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Cruising in Home Waters

Copyright 2005 by Cap’n Fatty Goodlander

The Lesser Antilles are our oyster, even after sailing around the world. There is nowhere else on this watery planet that compares as a cruising ground. It is as if God and Walt Disney got together and said, “Hey, let’s create a paradise for sailors, heaven-on-earth for the cruising yachtsman!”

We just spent a year wandering between Trinidad and St. Thomas and had an absolute blast doing it.

We love Trinidad. It has a unique, exciting energy. ‘Trinis’ work hard and party hard as well. They are a proud people, with much to be proud of. Carnival is almost a religion there. Steel pans are everywhere, as are clever, world-quality Calypsonians.

As sailors, they are fierce competitors on the race course, and firm friends at the parties.

Their society, though imperfect, is a shining example for the rest of us in the eastern Caribbean: no other island nation has a more diverse ethnic mix of Africans, East Indians and Asians all working together for a brighter future.

Right now Grenada is suffering but she will soon be on her proud feet once again. I love the whole south coast of that Spicy Island, and my wife Carolyn particularly adores the markets in St. Georges.

The Grenadines are like a string of pearls arcing northward, we could have spent the entire year right there and never have gotten bored. (Sure there are crowded anchorages but there are also dozens of empty ones as well.)

Where? Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you as ‘The Hunt for the Perfect Anchorage’ is one of the main joys of Caribbean cruising. (Hint: work to weather of the bareboats. Once you get off the rhumb line, you may as well be back in the 1800s!)

It is impossible for me to say which is our favorite stop there: but both John Smith and Paul Johnson can make a rhum bottle evaporate in a most delightful, Carriacou way!

Bequia has always been a favorite stop. Tom and Sally at the Compass are wonderful people—-come to think of it, so is almost everyone else on that delightfully laid-back island.

Carolyn and I spent each afternoon hiking: to Spring, to Friendship and beyond, utterly delightful!

Every time I glance at Friendship Rose I remember why, 30 years ago when I first sailed ‘down-island’, I called out to Carolyn so excitedly, “We’re home!”

St. Vincent and Young Island are an exciting side trip if you’re careful. (Just stay away from the obvious ‘bad boys’ smoking ganja and you’ll be fine.)

St. Lucia is blessed with the Pitons, Marigot, Castries and Rodney Bay. Wow, lovely spots all!

I love Martinique and all of the French West Indies. Fort-de-France is my favorite large city in the Antilles. I love to drop my hook amid the dashing ferries off the city and look at the lovely restaurant ladies (washing their pots and pants in the harbor) and their customers nonchalantly standing next to them peeing.

St. Anne? Anse Mitan? St. Pierre? Delightful! Yes, whenever I’m down a quart of garlic I sailed into Point Du Bout and inhale!

Dominica is certainly dramatic ashore and afloat. The waterfalls and rainforests aren’t to be missed neither are the Caribe/Arawak villages.

Antigua is always interesting. I’ve been going there so long I can remember when Desmond Nicholson was young, foolish and pinching girl’s bottoms! (“the rascal!” Carolyn said in appreciation.)

Soon after arriving in English harbor I always touch base with Jol Byerley to find out who is dead, indicted or just out of rehab. It is SO difficult to keep up with that delightfully naughty group of Blissful Brits.

I remember when a penniless Carlo sailed into Falmouth harbor on a broken-down plywood boat he built in on the muddy shores of the river Roma hoping to day-sail for his supper!

I even like Jolly Harbour: all those fat German ladies playing volley ball with the skinny West Indian guys, laughing, “He says a little cushion is good for the push’n!” as they are chased down the beach like bikini-clad elephants.

St. Barts was the coolest place on the planet back in the 1970s. What little I remember of them. Buffet was caging drinks at Le Select. Fast Eddie was the most angelic man/child I had ever seen. The only bartender so young he had to stand on packing crates to serve his customers! LouLou was a revolutionary radical back then, mellowed now, but no saner! Chris Chapman, Speedy John Everton, John Luke and Harry the Rasta were all hardcore regulars. Sailor Chris Bowman had Bob Dylan jammed into a corner at Le Select: lifting his wallet and brain cells at the same time. Eric Taberlay was aground in the harbor and famed French ocean racer Phillip Poupon was going to tow him off… just as soon as he finished his Petite Punch!

And the Pirate Queen! That was where I first met Sylvia-the-Pirate-Queen. She owned a boat called ‘Life’s a Beach’ and was touring the Caribbean in search of whales.

“…whales?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied with a sexy growl, “men with forty foot tongues who can breath through the top of their heads!”

She bit off my clothes (the first and last woman ever to do so, I’ll sadly admit) within hours of our ‘lust-at-first-sight’ meeting.

Oh, what fun I’ve had with the Pirate Queen over the years! She’s utterly unrepentant! That wild night in a fancy French restaurant when she attempted to show us her magic trick of yanking away the table cloth… three times… amazingly unsuccessfully each! (I just managed to get her out of there before the gendarmes arrived by pretending I was the cash-laden skipper of the ocean racer Heavy Metal!)

Oh, yes! There’s always some bizarre aura surrounding the Pirate Queen! That crazy Lesbo Nurse with the bladder problem she brought aboard my Uncle Foot’s mega-yacht, that time she basted her famous Whiskey chick in gasoline and then tossed it into the sand (okay, she was drunk) in Virgin Gorda, and don’t even get me started on the night she terrorized that poor defenseless American Colonel who got so confused he forgot he was out of uniform. (Yes, TOTALLY out of uniform!)

Oh, St. Barts! What a crew! Mad Murphy! Rachael Welsh. Les Anderson. Elizabeth Ashley. David Wegman. Treat Williams. And I’ll never forget Timothy Leary’s wild & crazy wife and that bizarre night she rented the subchaser for her birthday party and then… whew! I didn’t know what decadence MEANT until I sailed into Barts!

Sint Maarten is another island I remember with great fondness. Robbie Ferron was trying to scrape up enough money to buy some outboard head-gaskets in quantity, Bobby was attempting to drive piling for his new marina with a large sledgehammer, and only a few boats were anchored in the Lagoon, all hanging out at Khim Sha’s for Chinese food on Wednesday nights.

Anguilla? Well, Johnno was a character then AND now, and Caribbean song-writer Bankie Banks was just about the coolest dude alive back then when his “What do you want, Inspector” drug song blared from every West Indian radio! (Gee, wasn’t the Big RA a cool radio station? I mean, I actually went to St. Kitts to dine on ‘mountain chicken!’ Oh, the power of repetitive advertising!)

The truly amazing thing is that the Lesser Antilles are real. They exist. Still. Truly. A sailing yachtsman’s paradise, bar-none! You can have just as much today as I had yesterday or thirty years ago. All you have to do is go. Just do it. Chop your anchor line. Point your bowsprit seaward. Hoist the mainsail! You’ll have more fun than you can possibly imagine. Guaranteed! High adventure isn’t just a possibility during such a trip it is an absolute certainty.

And it always will be.

One more thing—-say ‘Hi!’ to the Pirate Queen for me!

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