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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Fish Story with Travelogue
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.

Grand Case, St. Martin 24.02.07

Wobbly Club sponsors the BYOB Regatta

Wobbly Club Official
Official of the Wobbly Club
In the 18th century, Antigua was home to the British fleet in the Caribbean. Today it is home to many charming British eccentrics. Take Jol Byerly. Every morning he delivers birthday greetings, weather reports and random observations on the VHF radio. He rambles on in the plumiest of British tones at 1/3 normal speed and repeats each word 3 times. Our personal favorites are the band of eccentrics who form the "Wobbly Club", whose main event is the annual "BYOB" regatta. "BYOB" stands for "build your own boat" and, as the announcement states: the boat will be built from 48 square feet of the thinnest, holiest plywood they can find, 15' of knotty 1x1, a tube of slow drying mastic and a handful of the dullest
BYOB Regatta Finishers
BYOB Finishing entries
roofing nails on the island. Entrants get 2.5 hours to complete and launch their boats around a triangular course.

This is the challenge to the classic yacht restorers, megayacht crews, and anyone else they can round up. 27 entries this year competed for the coveted perpetual "WC" trophy. Cheating is not only tolerated,
Boats and Ships
Yachts and Boats
particularly outrageous cheats seem to be encouraged. Hence, one entry built a small platform, ballasted by a swimmer in the water and propelled by a huge kite. Worked fine off the beach but failed to go to windward. One entry included an entire dock cart at its center and another used a series of compartments given floatation by inflated garbage bags. Some
Build Your Own Trimaran
Trimaran in BYOB Regatta
successful designs used the materials as a frame and waterproofed the whole with plastic liners. Some successful designs basically wrapped things in tape and at least one seemed to be designed to be pushed around the course by a strong swimmer. In case you are wondering, the crew of Felicita West won.

This event delayed our departure from Falmouth by a day and then late laundry put off anchors up for another 1/2 day. No problem, but our trip up to Jolly Harbor to check out, get water and ready the boat for passage wasn't completed until Saturday somewhat late. I wanted to get to St. Martin in time to visit my cousin Carol before the weather deteriorated. The fuel dock in Jolly Harbor was still open (only because some fellow had come in shortly before closing with a trailer holding 400 gallons of diesel) and so we got our tanking up done. We hurried over to the customs dock. There, the friendly customs officer couldn't talk to us until we had talked to the Port Authority. The Port Authority does not work on weekends. Customs does. Immigration does. Port Authority does not. Sigh. How about we check out in Barbuda? Yes that would work. Other cruisers warned us off the attempt but we figured, it we gave it a good try and we couldn't check out in Barbuda, the French officials on Saint Martin wouldn't mind too much.


Barbuda is nominally part of Antigua. The official country name is: "Antigua and Barbuda". This is not unlike calling your liquid oil and water; you can put them in the same bucket but they just don't mix. Barbuda is a low, flat island of about 1600 people and is surrounded by extensive reefs. Antigua is a mountainous island of about 100,000 surrounded by incredible wealth and superyachts. Antigua is dotted with the sugar mills of old plantations and the elderly still tell tales of particularly unpleasant overseers and can tell you where their families' owners lived. Barbudans did not cut cane, but rather engaged in farming and fishing to support themselves while they tended livestock and hosted shooting expeditions for the Codrington family. The Codringtons lived with the other plantation owners on Antigua and there kept the slaves engaged in the backbreaking work of sugar cane and them alive (and captive) by providing them with food and oversight. Barbuda was a kind of hunting lodge and cattle ranch and the slaves there had little or no supervision for most of the year.

When sugar collapsed, the Barbudans maintained their independent, self sufficient society and carried on as before. On the sugar islands, thousands starved as the owners left and the supply of imported foods disappeared. All the land is owned in common and no outsiders are allowed to develop it. Antigua tries (but usually fails) to drag Barbuda into the 20th century but the Barbudans are (so far) having none of it. The extensive reefs, low dry island and total lack of exportable commodities other than sand has played into their hands. The capital, Codrington is almost in the middle of the island behind an enormous lagoon which provides lobster for export and the reefs provide fish for food.

Not many tourists visit Barbuda. (Surprise) There is nothing to buy and no jet skis/kites/water skis to rent. We were only going to Barbuda in hopes that there would be an open customs/immigration/port authority station. The sail from Antigua to Barbuda is about 35 miles but only cuts 15 miles off the trip to Saint Martin. It is further north so the departure from Barbuda to Antigua would give us a better angle on the NE trade winds. Plus we hoped to legally check out after a weekend in Barbuda. The sail to Barbuda was fabulous. I armed our hand lines with newly purchased squid (frozen, from California) and set off.


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Poached fish for dinner. Yum

Maltese Falcon under sail
Maltese Falcon under sail
A small Bonito hit the line immediately after leaving Antigua but he was made considerably smaller by a bigger fish who took his aft end before I could get him reeled in. No problem, one more of this size and we had dinner. I baited the hook again with the head and promptly lost the hook, the leader and the sinker. I baited up again and brought in somewhat smaller (but intact) fish and closed up shop. The rest of the day was given up to fast sailing waiting to see some sign of the very flat island rise up from the sea. It is a little tricky aiming the boat into the featureless blue and easy to drift off course. After a few hours, Susie notices a little gleam on the horizon in approximately the right place and we aimed for that. After a while, it resolved into a series of shiny radio towers glinting in the sun. After a while, when we crested a sea, the low sleek hull was visible rising as we approached. Before we could see signs of the actual island, the tiny image started sprouting canvas and moving to the west with increasing speed. Maltese Falcon. The world's largest private yacht setting sail. When we saw her at the dock in Antigua, I called her ugly. Stubby antenna tower on the fordeck like a warty unicorn and three oversized masts over a wide, low hull. However, when that same black and silver hull is dwarfed by vast clouds of sail above and accented with a white mustache of flying water at the bow, she is gorgeous. Maltese Falcon under sail looks like a pirate ship from a distant planet and a future century. And she moves fast too. We anchored where she had been in the middle of what is called 11 mile beach. She was lost below the horizon before we had the anchor down.

11 Mile beach is just that. 11 miles of empty white sand tinged with pink shell interrupted only by one building
11 Mile Beach, Barbuda
11 Mile Beach, Barbuda
which has been under construction since 1960. Progress looks good though. Grandpa planted a few palms and they are coming along nicely. Grandson seems to have had a recent burst of energy and fresh paint and the hum of a generator are testimony to the enthusiasm of youth. Rentals available any decade now. In the morning we called "Garden of Eden" on the radio and arranged to meet the proprietor, George, on the beach at 10:00. For $50 US, we got a ride across the lagoon to the capital (and only) town and a guided tour of all the official sites we were obliged to visit. The "bird sanctuary" tax building,
George of Garden of Eden, Barbuda
George of Garden of Eden, Barbuda
the customs, the immigration, and the port authority. It was good to have George with us. Not only for his stories, gentle dignity and charming manner but also because we never would have gotten through the checkout with out him. Immigration was staffed by one of Georgia's daughters and customs was a random house with a casual gentleman on the porch and a desk inside. Everyone greets George as we make the rounds walking between random looking buildings scattered all over town. After the formalities we were off to the bird sanctuary.

Frigate Birds and chicks, Barbuda
Frigate Birds
Frigate birds are expert flyers with a huge wingspan who are often spotted circling high above the fishing action. They cannot land in the water like most seabirds but can fly so well that they can frighten the flying fish into the air and grab them without touching the water. The bird sanctuary is a small section of mangrove which serves as courting, breeding and nesting grounds for the entire region. The males inflate huge red ballons under their beaks to show their virility to the passing females. They click and carry on to attract a mate. Those already paired up fly around fighting over nesting materials or passing them to the females to build with. A single snowy white chick appears in the nest after a year. The air is full of birds and the strange sound of the males trying to attract the females.
Male Frigate Bird
Male Frigate Bird

Tuesday 5:30 saw us up and making coffee. 70+ miles to the west lies St. Martin with St. Barts as a fall back if the winds aren't good. The winds were good. 7.1 knots on a beam reach was our average speed when we usually figure on 5 knots. The lines were no sooner out than we caught a 2' Kingfish. After Susie landed him and I had butchered him we rushed to bring the other line in as we now had more fish than refrigerator. I squoze limes, minced onion and garlic
Jet St. Martin
Jet landing, St. Martin
added a little green pepper, tomato and hot sauce and threw it all in tupperware for the rest of the ride. Anchor down before dark and _very_ fresh ceviche awaited us. We managed to find my cousin by running the dinghy back and forth just outside the surf line in front of her hotel on the beach. The ceviche and sailing was a hit and a good time was had by all.
Bob and Carol Burney

Bob and Carol Burney


Lance & Susie
S/V Eaux Vives
Grand Case, Saint Martin, FWI



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