an ice cube to a Eskimo, but in what he did by founding this company and making it work against almost impossible odds, he provided a place of magic dreams for people like me who wanted to sail and have the time of their life. He made "All" my childhood dreams come true more than once and I have spent months at a time on his ships over the 20 years I sailed with him. Hence my name Crusoe... and I have sailed 1000's of miles on his ships and saw things that only happen in dreams, but it was real and I could go all I wanted as long as I had a more than fair priced ticket. LOL

I was also a De LaMer victim, but I got to use all my weeks on the other ships, which is what I wanted anyway, so I did not get too cheated, but my wife had a sail 10 and lost her money, but over all I can not make enough money now to have all the fun I had on these ships over the years, and it is by far the biggest loss of my life. I always got much more than I spent, but that was under the proud Captain Burkes watch, but even this old salt could not live forever and he lost control by being a loving father and letting his children run his company while he lived in his castle. Now burned to the ground and dead and gone like all of his dreams are dead and gone.

His son Michael Burke and his sister Susan cheated a lot of people including his entire family and the real tragedy is within their family becasue money cannot buy back the dead and it killed many of the good ones.

Kind of like the show Dallas, it had it's good and bad family members, and some of his CHILDREN took advantage of this company and stole millions from their own father and family and fought for power and more power, and when "Captain Burke" had a stroke and could not control this company at all anymore the bottom fell out, and the family feuds and thefts overwhelmed this company and the rest is history. Michael Burke is JR in the show Dallas if you rmemeber that show...

I want to give credit due where it is due, and not all of his family stole from this company, so I want to give them a little credit due. His daughter Poly Burke was a wonderful person and a great asset to this company who worked for every cent she got, He had 3 or 4 sons, I can't remember, and a great one was Joey, I can't remember the other 2 good sons names but they died very soon after the failing of this company becasue it tore their hearts out. They died very tragic deaths including at least one suicide.

Anyway, The beginnig of the end of Windjammer came in 1998 when the Flag ship and the one they had just spent @ 8 million dollars on to refurbish "The Fantome" sank off the coast of of Hondouras and 31 crew members died during Hurricane Mitch. (they were all my friends) Just so you will know the "Bad guys and gals" in this mess that destroyed the best company on earth are Michael Burke (lives in Trinidad) and his sister Susan. Lives ???)

If you want to read a great book about this company that is crude and honest and without a lie in it is "The Ship and the Storm" and it is a 100% reflection of all the events that lead to the birth and the death of this company up to the sinking of the Fantome. It is so accurate that if you left a copy in the ships library, it would be removed becasue they (not Captain Burke") did not want people to read it becasue it was so accurate and told it like it was and Captain Burke is portrayed by his own wordsas ruthless and it is as accurate at it can be and "I highly recommend it".

I am in no way complaining about your posting, I just wanted to reply becasue I think you deserve to hear "Who Were the Burkes"...

Crusoe August 13th, 2010 08:10 PM

First off, this company had many great deals over the years, and I bought them all and came out way ahead time after time, and it was only when Michael Burke (THE SON OB) became President of this company "his deals" became a CON, :Ponzi, but as I trusted my own mother after she showed me she was trust worthy, I would bet the farm on her honesty, and I had no reason to question a company that I got every dimes worth out of, so I am not a fool and I was departed from some of my money in the end but, it was a great company and if you did not get to go then You are the fool becasue money cannot buy what I and hundreds of thousands of other people got from Windjammer, and for me it was over 20 years I sailed with them regularly. I resent the fool part of your post and it is unfortunate than in your shipping experiences in your husbandry end of it that you had to watch out for a crook in every port. Windjammer was the love of my life and even though I lost some money in the end, in a way it just paid for the difference it what I got extra the many many times I did go.

It is so sad that a lot of people lost money and gave the Burkes a horrible name, but this travesty of life was caused by only 2 people, MICHAEL BURKE & his sister SUSAN BURKE. The rest of the Burke family were good people and the good ones are dead from the heartbreak of what just 2 people did. When I die I intend to be buried in my most worn out Windjammer T Shirt. Hopfully it will be more worn than it is now becasue I proudly wear all my WJ T shirts all the time.

GJA2010 August 21st, 2010 07:42 PM

What they did was very wrong!
I certainly can say they hurt lots of people and my husband and I came pretty close to buying into the 10 trips. Shortly thereafter they started to go bust.

Having been on all 5 of the ships they have left me many good memories now that my husband has passed away. He was just 61 yrs. young and had a love for sailing. I think we were on 54 different cruises in our lifetime. He always said we are going to do what we want while we are young and we did.

I can remember all the good times with the Captain's and crew who made our trips a delight. I have plenty of film footage and even have a promotional video made by Windjammer that my husband is in. I think this was the last video they made at sea.

If I could do it all over again I would not hesitate.

gkbii September 28th, 2010 04:20 PM

This was my Mother's favorite trip, her cruise on Windjammer. The high levels of loyalty shown for the company and its departed founder do speak for the special place this cruise company took them to. I never understood what my Mother's fascination with Windjammer was, it looked boring to me. I will say this, they have a loyalty (even after death) that is greater than any other line I have seen.

Caribsailingirl December 10th, 2011 11:31 PM


I sailed on the Polynesia in 1985, then the Yankee Clipper in 1995, met Annie, Capt. Neil and Capt. Guayan. In Grenada after sailing had dinner with them and burned my marriage certificate, Guayan, thought it quite humorus. They'd talked me into signing up to be a purser aboard WJBC and of course I did it. It was the best divorce recovery ever. The crew was wonderfully support, taught me how to fish off a line at the back. I spent a few days training on the Fantome, was on the Poly then the Flying Cloud.

I can assure you that the crew is what made WJBC a success. They were so creative in rigging up unsafe equipment. I bailed early 4 mos. into my 6 month contract because I felt it was completely unsafe. The crew knew it but it offerred them a better life than back on their islands. I handled all the personnel files, so I knew what they were coming from. When I left the F/C I turned in the books to the BVI gov't since WJBC had demanded that I purposely make erroneous entries and payments.

The Burke family is a sad one and greed dominated their lives. I would hope that rather than dwell on them. We honor the memories of the crew and the islands that gave so much to Americans for their enjoyment. Yes, we even had to blacklist certain women from America who came aboard for a cruise and to get laid by a west indian, we called them black widows. The crew lived in fear that they'd get a passenger complaint against them and loose their job. It was fun, exhausting and fearful, but the friendships and love run deep.

BKW525 May 22nd, 2017 07:45 PM

I find it interesting that the person who began this thread stated he never took a windjammer cruise. Why has there been such venomous discourse that has lasted over so many years by someone who has never taken a cruise. I did sail with Windjammer in 2005 and it was and remains to be one of the best vacations I've ever had.
The ship wasn't at all run down. And yes both the skipper and the crew were great. We were taken both the standard ports of call as well as an uninhabited island where the crew set up a wonderful buffet lunch on the beach.
I know all of this is basically old news. But the memories i have of that cruise will last a life time.

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