The boat behind us had caught our eye. After all, this is Antigua. The Eastern Caribbean show-off island. From super yachts to multi-masted shining hulks, the boating community gather in Antigua to see what can be built. You know it’s serious when you turn on your WiFi to hotspot and see seven different WiFi routers for one boat. Odyssey 1-7. Why seven? I have no idea.
This wasn’t a super yacht though – what we were transfixed by.
This was a sub-30 foot sailing boat. Blood-red. With a matching Danish yacht club flag, spiked at the ends. Like Norway, I’ve learned these are special ensigns specific to sailing clubs. Not everyone is allowed to use them.
The boat had the look of an Atlantic crosser. Ballsy. A sub-30 moving through the world’s oceans. The timing is right – many boats are arriving in the Caribbean right now. This is prime Atlantic crossing time. From November onwards, a raft of boats cross from east to west, knowing they are safe from hurricanes.
Looking closer, it seemed even more likely. The boat had twin headsails wrapped around its genoa – perfect rigging for the downwind Atlantic trades. A life raft was stored on the deck. Indeed, everything about this little sailing yacht was solid. A beefy, good quality auto-pilot, large instrument panel, a decent-sized dinghy, a Yamaha outboard. The boat might have been small, but it was small and serious.
Then we saw the thing which really caught our eye. The dinghy returned with a mum and dad and two young boys. A cruising family. We shook our heads. Sailing together in this set-up? How mellow do these guys have to be to live together in such close quarters?
Maybe it’s the coming Christmas season, but we felt a bit Christmas Carol about the whole thing. Here we were – collective Scrooges compared to this Danish Tiny Tim and team. Compared to these guys, we were obviously taking all our room on Quest for massive granted.
The evening arrived. Wired but happy to be anchored in Antigua, we cooked simple food and sat outside to eat. Meanwhile, the little red boat, named Chip-Chip, was cooking its food too – in the cockpit. They were using a camping stove. By the next morning, a neat tent tarpaulin had been pulled tight over the same space. Wow. Sleeping quarters as well as cockpit galley.
They left today. We watched as, for hours, they prepared for their journey. They deflated their dinghy and rolled it up behind the life raft on the deck, tying it down. The outboard engine was lifted onto the stern rail next to the fenders. Autopilot readied with steering paddle attached. I know. I really should have put the binoculars down.
As they left, pointing into the lively conditions in the channel, Jack checked if they were linked by AIS. They were – so we pressed the fleet button on Marine Traffic. Now we could watch wherever they go in the world, by satellite. It seems this little boat has the heart for it. Who needs super yachts when you have boats like these? Fair winds Chip-Chip.