It’s a fact that St. Barth is the most très chic — and très chere — island in the Caribbean, so a lot of sailors foolishly assume you can’t enjoy it unless you own a mega yacht and your Wall Street firm was inundated with TARP funds last year. But we offer photographic evidence to prove otherwise.
Afrigan Queen IV, the 32-ft Block Island schooner you see in first photo, belongs to artist/musician David Wegman of St. John, USVI, Key West, Saratoga, New York, Bequia, St. Barth and Maine. But don’t get the impression that David’s Old Money. Or even Any Money. For Wegman — who dressed up as Aunt Jemima for Carnaval — not only built his own boat, but he outfitted her by diving into every dumpster he passed in the last 15 years. And when he started his long circumnavigation, he only had $450. "You really don’t need any more than that," he insists. (More on that in a May Latitude article titled ‘A Skinflint’s Guide to Circumnavigating the Recession’.)
Like a lot of folks without mega yachts, Wegman maintains an ‘everybody is always welcome’ policy on his boat. So for the Rosé Sunday Sail to Columbie, Afrigan Queen was overloaded with locals — plus the lovely ‘Pop Tart Twins’ from Algeria. They were of all ages, sexes and economic situations. And four or five other local boats either rafted up or anchored nearby to join the fun.
While Wegman’s yacht is not the cleanest or most tidy in the world, nobody minded. Besides, he did spread a nice Oriental rug — found in a dumpster, of course — on the deck, giving everyone a place to set the food and drinks they brought to share. Before long, the funky schooner Wegman cruises six months a year was crawling with kids, conversation and singing. It was, as they said, "like a beautiful day from old St. Barth."
The kids were the most active, of course, running around the boat and jumping in the water. When we pulled our camera out, most wanted to get in the picture, so they started jumping off the bowsprit. Bartians haven’t been infected by personal injury lawsuits yet, so kids tend to be more adventurous than their American counterparts. As such, it wasn’t long before Africa, the only 6th grade white girl we know named after the ‘Dark Continent’, was scrambling up the suspect ratlines and out on the even more suspect spreader of the schooner’s main mast. A mast, by the way, that was curved like a banana when Wegman found it abandoned in a culvert at Aolong Bay, Thailand, and then bent, using a footbridge, straight enough to use as his main mast the rest of his way around the world and ever since. When Africa made the 40-ft leap to the water and didn’t get killed — not even by a five-foot shark nipping at her heels — the adults got interested. First was Coco, a typically sleek French woman from the island. Then there was Axel, the owner of the 34-ft Magic Carpet who, not to be outdone by women and children, dove off the spreader.
It was right about this time that someone from Northern California needed to make a showing. It turned out to be Ira Epstein, who sailed into the small anchorage with his classic 65-ft wood ketch Lone Fox. To the shock and horror of the people on the 25 or so charter boats, Ira and his crew tacked and jibed his beautiful ketch through the crowded anchorage several times. To the folks on the 15 or so local boats, who all know Ira from his four winters of chartering out of St. Barths, and who hold dear such displays of sailing skill, it was cause for joyous cheers and applause. Once Lone Fox’s hook was down, Marius, a South African crewmember, hoisted himself to the first spreader and did a back flip to the water some 35 feet below.
All this was being observed up close by Rodney Pimentel, outgoing commodore of Alameda’s Encinal YC, his wife Jane, kids RJ and Leo, and fellow Cal 40 owners Steve and Clare Waterloo and their two kids. Having only been in the Caribbean with their Leopard 47 Azure II for about seven months, the Pimentels and their friends were content to jump from the height of the cat’s forward bowsprit. By the time the Pimentels make it to the Balearic Islands of Spain this summer, we have no doubt they’ll have the derring-do to be jumping, as a group, off the top of their mast.
It was a great day — and further proof that if you’re looking for la vie en rose, love is more important than money.
Have you been thinking of buying a small boat? Just want to learn to sail — or get your kids interested in it? Drop by Richmond YC tomorrow between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. for Sail a Small Boat Day. This nearly annual, free event is a great way to get your feet wet — sometimes literally, so bring a wetsuit and a change of clothes.
The Vancouver Sun reported yesterday that Tucson’s Keith Carver, 56, had wrecked his 40-ft ferrocement sailboat on Vancouver Island, and survived for five days by eating lichen before being rescued by a passing helicopter. The story goes that Carver and a buddy bought the boat in Anacortes last month with the intention of sailing to Mexico. They made it about 70 miles down the west coast of Washington before a winter storm blew them north. At some point, Carver’s buddy (who was not named in the article) apparently broke his arm, so the pair stopped in Tahsis in Nootka Sound — halfway up Vancouver Island, and well inland — so his friend could seek medical attention. Then Carver set out on his own, and made it as far as the Strait of Juan de Fuca before getting pounded by another storm. "This time he decided to seek shelter in Port Alice," the report notes. "But before he made it his boat started to fall apart. By Friday night his rudder was wrecked and he could no longer steer the vessel and he decided to abandon his boat." Carver wisely donned his wetsuit before leaving the boat, which undoubtedly saved his life as winter on Vancouver Island is anything but temperate.
This story raises a number of questions. First, it’s odd that any but the most experienced sailor would even think about sailing down the Washington and Oregon coasts in the winter. Not only is the prevailing wind from the south, but the chance of getting spanked — or worse — by a winter storm is almost guaranteed, so why would someone put themselves, their crew and their boat in such a high-risk situation unnecessarily? Secondly, when the sailors saw they were getting set too far north, why didn’t they just tuck into Barkley Sound, on the southwest end of Vancouver Island, and wait for a better window? Instead, they rode the weather to Nootka Sound, then traveled all the way up a long inlet to Tahsis. Then Carver repeated the adventure after heading out on his own, only this time ending up in Vancouver Island’s northern-most sound: Quatsino. But he didn’t hide out in one of the many anchorages in Quatsino; instead he continued all the way to Port Alice in weather rough enough to destroy his boat. Why? And the final bit of the puzzle is why Carver ate only lichen, a type of algae. We’re no survivalists, but it seems as if just about anything else on Vancouver Island — mollusks, for example — would be more edible than lichen.
Carver may very well have perfectly plausible answers to all of these questions, but since we don’t know them, we’ll take this opportunity to remind everyone — whether you’re sailing in the wilds of B.C. or in Southern California — always keep one eye on the weather when heading offshore, and have a ‘Plan B’ ready, just in case.
Power at Latitude 38 World Headquarters is scheduled to be out Monday morning, so if you try to call and the phones are down, or you don’t get a response to an email, or if ‘Lectronic isn’t posted in as timely a manner as usual — ha! — please be patient. PG&E promises to have us ‘lectrified again before noon.