October 2007

Arizona Sails

Tom, P.J. Hankins Live Jimmy Buffet Lifestyle

Note To The Editor: My wife and I lived in Arizona for 30 years. In 2003, we quit our jobs, sold our house in Tempe, bought a 43-foot boat in Florida, and rode out hurricanes Francis, Jeanne and Wilma.

Finally we set sail through the Caribbean, ending in South America. This past year we sailed south some, mostly sightseeing and living the life Jimmy Buffet wrote about. The following e-mail is one we sent back to our friends as we cruised.Tom and PJ Hankins

The Plan

Our “plan” this season was to see the lower islands that we sort of hurried through last year. We certainly did that: nine countries, 13 islands, 195 days, 991miles, and 126 nights in a row at anchor.

Originally we had thought that by starting in Trinidad, maybe we would make it as far north as St. Martin. We made it to Barbuda, one island short of St. Martin, but that’s not what matters.

Part of the reason we went to Trinidad to begin with was to get some work done on the boat. We were led to believe that work was reasonably priced and professionally completed.

We found neither to be the case. As a result, four weeks after launching in Trinidad, we hauled the boat on the island of Carricou to paint the bottom. This miserable experience lasted over a week; fortunately; we shouldn’t need to do that again for a couple years.

On To Bequia

Then it was on to Bequia (one of PJ’s favorites) for nearly a month, including Christmas and New Years. We toured the Turtle Sanctuary and Whaling Museum with a bunch of other cruisers and listened to live music every night for the 12 nights before Christmas.

Apparently the tradition is that the music must continue until daybreak, and it did.
We then sailed on to the Tobago Cays, a gorgeous spot with a huge reef. Unfortunately, the area had just gone under the jurisdiction of National Park Rangers.
 The unfortunate part is that St. Vincent has a very corrupt government, and the money they collect at the park is going in someone’s pocket rather than to the park. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

We stayed seven weeks (longer than we had stayed anywhere, ever) in Martinique, a very European island. Martinique is France’s Hawaii, and the European visitors are extremely demanding towards the locals, making the locals a little grumpy to all visitors.

We dined on croissants, the most incredible cheese, and some very good wine. We stayed as long as we did because we waited for friends to arrive, experience Carnival, repair the boat, and then wait the typical seven-10 days for good weather to move on.

Antigua Classic Regatta — And Rum

While in Bequia, we met some people headed north to enter in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Since we planned to spend several weeks there anyway, they asked if we would “crew” for them for them on their yawl. We accepted.

It turned out to be an unforgettable experience.  This is one of the top five premier yachting events in the world. You don’t have to be a sailor, or for that matter know anything about boats, to recognize the grace and beauty of this collection.

The boats range from 40 feet to over a 100 feet, and many are a hundred years old. Out of 64 boats, the fastest overall was built in 1899.

After marveling at these gorgeous boats while dockside, it was breathtaking to be out on the race course with them and witness how well they sail. It was a thrilling experience. 

The whole event included four days of racing and two weeks of parties, many of which featured free rum from the race sponsors. It is a little scary to see what happens when you give a couple hundred sailors free rum drinks for a few hours.

We didn’t race real well; we finished in the middle of the pack. It was hard to concentrate on racing when surrounded by these awesome boats — and with a hangover. We also were thrilled to see a bunch of cruisers we hadn’t seen in a year.

Some ‘Crabby’ Stowaways

Along the way we picked up some “stowaways.” We have four hermit crabs living onboard: two boys named Jolly and Streaker and two girls named Shirley — and PJ’s favorite Pigeon. They actually are quite entertaining, at least to folks like us who don’t watch TV.

Our search for summer storage concluded in Antigua. We found a nice yard and have made all the arrangements to leave the boat in Jolly Harbor.

Our Arizona amigos came to visit us in Antigua for a week. Somehow they managed bring us a slice of home, and we sent them back with a few memories of our lifestyle.

Our diet has been pretty good lately. The catch of the day often includes fresh tuna, lobster, and conch. We’ve dined on cracked conch, conch fritters, conch salad, and conch burgers.

We’ve had garlic conch, barbecued conch, sweet and sour conch, conch chowder, conch stew, Creole conch, conch-K-bobs — oops, that’s a different movie.

Anyway, we’re currently prepping the boat for storage and our flight back to Phoenix, and as you can see, we are truly conch’d out!