Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Les Saintes are a cluster of small arid mountainous islands with a couple of picturesque settlements. In the E/W pass there are a series of massive 2 bladed wind generators; the only ones we have seen in these Trade wind islands! Terre De Haut’s population is all descendents of Breton fisherman and Norman sailors. Anse du Borg looks like a Med style fishing village with hundreds of painted wooden fishing boats, charming architecture, and manicured landscaping.

I should leave well enough alone in my scientific reef observations, but this is what I saw. Just in front of our boat in the middle of the town right next to the ferry dock was a reef extending out from shore. On went the French style bathing suit, the fins and mask and in I went for a look. Hhhmm. Diesel fuel from the huge commercial boats on the surface, oh, raw sewage draining onto the reef from town, and what are these funky rectangular coral formations??....a pile of lead acid batteries!! This defies everything some might think is the problem. The reef was teeming with fish, vibrant corals and life despite the assault. The cause has to be more global!

We hiked to…another foooort! Fort Napoleon, just the guy Parker was studying about. The fort has been restored and maintained to preserve its history. Before entering we asked if it was in English (besides the welcome sign and exit) and the admission woman replied yes it was. Once inside the guided tour was only in French and “some” of the displays had loosely translated descriptions in English. At least they tried.

We had learned of the famous French/ British battle that took place here, one of the “greatest” or “not by the rule books” in history. Always consider the source of the written word. In our guide books we got the “British” version of how against all odds the British in an unconventional way cut through the French line of ships and “divided and conquered” the enemy. In the French museum, they “whined” of how the British didn’t play fair and they lost most of their fleet because of it. No offense, but it did sound like they really “had their knickers in a twist” as the English would say. Knickers are what they call underwear.

Dining ashore was fantastic fixed price French cuisine. That made it easier than accidentally ordering cows brains or tripe. The streets reminded me of a small French town. So as not to cause any customs problems, we had to be moving on.

Look whose coming to dinner

That evening we anchored in Carlyle Bay in front of what looked like an unassuming low rise hotel resort. Toward the end of the day we strolled the beach and took notice of the elegant banquet tent on the beach with more stoneware, glassware and flatware per place setting than I think we have on our entire boat. We started chatting with some peole on the beach, kinda of the thing you do when you are out there. We explained that we were not hotel guests but rather a live-aboard family anchored in the bay.
“Well let us get you a drink. Here, let me introduce you to few of my friends. These are my partners, this is my PR person, this is our boat captain, and our boat bears the name of our company in England, Ameritas.” “You must join us for dinner.”
“No that’s alright.”
“Really. I insist. You must join us for dinner, it’s no problem.
And that’s why we carry “nice” beach attire. You never know who you may be having drinks with when you are out cruising. We fed the kids hot dogs, popped in a movie for them and grabbed the VHF radio babysitter as we headed back to the beach for an evening of fine dining.

Jeff of Ameritas had also invited a few other dinner guests and then made the point to mix the group of about 50 so no one sat next to a familiar face. I sat next to his gorgeous marketing director, one of his business partners, the director for the Abm Ambro campaign, a famous yacht photographer. Angie had Michael the race captain of Abm Ambro (the fastest boat in the world). It was the who’s who of international ocean yacht racing and support. The Abm Ambro director told us that when they won the Volvo 70 they had spent over $70,000,000 on the “project”.

The meal was from heaven above. The dinner went on for hours as did the great conversation, laughter and various stories from around the world. The essence of life is born out of smiling and exposing ones self to the world. We could have just as easily or more easily just walked on by these people on the beach. We would have simply retired to our boat for more “tuna something”. We will forever be grateful to Jeff and his company for including a few boat people like us in a night to remember.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Where is the dingy?

Antigua, a British island, claims to have 365 beaches along its twisting turning cloverleaf shaped island. Our overall impression of Antigua is that it has one of the most beautiful coastlines. However, it is in need of reforesting and a course in friendliness. The laundry women rolled their eyes that I would want to do business at their facility. Then when they said $36 US for 2 loads I decided to do it in a bucket. The people in the street rarely greeted you and the service/ tourism people seemed annoyed that we were even here. Clearing out was nearly 2 hours, 6 more copies of forms, formalities and multiple lines before we were free of their bureaucratic stranglehold.

The next morning, a half hour before we are to be on Titan, Angie stepped outside and said, “where is the dingy!!!” Angie says it’s stolen and I say it ain’t. A downwind binocular scan of the bay and I see it on the lee shore. Fortunately, we had the Porta Bote, unfortunately the engine wasn’t starting. I rowed like crazy, bailed out the wave water, and raced back towing the retrieval boat. The last thing we wanted was to be late as guests on a world class racing boat.

Titan’s crew of 20+ is flown in from everywhere for races. Scott welcomed us aboard, LATE, and Titan pulled away from the dock… but Angie’s Wal-mart brownies helped the situation.

When we told him what happened, that the kids had tied up the dingy the night before and it came loose, he joked, “Oh there you go blaming the kids.”He was right. The first time we met Scott, he taught me a valuable life lesson. His philosophy is if someone screwed up and he was the captain, it was his fault for not training or teaching them well enough.

We witnessed perfect orchestration of sails tacking and jibing across the deck, winches screaming, crew relocating to the other rail, as the boat continued speeding along on a new point of sail. Our job besides staying the heck out of the way of unforgiving lines and moving boat parts was to go below and gather the thousands of feet of various sails as they doused one and hoisted another for upwind and downwind. What a rush to go off the wind in complete silence at wind speed (ie. 20 knots)! Now that’s what I call cruising!

After practicing we were welcomed onto the mother-ship, Titan 10” a 120’ mega sailboat that dwarfed the race boat alongside. The crew entertained gave Parker and Sabrina a boat tour followed by treats in the galley. Don’t get any ideas kids. Again, an experience of a lifetime.

For more information on Antigua Race Week and to see the boats: