Monday, October 13, 2008

"do the walk of life"

This weekend a bunch of us piled into Adventure Antigua's Xtreme and powered down to St. Kitts for some lunch and a historical island tour all the way up to the magnificent Brimstone Hill. To me it is the most amazing British Naval Fort I have ever seen. Check the website. From Brimstone you can see Nevis, Statia, Saba, St. Martin, and St. Barts. The views are so lovely that you are torn between admiring the amazing naval achitecture, fantastic preservation, hitorical significance and the vistas.
Brimstone Hill was first started by the British who shared the island of St. Christopher with the French in the late 1600s. It was strange for both nations to be occupying a small island together and the relationship lasted longer than you would have imagined. The fortification took close to 100 years to be finished and in that time relations with the French soured on the little island. In the meantime both Euro inhabitants slaughtered the Carib indians there with one of the killing fields known as Bloddy Point. It was there that people say that the river ran red with Carib blood after the French and British teamed up to wipe out the Caribs. Of course there are none left on the island at all. All my crew enjoyed the fort, but by the time we had cleared in to St. Kitts (2 hours) and gotten fuel (the marina had none) we didn't have that much time to have lunch and spend plenty of time exploring. We would have liked to stay longer at Brimstone Hill, but we had to get on to Nevis to clear in with our "Boat Pass" (Caribbean bureaucracy at its best) and make the skippers meeting for the Fishing Tournament which was the main thing we were down there for.

There were 24 boats registered for the tournament which looked like it was going to be a stormy one. My dad decided not to come down from Antigua after half of his crew came down with flu round about the same time as the squalls covered Antigua. He called me to let me know. I had been following the weather and knew it was going to get nasty.

Anyway, at the skippers meeting I got talking with Danny Sweeney about old fishing tournaments and this one. For as long as i have been skipper and doing tournaments (some 19 years) I remember seeing Danny in his little boats. Danny is from Montserrat and up until this year I thought i knew him only from fishing. While we were talking someone came up and said to Danny "you know eli is a great windsurfer?". To my surprise Danny said he did know and began to tell a story about how in 1985 during the first race of the Windsurfing Antigua Week I zoomed past him waving back as i did so. The first race was from Jolly Beach to Montserrat and Danny said that at the start of the race it was windy and the equipment i was on was super fast. He reminded me (how the hell did he remember) that i was using a Windsurfer Rocket 99. Anyway, shortly after we got off Antigua on the 30 mile trip the wind died and Danny sailed passed me on his light wind equipment. He got talking about how he taught some of the guys from Dire Straights the year before and how they had eventually windsurfed to Redonda. Aparently Dire Straights were in Montserrat recording their amazing album "Brothers in Arms" at the famous at Air studios where many beautiful albums were created by various artists including The Police, Paul McCartney, Phill Collins, Elton John, and many more. He then spoke about how "Walk of Life" was actually written about him after a party that they all went to one night during the three months that Dire Straights were on Montserrat. Danny went everywhere with the Dire Straights and their crew. At the party one of the band member's wives (who danny didn't realize was a aerobics instructor) wanted to dance with him once the others had given up. Danny danced for hours with her as if in a dance challenge to see who dropped first. The others cheered on as the two of them kept on going to faster and faster to the music without slowing. Danny said sweat poured off of them. The next day Mark Knopfler told him he wrote a song about the night. I have to tell you that one of my first CDs was Dire Straights "Brothers in Arms" so i listened to his story with excitement imagining the happy group of guys and girls back in 1984 when montserrat was still the emerald isle. Whenever I hear music from that album I remember being back at the windsurf shack on Dutchmans Bay in late 80s windsurfing and thinking that it couldn't get any better. I had no idea until this weekend that there was more to windsurfing and "Brothers in Arms" than just me and the guys at the windsurfing shack enjoying the tunes back in 1985.

Danny said that if you listen carefully you will hear his name in the song a few times when Knopfler replaces "Johnny" with "Danny". I went to youtube and found that it's true:

Anyway, before Danny and I windsurfed against eachother back in 1985 he and a few of the dire straights actually windsurfed the 15 mile trip to Redonda too. While writing this blog i searched for the proper spelling of Danny Sweeney and look what i found: The Redonda Trip from 1985.
Life is so funny. This all means very little to most people reading this i know, but it makes me smile. If you have never listened to Brothers in Arms please find a copy and give it a go. I knew that i recognized the crickets and tree frogs that you hear in the album. Lovely piece of music.