We were fortunate to be in Carriacou this weekend to witness the launch of Alwyn’s last classic sailing boat.
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!
Terry, Alwyn’s son, carries on the tradition with his cousin and we hope to see several more beautiful Carriacou sloops in the future.
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.
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.
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.
Rollers were put underneath where possible and the manual work began.
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.
Then the pushing began and it didn’t take long, with the help of the rising tide, to have her afloat.
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.
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.
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.