Sunday, February 18, 2007

Apparently Antigua has something called the Wobbly Club, and once in a while they get together and hold a BYOB (Build Your Own Boat) Competition. Tara and Stewart (on Mange Tout) thought it would be a good idea to enter a team, so they did, and then they told us that we were on the team, along with Axel, our German single-handed friend (and I've never properly seen the name on his boat, but it's Blue Something); and Dean and Jill (aka Jean and Dill) on Delilah.

We had a couple of preliminary planning meetings to go over the plans. We would be given a sheet and a half of thin plywood, 40 feet of 1" x 1", a bag of nails, a tube of Mastic, a roll of duct tape, and a bunch of garbage bags. Randy came up with a simple design, and we sorted out details like the figurehead (duct tape mermaid), the sail (blue tarp), the mast (Delilah's boat hook), the boat name (Lady Roger Ring), and the team name. Tara and I made a shopping trip to St. John's for tshirts, and she and Stewart turned them into team uniforms, complete with new names and job titles for all members. I was in charge of Marketing and Media Relations. We also had "Security (Goon)," "Tool Monitor and Test Pilot," "Hands-on Senior Director of Hospitality," etc, etc....

On Friday, the team of Bodge It, Cock up and Sink Boatbuilders (Every Job a Floater!) showed up early on the dock to nab a good building space. Building started at 2pm, and wound up at 4:30. Randy's design would have worked just great if we'd got 1/4 inch ply, but it really was the flimsiest stuff I've ever seen -- about 3mm, or 1/8th of an inch. We persevered, slathered on the 5200 (which takes 7 days to set up, and we had a couple of hours, so mostly we just got it all over ourselves), and truly bodged it together with rigging wire and duct tape, working feverishly to the end. Some of the other builders were cheating outrageously. Screws! Fiberglassing! The dirty dogs! We were too busy for fistocuffs. Good thing, cause most of the other teams were young nubile/well muscled crew from the mega yachts.

Tara was our designated driver -- she has lots of experience sailing small boats, and admits that as an only child, she's absolutely driven to beat the competition to a bloody pulp. It was a Lemans start, but there was no gun, just a lot of shouting and floundering and we were caught trying to attach the lee board as everyone else took off. After a minute or two of fumbling, we just said bugger it, and pushed her off. Paddling furiously, with the main sheet in her teeth, Tara swept past the sinking fleet, and with just a few pauses to man the bilge pump (a fortuitous addition to the boat gear), she made it past the finish line with grace and elegance. Soaking wet, but the boat was upright. Probably something like fourth or fifth across the line.

After passing the champagne bottle around, it was on to the prize-giving. Everyone got a prize (including one for Worst Cheaters) and we got the prize for Best Team Spirit. A bit like getting the Miss Congeniality Award when what you really wanted was first place, but we did have the very best team outfits after all. There was a case of beer, a bottle of 5 year old English Harbour rum, Wobbly Club tshirts for the designer and the driver, and a few other bits and pieces that I missed out on cause I went to the bathroom (beers were two fer one all afternoon). After lots of laughing with the big crowd on the dock, we got invited onto one of the BIG boats for a drink. I won't mention the name of the boat, so's the crew doesn't get in trouble, but it was gorgeous, we didn't spill anything or make a mess, and we felt very posh. Thanks S and C for your hospitality!

Another exciting day in the Caribbean. And today? Randy's changing the oil, and I'm off to clean the head, do the dishes and scrub the grotty boat in preparation for company! See below for more pictures of the competition (click on the pics to make them bigger).

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Nice sail to Deshaies, nothing broke, nobody was sick. A good sail in my books. It's a cute little town, and the Douanes Office has an incredibly quirky schedule. They're open about an hour every day, and hardly ever the same hour. We figured that it must have something to do with the schedule of incoming flights at the airport -- perhaps they go back and forth between the two offices? No matter, we eventually got checked out after spending a couple of days.

In the meantime, Dean and Jill (Delilah) convinced us to make the long uphill walk to the botanical gardens, and once we caught our breath and stopped sweating, we were really glad we did. It costs a pile of euros to get in, and the lady taking our money looked at us and asked if we had come "en pied?"

It's probably the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen (sorry, Alice, yours is now in second place). There was an incredible number of plants, trees, flowers, orchids, ground cover, more orchids, waterfalls, parrots (they shat on my backpack, and we decided that was good luck), hummingbirds, more trees with weird blooms, a ton of five-year-olds in matching tshirts, a petting zoo, and a snack bar with cold beer at the end. I took a million photos, but lucky for you, I'm only posting a few. See below.

Deshaies harbour is lousy with turtles, which is fun, and the town is small and nifty and clean and the shops all shut up tight in the middle of the day, and tourists and travellers just have to go and have a nap and come back and get baquettes later. We bought a stunningly fabulous roast chicken from a little shop and gorged ourselves on chicken sandwiches.

We were thinking we'd have chicken soup for lunch the next day while sailing to Antigua, but it was waaaay too windy. We ate crackers and watched Delilah out ahead of us make sail changes. Then we started making sail changes. Started out under full sail, then reefed the jib, then let it out, then reefed it again, then dropped the mizzen, then wished we had an easy way to reef the main. For about three hours we had a steady 30 knots and lots of choppy swell. It was a fast trip though. Very wet on deck.

We dropped the hook in Freeman Bay just outside of English Harbour, and then we had our chicken soup, and then we reanchored. It was crowded, and we kept hitting rattley spots and dragging, so the next day we followed Delilah around to Falmouth Harbour and were happy to see friends from Grenada days - Eira and Carapan. We had a great evening catching up.

Falmouth Harbour is chock-a-block full of mega-mega-yachts. The "Maltese Falcon" and "Mirabella V" are the two largest privately owned sailing yachts in the world. Ashore, the place is loaded with young, attractive white people wearing khaki or navy shorts and white shirts with a boat name. They all have cell phones and radios clipped to their belts, and when you see them on the boats, you know that their lives are spent polishing, wiping, hosing, coiling, and polishing some more. Who owns all these big boats, and why? Someone said that they saw Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks ashore, but I am unable to verify.

Laundry! Mavis, of Mavis's Laundry, sits on the dock at the yacht club all day, and when she sees a dinghy approach with a laundry bag, she comes over to say hello. Next thing you know, you've paid over $100 EC for 4 loads of laundry, but you don't mind because it's all IRONED. Sheets, pillowcases, shirts, all tidy and folded and ironed. I was gobsmacked.

Randy has been trying to sort out insurance because we think we're going to haul here in May and go back to Nova Scotia for the summer and sell the house. We spent $30US faxing our survey to a UK company, only to have them say that the age and value of the boat means that they can't cover us. Duh, they could have told us before we sent the fax.

We also took a bus ride into St. John, the capital, and that's a hopping town. Almost too busy for us. Cruise ship passengers throwing money around as fast as they could. There's a great market across from the bus station, and we bought a breadfruit. Very yummy boiled and then baked with parmesan cheese, lots of butter, green onion, basil and parsley. Low fat, we ain't.

One week until Tom and Haley arrive! And today is my nephew Will Taylor's birthday!! Will Taylor, stand up and take a bow !!!! I just heard from Alan and Marie who were on the trip to Victoria Falls with us in Dominica, and he sent along these terrific photos of the "nutters." Tara was disgusted that everyone else got wet to the armpits while I was still only hip-deep. The advantages of long skinny legs!


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