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GLI GLI Leeward Island Expedtion
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Daily reports from onboard GLI GLI

Download the GLI GLI Booklet

News Links from all over the Caribbean during the Expedition

The Caribs of the Islands by Neil Whitehead

Words of Support by Dr. Maximilian C. Forte

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May 13
Nevis to St. Barth
An early start for real this time. With help from one of our new support boats bigger dinghy we manage to clear Oualie beach before the sun came over Hurricane Hill. Gli Gli now heads a fleet. W sail off across the Narrows towards Boobie Rock, with good wind and racy seas. Our followers not too far behind, proceed with caution; there are lots of coral heads in this area. Soon we are clear of the shallows and Nevis starts to fade into the haze. We run the coast of St. Kitts, slowly pulling northward toward St Barth. It is during the next few hours that we have our roughest sail so far. There is a degree of tension on the boat. Mostly from disgruntlement at having to stop and wait for Fiddlers to catch up so our lunch can be delivered, it wasn’t ready before we left at dawn. It’s a practical stop but means we are washing around in some increasing swells.

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.

May 12
We get up early-ish to take advantage of the Saturday market. It is our last good chance to get fresh home grown food for a while. The fruits are in abundance and we even manage to get some of the federation’s famous Sarsaparilla drink. Our hosts have decided to come with us. Gli Gli’s magnetism takes effect again. Hazel Brooks from the St. Christopher Heritage Society and Greg of the Safari tours, both decide to take a trip on the Gli Gli. We had been blessed by Hazels hard work in coordinating our visit. She raised the people of St. Kitts to give us a great time in their country so it made perfect sense to give her a short but sweet sail in Gli Gli. Likewise for Greg, who has become a great new friend, with many shared interests in Caribbean cultural and historical issues.

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.

A 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.

Our friends at the Oulie beach resort, true to their word, arranged a spectacular performance of the traditional Nevisian dancers. A group of young men dressed to the max in bright costumes, flying ribbons, masks and massive peacock feather head dresses, performed to beat of the drum ancient dances that clearly mix pre-Columbian, African and European traditions. It was a fitting and fun send off to a very successful visit to the Federation.

May 11
Island Tour of St. Kitts
We all converge back at The Fiddlers Green for a fruitful breakfast. Tales of the town from the night before are told. Today we are being hosted on an island tour by Greg Pereira. Greg is a white Kittian of Portuguese descent whose family goes way back in St. Kitts history. It turns out he is a walking archive of information, love and enthusiasm for his country. We pile on to his jungle painted tour bus and are within minutes taken past a once sacred burial ground of the Carib people. A Holiday Inn was built on top of it at some point in the 70s, stirring the spirits to cast doom on the now semi-derelict concrete box. The tone of our day is set: we seem to have been called on a quest to contact and revere the Pre-Columbian ancestral spirits of the island.

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.

It 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
in 2000, he elected to hold another shorter ceremony of remembrance for the fallen. He dedicated the ceremony to Prince Hamlet, one of the original crew members of the Gli Gli project who past away a few years ago. With a burning wand of scented grass two beautiful Carib songs were sung. Touki and Aman-Biami, both songs where sung to call the Great Spirit. I think he came. After the songs we had a minute’s silence.

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.

May 10
Nevis to St. Kitts

The de-beaching process is smooth. Gli Gli is the master boat for that. She is loaded to the brim with tents, bedding and the Carib crew, who row everything back out to Fiddlers Green, to prepare for a mid morning departure to St Kitts.

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 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.

May 9
Oualie Beach, Nevis

Our plan seems to be working. A day of sailing followed by a day of social commitments and presentations, then followed by a day for crew to relax and explore. Today was relaxed for sure. We are at a very mellow,low key, high standard beach resort. Gli Gli is pulled up on the perfect white sand beach, the crew camping a few yards away, washing (in showers!)and enjoying free breakfasts. Ti-Boy has to go to the dentist ....poor guy, he takes out not one but two teeth one time. Luckily I have some pain killers for him. Our finances are holding-we sold a good amount of t-shirts and crafts yesterday....but the dentist is a good reminder how money c an move. -$100 ec per tooth. Gli Gli has to cover as social security and medical aid all at once.

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.

On 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 much the same way as has happened in Chouisel in St fact the head lady of the pottery is
friends with our close potter friend in St Lucia, Irene Alphonse. They met at a ceramic show in Belgium and keep in touch.

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.

There is a contented calm at our beach camp that night. No drumming and an early night for most. We leave for St. Kitts tomorrow.

May 8

Waking up in Nevis

Light showers and grey sky. The mountain in the clouds looming over sweet Charlestown. Busy, these days. I reflected on the night I spent here on the old wooden fruit boat “Faithful Councilor” 12 years…on my return trip from having met Jacob in Dominica and set the Gli Gli project in motion, by deciding to build a canoe together. Gli Gli was safe, tied to the wharf. An early crowd had gathered to see the canoe. The majority of the crew slept in the heritage society yard in tents or some on the floor of the museum.

It was a moving sight to see sleeping Caribs on the floor of a museum full of Carib artifacts and images. A living display of a people who are not as extinct as history seems to want them to be. The days focus was a presentation at the cultural centre to the school children of Nevis. The Gli Gli crew took the stage well: the first experience of being regional celebs for some of the crew. Paulinus gave another excellent speech. Encouraging the children from the 12 schools present to double check their history books and not always believe what you read. It is time for a serious re-evaluation of the Caribbean curriculum. A musical performance shook the hall and went down very well with the enthused kids. Again the BBC film captured their imagination, teaching and getting fits of laughter at the same time.

Paulinus and Johnny made a new friend…a Carib called Teach who was born in Bataka, but has lived in Nevis for nearly 30 years. Teach has a quality Taxi business and he has taken us on to chauffer our stay. From the school talk, we are whisked away in the tinted window bus to our next appointment, a lunch at the Patio, hosted by the Nevis Tourist Board. What a roll we are on. After lunch some of the crew take the ride North with Teach to set up camp at our next stop, Oualie beach. Others stay in town a while checking the Nelson museum.

After extra provisioning is done (Nevis honey! As well as provisions and fruit from the Dominica boat that is in town that day), we make our move to load up Gli Gli and Fiddlers Green to sail down the coast to meet the Oualie camp. John Gilbert and a Nevis news cameraman sail on the Fiddlers. It is a beautiful sun set sail that took longer than we thought due to the strong head current that runs between Nevis and St Kitts.Gli Gli lands at Oualie in the dark. Oualie is the old Carib name for Nevis. It means land of sweet waters. The good energy keeps rolling and the Oualie Beach Resort owners Alister and John,(two white Nevisian brothers) take us in with a free dinner and rooms!! Luxury. Gli Gli crew feels blessed and overwhelmed by Nevis hospitality. The day ends in drummed up revelry. The Gli Gli band, Papa Merlin on the banjo spread the spirit away with the magic of the Carib drum.

May 7
Crossing to Nevis

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.

Nevis is not in sight today....we can see a shimmer of Montserrat.
When the Fiddlers Green rejoins us there is flurry of photo/film activity. She is under full sail for the first time and close enough to Gli Gli to get the classic together shots in great light and easy seas. As the morning moves on we leave her behind and set our course into the volcanic haze...using our compass. Numerous times we think we can see Nevis....but the clouds and sunlight play tricks on salty eyes.

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.

What 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" Caribs.

After getting through the clearance procedures, night falls and we are suddenly on stage at the Nevis Historical society. John Gilbert our very gracious host had publicized an evening event for 50 people he fact nearly 300 turn out. Paulinus captivated the audience with the Gli Gli message. A message to be spread through out the voyage....that Carib/Kalinago people need more respect and recognition for their roll as the foundational root of present day Caribbean culture. The crew drummers, amazingly unfazed by the sudden spot light play a full on selection of Carib and Creole songs sending a few people dancing in the awe-struck crowd.

After the presentations and performances we show the Gli Gli 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.

A great and exhausting first day...ends with a feast(Chinese!) in the museum...and we set up camp in the shaded yard.

May 6

Dawn departure……well not quite. Last loading, spare bamboo sprits and mast. Chicken cage cleaned and hoisted aboard. New crew, Jane Coombs, the lady behind the Classics regatta, has decided to come with us…cool.

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.

May 5th

Day before our departure….final Gli Gli painting and Fiddlers Green provisioning. Last school visits from the children of Island Academy. All very happy and excited to meet the Carib crew and ask some intelligent questions to Chalo and Aragorn. They were very generous to raise $350 EC to help our provisioning efforts. Gli Gli crew starting to focus …and we all agree to go to bed early, after some serious late night activity in the Nelsons dock yard! People sleeping every where on the Fiddlers Green. ….hammocks and mats all over the place, under the shelter of tarps.

Final provisioning done….alot of good Antigua ground food including Cassava to make some bread along the way. A good evening meeting and supper allows for some reflection time and mental preparation. Our mission is set ….our Antigua time up. We made a lot of friends here having had Gli Gli in the dock yard for over a year. We had a little thank you and good bye party for them the night before. Nothing would have been possible around here with out the massive generosity and excellent connectivity of Nancy Nicholson, who has taken on the passion of her father the late Desmond Nicholson for things Carib.

Gli Gli had become a major attraction and source of curiosity. The Carib mystic has inescapable powers of attraction . Gli Gli and the crew have done great things to awaken awareness in Antigua of the Carib culture….both amoungst the local Antiguan , the yachty crowd and the Carib descendents that live in Antigua. A quiet group of Caribs (mainly girls to see Johnny!) originally from Salybia came out to hail up the crew and say good by. It has been a fun time here…with great memories and positive achievements. Seeing Gli Gli sail amoungst the most awesome Classic yachts of the world being one of the strongest.