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Jol Byerley’s Oct 05 Letter from Antigua

I have to admit that as I write this I am
feeling a little guilty. This is probably because I have failed to get my
little "Letter from Antigua" to the
editor of All at Sea in time. But it
was just because I had to watch CNN’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s all out
attack on New Orleans.
Labelled as one of the most destructive tropical storms in memory, Katrina
headed directly for New Orleans
like the advance of the baddies in Lord Of the Rings. Now, just before its arrival on the coast
of Louisiana,
the National Hurricane Centre was talking about 160 miles an hour, but I never
heard the CNN reporters mention more than 120 miles an hour. Anyway, even 120
is a hell of a lot of wind. You only have to stick your head out of a car
window travelling at 60 miles an hour to know that anything over 80 must be
pretty darn strong.

No matter how hard I peered at our
TV, did I see signs of any strong winds in the TV coverage? In fact, the waves
on the Mississippi
were small and the bows of the trees showed little or no movement. OK, it
certainly poured down all right and visibility was practically nothing, but the
fact remains that this was in a generally modern and well-built
city (except for the old French Quarter) with an army of police and other
helpers on hand.

At the end of it, I couldn’t help
feeling that Katrina was certainly not a patch on Hurricane Luis. Then, after
boarding up the house and lashing it down to the ground, Judy and I climbed
into our Jeep, along with my daughter, Cary, her three-month old son, Jolyon,
our three dogs and two parakeets, to dash into Nelson’s Dockyard and climb up
into one of the massively restored rooms of the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel.
And of course, with us went the radio and equipment such as batteries, antennas
etc and a telephone, for we planned to transmit every 3 to 4 hours the reports
where hurricane Luis was.

Now, it’s generally agreed
that one way or another, Luis stayed with us for close on 36 hours and at times
blew more than 150 knots. Well, people slept all over the floor of the old
building and it looked like a scene from Dante’s
Inferno
. We all owe a big debt to the management and staff. The yachtsmen
and people of Antigua who were with us while the wind whistled and howled and
blew the boats on the hard on the other side of the harbour over like paper
models, waited it out with patience and fortitude and we all hoped that the
massive roof above us would not blow off!

When we were able to eventually
venture outside, it was to find boats, trees and houses on the road alongside
Falmouth Harbour
and the Village people having the same expression on their faces as the
inhabitants of London
after a bad night in the Blitz. There was nothing, absolutely nothing funny
about Hurricane Luis.

Anyway, this hurricane season has
been quiet enough for the three marinas in
Falmouth Harbour
to be improved and enlarged. There is also a new hotel being built just behind
the AYC Marina. There is also a brand new gas station being built on the main road.
All this should be completed in time for the new season. Meanwhile, over on the
west coast at Jolly
Harbour there are now very few villas left to be
bought up, and in the Nonsuch Bay
area the very posh La Perla development luxury villas
are being constructed.

And what about the enormous
strides in the complete rebuilding of the Fife
design 1929, Six-metre Nada. As she
begins to look more like a boat again, it gets more exciting by the day! This
work is being carried out by Andrew Robinson and his team at Woodstock Boat
Builders. We must congratulate Graeme Knott on the recent publication by
McMillan of Graeme’s new novel "Exclusion Zone" which is all about
our closest neighbour Montserrat. Also, in a
lovely setting at Woods Centre, a large space has been given over to purely
Antiguan artists. Making one of the most super displays we have ever had. And,
it’s only a hop, skip and a jump from
St John’s. My daughter-in-law Katie McConnachie (who is a very clever girl) features in this
expo and even better news is that she is soon to have a display here of her
own.

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