Thursday, January 29, 2015

Caribbean Sea

Arrived home with Antigua stamped in my passport. I absolutely loved the trip! To think I may never have visited the island if I hadn't seen the photo of the view from the balcony on Home Away.

Boats! It wasn't just beaches and warm weather I was craving, but boats. Big boats, small boats, dinghies, motor boats. Just looking at them. And our balcony offered the pleasure.

I didn't have any idea of the scale of those vessels from the photo and was surprised at just how 'super' the super yachts were. Most at least 10 times bigger than our cozy 30' Yondering. Locals told us the Robert DeNiro and Pierce Brosnan keep boats at Falmouth, but we didn't catch a glimpse of them, although Rob was pretty sure he saw Mark Wahlberg on the dock kicking back a beer with crew.

We'd look out from our balcony over Falmouth at night and google some of the yachts: 6 staterooms, "sleeps 12" (with a crew of 30).  The majority of the boats sat in their slips with a skeleton crew, being buffed and shined during the day and guarded at night. It is not uncommon to dock your multi-million dollar toy at Falmouth harbour for refurbishing, because the island is well known for its artisans' quality wood varnishing and bright work.

Renting one of the super yachts costs upwards of $250,000 a week. One night we watched guests on Illusion being served their dinner while they viewed You Tube snippets of concerts projected on a massively huge screen. It seemed like many a summer night spent on Yondering... but with much much bigger speakers and much much bigger screen and a chef and wait staff.

Getting a job on one of these is many a young persons' dream. There were posters on the community board, warning "friends don't let friends work for free," but that likely doesn't stop everyone from offering their services gratis. I asked a young waiter in a beach bar who had an Australian accent what had brought him to Antigua, and it was the dream of working on a super yacht and seeing the world. He'd been trying to find a way in for about 3 weeks so ended up taking the beach job in the meantime as a practical necessity. Shawn was a 24 year old citizen who had worked his way up to Head Chef at a couple of local restaurants, but he would quickly hand in his notice when offered a gig on a super yacht. Rob and I were approached a couple of times by 20-somethings willing to crew on 30' - 50' vessels, just to head north or south to continue their travels.

Lots of "yachties", people with boats of more modest dimensions, who were living onboard and making their way around the world. I chatted with someone at Nelson Dockyards who'd been sailing his 45' boat down from Boston to overwinter in the West Indies for the last 10 years. We also spoke with someone with a Bronx accent at Pigeon Beach who had anchored his 30' boat just a swim from shore. He'd been moored in Antigua for about 4 years, having sailed full-time for the past 16. He'd lived the dream, and was coming to terms that this could be his last season. Although he'd seen a lot and didn't have any regrets, he was looking forward to having a fridge with a freezer and an endless supply of drinking water by just turning a tap.

The last full day of our vacation, we jumped on a Wadadli Cat for a Circumnavigation tour around the island. I started in the trampoline, that bit of netting at the bow, and laid belly-down for the roller coaster ride on the Atlantic. We were heading straight into the waves and bouncing up and down, the ocean spray crashing over the sides of the boat. How could a 30 footer make it? I guess, by not crashing headlong and taking more deliberate tacks.

The Circumnav tour took us through many of the sites we'd enjoyed in our week-long stay, including our own Falmouth Harbour. Everyone oo-ed and aw-ed at the sites of the super yachts and it made me appreciate our nightly view all the more.

We also stepped into the Antigua Yacht Club and saw many Canadian burgees, including Queen City, Mimico and Ashbridge's Bay. Too bad we didn't bring along a BPYC burgee for an exchange.  Maybe next time!

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