Lit Bits

ROUND BARBADOS MEMORIES: The Most Fun Race I Ever Sailed

race start

I have studied with some interest the results of the most recent running of the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race, which this year boasted a record-breaking seven race records broken. I was amused too to see that it was billed as the 82nd running of the event. A deft bit of marketing I reckon, as the race, in its current form, was but two years old when I sailed it in 2012. At that time it purported to be a reincarnation of a much older round-island competition amongst trading schooners that dated back to the 19th century. Tradition has it the consolation prize for the last boat to finish was a barrel of Mount Gay rum, and that skippers loitered about the course for days attempting to win it. The first recorded round-island race, in 1936, was between five schooners. The winner was Sea Fox, which belonged to a New England rum smuggler, Lou Kennedy, who allegedly, when sailing on the Maine coast, would amuse himself by spiking lobster pots with bottles of Mount Gay.

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THE SEA IS NOT FULL: A Must Read For Bluewater Sailors

SINF cover

John Kretschmer, one of the most popular bluewater authors of our generation, has called it “ONE OF THE BEST SAILING BOOKS” he’s read in a long time. “More than that," he continued, "it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. [Doane’s] revelations of being at sea recall the spirit of Moitessier.”

A SPECIAL OFFER! Buy the book on Amazon and give it a read. Write a review (good or bad, it’s up to you), print out your review and send it to me (the author) along with your copy of the book (see mailing address below). I’ll sign it for you, with a personal inscription, and send it back at my expense. (Offer good only in the continental United States.)

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OUT OF AFRICA: Harmattan Days in the Cape Verde Islands

Carie in cockpit

[Editor’s Note: After spending most of the winter of 1997 in Senegal and Gambia on Crazy Horse--see earlier posts on this here--I sailed out to explore the Cape Verdes before sailing to the West Indies. An earlier version of this account was published in Cruising World.]

AS WE LEFT the city of Banjul behind us, we could see that the swollen mouth of the Gambia River, a vast grey fairway, was studded with fishing pirogues. Most of the fishermen were tending charcoal fires in their bilges and thus were easily distinguished from a distance, lurking under dark smudges in the sky. They waved their arms as we approached, shouting in Wolof, to warn us away from their unmarked nets.

Either we’d strayed on to the flats, where one might reasonably expect to find men fishing in small canoes, or a buoy was missing. And yes, I remembered. The previous week while walking the beach at Fajara, Carie and I had found a huge red nun lying like a bloated whale upon the sand. And I thought then: pity the sailor who needs this buoy to find his way. And I was thinking now after studying the chart: it must have gone right there, off our port bow, and these men must be insane, fishing like this with their nets splayed out all across the shipping channel.

Later that afternoon, after we finally we broke break free of the onshore sea breeze, free from the drift nets and from the continent of Africa, we found the tradewinds had far too much north in them--a discouraging development.

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RACING SCHOONERS: Sterling Hayden Versus Bluenose

Bluenose and Thebaud

Back in the 1930s the next most important match-racing event after the America’s Cup didn’t involve yachts but fishing vessels. The Sir Thomas Lipton International Fishing Challenge Cup had only a brief tenure in the annals of competitive sailing, but it commanded major media attention at the time. Effectively a grudge match sailed between Canadian and American Grand Banks fishermen, the event was run was just three times, and each time featured the same two competitors, the famed Canadian schooner Bluenose (on the right in the image up top) and the American schooner Gertrude L. Thebaud (on the left).

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