Sunday, April 20, 2008

What a crazy few months.....

Two months ago today I arrived on the little island of Carriacou to meet with the famous traditional Caribbean boat builder Alwyn Enoe for the second time. Back in November I had commissioned the build of one of his amazing sloops after being inspired by Alexis Andrews and his yacht "Genesis" which Alwyn had built three years before. The reason for this trip was to come and see the early progress on my yacht...: as well as to officially take over another yacht which had sat unfinished on the beach for over a year. On February 20th I took these photos of the unfinished "Nomad" as she lay condemned by many on the island. The person who had commissioned her had for many reasons stopped sending money to have her finished. Alwyn hated to see the wood getting weathered and having his sons unemployed. Shortly after I commissioned my yacht the other yacht's owner contacted me from Europe where he was skippering luxury yacht. He was coming to Antigua and wanted to talk. Talk we did once he arrived in Antigua, and after many meetings we came up with a deal. I would pay to have his boat finished and take possession of the yacht for 5 years while he would use it during the Antigua Classic Yacht Regattas as well as for allotted days during the year. The deal worked for everyone and as Alwyn read the contract for the fist time inside Nomad's hull he smiled at the prospect of finally getting the vessel launched. Anyway, I blogged about finishing the boat as well as finally launching her. It was a mad rush getting metal fabricated here in Antigua, sails made, lead melted, wood purchased, shaped and attached. The work was manic and many of the guys on the job were exhausted by the time she was ready to have her mast attached. I made two more trips to Carriacou bringing bits and pieces and Stevie and Olly joined me a week before we set sail for the first time. We worked long hard days in the sun trying to get her ready only relaxing for an hour or two at sunset on the tiny island of Carriacou. We had to get going in order to have the boat sailing in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Many local "experts" said the idea that we would sail this yacht in the regatta was absolutely insane. The naysayers fueled my determination. Someone told me that many times people's biggest strengths can also be their worst weakness and often their downfall. They were speaking about my seemingly irrational determination to have the yacht ready in Antigua, but I didn't have time to ponder their wise words. The only three people who knew of the project and who knew that it could be done were Alexis, Alwyn and me. Even his sons and the rest of the guys working on the job doubted the prospect of us being ready. This wasn't an alternative and I pushed everyone very hard. The biggest problem as I saw it was management and organization...... Alwyn and his gang were excellent boat builders and have skills that many all over the world had long forgotten about, but delegation and planning were things that they hadn't conquered. I could write thousands of words about the last week before our maiden sail, but let me just say it was a tough week. Luckily the measurements that Alexis gave me for the rigging which we had to get made in Grenada turned out to be exact. Richard the rigging specialist there helped us beyond my expectations and we were so lucky to have met him. We met many road blocks during the week which added to the difficulty at hand. For example, the freight ship that we were going to use to install the mast left for Trinidad the week before so we had to take "Ocean Nomad", as she was now called, over to the marina and dry dock on the west coast where there was a crane we could use. We had to tow her. On our way there I found out that the crane operator was on holiday in Europe, but that there was another crane being used to build another dock on the other side of Havey Vale harbour. For $300 EC they helped us get the mast up and into the vessel. A small price to pay too! Everything seemed to fit properly and as we tightened up the rigging Ocean Nomad actually started looking like a yacht. Now it was time to put in the rudder which wasn't finished by the time we were launching her 10 days before. Alwyn's son Terry and Stevie went over the side with the massive rudder and tried unsuccessfully for about an hour to fit the big shaft into the rudder well. Terry went over with an adz and tried to chop away some of the greenheart keel that was blocking the rudder. Seeing him chopping away wood underwater was something else! It wasn't to work though and as the afternoon came to an end we realized that we were going to have to get her taken out of the water the next morning for some last minute surgery. We also had to get some last minute metal fabrication. Welding was done at two places and some stainless steel cutting and welding was done at a floating machine shop out in the harbour run by a crazy Frenchman. The next day we spent the whole day out of the water working on the rudder and on final bits and pieces needed to ready her for sailing. I doubted we would be sailing before the next morning, but the gang saw the possibility of sailing for the first time before dark and feverishly worked to ready the sails on the dock after we were launched once again. As the sun lowered closer to the horizon it looked like the mad rush during the day may actually pay off. The main sail was taken out of the bag and hoisted with lacing attached..........more to come tomorrow.

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