Monday, January 28, 2013

Can You Say: Mega-Yacht..?

We rolled into Falmouth Harbour, Antigua in time for the Antigua Superyacht Challenge.  By “rolled in” I mean the crossing from Guadeloupe was rather sporty.

Nelson’s Boatyard (English Harbour) in the foreground, Antigua Yacht Club center, and Falmouth Marina to the right.

We manage to get a front row seat by grabbing a mooring inside Falmouth Harbour.

By front row seat, I do not mean for the races that were held outside the harbor in very rough conditions, but inside where we could watch the yachts come and go.

Our closest mega-yacht neighbor is the Maltese Falcon is a ship-rigged sailing luxury yacht, commissioned and formerly owned by American venture capitalist Tom Perkins.  It is one of the largest privately owned sailing yachts in the world at 289 ft. The yacht was sold in 2009 reportedly because the owner wanted a larger yacht.  The ship has fifteen square sails (five per mast), stored inside three free-standing carbon fiber mast; they can fully unfurl into tracks along the yards in six minutes. 

The sailing yachts competing are at least 80 ft long and require a lot of crew, a.k.a., “rail meat.”

We counted 18 crew members on one yacht, but this one may have more.

203’ ATHOS

All week long, yachts have arrived and departed.

Often it is hard to guess the size of these yachts until you use the crew to understand the scale.

Besides the mega-yachts, there are some very interesting smaller yachts.  This one is certainly an investment in varnish.

But, not to worry, there seems to be many capable hands on Antigua; for a price.

 220’ Garcon

There are also plenty of motor yachts hanging around Antigua.  This one we did not find to be particularly handsome.

But, the helicopter on the fantail was a nice touch.

138’ Bystander

We did think that Bystander was a very handsome motor yacht and a consideration if we ever decide to upgrade from Motivator.  However, we did count 6 crew members when she came in and their salaries would probably put a dent in our cruising budget. 

Unfortunately, someone always has a bigger yacht.  And, it showed up in Antigua to steal the thunder.

394’ M/Y “A”

"A" was designed by Philippe Starck and was commissioned in November 2004, and delivered in 2008 at a rumored cost of $300 million. 

“A” is named for the first initial of its owners, Andrey and Aleksandra Melnichenko.  Andrey Melnichenko is a Russian businessman and billionaire, and wife, Aleksandra, is a former Serbian model and pop singer.

The ship’s styling has evoked comparisons with submarines and stealth warships such as the Zumwalt class of stealth destroyers designed for the US Navy.  

Reportedly, the upper deck contains the owner’s cabin that boasts a revolving bed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Boat Boys

Martin on his boat Providence in Dominique

In many of the former “English Islands” that do not seem as prosperous as their French neighbors, cruisers are sometimes plagued by “boat boys.”  Boat boys are young men that attempt to make their living by serving the passing cruisers.

Banana Man in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia
Photo by: Izzy St. Clair

Sometimes they are humorous and offer good products at a fair price.

Fruit vendor Gregory in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

Others try to “rip your face off” with their prices and either become belligerent or go into a begging routine if you are not interested in what they have to offer.  In Marigot Bay, I found that I could not sit on the back of my boat and read without being pestered by the various “vendors.”

At some dinghy docks you are expected to pay protection money to kids that will occasionally glance at your dinghy.  

But, it is hard to fault them for trying to make a living, especially in a place where jobs are scarce and opportunities are slow to materialize. 

Dive guide in Dominica

In some places they actually do serve a purpose and help cruisers tie off to a mooring, provide transportation, pick up your garbage, or offer guided tours.

Many of the boat boys have very colorful boats.

And, most have some sort of handle they go by.

Cobra an Indian River Guide

The boat boys in Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica realized that their key to success was repeat business from the cruisers.  Islands and anchorages that get a bad reputation via the cruisers’ “coconut telegraph,” like St. Vincent find that the cruisers quit coming.  So the boat boys, Indian River Guides and other business around Rupert Bay formed the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security (PAYS).

The boat boys are all PAYS members and are held accountable by the organization.  Once you have “contracted” with a boat boy, the others leave you alone.  The current president of PAYS, Jeffery (Sea Bird) began a Sunday night beach barbecue that costs $50EC and includes what we have heard is a very potent rum punch.  The money collected pays for regular night harbor patrols.

Our “boat boy” and Indian River Guide, Martin Carriere (Providence) was a real joy to meet.  We hope the PAYS concept spreads to the rest of the islands.

Providence VHF:16
767-345-2700 Cell

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Indian River

Dominica is noted for its heavily wooded rain forests.  More than a quarter of the island is protected by law.  The people of Dominica seem to want the tourists that come for their island’s unspoiled beauty and not the all inclusive resorts and casinos found on other islands. 

As you head up the Indian River, the water first becomes brackish and then fresh.  Early European sailors, including probably Columbus in a 1493, would proceed from Prince Rupert Bay up the River of the Indians to trade with the Caribs for fresh water, provisions, and wood.


The trip up the river in about 3 knots of current can only be made with a guide in a vessel with NO motor. 

Even with no motor, we spooked this heron.

Some of the other wild life was easier to get close to.

This blue back tern seemed to understand and liked to pose for pictures.

All along the river our guide and our cruise mates, Roger and Stephanie, were spotting interesting animals and plants.

The root system of the bwa mang tree provides a home for the marine creatures and protects the shore from erosion.

Some of the trees and their associated root system can get rather large.  This tree is estimated to be over 400 years old.

This flower is known as porcelain de rose.  To the touch it feels like plastic, but our guide assured us that they did not stock the forest with plastic flowers.

This flower is related to what we call the bird of paradise. 

Our trip up the river started at 6:30 AM and some of the flowers were not open until our return trip.

Martin, our guide, explained that by going early we would see more wildlife and there would be less traffic on the river.  He was right; however the bar at the head of the navigable part of the river was not open yet.  Breakfast would have been nice.

Our guide was always eager to share information and answer questions.

Breakfast turned out to be fresh coconut juice and a banana.

At the end of the tour, Martin presented the ladies with a parrot he quickly wove out of a palm branch he had cut. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Habitation Clement

No, Habitation Clement is not a golf course, even though its grounds are better manicured than most.  It is a sugar plantation and distillery.

Beyond the manicured area are acres of sugar cane and banana trees.

The plantation, Mahogany, was purchased by Homer Clement (born in Trinidad in 1852) in 1887 following the sugar crisis of 1880.  Homer Clement, a physician and politician, did not start producing Rhum Clement until 1917.  After Homer’s death in 1923 his son Charles Clement (1901 – 1973) continued operations and modernized the distillery.

Animal powered cane crusher

The distillery process for Rhum Clement has been moved into modern facilities, but the original equipment has been preserved and is on display throughout the grounds of Habitation Clement.

An impressive part of the display was the steam powered cane crusher that replaced the animal powered crusher.

After the pressure from the steam was used to power equipment, the heat from the steam was used in the distillation process.

Originally, cane from the fields was brought to the distillery via steam powered rail tractors.  Evidently, the cane must be quickly processed after harvest so as to retain the sugar content.

After World War II, the Marshall Plan introduced le GMC to replace the rail tractors.

The aging process in oak barrels was the only part of the process that was on the tour.  By Martinique standards, “old rum” must stay in the barrels at least 3 years.  Rhum Clement is aged for 3, 8 and 10 years.  The smell of alcohol in these buildings is very strong.  About 8% of the volume of the barrel is lost each year to evaporation through the oak and is replaced with rum of the same age. 

Today, the property is a heritage site and part of the Clement Foundation that supports contemporary art exhibits.  In 1991 the site was chosen to host the Presidents Francois Mitterrand and George Bush following the Gulf War.

And, they make some really good rum.