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Preparing for the Carriacou Regatta

One of the most interesting aspects of cruising is the people you meet and what they are doing for their island.  The Compton family of Windward, Carriacou, is just such a family.  I happened to meet the men of the family when they were doing what they love best – building a sloop for their 42nd annual regatta to be held July 29th to August 6th, 2007.  Carriacou is a lovely island and their annual sailing regatta is a good reason for residents and visitors to celebrate a long heritage of both boatbuilding and sailing.

Cyril Compton, father of Cyron (23) and Daine (18), believes in the heritage of his country and of wooden boat building.  Together with many of his son’s friends, the group is building a 38’ Carriacou sloop for this month’s regatta, to be held in Hillsboro.   The original Margeta O was lost in Hurricane Emily in 1985; however her mast and blocks were retrieved and have been used in the rebuilding of Margeta O2.  This means a lot to the family—to keep the tradition going. The sloop was named for a dream that Cyril’s mother had.

While plans are not drawn for the building of the Compton sloop, Cyril did make a model (the lengthwise half) showing, with pencil lines, the position of ribs, beam width, etc.  This is in the work shed for the builders to check, according to scale, when they need it.  Bernard Compton, one of patriarchs of the Compton family, was a boat builder so the genes for excellence are certainly there to be carried on by Cyron and Daine.  Various uncles and cousins were also boat builders with Jessie Compton being the original builder who modeled Margeta O and build it.  While listening to this story I had the opportunity to gaze out over the lovely Caribbean Sea that fronts their property and view the Lady Iris, another boat that the Comptons recently completed.

Cyril has been around boats all of his life.  He is an accomplished fisherman and also vendor.  To raise money for the original Margeta O he sold fruits from a sailing boat in the USVI for four years.  His wife, Olga Bethel, also comes from a boating family.  Her grandfather was a noted fisherman and also a shipwright, so Cyron and Daine were lucky enough to inherit their skills from both sides of the family.

The interesting thing about the Margeta O is that every aspect of building it relates to Carriacou.  The wood was felled from local trees the builders split, stripped and planed themselves.  They bent the planks for the beam and have used all local materials.  The only exceptions to this are the 3” bronze and steel screws that are used in fastening the planking to the ribs.  This, in itself, is a source of great pride for Carriacou boat lovers.  When you think that this small paradise only has a population of approximately 5,000 it is amazing that so very many boats are built here by locals.

Dexter Leggard, President of the Carriacou Regatta Committee, says, "The success of the regatta festival depends heavily on the participation of the sloops since they are seen as what makes the Carriacou Regatta Festival “unique” when compared with all other regattas. The committee has been working hard to ensure they survive."

I send best wishes from All at Sea, not only to the Compton family, but all of the Carriacou boat builders, for the best of luck in this year’s regatta.  We are most proud of the heritage that you have kept and are continuing to excel in.  Have a wonderful regatta!

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