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February 6, 2008

Carnival, French Creole Style

During the troupe’s first pass through Gustavia in the afternoon, the crowds were relatively thin and sober. That would change by evening.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

No two Carnivals are the same. Even though Carnival historically begins 12 days after Christmas and ends on Mardi Gras, which is the day before Ash Wednesday, not everyone keeps with this tradition. On St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgins, for example, they’re celebrating the final day of Carnival on April 26 this year. Most everywhere else, the big Mardi Gras celebration was yesterday, although in the French Islands, the fun doesn’t end until Vaval is burned tonight.

While Carnival is important in most of Europe except the United Kingdom, as well as much of Latin America and the Caribbean, the size of the celebrations vary tremendously. The most famous Mardi Gras blowout is in Rio, of course, which goes on intensely for three days and draws millions of people. Other big ones are in Venice, Trinidad and New Orleans. Interestingly, you can sail to all three.

About 15 years ago, we sailed down to Port of Spain for the Trini Mardi Gras, and had a great time. The Trinis are intense about Carnival, and invest great amounts of time and money in their music, costumes and routines. Some of the big troops might include hundreds of spectacularly dressed dancers and/or pan musicians, and hundreds of thousands of people participate in one way or the other.

This year we happened to be in St. Barth for Carnival, where the celebrations couldn’t begin to match the ones at Rio, Venice and Trinidad. But like the island, Carnival here was small, safe and intimate. Even if you just got here, it was like having a big party with friends. The following are a selection of photos to show what it looked like.

Singlehander Finds Calmer Seas

In last Friday’s ‘Lectronic, we reported that singlehander Robert Botha, who’d left the Bay on January 9 aboard his Alberg 30 Flyer bound for his native New Zealand, was having a tough time dealing with heavy weather in the middle of the Pacific after his windvane broke. We’re happy to report that the bungee cord jury rig Botha set up successfully steered Flyer to calmer waters and he’s still on course for the Marquesas. "Been resting," he wrote in an email to his wife Lydia. "Boat is charging along — warm night, gentle sea & a clear sky completely filled with stars. So amazing."

Groupama 3 Losing Breeze, Maybe Lead

Franck Cammas and the rest of the 10-man crew aboard Groupama 3 are at risk of losing the southern ocean front they’ve been riding and the lead they’ve built in their Jules Verne Record attempt. Due to a series of weather-induced jibes in the South Atlantic, Groupama 3 has only gained about two-and-a-half hours on Orange II‘s 2005 record pace since the equator. Now the team is faced with an unfavorable forecast and the likelihood that within the next two days, they will lose up to as much as a day-and-a-half against Orange II‘s pace.

"A high pressure system is climbing up on us!" Cammas relayed over the satphone. "We won’t have enough speed to get ahead of it . . ."

A depression to the west of the St. Helena High has forced the high in a southeasterly direction toward Groupama 3, threatening to smother the 105-ft trimaran with an area of little breeze, while simultaneously pushing away the front they’ve been riding. Cammas and navigator Yves Parlier have elected to sail a more northerly route — they’re currently sailing just north of 40° S and just past the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope — in order to avoid the large seas and their undesirable angle to Groupama 3‘s south.

"Groupama 3 is rather quick in the light airs and the medium wind, and in the Atlantic we can play with the pressure and get close to the calm zones, but in the South, we’ll be better off seeking out the downwind conditions with a good sea state," Cammas said. "We won’t stop ourselves from going into the strong wind but it will have to be well oriented."

Groupama 3 reportedly cannot be driven as hard as the 125-ft catamaran Orange II in large waves. While Cammas did not allude to it, the possibility of icebergs, which Thomas Coville encountered at 48° S aboard his 105-ft trimaran Sodeb’O during his recently aborted solo record attempt, could also be weighing on the minds of Cammas and Parlier.

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Easy-Going Retirement Is in the Past

Wait a minute, Dan and Carol don’t seem to be in the Delta in this photo. And doesn’t that look like a Gemini catamaran behind them.

© 2008 Al Pagel

"Retired life was easy-going and good," write Northern Californians Dan and Carol Seifers, "and we were enjoying sailing our Gemini 105 catamaran in the Bay and Delta. But in September of ’06, while cruising home from the Delta with fellow members of the Richmond YC, a little thing happened that has changed our lives. While tied up at the Rio Vista Marina, we saw a Seawind 1000 catamaran with a sign in the window denoting the owner’s years of adventures with her: taking delivery in Australia, sailing to New Zealand, then the islands of Polynesia, Hawaii, and so forth.

A Seawind catamaran. You don’t suppose this could be Dan and Carol’s?

© 2008 Al Pagel

"Wham! All of a sudden Carol started thinking about the possibility of buying a new catamaran to tour the South Pacific. In fact, she became obsessed with the idea. After returning home, she spent hours researching catamarans on the internet, and shoved articles about sailing in the South Pacific under my nose. There was no stopping her now, as she was hooked on buying a Seawind 1160 built in Australia."

We’re sure of it now, this is the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, not Fisherman’s Cut in the Delta. So the couple indeed went ahead with their capricious plan. More in the March issue of Latitude.

© 2008 Al Pagel
We’re saddened to report that Alameda-based cruiser John Long, 78, was found dead in Puerto Madero, Mexico — just north of the Guatemalan border — on Saturday.
Mike, legally a parapalegic, unsnarls his chute off St. Barth about a week ago when he still had 1,100 miles to go in order to complete Wanderlust 3’s circumnavigation.
The SF-based Beneteau 42 Cirque got off to a good start but, like others, struggled to maintain position in the light air.