When my wife and I first arrived in the Caribbean, we couldn’t get enough of snorkeling and would think nothing about spending hours in the water, the tropical sun burning our backs, its rays lighting the shallows like a stage. Once, we almost snorkeled right around a small island off Antigua and were in awe of the number of beautifully colored fish on the fringes of the reef just beneath the surface. I remember those days with delight, as side by side we explored a new, alien world where natural wonders revealed themselves with every kick of our fins, every gulp of air through the tube.
We come from a cold climate and the closest we ever got to marine life was the rock pools on the east coast of England, where the fish were as muted in color as the dark, windblown skies overhead. Imagine our delight to find ourselves in a world of damsels, tangs, clowns (my favorites), slippery green eels and teasing turtles. Two articles this month take me back to those hedonistic times when donning mask, fins and snorkel was all we had planned for the day. On page 30, Katie Gutteridge takes us diving in the Turks & Caicos, while in our center spread naturalist and underwater photographer Charles ‘Chuck’ Shipley introduces us to the shrimp that live in the waters around Bonaire. If your only encounter with shrimp is via the seafood section of the supermarket, then be prepared to be amazed.
The Caribbean is synonymous with beach bars. Every island, large or small, is home to beach bars of character. Some are world famous, many are infamous. Like many a good bar frequented by sailors, some establishments, and what has gone on in or around them, have passed into legend.
There are even posh beach bars although they seem to have missed the point. You never know who you might meet when you belly up to a beach bar. Many celebrities look like normal people when they have sand between their toes and their shorts or swimsuits reveal their skinny (or otherwise), un-photo-shopped bods. You could say that a beach bar is a leveler of the reveler. The danger in beach bars lurks in the concoctions they serve under the guise of rum punch. Many an unwary holidaymaker, seeking to slake his or her thirst, has downed a few glasses of the fruity drink and, to their chagrin, found themselves being poured into a taxi and shipped off to their hotel to face a devastating hangover that lasts two days. It’s a good job we sailors have more sense …
As this edition went to press the regatta season was well underway and boats were seeking glory in events all across the region. My own event, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, is now in its 36th year and continues to evolve and prosper. What drives people to race? That’s a question with an infinite number of answers. Here in St. Maarten the driving force behind one remarkable race crew of teenagers is a very special 26-foot boat … a boat they built themselves. Over the months I have followed the boat’s progress from a pile of plywood, to launching. The boat was built by students from St. Maarten’s Milton Peters College, who have labored long and dealt with all the ups and downs that building a boat can bring. As construction moved ahead, the dream of sailing the boat in the Heineken Regatta was born. The last time I spoke to those behind the building crew, they said they were 95% certain the boat would be ready in time to take part. I wrote this Log a month before the regatta, so I don’t know if they made it or not. Whether they do, or they don’t, every one of those youngsters is a winner.
SAILS & SALES
Our Caribbean Sales Manager Cynthia Wummer has run away to sea, joining her partner, skipper of the Swan 70 Simple Harmony, as First Mate. Although she has immersed herself in Caribbean life, Cynthia will continue as our ace Sales Manager, while not shirking her duties aboard Simple Harmony. Which, she tells me, is available for charter.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
Every month Gary records a podcast. The podcast is available on iTunes or you can download it to your mp3 player, tablet or computer by following the links on our websites: allatsea.net and: garyebrown.net/audiovideo.html