Pink Power

Category : Caribbean islands, Racing

As Pink Lady approached the final finish line of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, skipper Kirsty Morrison announced their arrival on the VHF, “Committee boat, committee boat, Pink Lady. We are about to cross the finish line.”

A chuckling, pleased voice responded, “Girls…girls… girls! Welcome back!” Pink Lady, with a rail of ladies hooting and saluting, crossed the line receiving a one-gun salute for their over the top performance.

The 37 foot Carriacou sloop did not win, didn’t even place but it finished vivaciously with grace and aplomb despite a string of obstacles.

Morrison hatched the pink plan after sailing in the 2007 Classic Regatta where she fell head-over-heels for the Carriacou built boats. Smitten with their color and tradition she set out to buy or build one that would be perfectly painted for an all-female crew.

Some time later she was on charter in the Grenadines she spotted her dreamboat anchored off Palm Island and inquired about it’s availability. It wasn’t for sale, lease or charter but after a relentless email campaign, Morrison wore down the resistance of owner Robert Barrett who agreed to let her sail it to Antigua for the race.

The boat, built in 1975 to fish, had a few major issues which to Kirsty were no problem. She had it hauled in Carriacou for bottom work, snagged some sails in Bequia (retro-fitted with traditional PVC pipe battens) then sailed to St. Vincent where a new engine was installed.

Good to go, Morrison and a small but brave crew set off into fierce weather that battered them all the way to Falmouth Harbor. The next storm threat occurred in the customs office when she was asked to produce the ship’s papers. She had a copy of the owners bill of sale but since the boat had never been registered, there would be a problem completing the official forms. A chief officer was summoned; he did a bit of head shaking then picked up a pen and filled in the registration number…. 00000.

During Morrison’s voyage down the pink path, many invitations were sent to sailing girl-friends but who would actually show remained a mystery until the night before the first race. Team Pink, an international crew of 10, eagerly jumped onboard attired in a uniform of matching bikinis, mini skirts and Pink Lady/Palm Island T’s. Tying the eye-catching ensemble together were hot pink hats that quickly became collector’s items, some fetching impressive sums of money.

On the second day of racing a magenta Sharpie appeared, the tool that would emblazon crew shirts with nicknames like Scary Mary, Psycho Betty, Killer B, Thirsty Kirsty and Typsy Gypsy. The rain that day artistically ran the ink creating a mean, tough font.

On the racecourse the pink-on-pink boat couldn’t help but catch the eye of the curious and every camera lens. What the ladies lacked in clothing was made up for with high spirited enthusiasm that infected the entire fleet. Vessels sailed out of their way to cross paths with Pink Lady, offering shouts of gratitude and whistles of affection. So respected was Pink Lady that several large yachts ducked under the boat rather than steal her air.

Ashore, wearing a Pink Lady hat became a benefit, a key that opened doors to many a party and celebration. A hat produced compliments, beverages, dinners and a constant flow of smiles. Onboard, many discussions centered around the shore side largesse and privileges creating the need for a crew pact. Silence, the ladies realized, would be impossible so they all agreed that, “What Happens on Pink Lady, Stays There!”

As Pink Lady approached the final finish line of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, skipper Kirsty Morrison announced their arrival on the VHF, “Committee boat, committee boat, Pink Lady. We are about to cross the finish line.”

Hope Spreads Like Honey

Category : Caribbean islands, sailing

On election night at the British Virgin Island’s tiny Jost Van Dyke, a large crowd assembled at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar. Huddled anxiously around a big screen hauled from his house for the momentous event, the raucous group was loaded with opinion and sharing freely. Everyone there, for that special night, was a polished, political analyst. Obama shirts were the unofficial dress code; hope, the sanctioned mood. When the polls finally closed at 1:00 a.m., Eastern Caribbean Time, the place went berserk . Drinks flowed and spilled as a high-fiving, back-slapping, hugging, kissing, dancing euphoria hit. Tears ran down every face. So much excitement on an island with little more than tourism to tie it to America.

Now nearby in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a similar scene unfolded. The Virgin Islands are a US protectorate; it’s citizens can receive certain national benefits but can not take part in an election. Bars, packed with televisions and wanna-be voters, spilled their throngs into streets that took on the energy of a full-on carnival. The celebrating never stopped and the next day, November 5th was sanctioned as “Obama Day.” Small festivities erupted, long held emotions poured out and the students of St. John’s Julius Sprauve School took the opportunity to strut their patriotic stuff. Their student body, kindergartners to 8th grade, left their ball field and headed to town for an impromptu Barack Obama parade. Dressed in school uniforms they marched through Cruz Bay with hand-made signs, banners, hats and portraits, cheering and chanting the name of their next president. Smiling and tearful onlookers cheered back.

A bit farther from the United States on the Dutch/French Island of St. Marten, signs of jubilation were still present two weeks after the vote. May’s Super Center ran a newspaper ad proclaiming, “Celebrating President Obama, 30% off Store Wide Sale!” alongside a photo of the new first family. Their customers could enjoy new curtains, comforters, large or small appliances along with the chance for change. Locals wore his image on an eclectic array of t-shirt styles and it was impossible to walk a block without overhearing his name even through the complicated ensemble of languages found on that melting pot of an island. When Obama wasn’t a spoken word , it was sung by one or another of the Caribbean’s most noted stars. Cocoa Tea’s election lyrics begin, “Well this is not about class, not for da race nor creed, make no mistake it’s the changes, what all da people dem need. Let me shout out…Barack Obama, Barack Obama…” and on it goes with a hip-whining reggae tune.

But the biggest surprise we just encountered in our two week, 7 island tour came in Antigua, well known for it’s own political history. For close to fifty years the island was run by the Bird family. First by V.C. Bird, known as the Father of the Country (or Daddy Bird,) and later by his son, Lester Bird (aka Baby Bird.) Now, the elder Bird was well loved and respected but adoration for his son carried a two-sided blade. Bruce has jokingly painted signs in his Antigua paintings that read “Lester love Antigua,” but some locals would say, “Lester love Lester.”

V.C. Bird looking pretty spiffy these days.

In the capital of St. Johns, a pretty hefty statue of V.C. Bird was erected that for years sat in all it’s concrete glory until the elements turned it a nasty shade of green. Much money and time was spent power-washing Mr. Bird until some serious paint spruced him up to his present day image. Good thing, as he’s got some modern day competition.

Without consulting his people, Antigua’s Prime Minister changed the name of the island’s highest mountain from Boggy Peak to Mt. Obama. Signs throughout the island proclaim, “Antigua for Obama!” and t-shirts are flying off the presses with the man’s smiling face surrounded by the words, “Antigua Love Obama.” Everywhere we went, all we talked to were upbeat, hopeful, looking for a change. On a local bus the driver and I chatted about the election. A lady seated behind me joined in saying, “See dis?” She held up the book, The Audacity of Hope and said, “I read it whon day. Dis man vary smart. I hope he can change dis world. I hope he is de change we need.”

Yes, mon. We hope so, too.


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