An Antigua Adventure
“Margery bring the fire extinguisher in your cabin up immediately. Use it on the port side.”
The skipper was starting up the engine as he yelled. He had just shut it down, was still at the helm, and I had gone down to change after setting the anchor. The 5 of us on our 44 foot sailing boat were planning to join the crews of the other 3 boats in our flotilla and go out for dinner to celebrate our successful week’s sailing from Saint Martin to English Harbor, Antigua.
I was stark naked having shed my swimsuit when Toby yelled, I was about to pull on underwear and a dress, but, instead, grabbed my towel, tying it around me, yanked the fire extinguisher off its clasp and ran upstairs, ready to spray wherever it was needed.
“Help Pete get the anchor up as well,” the skipper yelled again over the noise of the engine and the commotion. A few minutes earlier, as we were reversing into our allotted mooring on the harbor wall, a local banana boat had pulled in beside us with 4 drunken sailors onboard.
It had an outboard motor and they needed to fill up with gasoline at the antiquated pump on the dock. They had a can which one of them had filled on shore, never capping it but leaping back on board with a thud so it sprayed gasoline all over the small wooden boat where at least one of them was smoking.
Just as I reached the port side, the whole banana boat went up in flames. Three of the drunken sailors went backwards overboard leaving the can of gasoline in the burning boat.
There were numerous mini-explosions heard as I raced upstairs. Just as I reached the port side, the whole banana boat went up in flames. Three of the drunken sailors went backwards overboard leaving the can of gasoline in the burning boat. The one who had filled up with gas just dived into the harbor off the stern.
We did not wait to see what happened. Our skipper was anxious to get us away from the flames before they spread to our chartered boat.
Pete and I hauled up the anchor in record time. The 3 of us were what was left of the crew as 2 of our party had already disembarked to wait on land. We were able to escape and found a mooring in a different part of the marina. Once dressed, Pete, Toby and I joined the others on land. They had their cell phones with them and called the fire department once they witnessed the boat going up in flames. They then walked around to where we had moored.
Pete and I hauled up the anchor in record time.
The other crews had already gone to dinner without us, so, while it was still light, we went to look at the many well-preserved antique tall ships. They had collected in English Harbor for the annual “Antigua’s Classic Yacht Regatta,” due to start the next day. Some of the boats were a century old but all had been extremely well maintained. Highly-polished wood mirrored some of the other fittings, and there wasn’t a spec of rust to be seen on any metal.
Many of the hulls were wood and the paint gleamed in the early evening sunlight. Sails were all furled whilst in harbor, each meticulously so. I had a thought that sailors must have a high incidence of Obsessive-compulsive-disorder with their fanaticism for coiling all lines, and leaving everything ship-shape. Tall ships can have between 3 and 11 sails, and are often over 100 feet long. It is a magnificent sight to watch the regatta with all of these beauties fully rigged. They are not easy to sail because they have fixed keels. And, they are heavy, making them less-easily maneuvered than sleek, modern fiberglass boats.
As sailors, we were thrilled to view them up close. We greatly admired the helmsmen and crews.
An Antigua Adventure.
We all enjoyed our dinner and were thankful the fire had not spread thanks to Toby’s quick thinking and action. We were interested to see what happened to the banana boat, so walked back that way around the harbor. To our surprise, as we approached the site an ancient fire truck also arrived. I guess their response time had been 2 hours.
They had an old wooden extension ladder strapped on the top of a cylindrical tank with marine fire hose coiled around it. The engine appeared to be that of a 1940’s Ford. In contrast to the impeccable paint of the tall ships, the fire truck was a faded red which probably hadn’t seen a coat of paint since its birth in the 1940s. Fortunately, there was little left for the 2 firemen (driver included) to do, since the boat was now a burned out shell, still floating and smoldering with no sign of bananas or drunken sailors. They doused it with fresh water and went on their way.
We slept well on the boat that night, rocked gently by the wind. The next morning after cooking our last breakfast aboard, we returned our ship-shape boat back to the charter company, who would have another crew sail it to the Saint Martin base.
Photo credits for An Antigua Adventure by Pixabay.