After lunch the down wind run gets a bit nasty with some near-swampings. Nothing drastic, but a clear reminder that this is Gli Gli’s weakest point of sail. Chalo in his wisdom suggests we shorten sail by reefing in at the top of the Vegg (bamboo sprit). We down sail and tie the top clue lower. It’s the first time we have shortened sail this way and it makes a great difference. The height of the sprit is what makes the canoe roll so dangerously. Lowering it even just 3 feet, made everything much more manageable. Bravo Chalo.
St. Barth takes a long time to show itself. We spend the middle part of the crossing shooting film and stills off the Rush of Gli Gli and Fiddlers sailing together, some risky maneuvers moving thousands of dollars worth of camera gear between boats in big swells. There is a thick haze, coming from Africa, we find out later, not Montserrat as we thought. The seas do ease and we settle in to a hot, relaxed afternoon passage. Eventually reach the windward point of St Barth, were we catch our first Bonito of the trip. Again we must wait for Mumma as Fiddlers is called. This time to collect drums and our Carib girl crew for our arrival in Gustavia. As we glide down the coast of St Barth we are watched by flocks of Tropic birds, fittingly stylish birds for this sophisticated and elegant island.
We are soon accompanied by some other sailing dinghies, power boats, and kayaks that delight in guiding us in to the significant crowd that awaits us on the cay side in front of the Hotel de Ville. Lulu and Jenny Magras our good friends are there as well as Raymond, Lulus brother and Daniel Blanchard our official host (two ex-mayors!) and the current mayor. Basically all the dignitaries of St Barth!! It was a relief to be on land after a long day in hot sun. Creole ce langaj ici. So conversation is lively and the Gli Gli crew happy to be amongst friendly tongues. We are given an informal reception, under tents set up by Club UNESCO. The Mayor greets us and drinks are served. Daniel briefs us on the plan. He has arranged accommodation at the municipal visitors lodge in L’orient and has been kind enough to hire a mini van for our transportation. We are all fairly wiped out so the Carib crew and a few support crew all head for our well appointed accommodation. Bunk beds, showers, a fridge full of drinks and take away pizza. Fiddlers spends a rolling night on the water front, Gli Gli tied alongside, catching the attention of the promenading crowd until late in the night.
We left around mid day tacking up towards the Nags Head. It was a hell of a beat, so after a while, for the sake of schedule we opted for a tow. Our plan was to stock up on fresh fish by diving off the Nag. A plan that didn’t come to much more than a few lobsters and some conch. A good size grouper broke my spear early on in the session. Oh well, enough food for our lunch on Gli Gli tomorrow.
new twist to our adventure: our friends from Antigua, Phil and Julie
on RUSH (Rest Until Something Happens!) have caught us up as planned,
and have bought with them 2 other boats, with more good folk to join
the expedition. A flotilla is formed and we head back to Oualie at sunset
to prepare for the biggest crossing so far to St. Barth tomorrow.
We stop at Bloody Point and connect with a large group of school children and their teachers. From here we proceed on foot up the dry bed of Bloody River by now a large group of maybe 50 or more souls from all over the world. At the core is the Carib crew of the Gli Gli with drums, incense and a powerful message of love for their fallen ancestors. It was at this site that the last remaining Kalinago Caribs of St. Kitts were cornered and massacred by a joint British and French force. One can understand why they had gathered here. The steep sided canyon offers a reassuring sense of security, but more importantly it is the site of one of the biggest petroglyph displays in the Caribbean. The walls of this some times gushing river ravine are layered with what must be generations of rock carvings: mostly facial forms of various descriptions. Greg suggests a variety of interpretations. Bat faces seem to be a common theme. For the Caribs the dead are believed to become bats, and there would clearly be an abundance of them coming here in the dry season to drink the river waters and revel in the intoxicating pollen of the Silk Cotton or Ceiba trees that inhabit the area. A gathering point for the living and the dead, a timeless sanctuary for refuge. Tragically an inescapable trap.
was a slaughter of thousands: men, women and children. At the Carifest
of 2000, a mixed group of Amerindians from Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad
and Dominica had performed a night long ceremony here to turn the tragedy
of Blood River into a place of positive energy for the indigenous people
of the region. A place of memorial and sanctity, but a place to draw
strength not for vengeance but for atonement and love for all beings.
Since Johhny had been present at that important ritual
The magic saturated every one and lightness filled the air. The spirits spoke their thanks through bird song.
The energy in the air was good and the group returned to road to eat fresh sour sop and water melon.
Our next stop was to the site of the last Carib chief of St Kitts camp. It has been a sugar estate since and now operates as a batik fabric studio. A huge Saman tree dominates the site, which created a perfect place for our picnic lunch. A tragic accident occurred after lunch. The bus ran over Paulinus’ drum. A sad moment, but thankfully fixable.
Our next stop on Gregs quality tour is to Brimimstone Hill, a massive British military installation on top of a huge protrusion of lime stone. A tight road for his bus but we make it through to the top, where a massive fort commands a view of St Kitts southern and Leeward shore.
After a brief orientation film the crew spread out to explore the ramparts. Our most interesting discovery, shown to us by a fort guide, was boxes of bones that had been excavated at Bloody River. It was a strange feeling for the Carib’s to be holding the bones of those they had just revered in ritual that same morning. Paulinus made a serious, though unofficial request that their bones be re-interned with due ceremony and a monument be placed for the people to recognize their deaths.
On returning to town we were all contemplative of the moving experiences of the day. A quite night for most to prepare for our return to Nevis tomorrow.
We are taking with us our host John Gilbert. His positive energy fits right in to the Gli Gli expedition and he has magnetized perfectly with our purpose. There is a strong breeze, so we blow over to Nags head St. Kitts under lateen, or 1/2 sail. It is still very gusty once in the lee of the head so we cruise down the flat waters to Basseterre with caution. We only put up our grand voile as we reach Port Zante. We had expected some press and our hosts from the St Christopher heritage society.....but nothing like the hundreds of screaming school children that greeted us as we came around the sea wall. Again the Gli Gli achieves instant celebrity status....and the next hour is spent in a melee of radio and TV interviews and photo shoots.....in the midday heat of shadeless concrete Port Zante ! Our new host Hazel Brooks soon realizes our needs and we are happy to be lead into the cool AC of the museum for a refreshing drink, re group and planning session.
The afternoon is used to relax in our state provided accommodation, the east Basseterre Community Centre. We are then put in the spot light again for an evening performance and film showing at the Old Customs building/Museum. A great evening ensues.....with a large standing crowd gathered to the hear Paulinus' positive speech, the power of the drums....and then the magic of documented history in the Gli Gli film. It is a helpful night for fund raising and craft sales are plenty.
We are all very tired....some get lost on the way back to the centre....a few of the support crew search the town for late night action, with limited results. Gli Gli is tied safely in the marina and our first day in St. Kitts feels blessed. Our plan for tomorrow is an extensive island tour to the pre Columbian petroglyph sites to reconnect with the spirits of the ancestors.
The plan today is to take out our hosts for a sail: John Gilbert and his friend Steve (a switched on Nevisian media man) plus a local camera man and his son. We take a flying sail across to Turtle beach in St Kitts. Great breeze and plenty of thrill for our guests. It takes a long time to get in as we get dragged down in the strong current of the narrows.
arrival Steve has the good inspiration to take some of us to the pottery
collective a few bays around the coast. I have always wanted to meet
the ladies here but have always found them closed on other trip. here.
Nevisian ladies of African decent are making pure pre-Columbian style
pottery by working as a collective. They are keeping techniques alive
that have not changed in 5000 years. A very sound example of Carib or
even pre Carib cultural skills being transferred to the current inhabitants
of the land....in much the same way as has happened in Chouisel in St
Lucia......in fact the head lady of the pottery is
On our way back to Oualoie ,we stop at a snack bar, to be served lunch by a Carib woman who’s family as lived on Nevis as far back as she knows. A rare find ....Paulinus is visibly excited to make this kind of contact. Even on this kind of one to one level the reconnecting of Carib people through out the region has a lot of impact in individual's lives.
Back in Oualie, we meet Teach, our other Carib contact in Nevis. He is offering an island tour for the larger part of the afternoon. He takes us to see some of the old plantations that have been restored as small hotels. These beautiful buildings....though once bastions of a sordid slave plantation system, do now exude an atmosphere of peace and tranquility...that is some how representative of present day Nevis. We return late.
is a contented calm at our beach camp that night. No drumming and an
early night for most. We leave for St. Kitts tomorrow.
A quiet and efficient early start onboard the Fiddlers. Gli Gli lunch set up....smoked herring, rice and pumpkin. We set off as the sun rises over Antigua, with gentle breezes and flat seas. After a short sail to the Five islands we wait for the mother ship to catch up. We float off the peaceful rocks listening to the suspicious terns and frigate bird. Calm contemplation on board.
is not in sight today....we can see a shimmer of Montserrat.
After lunch the breeze strengthens as a squall passes south of us. A water spout starts to form, causing Chalo considerable alarm as he is the only one to have experienced one at sea before. A quick lesson is spread about the crew as to what to do......basically run from it like hell in any direction, or if it is a certain hit to take down the mast and lie low in the canoe. Thankfully it does not fully form and we enjoy the breeze it brings. A short lived burst of speed, which slows to a light puffs by time we sight Nevis. Time is running and our 4 o'clock arrival time is looking hard to make. Eventually for the sake of timing we decide to take a tow from Fiddlers for an hour. Within easy reach of Nevis we get back on board for a beautiful down wind sunset sail into Charlestown. We mustn’t mix sailing schedules with social appointments again.
a greeting.....100's of people line the dock. Some have been waiting
all afternoon. The waterfront was alive with press and happy faces.
A mad pipe blower heralding us with true bugle sounds made from a PVC
pipe. All buzzing with excitement ...and keen to see "real"
the presentations and performances we show the Gli Gli film....it is
by seeing the history and hard work it took to make Gli Gli that the
real appreciation of Gli Gli's crew sets in.....and we are taken into
the hearts of the Nevis people.
We row Gli Gli out to the harbour mouth, with Fiddlers chugging behind, as they hoist their sails. Our camera crew positioned on the sea wall for the symbolic departure shot as we sail out. Beautiful clear day, light breeze from the east . Gli Gli happy to be sailing on to some where else again. Chalo at the helm and cool confidence in the crew. Sweet down wind sail along the south coast of Antigua. We catch a little mackerel and then stop in the beautiful shallows off Cades reef to look for more fish. Not much around and sadly a dying reef. It must have been a bountiful source of food for the pre Columbian communities on shore in it glory days. We imagined the canoes paddling out to the fishing grounds. The fishing trip allowed our “mama” the Fiddlers Green to catch up a bit. We then cruised up to Five Islands together with clean winds and flat seas. A perfect first day, with no hitches…..except the prolonged and expensive (though good spirited) clearance procedures at Jolly Harbour. The first night of crew camping on shore worked well.