Raining cats and dogs

Trip Start Oct 11, 2011
Trip End Sep 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Liz's house in Turtle Bay

Flag of Antigua and Barbuda  , Saint Paul,
Monday, May 7, 2012

Hello from Antigua, where it has been raining for 3 days. I realise that I won't get any sympathy from anyone in Europe, as I know you have been suffering of late...but its not what you expect or necessarily want for your last 3 days in Paradise. No beach, tan fading fast (!) and added to that all the yachties have gone home! So it looks like its time to leave.....

Looking on the bright side, there are the cats and dogs - yes, they are real - two cats and one dog to be precise. I am caring for them at the same time as house sitting for Liz. Fox the dog is my new friend, loyal, faithful and a brilliant guard dog! She has almost licked me to death during Liz's absence, but I am coping, as one not used to such doggy affection. As for Tiger, the top cat around here, he is taking it all in his stride though is definitely his own person when it comes to being told he has to go outside. As for Peter the kitten, he is like a 2 year old toddler, full of mischief and obsessed with soap suds and water! When no-one else wants to play, he loves nothing better than a wrestle with the door mat. Both cats are running rings around me, and no doubt Liz will have some remedial training to do when she gets back!! 
It has been fab to be back in Antigua . Getting here from Union Island was a challenge - an early morning  fast ferry ride followed by a day to kill in St Vincent, whereupon I took a driver to show me the island, only to discover one leg of my evening flight had been cancelled and an overnighter in St Lucia was on the cards! St Vincent was beautiful and it was fun to visit the set and film crew base of Pirates of the Caribbean.

I arrived on Antigua eventually, together with a new friend Susan who it turned out would be on the same race boat as me later that week. I am glad I took Liz's advice and found myself a place on a small ketch for the Antigua Classic Regatta. It was quite an experience just being there and watching the traditionally built and 'spirit of tradition' boats such as Eilean, Elena, Rebecca, Athos and many more, racing in this prestigious event. I never thought I would catch myself drooling over a boat in a million years, but it happened - it was breathtaking watching them fly their spinnakers and thrilling to see them overtake us at close range, with their multitude of crew hard on the winches and determined to cross the finish line first in class. I raced 3 of the 4 days on Sephina, with Susan from Nantucket and Barry from Scotland, New Jersey and Antigua! It was fun but not too demanding as skipper Duncan could pretty much sail Sephina single handedly! And we were no match for the other race boats in our class. Liz and I went to most of the parties, kicked off by the daily awards ceremony and followed by a live band, great food and lots of Mount Gay rum every time. Sadly we missed an invite to THE party of the regatta on the beautiful Elena, hosted by the Monte Carlo owners, but did hear that the canapes were only 'ok'! They should have hired me obviously. On the food front, I have to mention the Maine party -  delicious lobster bisque and lobster rolls washed down with rum punch, with lobsters from Maine naturally.
A few days off meant a chance to go to the beach at Pigeon Point, and to head off down to Nelsons Dockyard to catch up with my almer mater Great Escape and Kotari, now back against the wall for Antigua race week. Finally met Phil, the owner of Great Escape, and admired his new, very expensive, mast (you will recall we broke it in St Maarten!), was reunited with Chris and Yvonne from my BVI adventures and met up with Penny Bloxham, the girl who got me into all of this sailing in the Caribbean in the first place! Great also to see Ken (minus Kay boo hoo!) and to meet David and Michelle, legendary and much spoken about skipper and chef of Lady Anne.

Antigua Race week is pretty much the pinnacle of the Caribbean regatta season, with the parties starting a full 2 days beforehand - Mount Gay was first, where the lucky ones who have bought their bottles of rum and qualified for a Mount Gay red hat queue up to get one!! Thanks to Barry from Sephina I got one without buying any rum, tho did manage to down a few free ones at the party...rum and pineapple to be precise. Next night was the welcome party, and so it went on...

Action switched to the Dockyard for race week, the highlight being the Ky-Mani Marley concert - K is son of Bob Marley, so the locals were wild before he even came on! The lawn at Nelsons Dockyard was transformed into party mode, with bars and BBQ selling the usual Caribbean fayre of ribs, burgers BBQ chicken and coleslaw! Marley was fab, did all of the old Marley numbers and I was pretty glad to be there watching such an iconic show.

My racing experience was not so much fun this time - sea sickness on day one and some rather scary moments on the rail on day too were enough for me! Only the quick witted action of Daniel, our Rasta bow man, saved me from going overboard. I took a day off to recover and hoped to return later in the week but it was not to be, as Elethea had more than enough crew. She came a respectable 4th in her class, which was good news.

As I found myself a crew 'orphan', Penny and the crew of Jigsaw adopted me one evening and after drinks on the boat we headed off for supper followed by dancing at the Mad Mongoose, my second opportunity to see the great local band Itchy Feet! On Friday I partied with Kotari and her crew (4th in class) and said goodbye to everyone - all over for another year and most boats now preparing for the return Atlantic crossing. I was invited to join but will stick to the Rod Stewart version I think.  

I have explored Antigua by car in last few days, visiting the bustling street market in St Johns and taking Fig Tree Drivee through the rain forest up to Curtain Bluff, as well as exploring the east coast and some of the 365 beaches to be found on this island! Sunday night at Shirley Heights with the steel band was rained off, can you believe it? 

I leave tomorrow for London where I am led to believe its freezing cold, raining hailstones and bikinis are not required - I can't wait!

Next stop on the tour is a wine estate in Italy where the girls and I will catch up and be en famille for the first time since Christmas. In the meantime, I am looking for work experience or temporary work in the UK for the rest of May, in a deli, cheese shop or wine emporium, or even a beach side cafe - if you hear of any opportunities please let me know!

As I sit here writing this the heavens have opened, visibility is nil and the rain torrential. More like monsoon. Life in the Caribbean is not all party,party, party you know!

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