History In The Making

We were fortunate to be in Carriacou this weekend to witness the launch of Alwyn’s last classic sailing boat.

Just The Beginning ...

It was lucky it was 4 months later than first planned, otherwise we would have missed it! We last saw her in July when she was just a frame on the beach but yesterday she was ready for the water and it was time for the island to celebrate. Several of us from Tyrrel Bay hired a large taxi-bus to Windward to watch the event.

Alwyn is somewhere near 70 years old and has built boats on the beaches of the island for decades. ‘Jambalaya’ is one of them, at 73 feet long but this last boat is just over 40 feet and Alwyn intends to keep her unless a ‘heavy cheque’ is presented!

'Exodus' - Ready For The Water

Terry, Alwyn’s son, carries on the tradition with his cousin and we hope to see several more beautiful Carriacou sloops in the future.

Bloodstained Foredeck

Hundreds of people turned up to party all day, which started with a blessing and sacrifice of a goat on the foredeck. Bit gory to see the dark blood on the white painted deck but it is their tradition. A bottle of wine was broken on the stern and rum was also liberally sprinkled on the boat, newly named ‘Exodus’ but a lot more was liberally poured into the crowd by themselves! One of the songs was ‘Bring Back My Bonnie To Me’, a reminder of the island’s Scottish ancestry. There are countless ‘Mc’s in the graveyard.

Choir, Musicians and Crowd Celebrate The Launch

A huge anchor was taken off the beach a hundred metres, lines and pulleys were led back from it, onto the beach and attached to the boat.

Taking The Anchor Out

There were wooden posts on the port hull supporting the boat and these were chopped back on each of their sides at the bottom, shortening them bit by bit, not always in a particularly co-ordinated fashion, until Exodus was lying on a long plank on her side.

Alwyn Starts The Launch Process

Rollers were put underneath where possible and the manual work began.

No Machinery Here!

One rope held the stern to stop her sliding down the beach but another was pulled by the crowd in order to start moving her towards the sea.

There were a few heart stopping moments when the boat seemed to fall slightly but no damage was done and the tugging continued until she was near the water.

Heave, Heave!

Then the pushing began and it didn’t take long, with the help of the rising tide, to have her afloat.

Still On Her Side Being Pushed Into The Sea

The family kindly provided hot lunch and lots of drink – it was a memorable day and we were extremely privileged to be part of it.

Nearly There!

Next week the mast will be manoeuvred into position with the help of a larger boat and she will be ready to go to the Antigua Classics Week. If she is sold, then Alwyn says his son and nephew will build him another! The inside needs fitting out and there isn’t an engine as this is being left for another owner to put in. The paintwork is beautiful and was barely scratched during the launch.

Classic Paintwork

Exodus bobbed about happily on her mooring and Alwyn didn’t even bother to check if she was leaking or not. He said he was confident. Local children swam out and scrambled all over her – she is already a part of the community.

Finally Afloat - Where She Belongs

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2 Responses to History In The Making

  1. Liz Rafferty says:

    thanks for the pictures of the launch. We have been watching the build of this ship since the Vanishing Sail site was ‘launched’ . We were hoping to get there for the great day but sadly not to be. I am a volunteer at the National Museum, and the history of these wonderful work boats is long and amazing. The amount of these boats that were launched from 1780 to 1830 outstrips most if not all of the other islands in the Caribbean. Fair sweet winds to Alwyn and his boys, and lads make sure you continue for as many years as your father has before you.
    God bless and all the best to you all in Antigua. Liz

  2. Rhian says:

    Sorry you weren’t there Liz – it was a memorable day and wonderful to see Alwyn and his family enjoying the celebrations.

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