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VANISHING WAYS S a i l i n g o n t h e L a s t C a r ri a c o u S l o o p s

Alexis Andrews

Volume I

There is a small fishing village in the Grenadine island of Carriacou called Windward. It is inhabited by a thrifty and resourceful group of people with mixed ancestry of Scotts, Creole and African. From 1830-1970 Carriacou was responsible for launching more Sloops and Schooners than anywhere else in the lesser Antilles. Under a hot sun on the beach at Windward it is still possible to hear the thud of caulking mallets on wooden hulls. This is one of the last remaining places in the Eastern Caribbean where men persist in building, sailing, fishing and racing their sland craft without engines or a single item of electronic gear.



Sailing on the Last Carriacou Sloops

This book is a tribute to their Vanishing Ways.

Dedicated to the boatbuilders of Windward [ 01 ]

Eric Bynoe, Loretta B 1999 [ 02 ]

[ 03 ]

Maristella heading to Regatta in town 2000 [ 04 ]

[ 05 ]

Butterfish, Grenadine Bank 1999 [ 06 ]

[ 07 ]

Indian Creek Books

First Printing Limited Edition 1000 copies ISBN 13-978-0-9790114-1-2 ISBN 10-0-9790114-1-8 IMAGES & text copyright 2008 Alexis Andrews All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. Chart © 2008 Nautical Publications Human Voices © 2008 Mark Powell Hope Story © 2008 Ralph Trout Photographs pages 18, 20, 50 © 2008 Barbara Freedman Photograph page 94 © 2008 Douglas C. Pyle Letter from Windward © 2008 D. Goldhill Special thanks to Douglas C. Pyle for allowing me to quote from Clean Sweet Wind Printed in China [ 08 ]

[ 09 ]



Human Voices










Letter from Mermaid


Sandy Island, Carriacou 1999 [ 10 ]

[ 11 ]

Foreword In 1997 I purchased Summer Wind, a fine Carriacou Sloop built by hand on the beach at Windward on the small Grenadine island of Carriacou. She had no engine and was in poor condition having recently been raised from the bottom of Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. I undertook to rebuild her and with basic carpentry skills and much enthusiasm I was eventually able to make her seaworthy enough to set off for Carriacou. Her essential simplicity fascinated me and I was driven to learn more... The crew consisted of myself and ‘the Cuban’ - a character with a large sense of humour and no sailing skills whatsoever. After two weeks of sailing in and out of every harbour along the way, we had become one with the elements and our floating home. Carrying full sail at night as we entered unfamiliar harbours during summer squalls, we would inevitably give other craft cause for concern. While shining a torch on our mains'l and shouting instructions to the Cuban, balanced at the bows ready to heave a large anchor overboard, it occurred to me that not many people still sail the Caribbean in this manner. There are no sailing instructions in the pilot books on how to enter reef infested Watering Bay and the village of Windward, Carriacou. We received navigational directions scrawled on a table napkin by a local seaman in Hillsborough. “You must sail up past Gun Point and when you have the wreck in your starboard shrouds you must tack; ease your sheets and you will then reach an up turned drum with a pelican standing on it; once passed you will be inside the reef”. After we came sailing through the narrow entrance Summer Wind promptly ran aground on a sand bar, much to the amusement of several villagers who were perched in a tree watching our every move.

Summer Wind, Marigot St. Lucia 1997

Once we had dragged ourselves off in the rising tide, we were greeted by a fisherman called Hope McLawrence. He took us fishing and introduced us to his relatives and soon we were made welcome in the village. One night in a dark rum shop in neighbouring Petite Martinique, an old fisherman approached us. He leered at us through wind beaten eyes and asked if when putting the vessel away, it was better to put on a sail cover or not? “Of course yes “ I replied, at which point he burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter. When he had gathered himself up I asked him which was the correct answer. “It doesn’t matter” he said satisfactorily and walked out. During our stay we had many memorable experiences which led to my returning each summer to sail, fish, race and listen to the stories from the old men of the sea. Alexis Andrews Antigua, October 2007

[ 12 ]

[ 13 ]



Brother Pete, Windward 1999 [ 14 ]

[ 15 ]

The island of Carriacou is located at the southern end of the Grenadines chain, one of the many Windward Islands that stretch in an arc to the east of the Caribbean Sea. Yet, while nestled geographically among islands of the nation state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, politically, Carriacou and nearby Petite Martinique are governed from the parliament buildings in St. George's, Grenada. The ‘mainland’, as locals describe Grenada, lays thirty miles to the south of Carriacou, but while those on Carriacou and Petite Martinique are governed from the south, everyday life involves the nearby islands. In fact, most people on Carriacou have kinship links with people who own a different passport to themselves. Carriacou is approximately thirteen square miles in area and inhabited by around six thousand people. A rocky ridge and central upland area runs along the island’s length and reaches its highest point at a summit known as ‘High North’. Standing at this highest point, next to the old flag pole erected by the British Royal Navy in the 1960s, one experiences a fresh breeze blowing in from the sea. To the west of ‘High North’ is Carriacou’s principle village of Hillsborough, where the island’s administrative infrastructure is centered. The jetty in ‘town’ is the place where people arrive and leave on the ferry that links St. George's with Carriacou and the sister island of Petite Martinique. In Hillsborough people might complain that the sun ‘burn hot like pepper’, but on the easterly and windward side of Carriacou, the fresh breeze offers a welcome respite from the heat of the day. On this side of the island, south of ‘Gun Point’ and positioned in the middle of Watering Bay, is the village of Windward. I came to know the people of Carriacou, and especially those living in Windward, because this was where I spent a year researching for my PhD in social anthropology. I first learned of the island when I stumbled across M. G. Smith’s ‘Kinship and Community in Carriacou’ whilst researching the university library. Here I read with interest the way M. G. Smith described those in Windward as ‘Scots’ and seafaring people, and as such, in some way different from other islanders working the land and descended from plantation slaves. I was interested to know more of M. G. Smith’s claim that the people of Windward were different, and the extent to which, if at all, ideas about history and the past continue to be important when defining a local sense of identity.

Cottage, Windward 1999 [ 16 ]

[ 17 ]

In the early days of my research I struggled to gain the confidence and the trust of the local people and many questions were asked about my motives for being in Windward. For just as in any small community, in any part of the world, there is suspicion of strangers who arrive unannounced. Gradually I gained a degree of credibility in the village community, principally because much of my research centered on ‘participant observation’, a method that entailed not only watching how people lived their everyday lives, but meant joining in as well. The foremost objective of my research was to gain an insight into the world views and perspectives of the people living there. In my case, undertaking research in Windward entailed a whole jumble of experiences that included, among other things, agreeing to help paint, sail and fish from local sailing vessels, or assist in the preparation of ‘smoked food’ at funerals, weddings and feasts. Sometimes I sat on the bay-side with local men and shared a drink of ‘Jack Iron’; at other times I found myself helping to mix concrete or collect timber from the ‘bush’. In the evenings I frequently watched games of domino, or perhaps sat in the darkness and talked to those catching the evening breeze. These experiences and observations helped me to understand what it is like to live in Windward and provided something of a local perspective on life. Ultimately, I came to understand how people on Carriacou define social status and the way they think about issues of identity and belonging. History books describe Carriacou as first colonised by Amerindian people who migrated in large canoes from South America [1]. It is from their language that the word ‘Carriacou’ originates-“Island of Reefs”. Later, following a brief visit by Christopher Columbus, European settlers gradually colonised the islands. France and Britain fought over various Caribbean territories, including Carriacou, but the island finally settled to British control in 1783 [2]. The plantation system of agriculture was developed in the Caribbean and in Carriacou they were initially worked by poor indentured labourers who travelled from Britain on the promise of land in payment [3]. In Europe, increasing sugar consumption demanded greater production from the Caribbean plantations which in turn required more workers. To meet this demand, a trans-Atlantic trade route was established where slaves were captured from Africa and transported to the islands by ships which returned to Britain loaded with cargos of molasses and rum, before sailing once more to Africa carrying goods to exchange for slaves [4]. Miss Amy & Leo, Windward 1985 [ 18 ]

[ 19 ]

Uncle I, Windward 1989

In time, the Caribbean plantations faced competition from other parts of the globe forcing changes in exports, with molasses being replaced by cotton, then by cocoa, nutmeg and in more recent years by bananas. Unfortunately for Carriacou, a lack of annual rainfall made it more difficult for this process of crop diversification to take place. So, once slavery was abolished in 1838, and the plantations of Carriacou were divided up amongst the former slaves, subsistence agriculture was difficult and alternative employment hard to find. The ex-slaves however showed entrepreneurial adaptability, making the most of their limited resources. They were now free to leave Carriacou to search for cheap land on ‘mainland’ Grenada and Trinidad. Some went to work on the Panama Canal or tried their luck at gold prospecting on the rivers of Guyana, while others found work in the oil fields of Aruba. Post Second World War, many people left for Canada and America or took boats across the Atlantic in search of work in Britain [5]. [ 20 ]

Vessels at anchor, Windward 1998 [ 21 ]

Today on Windward’s bay-side it is still possible to hear the thud of caulking mallets as they drum on the wooden hulls of sailing vessels. This is one of the few remaining places in the Caribbean still practicing the once prolific island activity of boat building. Owning a vessel has traditionally provided a means of making a living, be that by fishing or transporting people and goods between the islands. According to official records [6], the tri-Island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique has been responsible for launching more sloops and schooners than anywhere else in the Lesser Antilles. Several stories circulate on the island as to where the boat builders and fishermen of Windward originally came from. Those who claim to originate from a ‘first generation’ of Scottish seafarers and shipwrights coexist with others who prefer a version that suggests that the people of Windward are descended from both slave master and slave, and that the maritime heritage of Windward originates from those who came from Africa. Owning a vessel would offer individuals a way of making a living, as food in Carriacou remained relatively expensive, staple items still having to be imported. The island’s close proximity to and membership of different nation states, meant that there was a lucrative trade transporting goods between the islands, avoiding the payment of custom tariffs. Such opportunities resulted in a thriving contraband trade across the region which not only included cigarettes and alcohol, but also everyday items like food, clothing, cooking gas and soft drinks. According to John Davy, a military surgeon who travelled extensively in the islands during the early nineteenth century, smuggling was a problem in Carriacou as early as 1765 [7]! Speed has always been an asset for vessels needing to move quickly out of territorial waters. It is also an important attribute for fishing vessels for it allows them to venture further to better fishing grounds that lay some distance from land. Such requirements encouraged the shipwrights of Windward to build working vessels which were not only practical but had the classic lines of racing hulls.

[ 22 ]

Tombstone, Thibeau 1997

Corn stalks, Dover 1997

[ 23 ]

The skippers and crews of sailing vessels, whether trading or fishing, enjoy testing themselves against other vessels and crews. During my own fieldwork I noted how this eagerness and competitive spirit surfaced whenever another vessel was encountered on the same heading. On such occasions the crew seemed to fuss more over trimming the sails, and the skipper was more inclined to tune the main sheet and helm more thoughtfully. Sometimes the two vessels sailed on parallel courses for a while, close enough for each crew to throw taunts and jeers at each other, until one vessel edged ahead and the race was won. Of an evening, on the benches and in the rum shops of Windward, talk frequently started and ended with maritime matters. When I was there I often listened to heated debates as skippers and crews discussed the days fishing or pondered over the speed of a vessel they had raced home that day. Individual interest in proving ones maritime ability is at the root of what motivates the boatmen to be involved in the annual Carriacou Regatta. Sail racing during the regatta appears to resemble the racing of vessels when they meet on fishing and trading expeditions. For the Regatta, visiting yachts are placed in a different racing class to local work boats who appear to abide by few rules and regulations. While the start time for the races is set in advance, it is generally agreed that the race will only begin when the competitors arrive at the start line. Vessels race with as much sail as possible, with ballast stones replaced with wet sand that can be thrown overboard if the wind goes light. In the races, the Windward crews revel in proving themselves skilled in all things nautical, and individual ideas about the past are central to the way that people define who ‘belongs’ and who is an ‘outsider’ in the village.

Pipe Dream, August Regatta 1999

[ 24 ]

When I listened to the various accounts it was clear that individuals refer to several different versions of the past to explain who they are and how they ‘belong’ to this place. In some cases individuals locate themselves through drawing attention to family and other kinship links and argue that they have inherited not only the blood but also the maritime skills of their ancestors. [ 25 ]

The history of Carriacou is complex and people frequently describe the past and the people of the village as a ‘mix-up’, although such uncertainty and complexity allows different ideas about the past to coexist. So, while some claim to be descended from the ‘red’ people of Scotland, and to be different from those living in other villages on Carriacou, others describe themselves as coming from Africa, or even as progeny of both accounts. In the Caribbean generally, the issue of colour and status are closely affiliated, hence on Carriacou it may be considered more respectable to trace family links to a white ancestor and to celebrate having a Scottish surname which would also explain one’s skill as a sailor. Despite ambiguous ideas about Windward’s past, and how people acquire the skills to build wooden sailing sloops, the Regatta unites the village by keeping alive a sense that this is a place of proud maritime men. This heritage is still celebrated through stories of past voyages and childhood memories and experiences. Men recall sailing with their father or uncles and recount the moment they first left the land and learned the routine of a life at sea. In the past, going to sea meant working on vessels powered by sail but today schooners and sloops are less common, building in the traditional style being time consuming, expensive and labour intensive and so sail is giving way to the petrol and diesel engine. Continuing to fish and trade in vessels powered by sail is far from easy, and by doing so a few men in Windward still engage with the constantly changing social and economic world in a determined fashion. The economic climate of the Caribbean continues to change and this has meant that large sailing vessels no longer make the journey from Carriacou to St. Barthelemy, Venezuela or Barbados. The young men of Windward do not have the same opportunities to find work at sea or move away from the land as their fathers once did. Older men argue that the young have not served the same ‘apprenticeship’ as themselves and are not quite the same calibre of sailor. The young men disagree, pointing out that they possess the same maritime heritage and still demonstrate their seamanship skills.While some young men may, if they are lucky, inherit a sailing vessel, today it is more likely that they will group together and help each other build a fifteen or sixteen foot plywood speed boat.

Mageeta O, Windward 1998 [ 26 ]

[ 27 ]

These vessels are relatively quick and cheap to build and require less skill than is needed when building a traditional wooden schooner or sloop. They are designed to be used as fishing boats or to carry cargo, and are adaptable enough to be used as water taxis when required. Most importantly, these small speed boats provide young men with a sense of independence and illustrate how the next generation seeks to make a living in challenging economic circumstances. It is true that the younger generation is criticised for favouring American TV styles and fashion, yet in their own way they continue to display the skills of their Windward fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers. Although the number of sailing vessels in Windward has declined over the years, the annual Carriacou Regatta, and the symbolism of traditional wooden sailing vessels continue to be meaningful to the men of Windward, be they young or old. References

Racing speedboats, Petit St. Vincent 1999

[ 28 ]

(1) Clement, P. C. (2000) Petite Martinique: Traditions and Social Change, New York: Vantage Press (2) Brizan, G. (1984) Grenada, Island of Conflict: from Amerindians to People’s Revolution 1498-1979, London: Zed Books (3) Sheppard, J. L. (1977) The ‘Redlegs’ of Barbados: Their Origins and History, New York: KTO Press (4) McDaniel, L. (1998) The Big Drum Ritual of Carriacou; Praise Songs in Remembrance of Flight, Miami: University Press of Florida (5) Hill, D. R. (1977) The Impact of Migration on the Metropolitan and Folk Society of Carriacou, Grenada, 54 (2), New York: (5) Smith, M. G. (1962) Kinship and Community in Carriacou, London: Yale University (6) Pyle, D. C. (1981) “Clean Sweet Wind” Easy Reach Press, Preston MD, USA (7) Davy, J. (1854) The West Indies, Before and Since Emancipation, London: W. F. G. Cash. Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History

[ 29 ]

Boatbuilding “Is Boatbuilding you want, is Carriacou you goin” Clean Sweet Wind by Douglas C. Pyle

[ 30 ]

[ 31 ]

Historical records show that during the early 19th century, Scottish shipwrights were brought to Carriacou to build vessels for landowners, so they could transport their produce to sell in Grenada. This was the beginning of a flourishing industry for the island communities of Windward, L' Esterre, Harvey Vale, Hillsborough and Petite Martinique. During it’s heyday between the two World Wars as many as 129 trading sloops and schooners were built, some as large as 1200 tons. Scottish heritage still lives on in the the names of Windward families: Compton, McLawrence, Roberts, McCloud, MacIntosh to name but a few. Traditional methods of boatbuilding in Windward have survived, not because of some adherence to heritage or historical respect and importance but more so because of economic reasons. Hand tools cost little and can be maintained through generations of boatbuilders. A hatchet and adze, hand saw and hammer can be used almost exclusively to build a vessel. The frames come from the forest, where the West Indian Cedar grows wild and strong in the trade winds; the only materials imported would be fastenings, planking and some paint. The vessels are built on the beach where they can be launched with the whole village heaving on a rope with a three part tackle attached to an enormous anchor in the bay. Once launched and rigged with a locally grown mast from the forests of Grenada, a vessel would quickly find a way of earning her keep by transporting goods or fishing. Neither activity would require much in the way of cash outlay as the wind is free and crew would often comprise of young family members who would also help with work on the hull. This is simply done by heaving her down in the shallows with rope and a heavy log. Knowledge of local currents and good seamanship would keep a vessel working for as long as she was maintained. [ 32 ]

Launching Brilliant Girl, Windward 1999 [ 33 ]

Caulking iron, Windward 2005

Alwyn Enoe with adze, Windward 2003 [ 34 ]

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Carved Lignum vitae sheet block, Mageeta O 1998 [ 36 ]

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There is more...lots more. ...but you would need to purchase the books...

Alexis Andrews was born in Greece and studied photography from a young age in various European cities. He sailed to Antigua in 1985 and has been based there ever since. His commissioned work mostly i n v o l v e s setting up photoshoots within the super yacht industry as well as supplying Caribbean stock images to international clients. In 1997 he fell under the spell of the Carriacou Sloops...

Fr ont Co v er: Loretta B, Carr iacou Reg atta 1999 Bac k co v er: Ballast Stones, Pipe Dream 2007

...its a 2 volume box set, Limited Edition (1000 sets, 300 remaining) hardcovered, shrinkwrapped, representing a 10 year photo essay on the little known subject of traditional Caribbean boatbuilding... ...They can be ordered and shipped.from here:

Vanishing Ways  

Volume I of II

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