Captain's Log

Archive for the 'World Voyage 5' Category

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A Tour of Grenada

Approaching St. George’s, Grenada from Carriacou on a late afternoon May 10th was a charming sight. The island had been to windward of us for several hours as we made our way down the coast and steep, green and richly forested it was. Fort George, which is hidden until you come around some steep cliffs, overlooks the city and was bathed in a late afternoon golden glow. The sun reflected off the stained glass windows of churches. Old brick houses lined the streets, all of which sloped steeply down to the Carenage, a common name for the harbor at a West Indian Island, and in this case one in which we would soon anchor with two anchors and go stern-to the quay where not so long ago trading schooners berthed and heaved down, careened, to repair, caulk and paint their bottoms.

St. George’s was not the only thing glowing that evening. Donald stood at the rail, craning his neck to see his friends and family on the dock. He was home. After sailing for 13 months in this voyage of the Picton Castle as Chief Cook, Donald was back in Grenada.

Grenada, known as the Isle of Spice (rightly so as this small island is second only to all of Indonesia for nutmeg production), is the most southern island in the Windward Isles. It is a spectacularly beautiful island to explore and many of the crew took local buses into the mountains where they spent their afternoons hiking to the wonders of the Seven Sisters waterfalls, Concord Falls, Grand Etang National Forest and Crater Lake. Some made a visit to Caribs Leap where a large group of Caribs escaped the French long ago, and you can still see Carib petroglyphs nearby. Guave is the main fishing town and they have a festive “Fish Friday” every week and many islanders make the trek to join in the fun, so did some of us.

Everywhere you see interesting local built wooden fishing boats hauled up on the beach. Some of us got to see a still working sugar plantation from the 1700s now making rum more than sugar; 80,000 bottles a year all consumed on Grenada, none left over for export. Took a taste, rough stuff, but the sugar factory was amazing, still powered by a water wheel – using all the same equipment and techniques from over 200 years ago, amazing.

St. George’s itself is an intriguing city to explore. You need not visit a museum to learn a little about the heritage here, for the city itself is a living, interactive museum, where the past and present collide at every intersection. In particular the crew frequented the lively market place in the centre of town, purchasing local delicacies like French walnuts (a fruit that tastes like a plum, a pear and an apple combined) and callaloo (a leafy green chock full of iron, makes a great soup) and boxes of spice to bring home for family and friends.

While onboard the on-watch crew had plenty to do to occupy their time. Work on a ship is ongoing. Naturally the crew has been working diligently on maintenance throughout the voyage, but now, an increased urgency has set in. The weather during our stay in Grenada was perfect for jobs such as varnishing and painting. Sunny, warm days without sudden downpours allowed the crew to varnish the pin rails and spot paint the bulwarks and holy stone the deck in preparation for oiling. The little small boat, Uncle C, that we acquired in Carriacou (9 foot boat built like a schooner) also needed some work and the crew stripped her down and prepared her for some re-planking. As Nadja, Donald and I prepared our food provisioning orders with local, trusted chandler Terry, the rest of the crew cleaned out and organized the forward sole and hold, ready to receive the bulk of food.

*Thank-you to Ollie for the use of his photo of the Picton Castle stern-to.

bags and bags of nutmeg
our young Grenadian friend points out petroglyphs
Picton Castle stern to at the Carenage, Grenada
processing sugar cane
processing sugar cane the old way
St George s Market

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North Bound from Bermuda in the Picton Castle

At dawn this day comes in overcast spitting light rain in a fresh southerly breeze hauling the Picton Castle and her crew north. Yards are squared and all sail is set and drawing to the royals. The Chief Cook asks for the main topmast staysail to come in as sometimes wind spilling off it spoils the draft from his stove and slows down breakfast – can’t have that. At 80 miles north of Bermuda it is still quite warm. This will change. The 4-8 watch sets to a vigorous deck scrub as they have done many times before. The Mate trims a sail here a sheet there but otherwise we roll on with the winds and sea as long as they remain favourable. Looks like we are going to sail right through something of a low but doesn’t look bad. Just a little wind and then maybe going calm for a spell.

The gang had a good time in Bermuda and in the BVI as well with all the wooden boat regatta activity there a couple weeks ago – logs will be posted soon on that subject – but in the meantime we are sailing for Lunenburg, and the sea bound coast of Nova Scotia where this voyage began 14 months and 30,000 miles ago. In a straight line it is 720 miles from Bermuda to Lunenburg, surprisingly close really and with so much in common, yet a world away in climate. No palm trees in Lunenburg and no Christmas trees in Bermuda. We still have flying fish skitting about the ship. That’s comforting to a “flying fish sailor.”

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Captured by the Character of Carriacou

Sailing from St. Barths on May 3, 2011, the Picton Castle made her way to the south, bound for the Grenadines in the Windward Isles of the Eastern Caribbean. On the morning of May 7th, she dropped anchor in the harbour outside the peaceful port town of Hillsborough, Carriacou. While a part of the nation of Grenada, Carriacou in unique unto itself.

We had arrived in Carriacou at the very end of the Caribbean tourist season and found ourselves among just a handful of visitors to the island. As continued to be a regular occurrence, the Captain was greeted by several friends as we arrived by skiff to clear in with Customs and Immigration. During his days on the Romance the Captain was then just a young deckhand newly establishing himself as a mariner and gaining skills as he could. It was the talented shipwrights he met in these islands – in particular Carriacou and mainland Grenada – that taught him the finer skills of wooden ship-building and repair.

Dunstin Bristol met us by the dock in his taxi-bus, ‘My Apology’. During the next few days, as he took the crew on tours around the island, we learned that he had known the Captain since they were both teenagers. It was his father, Mathias, who had taught the Captain how to caulk and shape timbers and planks. The Captain used to stay with Dunstin’s family while in Carriacou, sleeping on the floor next to them and sharing their world as few foreigners do. Dunstin told me the story of how his mother, wishing the Captain to feel at home, made him a very western influenced meal one night. The Captain ate the meal politely, but afterward expressed his desire to eat what the rest of the family was eating, the local fare; fish, chicken, peas & rice. It was one of many insights into the man we call Captain and only reinforced why we choose to travel the world on the Picton Castle with him.

As I was sitting by the beach one day a man approached me. He was also from North America and we got to talking, as you do, when someone says hello. After talking to me for a while, he asked what I thought of the island. I told him that I loved it, that I felt so at home here, that I did not yet wish to leave, and that I was already planning my next visit – perhaps during the Carriacou Regatta next summer. He looked surprised by my answer and he told me that Carriacou was just not for him and that other (touristy, westernized, ‘developed’) islands were more his style. And in that moment a part of me wished that this man could experience what we were experiencing. That is, the opportunity to sail around the world; stay in home-stays; meet, live, sail, dance and work with the locals. It opens your eyes as much as it opens your heart to travel in this way… but each to his own.

For it is the people, even more than the breathtaking interior, stunning white sand beaches and healthy untouched reefs, that makes this island truly remarkable. On the first day ten of us piled into ‘My Apology’ and went for a cross island tour with Dunstin. Speeding across the hilly island, we got our first glimpse of its beauty. Largely untouched by building development – pastures yield to verdant forest which cede to community gardens which surrender to sloping cliffs overlooking stunning bays and natural harbours. The blossoming fertility of the island, carried by a soft breeze, entered through the windows and mesmerized us. As we barrelled down the road, Dunstin honked his horn in greeting as we passed by his friends, family and neighbours, and in warning at the wandering goats or chickens that frequented the middle of the roads.

Stopping at Paradise Bay we met with Joy and Joseph, who own a little restaurant right on the beach called the Hardwood Bar at Paradise Beach. On display at the bar, was a picture of the Picton Castle, given to them on a previous visit. We happily played in the water and picked up a few souvenirs from Fidel Productions – a little seaside shop run by Sandra and Luca. (Luca and his brother Kyle both sailed on the Picton Castle in the past and their father, Dave Westergard, is building two schooners at the Lunenburg Dory Shop). Then we continued on our tour.

During the late afternoon we ended up in Windward, where the Carriacou sloops are built, a cool breezy community on the windward side of the island. Stopping at one of the boat yards we walked among the frame that had built at least one Carriacou sloop we knew, Alexis’s Genesis, but undoubtedly many others too. Moored out in the harbour we could see the Maghita, a 40 footer with no engine used for fishing and owned by a lovely man named Uncle C, and New Moon, owned by Dave Goldhill, which some of us had sailed in the West Indies Regatta. As the sun swooped toward the horizon, we made our way to Bernard and Laura’s rum shop (editors note: a “rum shop” is just a name for an informal plywood built outdoor pub; rum consumption is not required), where we reunited with some familiar faces. Chinton and Carl (Windward boat builders) were both in St. Barths and sailed with us during the Regatta, and Dave. We also met Uncle C, Bernard and Laura and their children and grandchildren and many other local boat builders. As we sat on wooden benches overlooking the water it was hard not to feel completely content. These men and women worked incredibly hard, and possibly as a consequence, also knew how to relax. With the exception of the rowdy games of dominos on the front stoop, almost a contact sport hereabouts, everybody just chilled out. There was some conversation, but there was also a lot of comfortable silence.

The next few days carried on in a similar fashion. Dunstin continued to take the crew on tours of the island, several of the crew hiked into the hills, many hung out at Paradise beach and the crew inevitably frequented Laura and Bernard’s rum shack. On the second night a fish fry was organized. When the entire off-watch crew showed up for the fish fry Laura was a little overwhelmed by the numbers. Paula and I volunteered to help in the kitchen and spent the next hour or two frying French fries and fish and learning some Carriacou cooking techniques.

On our last night in Carriacou Dave invited the crew to his place for a celebratory gathering. Overlooking Windward, high on a cliff, Dave’s place was quite spectacular and a fantastic spot to spend our last evening. He cooked up a gigantic cauldron of fish soup and as we ate we mingled with our new-found friends, making promises to come back to Carriacou. The genuine warmth of everyone we met was something we will not soon forget. If you ever want to stay in sweet Caribbean cottages overlooking the sea in the West Indies, you must check out:

As we sailed out of Hillsborough on the morning of May 10th, we took a few guests with us. Uncle C and his son; Dave and his daughter and a guest of Dave’s who goes by the name of ‘Button’ sailed with us to Mainland Grenada.

Until the next time Carriacou!!! Thank you!!!

(PS – In the photo labelled “Brad and an abandoned boat” that is the 50 foot gaff rigged sloop Vaeta which used to carry the mail back and forth from Grenada. Capt Horace Martineau and our Captain sailed in her many times.)

A tour with Dunstin
Bernard and Laura s rum shack
Brad and an abandoned boat
Paul and Luca
The Picton Castle at anchor
Windward boatyard

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The West Indies Regatta

The Captain, absolutely adamant that everyone get a chance to sail on these smaller vessels during the West Indies Regatta (a regatta founded partly in order to encourage the revival of West Indian boat building and sailing for islanders), stood watch aboard the Picton Castle in St. Barths with a skeleton crew during the race days. The ship was stern-to the quay with two anchors out, pretty secure she was, and the rest of the of the on-watch crew, after washing down and cleaning below as we do every day, were cut loose to find a sloop to sail on. With nine handsome Carriacou sloops (Tradition, Pipe Dream, Good Expectation, Genesis, Summer Cloud, New Moon, Ocean Nomad and Sweetheart) and schooner Alexander Hamilton to choose from, everyone got on their boat of choice.

While absolutely impossible to capture everyone’s emotional experience during the weekend, one could easily hypothesize that all felt feelings of elation, exhilaration, pleasure, stimulation and contentment. The Captain and mates are the first to agree that small boat sailing makes a sailor. This is why they have encouraged as much small boat handling as possible during our circumnavigation. At every port where it has been feasible we have lowered the longboat and Sea Never Dry into the water and sent the crew on sailing excursions and rowing expeditions. This weekend was no exception. Smaller boats, like the Carriacou sloops, allow one to see the basic principles we utilize on the Picton Castle more easily. You are closer to the wind, closer to the water, closer to the sails. You can observe the manoeuvres in their entirety, simply because of your vantage point – in the middle of it all. Every boat has its individual quirks, its strengths and weaknesses, and after a day of sailing, if you observe carefully, she will show you where she feels most comfortable. On smaller craft you also see the consequences of your actions very quickly. This is an excellent way to both enrich your large ship experience but measure it and see how far we all have come, often without realizing it.

The first half of the race followed a course around several buoys and then out around the curve of St. Barths to a protected cove on the north end of the island. On the second day the wind was blowing a good 20 knots and once out of the harbour the sloops flew across the waves. From my vantage point on the Pipe Dream, the other sloops dipped in an out of the crests of the waves, their sails filled with the windy thrill of the race. Some raced with the schooners far out, away from the lee of the island and hit their sweet spot – the vessels responding to what they loved. New Moon, on the other hand, was a slippery sloop and she could easily hug the shoreline, carried by the current, without losing the wind. That day I sailed with Paul, Meredith, Dan Eden, Dan, Brad, Pania and Ali. As we hugged the windward rail, the leeward railing seemed to surf the waves. In particular she seemed to perform well on this port tack and sliced through the water, bound for the mid-race finish line.

As we approached the cove we noticed that several sloops were already waiting for us. In the spirit of camaraderie, the crews had rafted the vessels together and were busy swimming, eating lunch and enjoying the sunshine. We sailed up to the boats, dropped the anchor and took in sail. Before we could raft up to the others we found ourselves drifting in the strong current, our anchor dragging in the soft sand, and soon we were well out in the harbour, without sail and traveling fast. Several boats tried to pull us, to no avail; one of the crew on the Sweetheart jumped overboard with a line, determined to aid us. Finally, after several failed attempts at rescue, we decided to set sail once more, we pulled a risky move. We hoisted the main sail and the jib in the middle of the busy harbour and tacked our way past million dollar yachts – I am sure, much to their chagrin and horror – and dropped anchor next to the other sloops once again, taking in all sail only at the last minute. Paul was told that he sailed like he was born in Carriacou itself – a better compliment you could not wish for as a sailor!

After an hour of two of relaxing it was time to race for the ultimate finish line. Sailing out of the cove we saw whales breaching 50 feet off our starboard quarter – we paused long enough to watch their graceful movements before continuing the process of tacking our way to the starting line. This race took us out around a large rock and back toward the port of Gustavia, from whence we had come hours earlier. This time, the sloops pulled out all of the stops. Several flew colourful spinnakers to take advantage of the abundant wind and the Alexander Hamilton flew a water sail. Having no extra canvas the Pipe Dream nonetheless sailed happily and hurriedly along –enjoying the race, it seemed, as much as we were.

As we rounded the finish line, we were told that we had come in 4th place! Woohoo! And yet, we could have come in last and still felt the same sense of accomplishment. This was the best possible type of race. A race sailed by people who love boats and love to sail them. A race where competition is all in good fun and everyone is proud of their standing, whether it is first or last. Everyone was just happy to be out there sailing, feeling the wind and salt spray and the warmth of the sun.

We hosted a party onboard the Picton Castle during our second night in St. Barths. Thankful for being invited to participate in the West Indies Regatta and thankful to all of the crews of the Carriacou sloops who happily invited us to share this experience with them, we wished in some way to show our appreciation. We set up dinner on the rails and some local musicians offered their voices and instruments for the evening’s entertainment. As they sang raucously engaging French sea shanties, sailors mingled with sailors long into the night.

On the last evening of the regatta, Alexis Andrews and the other official organizers of the event held an awards ceremony. After the awards ceremony the Picton Castle crew performed a special number we had been practicing for weeks. The women, taught by Taia, performed a South Pacific dance routine and then the men, with their leader Pania proudly watching, performed a Maori war chant. It was incredibly special to perform in St. Barths, so far away from the beaches where we had first learned Polynesian dances, in front of our newfound sailor friends, literally on the other side of the world.

After a delicate manoeuvre to retrieve both anchors in this tiny port (while keeping perfectly still so as not to wipe out the other vessels there or pull their anchors up with ours!), we sailed from St. Barths. We knew that we had fallen madly in love with Carriacou sloops. So, the Captain changed the voyage plan just slightly. Instead of clearing into mainland Grenada, we would sail for Carriacou first. We would sail to the land where the sloops were built and meet or reunite with the shipwrights who had built them. It was an appropriate next step, for it made our departure from St. Barths a joyous and not wrenching affair.

All of the sloops rafted together for a mid-sail party
Dan is all smiles out there!
Katelinn joins the musicians
New Moon gets ahead
The crew of the Pipe Dream
Tradition sails ahead~0

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St. Barths – A Sailor’s Destination

On April 28th, 2011 the Picton Castle cast off her mooring lines and motored out into the Marigot Harbour in St. Martin from the wharf where we had been moored. While planning to sail all the way to St. Barths (a mere 20nm southeast of St. Martin) opposing winds made this impossible. The Captain, wishing, as we did, to sail, proposed motoring the ship to a place best able to catch these prevailing winds. There we would shut off the engine and sail to St. Barths under full sail – tacking where and when we must.

We certainly did catch the winds, as the Captain suspected, and we seemed to hurtle toward St. Barths. The seas were choppy and unreasonably stubborn and, despite the fact that we had all spent at least a few months onboard, did not disquiet our now queasy stomachs. A scratchy radio call from Chief Mate Mike (currently Captain of Pipe Dream) caused a bit of excitement. It turned out the he and his motley crew of Robert, Josh, Dan and Paula, were tacking just a point off our port bow, also making for Gustavia. Hoping to capture this moment for posterity the Captain wrote to Ollie Campbell, who was at this very minute, lounging amongst his fellow celebrities on St. Barths. “You should hire a boat and film us as we come in” he wrote. “We are going to come screaming into this harbour.” Unfortunately we were too quick for the star and before he could extract himself from the lawn chair he was no doubt folded into, we were already anchored outside Gustavia.

It would soon be a moment of happy reunion. Ollie, Wendy, Fred and Katelinn had already arrived with Good Expectation. Mike, Paula, Josh, Dan and Robert, tacking before us, would soon be in. Davey would be arriving on Sweetheart later that day. Tammy and Adrienne were sailing on Tradition, which was also due to arrive in the afternoon. In addition to a reunion with our own crew, our crew would also be reuniting with the Carriacou sloops we had sailed in the Antigua Classics. You see, we had come to St. Barths, not just for the good food and the sandy beaches, we had come to participate in the West Indies Regatta!

The West Indies Regatta was imagined by long-time Caribbean resident, photographer, published author, sailor, boat builder and social anthropologist, Alexis Andrews. While studying for his degree in anthropology, Alexis came across some literature on the boatbuilders of Carriacou which inspired him to travel to Carriacou personally. Carriacou had long carried a tradition of building these beautiful Carriacou sloops, since the 19th century in fact, when Scottish shipwrights, sent to the island of Carriacou to build schooners and sloops for trading, met with the islanders masterful at the craft of boatbuilding. Many of the residents of Windward, on the windward side of the island, still build these beautiful boats. In recent history, however, this practice had significantly declined. It was Alexis’s hope, that with interest, this might again become a larger part of Carriacou culture. The West Indies Regatta was established in the hopes that many Carriacou sloops might come from Windward and other parts of the Caribbean that they now call home, and sail. This regatta there were nine such sloops in company – and we were all so very glad to see it.

St. Barths is an overseas collectivity of France, but it experienced a great era of maritime prosperity when it was under Swedish control for some time. A volcanic and relatively rocky and arid island, St. Barths was not the ideal location for plantation agriculture. What it did have, however, was excellent natural harbours. Under the Swedish, Gustavia, the capital and main port, was declared a free port during the late 1700s and into the 1800s. This made it incredibly convenient for mariners trading and running goods – both legal and clandestine trading flourished here. Despite the years that have passed since then and the fact that France now lays claim to the island, this heritage is still very much present.

When the Captain visited St. Barths in the Brixham trawler Maverick and the brigantine Romance in the 1970s, it was a sleepy little island community dedicated to fishing, planting and providing smuggling goods to various islands sloops and schooners. Now, tourism has exploded and it has become known as a destination for the rich and famous. Though it has not changed enough to lose its eternal charm and sailors flock to this island now more than ever.

As we took the skiff into the harbour we motored past multi-million dollar yachts and schooners. As we walked toward customs and immigration, we past trendy clothing boutiques, sheeshee cafes and ritzy spas on the shore side and in the harbour, tied up next to the multi-million yachts alongside, were the several of the Carriacou sloops we had so fallen in love with sailing. We could hear the unmistakable sounds of maritime camaraderie, music and laughter coming from the cockpits and bows of these beautiful, traditional boats. The sailors, preferring their boats to the upscale restaurants, had purchased baguettes, cheese and pepperoni and were enjoying a feast as they reconnected with old friends and met new ones. The juxtaposition of these two worlds is quite striking, but in St. Barths it makes sense.

When the Picton Castle hauled up anchor the next morning and motored into the narrow harbour to take our place on the dock, stern to, next to the sloops we planned to sail on that weekend, we too found our place among the mishmash.

Davey on the Sweetheart
Picton Castle is Stern to
Relaxing on the boats
She looked so good!!
Tammy and Adrienne with Deb on Tradition~0
The Carriacou Sloops prepare for the first day of sailing

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Provisioning in St. Martin

On April 26th, 2011, while Mike, Fred, Paula, Wendy, Katelinn, Davey, Ollie, Josh and Tammy were sailing in the Carriacou sloops Pipe Dream, Tradition and Good Expectation, the Picton Castle sailed off the hook under sail alone, out of Road Bay, Anguilla, bound for St. Martin. A mere five miles south of Anguilla, and about 13 miles from anchor to anchor St. Martin is one of the smallest of islands to be divided between two nations. Both France and the Netherlands lay claim to portions of this isle in the Northern Caribbean. There is no border crossing between the two portions.

With the wind, blowing 20 knots in our favour, it looked as if it would a beautiful, if short, day of sailing. As we sailed out of the harbour, the Captain called a muster to discuss the plan for the passage. “Closer.” He gestured to us and we obligingly crowded onto the hatch to get a better view of the white board he held. “Today we will tack our way to St. Martin.” Among other things St. Martin is great place for refuelling and provisioning. Wielding a red white board marker, in order to illustrate his point, the Captain drew overlapping lines in between his hand-drawn maps of Anguilla and St. Martin. Invigorated from our days sailing in the Antigua Classic the crew grinned at one another. Tacking a small boat like a Carriacou sloop or a ketch or gaff-rigged schooner is a regular affair – tacking the Picton Castle, on the other hand, is something we seldom get to practice, just due to the nature of our westward voyage.

Tacking is a manoeuvre which consists of reaching across the wind so that the ship builds up maximum speed, taking the bow through the wind and changing tacks as we do so. If we begin on a starboard tack with the wind blowing from the right side we come about by bracing the yards, passing the staysails and the jibs and will end up on a port tack with the wind on the left side. This action is nearly impossible to do when sailing less than 3 knots. When the bow is pointing directly upwind the ship loses a considerable amount of momentum, the sails luff and, if you do not have enough momentum the ship will stall and you must start the procedure once again.

With all crew on deck for the day sail we had plenty of hands for quick sail-handling and we jumped at the opportunity to practice. As we approached the French port of Marigot our friend Jan Rolus began circling the ship in a helicopter, snapping pictures as we tacked through the waters off the coast. To say that we did not feel a bit like celebrities would be a lie. It must have been particularly thrilling for those furling sail on the royal yard as the helicopter whirred and whizzed directly above them.

We had met Jan Rolus in Antigua during the Antigua Classic and indeed, he was the one who had encouraged us to sail to St. Martin for a few days. It had been about 2 months since we had last done major dry goods food provisioning and just as long since we had filled our engine tanks with diesel. Jan promised that all that and more could be accomplished easily in St. Martin. In fact, the island is primed for it and this, in part, is what makes St. Martin such a big attraction for sailing vessels. Jan and his wife Veerle run a sea school, do STCW training and a have a business assisting yachts when they arrive in St. Martin. They were incredibly helpful to us during our stay in St. Martin, asking only one favour in return – that we hold an open-ship afternoon for interested locals and visitors. We always enjoy sharing our home and way of life with others and so, it was an easy promise for us to make. Jan advertised the open-ship in the local paper and for five hours a steady stream of families, photographers, journalists and fellow sailors toured the ship. Just like Reunion, our crew were forced to pull their rusty French out of their back pockets and put it to use and just like Reunion those who took tours were thrilled with the efforts and the opportunity.

We stayed in St. Martin for two days. While there was indeed a multitude of errands to run and provisions to acquire, there was also opportunity to spend an afternoon or evening off the ship, taking in the sights of the island. The French side of the island is mountainous and for those among us who enjoy a good hike into the wilderness, St. Martin did not disappoint. The Dutch side, by comparison is relatively flat. It was a far better choice for those who wished to swim or snorkel or simply lounge in the sun. I, for one, indulged in one of my favourite activities: eating. The French are known the world over for their rich and delicate fare and this island was not an exception. Escargot, sharp cheese and fresh baked baguette? Oui! Merci beaucoup!

We steamed out of Marigot Harbour on April 28th, bound for St. Barths and the West Indies Regatta of traditional West Indian-built sailing vessels. We had been invited to join and to be the “mother ship.”

Loading provisions St Martin
Open ship day
Picton Castle under sail from helicopter
Picton Castle under sail photo from helicopter
Picton Castle under sail shot from helicopter

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The Gods of Montserrat

By Ollie Campbell

Note by the Executive Editorial Committee: The below account by veteran Picton Castle crew member Billy ‘Ollie’ Campbell and the facts asserted therein have not all been verified by independent alternative sources, but we have found no one willing to go on record to call him a liar so we let the story stand unchallenged.

After the Antigua Classic, Mike the Mate was given leave by the captain to deliver one of the Carriacou sloops from Antigua to the French (and Swedish) island of Saint Barthelemy, so that she might participate in the West Indies Regatta. A crew of eager Picton Castlers were chosen, and I was detailed to go along as videographer.

The West Indies Regatta in St. Barths was started by Alexis Andrews, maritime photographer extraordinaire who, through the anthropological studies of his youth, had become enamored of the West Indies, particularly of Carriacou, and thence of her sturdy, sweet-sailing little workboats, the Carriacou sloops. His appreciation of them eventually extended not only to the building of his own sloop, Genesis, but to the devotion of a good deal of his energies toward the revival of theboatbuilding and racing traditions on the island he’d come to love. The West Indies Regatta is one of the ways he’s going about this. Reviving interest in the racing traditions of Carriacou naturally meant having as many of her sloops as possible participate in the regatta, and since Good Expectation’s owner Martin couldn’t make it to St. Barths, but was willing to let his sloop come for the races, six lucky Picton Castle crew under skipper Mike Moreland would make the delivery.

A contrary breeze on our morning of departure meant we’d have to beat out of Falmouth harbor, right under the noses of our shipmates still at anchor on the Picton Castle, but we were freshly provisioned, full of energy and optimism and coffee, and set out to make a good showing.

The first couple of tacks were enough to work out the wrinkles – the sloops are simply rigged, easy to handle – but Good Expectation is not as good to weather, we soon found, as she’d need to be to gain the mouth of Falmouth Harbor and so, to a chorus of hoots and hollers from our shipmates who’d lined the railings of the Picton Castle, we accepted a tow from our own skiff, rounded the point, let go, and shaped a plan for Anguilla, some 110 nautical miles to the NNW. There we’d rendezvous and, in a couple days time, sail in company down to St. Barths for the regatta.

We were doing quite well at first, heading toward the upper end of Montserrat, a few points off the port bow, a light but constant breeze pushing us along at a reasonable 2 or 3 knots. By the time Picton Castle had picked up her hook and made an appearance outside the harbor – followed by Pipe Dream, another Carriacou Sloop with her compliment of current and former Picton Castlers – we, in Good Expectation, felt as though we were most of the way to Montserrat. Of course we weren’t, but it was Mike’s plan to head that way which, when the wind came further north (as was expected), would give us as pretty a slant as we could wish to Anguilla. We were meant to sail in company, actually — the Castle, Pipe Dream, and Good Expectation – but, far to the SW of us now, it looked as if our happy barque had run out of wind. She lay on the horizon, sails sagging, seemingly devoid of life, while we were still contentedly toodling along, albeit slowly.

For most of us, save Mike perhaps, this gave rise to a fantasy of standing waist deep in the cool waters of an Anguillan beach with cold beers as, mere yards away, and days after we on Good Expectation had arrived, Picton Castle and her grumpy crew motored in to drop the hook. A few of us elaborated this fantasy to include reggae music, grilled chicken, island girls (Davey’s contribution), and the admiration of the locals, who’d been so impressed to see a bunch of white kids deftly maneuver an engineless Carriacou sloop into their busy harbor, right onto its anchorage, that they’d thrown us an impromptu fete!

We had a good laugh over this notion, some of us, excepting Mike, who (though in a great mood, relieved temporarily of his myriad responsibilities as Picton Castle’s first mate) remained inscrutable as ever, scanning the horizon to weather, suspecting perhaps our luck might turn.

It didn’t just turn, it died. Miserably. A flatulent mosquito might have caused bigger ripples than were now evident on the face of the Caribbean. No wind, not a puffy-wuffy. Zero. Zilch. Nada. For two days we drifted in dreary circles between Antigua and Montserrat, now closer to one, now the other, the water so greasy calm, the sails so limp, that we gave up all hope, stowed the tiller, the sails, put up the awning.

It was bloody hot. Montserrat is an active volcanic island, an ashy plume of steam permanently ragging away to windward – like an angry dialogue-balloon – from her heights. It was easy to believe this had something to do with our predicament, as if the Gods of Montserrat had sucked up the wind, marshaling their reserves for bigger mischief. We imagined the island exploding, which she had as recently as 1995, and, though uncomfortably close for such an eventuality, theorized that we might at least surf the tsunami Anguillaward.

We spent our time dozing and reading and Picton Castle’s 2nd engineer Katelinn made a project of jury-rigging a regulator for the propane tank, as we’d overlooked bringing one. She ingeniously used an ointment tube, rubber gloves, duct-tape, twine, and even a chopstick, I think, in her heroic and successful attempt to provide us with a hot meal. Why we wanted a hot meal is anybody’s guess. Paula and Fred and Davey dived on the hull with scrub-brushes, as it had grown a bit of a lawn. I went for a swim too, and the water, warm as it is in this part of the world, was a welcome respite from the heat, particularly if one dips the old skinny.

Of course potables had to be consumed before the cooler lost its cool, so there were some perks to all the lolling about in the heat. But it had begun to get old by the end of day two – the drifting – and despite the cold beers, the beatific sunsets (accompanied by Katelinn’s heartwarming fiddle), the laughter and camaraderie, we of Good Expectation were positively desperate to make way, our discomfiture only increased by the news that Picton Castle had taken Pipe Dream in tow, fired up her engines and steamed off to Anguilla. Our dreams of greeting our shipmates as newly minted local-heroes had gone up like so much volcanic ash. Now it was we who’d come dragging in.

What little juice was left in my phone allowed us to be in email communication with Captain Moreland on the Castle, though, and he wondered if – due to our delay – it might be more efficient for Good Expectation to head straight to St. Barths, rather than us chasing them down in Anguilla or (more likely by the time we’d arrive) St. Martin, where we’d only have a day or so before having to head back down to Barths.

And suddenly there was wind in our sails, if only figuratively. St. Barths, a whole 4 nights before the Picton Castle would arrive… I mean, we could really get some work done! Rather than spend the extra time sailing around, we could turn-to, do some much-needed work on Martin’s sloop: cleaning, painting, rigging, carpentry, make her tickety-boo for the West Indies Regatta!

Everyone was in quite a lather over this and it was only upon sober reflection, after our excitement had mellowed a bit, that we realized this would also mean 4 unsupervised days in St. Barths: hot showers, cold beers, beaches, Caribbean food, music, dancing, Piña Coladas, and members of the opposite sex. Imagine our dismay. Not a one of us hadn’t heard the Captain repeat the old adage ‘Ports rot ships, and men.’ …and here we had a a predicament: How to avoid temptation, yet do what’s best for the group, for the Captain, for the ship? Certainly none of us wanted to disappoint the Cap’.

We had a lot to live up to.

Mike set us straight. The way forward, the way of true seamanship, was to face temptation and stare it down, prove ourselves stronger than its grasp. We would go to St. Barths, show ourselves deserving of this trust. Would set rigid watches in Gustavia, live and eat and sleep onboard, lubricate our days with elbow-grease, spend our evenings in solemn contemplation of the next day’s labor, with, perhaps, a seamanship review and violin concerto before bunking down on deck at a reasonable hour each evening.

As if in mute approval of our intentions, the Gods of Montserrat released their strangle-hold on the winds, sending the first of many nifty little zephyrs from the North, and soon Good Expectation was rollicking along, a bone in her teeth, her crew as grateful a lot as you might imagine, cooled by the wind, thrilled by the salt-spray. Not long afterward, an enormous mahi mahi took the bait Davey had just sent over the stern, was hoisted by many hands into the boat, wrestled to death by the skipper, filleted, seasoned, fried on Katelinn’s contraption, and hungrily consumed on deck. It was flat-out the tastiest fish I have ever pushed down my pie-hole, and, in concert with a steaming mug of black coffee and a dripping-orange Caribbean sunset, the turquoise waters creaming along our little sloop’d side, it was easy indeed to imagine the Gods smiling down on us.

The next day Mike and his able crew tacked Good Expectation neatly up-harbor into the port of Gustavia. Threading million-dollar yachts, we rounded her up a few boat-lengths to windward of the wharf, set the anchor, and backed down with the wind into our final resting place, stern to the wharf, right next to a giant plastic stinkpot Beyoncé herself might’ve been proud to own. All this without any means of propulsion, save that of wind on Good Expectation’s threadbare sails.

There were no hordes of admiring locals to admire this maneuver, or fete us for it, but the single present crew-member of the aforementioned yacht, having watched the whole operation from his railing, broke into applause with its conclusion. He was a Mexican gentleman, and pronounced it ‘Berry berry niiice!’

Not chicken and cold beer but it would do, just the same.

One of our lads wondered if the crew who worked these big-money yachts – in their khaki shorts and topsiders, with their air conditioning and bow thrusters – might not look down, figuratively as well as literally, on the ragged little Carriacou sloops in their midst, and on those who crew them.

‘You kidding?’ growled Mike. ‘They WISH they were us.’

Mike was smiling as he growled. Good quality in a skipper.

The boat having been secured, lovingly tidied, we made our way into Gustavia town, seven abreast, sunburned and salty. Merely, mind you, by way of reconnoitering its various temptations so that they might be effectively thwarted. Until the Picton Castle sailed in from Anguilla and Saint Maarten 4 days later, and contrary to a previous Captain’s log by another of our crew (the tart), we had not one drop of fun.

I swear by the Gods of Montserrat.

Fred and Davey working well into the evening
Fred cleans the hull
Fred paints by day
Good Expecation
Good Expectation chartwork
Katelinn watches from the bow of Good Expectation

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Tales of Carriacou Slooping in the Leeward Isles

By Tammy Sharp

Editor’s Note: In Antigua we met many skippers of these wonderful wooden sloops built in Carriacou, an island just north of and part of the country of Grenada. They needed crew to help get these sloops to St Barts for the West Indies Regatta. Our crew were ready for the task and did a great seamanlike job of it. This was part of their ‘final exam’ at the tail end of this excellent voyage around the world. The rest of us sailed onward in Picton Castle.

I stood alone on the pier at the low sandy island of Anguilla, feeling kinda emotional, as I watched my home for the past year sail away with all sails set – a beautiful and stirring sight! Picton Castle was on her way to St. Martin for fuel and some provisioning and she was leaving without me. My only company was Ragamuffin Jim (funky hand gesture included), a 62 year old Anguillian man who was fascinated by our ship and life on board, and who peppered me with a multitude of questions. He seemed nice enough, despite the fact he wasn’t wearing any pants, just a long t-shirt. I was later told he often doesn’t wear pants…

No, I hadn’t been left behind by mistake – I was about to embark on my own adventure, and although I was somewhat sad about watching Picton Castle leave, I was excited about the days ahead. I was going to be sailing in a Carriacou Sloop called Tradition from St. Martin to St. Barts for the upcoming West Indies Regatta, a regatta devoted to West Indian-built sailing vessels including many Carriacou-built wooden sloops.

A Carriacou sloop is a single-masted wooden boat that has been built on the beaches of Carriacou, a small Caribbean island in the Grenadines. Most were used for fishing, cargo hauling but also for smuggling, back in the day, (Ed note: back in the day?) between the islands. There are some small variances, some have tillers, others a wheel, some have winches, others block and tackle, but for the most part the design is unmistakable. Tradition carried cargo for many years and maybe just once in a while, maybe smuggled a little bit of rum.

My adventure had actually begun a few days prior in Antigua, when we were in attendence for the Antigua Classic Regatta – a regatta celebrating classic boats of all sizes and types, from smaller wooden sloops, medium sized schooners to the large and impressive J-boats with their massive sails and streamlined hulls. We as crew were encouraged to try and get on a boat to help crew for the days of the race. I managed to make it aboard a couple of schooners and had an blast! When we were about to leave I was asked if I wanted to sail from Antigua to Anguilla, our next stop, aboard a smaller, 40 foot Carriacou sloop. Her owners, Deb and Laurie, had just purchased her and needed some help sailing her home. Deb had sailed on Picton Castle on a previous voyage and had met Laurie two years prior at the same regatta. Of course I said “yes!” jumping at the chance for some more small boat sailing and so myself and Josh, one of my shipmates joined them aboard Pipe Dream.

As luck would have it, after we sailed from Falmouth, the winds died down completely – I mean not so much as a puff – and so after a night of bobbing around (at times it seemed like we were moving backwards) Picton Castle came to our rescue and offered us a tow. So much for my big experience of sailing a Carriacou sloop! But we still had a great time! It was a lot like camping – just on a boat. One day they sent lunch and cold drinks back to us from the Picton Castle. I should mention that Pipe Dream doesn’t have a motor – hence the need for a tow, nor does she have any bunks or cooking facilities, nor does she have a head per se – your only option is to position your backside off the stern. Not so bad, really, once you get the hang of it! 26 hours later Picton Castle cut us loose and we used the dingy to push ourselves into Road Harbor, Anguilla.

After a few days of fun and relaxation in Anguilla, I was once again given a chance to sail in a Carriacou sloop. This time it would be on Tradition, Deb and Laurie’s 50 foot sloop also built for cargo and smuggling aournd the islands, which was in St. Martin in dry dock getting an overhaul. As I watched my ship sail away, I texted Deb and said “I guess you’re stuck with me, let the adventure begin!” A few hours later we were also in St. Martin, setting to work getting the boat ready to hit the water, but it was not to be without challenges. Rain squalls prevented the bottom paint from going on and so it was delayed by a day. We cleared out eveything below decks in order to clean and properly restow, but we couldn’t restow until all the ballast was in. We enlisted the help of a local man who helped to move in all the lead “pigs” (really lead bricks but I have to sound “salty”, according to our second mate, Paul), then we needed to find sand to bag and use as extra ballast. I spent the day vacuuming below decks and cleaning out the main chart house area and restowing items there. Our hired man said he’d take care of the sand.

Day 2 found Deb and I taking the ferry to St. Martin, while Laurie, his son, Noah and their deck hand, Brennan, sailed Pipe Dream. They were bringing her over so that some of our crew could sail her to St. Barts to participate in the regatta. Once again, squalls and high seas, along with some other misfortunes, prevented them from making it in good time. The sand hadn’t shown up and it was just Deb and I. It was looking as if Tradition would not make it into the water in time to make it to St. Barts. Thankfully, Mate Mike, Paula, Dapper Dan and Robert showed up from Picton Castle and set to work on the rigging, the sand, and other jobs that needed doing. I caulked the deck where some of the boards had been replaced on the main deck. We were finally seeing progress! Laurie and the boys showed up just as Deb and I had leave for the last ferry back to Anguilla.

Day 3 found us meeting up with Laurie’s sister, Catherine and her husband, Gareth and another deck hand, Rumple, as we caught the first ferry over. Adrienne, another Picton Castle crew member also joined us. There was a flurry of activity as we set to getting the boat in order, hoping to make one of the draw bridge times. With the ballast in we could finally restow, but there were still delays. We still didn’t have any navigation lights. The bilge pump wasn’t working properly. A mishap with my swedish fid (basically a long, hollowed out metal spike) sent me to the emergency room with a gash in my chin. Not to worry, nothing a little super glue and a bandage couldn’t fix. After all was said and done, it was 4:30 pm by the time we hit the water. The only problem was, we had missed the outgoing bridge opening – would they allow us to leave through the 5:30 pm incoming bridge opening? The answer? No problem, mon! Gotta love the Caribbean and it’s laid back ways! Such wonderful people!

Soon we were out and on our way! We motor sailed out but without navigation lights we couldn’t sail in the dark so we put into Phillipsburg Harbor for the night. We would leave at first light. I had joked that instead of provisioning for a 6-8 hour sail it was more like for 8 days – now I was thankful we had!
At 6am the next morning we set sail and were on our way to St. Barts. We decided to motor sail in order to make it in good time since we were already a day behind and because we thought the race was to start that day. As it turned out it didn’t start until the next day so we had some time to finish various projects and do some socializing.

The next two days were full of fun and excitement as we raced. The winds were favorable, the seas not too big. It was fun to feel the boat heeling at some pretty steep angles – almost like being on a roller coaster! There was some competetiveness, a lot of camaraderie, and a bit of drama as we lost our engine one day and almost ended up on the rocks! All in all, an amazing time! I met some wonderful people and know that I have made some great friends. It was also a great feeling to put into practice a lot of what I’ve learned aboard Picton Castle. My adventure was so much more than sailing a boat and racing, it was the process of working together to make it happen – literally with blood, sweat and tears (yeah, I KNOW, there’s no crying in sailing, but that fid to the face did smart a bit!). My Carriacou sloop adventure was everything I’d hoped for and more. Can’t wait to do it again!

Lashing on a nav light box
PC and Good Expectation
Tammy and Adrienne with Deb on Tradition
Tammy caulking the deck
Tradition sails ahead

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A Good Expectation: Antigua to St. Bart’s In An Old Smuggling Sloop

By Wendy Heisler

So there we are: a rogue crew of 7, bobbing in a lazy circle not far from Antigua. Just us and an engine-less wooden Carriacou Sloop called Good Expectation, which we had previously believed was called Great Expectations. We had been floating in approximately the same position for 24 hours. The wind? Taking a vacation somewhere else. The sea? Glass. Our morale? AMAZING – because we were about to crack frosty beers on a sunny day.

Let’s rewind. It’s Thursday morning in Antigua and the Picton Castle crew are doing their Picton Castle thing. Tidy up, hoist the small boats, prepare the ship for departure. Just as I had finished flexing my bulging ladypirate muscles while single-handedly hauling the rescue boat into position (ok, I admit that another 20 people may have been involved), Mate Mike summoned me to the bridge. If you aren’t aware, trainees such as myself are normally not to set foot on **~~The Bridge~~**, which is a lookout spot exclusively reserved for Captain and the Mates. Naturally, I concluded that I must be in trouble.

6 of us stood wide-eyed as Mate Mike presented a scenario to us: our mission was to deliver a Carriacou Sloop to St. Barth, with a stop-over in Anguilla; the sail would take about 2 days. Were we interested in joining as crew? Um…. how about YESYESYES.

We immediately gathered provisions and necessary cargo. Food for several days, propane, water, dishes, passports. A change of clothes, camera, notepad. Also beer and ice (very important). 45 minutes later we were stepping on board our new (temporary) home. The captain took us aside and told us that this would be very different than Picton Castle; we were going from a big steel ship with all sorts of gear to a small wooden sloop with no engine.

Soon we were out on the open water, waving buh-bye to our Picton crewmates, celebrating the adventure ahead of us. There was Mate Mike, the brains behind the operation and all-around sailing guru. Paula and Katelinn; Picton pro crew, back-up brains and bada** ladies. Davey and Fred; bros, brawn and skill. Me: slightly nerdy, very clumsy trainee with 2 months sailing experience. And bonus crew member Ollie, the bonvivant who would be documenting our expedition. Smells like a sitcom?

We’re screaming along at a terrifying 2 knots, smiling like fools. We’re free, baby! This is living! This is the stuff dreams are made of! And then… nothing. The wind takes an extended coffee break and leaves us staring at Montserrat, an active volcano, several miles off our port quarter. Antigua looms behind us and a tiny island called Radonda peeks from the horizon dead ahead. The calm does not faze us – we jump in the water and open chilled beverages, then eat dinner while watching one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen with these virgin eyes. Katelinn pulls out her violin and we sit in a content post-supper haze, and life seems perfect.

Oh, wait. Speaking of Katelinn, let’s focus for a moment on this lady’s genius. With Paula’s assistance, she rescued a propane tank SANS REGULATOR into something workable using only chopsticks, duct tape, a latex glove and small empty tube of sunscreen. People of earth, because of these modern day MacGyvers’ brains and persistence, we were able to eat hot food on Good Expectation. Praise Neptune, hallelujah.

I’ll spare you from the hourly logging of our 2 day bobbing session, but let it be known that we floated on glass for practically 48 hours. Antigua jeered, Montserrat blew its smoke with Parisian arrogance and Radonda remained as a mere chocolate chip on the horizon. Ollie stood at the bow, all 7 feet of him, and called out, “heeeere puffy wuffy!” Fred and Paula dove underneath the hull to remove a seaweed beard that had grown in the harbour. We took naps to avoid blistered lips (and also because we could). We took down the mainsail and put up the awning. We jumped in the water for multiple swim calls (Paula avec coffee). We rationed Heinekens so that a) they wouldn’t disappear in one foul swoop and b) they would be much more exciting to drink as a reward for our patience. We weren’t going anywhere, but we were relaxed and we were happy.

Then… DAY THREE. MAGIC. The wind found us overnight and by jove, we were moving! Sayonara, Antigua! See ya never, Montserrat!** Davey was prepping the fishing lines and he asked me what the catch of the day should be? We agreed that mahi mahi would be best. No lie – the guy hadn’t even finished tying the lines when he called, “FISH ON??” Somehow – whether it was brute strength or sheer determination – the boys hauled a massive mahi up on deck, which proceeded to flop violently and desperately… straight into our cockpit. Mate Mike tackled it like a rodeo ninja and … well, I’ll spare you the details, but 5 minutes later he and Davey were fileting a 40ish pound mahi mahi.

Oh, sweet bliss. Soon I was scarfing down the best galdang fish I’ve probably ever eaten – Mike fried it up with some oil, salt and pepper – and by day’s end, the 7 of us ate pretty much the entire thing (please, hold your applause). Other things that were awesome: we were speeding by St. Kitt’s & Nevis; a whale surfaced to say hello; we had decided to go directly to St. Barth aaaand once again our evening concluded with a violin serenade. Ladies and gents, this was a perfect day.

The next morning we sailed triumphantly into Gustavia Harbour, St. Barth. I imagined that the giant Beyonce yachts gazed at our charming dreamboat of a sloop with yearning in their eyes, for we had successfully spent three days experiencing a real ol’ fashioned sailing adventure. Our vessel was small but sturdy, we caught our own food, we slept under the stars on deck (or in a pile below), we used paper charts (gasp!), we had no engine and were therefore at the whim of the elements. It was epic.

After sailing gracefully to the dock (again, no engine required thankyouverymuch), we spent the next 5 days bumming around St. Barth before Picton Castle arrived. Some of us had no wallet, some of us had no shoes (aka: me), but all of us had an unforgettable time. Of course, that’s another story…

**This is actually a lie. On our passage from St. Barth to Carriacou I woke up early one morning to see Montserrat glowing behind us. I shook my fist, lovingly.

Fred at the helm of Good Expectation
Good Expectation in the calm Caribbean Sea
Major cleanup aboard Good Expectation while stern-to at St Barts
Mike cooks supper on the Good Expectation
Sunrise on board the Good Expectation

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Anguilla Makes The World Go Round

On April 23rd, 2011 the Picton Castle motored into Road Bay, Anguilla. This long and relatively flat coral island represents the most northern of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s white sand beaches glittered in the mid-morning sun and its indigo and cobalt waters shimmered as they lapped against the shoreline. For many of our crew this island was not just another beautiful island stop along the way. More than a year ago the ship set out from Nova Scotia, Canada on a life-changing voyage around the world aboard the Picton Castle. Anguilla was our first stop. Therefore, this island marked the official circumnavigation for 25 of the original crew members aboard.

There was an air of celebration among the crew, but also one of personal reflection. For many, the idea that they had circumnavigated the globe represented a momentous occasion and one to be marked in a similarly momentous fashion. Others were unable to put their experience into words and wished time to reflect. For some this marks a life-long dream. For others this experience has only opened their eyes to the infinite possibilities, and the explorations yet to come. It cannot be denied that all felt a sense of accomplishment, albeit one almost impossible to describe.

The Captain describes Anguilla as his favourite of the Leeward Islands. After this weekend many of our crew concur. Anguilla was settled in the middle of the 17th century by the English. Despite a brief period at the end of the 18th century when it was ruled by the French, English have maintained the island. It is now officially a British dependency, although they have their own internal semi-autonomous government ever since they broke away from St. Kitts and Nevis in 1971. Unlike much of the rest of the Caribbean Anguilla remains mostly undeveloped but the tourist industry represents an important fraction of its economy. There are striking bays on the north and south sides of the island, practically empty cays off the north coast and friendly beaches where one can hang in a hammock and listen to a string band while locals and tourists alike dance into the evening. This lack of extreme development not only means that the beauty of the land has remained relatively untouched, it also means that the friendly small-town mentality has not vanished – nor have the pristine coral reefs which surround the island. The Captain says that the gross national product of Anguilla is ‘Good Times’. This we would learn for ourselves soon.

We arrived in Anguilla on Easter weekend, which also happened (coincidence? I think not!) to be the weekend of the annual Festival Del Mar. With plenty of sailing, fishing, dancing and activities planned, the island matched the festive mood of our crew perfectly. Catching rides to Island Harbour the crew enjoyed watching the volleyball exhibition, the crab and turtle races, the sailing races and the fishing competitions. Walking along the waterfront many were distracted by the aromas of burnt shell and simmering broth drifting out from underneath white tents set up along the beach for shade and practicality. With delicacies such as locally caught conch soup and crayfish, lunch was a satisfying affair and one to feel good about as well. Anguilla still has some of the best fishing grounds in all of the Caribbean and supporting local fare is always a win – especially when it is as delicious as this was.

In my opinion Anguilla has one of the best music scenes in the Caribbean. Whether we were at Picton Castle offcial pub, The Pump House, having dinner and listening to a guitarist play riffs, reminiscent of Mark Knopfler, with a relaxed Caribbean cool edge or hanging out at Gwen’s by the sea dancing to a string band with a beat so catchy we did not want to leave or standing next to the pin-rail on the Picton Castle at 2am, on watch, listening to the pounding music on shore travel across the bay to our barque – Anguilla inspired us to dance!

On April 26th, after 3 days in Anguilla, we hauled up the anchor and sailed off the hook out of Road Bay. The thoughts the crew had been having, about where they have been and where they will go, how much they have learned and how much more they have to learn were set aside for the time being. The day offered us plenty of sunshine and a 20 knot breeze. We had 20 nautical miles before our next stop in St. Martin and plenty of tacking to do before we got there.

Thank you Anguilla for helping our crew celebrate their circumnavigation in style!

A Fishermans Catch
Boat races in Anguilla
Crayfish Anyone
Furling Sail in Anguilla
Picton Castle anchored in Road Bay, Anguilla
Watching as the racers come in

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