We set off today to visit Hillsborough the capital city of Carriacou. I needed to get an extension to both the boat and my own papers. We also wanted to visit the village of Windward.
As early as 1830's the landowners on Carriacou were upset about the ever rising cost of getting their goods to market, in particular to Grenada. So they they decided to just build their own boats and brought in ship wrights from Scotland to teach them how to do this on the beach at the village of Windward..
This started a tradition of boat building on Carriacou that continues to this day. It also explains the preponderance of McLawrence's, McFarlane, McIntosh's and other Scottish names in the village of Windward because as many a lass now knows the Scots are a lusty lot!
From 1830-1970 more boats were built on Carriacou than any of the other islands of the Lesser Antilles.
But when I was out cruising here in the 1990s the traditions of building on the beach with simple hand tools was just about dead although I was lucky enough to meet and watch the last master shipwright to build on the beach in Tyrrel Bay and took part in that amazing jamboree that is a Carriacou launch party.
But in 2003 Alexis Andrews commissioned Alwyn Enoe and his sons to build him a new Carriacou Sloop in Windward. For 18 months, they laboured on the vessel working on the beach, just as it had always been done and just like this one which we photographed today which is waiting for Alwyn to return and start planking or “boarding her up” as they say in Carriacou.
In March, 2005 Genesis was launched; the first beach built Carriacou sloop for more than 10 years.
Why am I rabbiting on about this, well I am in love the romance of the old working boats built with simple tools and sailed by those who wrested a living from or on the sea. Here in the West Indies locally built boats are still carrying freight mostly with engines nowadays but the tradition of building fast sail boats is alive and well, not to outrun the 'revenooers' any more but to beat the competition and earn the glory of being first past the post.
In Antigua in April we saw many of the Island boats being raced and in the Carriacou regatta this summer I saw just how far they would go to win. One boat was having its engine and propshaft removed and the hole faired over just for the race. Another was having a giant bowsprit fitted to carry a huge spinnaker borrowed from a passing cruising sailboat.
Genesis lost to Glacier and the owner was not too happy. So what controls boat speed? Well waterline length matters so what do you do.
In Carriacou you just add more waterline. Gisela and I were in the Tyrrel Bay boatyard checking that we can finally get a haulout date when we saw that Genesis was there on the hard, having it's stern extended and I was able to talk to Alwyn Enoe
about the traditions of boatbuilding in Carriacou and how his sons are learning the boatbuilding skills but today the tools are not just an axe and an adze anymore but a chainsaw is useful as well as some big disc sanders to speed thing along. Epoxy is being used to finish the seams not tar and I am sure carbon fibre will be on the agenda soon.