Slept on a three-foot long wooden bench on a rusting cargo ship that went up and down, up and down, up and down….
The Eastpack got into port in St. Kitts at around 1pm, but I stayed on board desperately pounding the internet for all it was worth trying to find a cargo boat, yacht, hovercraft, whatever, that would take me to Antigua. Finally getting off the boat at 5pm (after depositing a hefty bribe in the captain’s pocket) me and the team back in the UK – John Dino and Lorna, had no leads and no clue how I was going to get off this rock.
There were no boats whatsoever in the deep-water harbour and only about three in the marina. Where on Earth is everyone? I thought all the rich bankers were hiding out in the Caribbean while the rest of the world dealt with the global economic collapse that they caused. A bit like when you throw a stink bomb in the school disco and then and go hide in the toilets.
But no, nobody’s here.
Had a problem getting out of port as the shipping agent told me I had to wait for the customs guys to come back. I was out of water and utterly starving, sitting on a concrete step next to the boom gate whilst some particularly ferocious ants feasted on my legs (through my jeans). When the customs guys did come back an hour later, it was a) now dark, and b) utterly pointless as I had already been cleared through customs by the captain five hours earlier. I had to go to the airport for my stamp. The lady at the boom gate told me that I had to get a taxi.
Did she ring me one? Nah – you can get one on the road. So I started to walk the three miles to the airport in the dark. No taxis came, so I walked all the way, with all my bags. Urgh. Immigration told me in very cinematic fashion that I had 5 days to get off the island and stamped me in (and out) of the country.
Luckily, a taxi driver named Elvis (uh-huh) came to my rescue. He sorted me out with somewhere to stay for the night and something to eat. Plus, he was called Elvis. How cool is that? He told me to go and see Mistress Challenger in the morning to see if she could help with getting a boat to the next island, Antigua. When a guy called Elvis tells you to go see Mistress Challenger, you go see Mistress Challenger.
My guesthouse was pretty grotty and disturbingly expensive for what it was (a dirty box room with a mattress and a cold shower). Mission ‘Get Graham off this island’ would begin tomorrow.
Up early and off to see the two contacts I had on the island. The first one, Shauna, was not in work this weekend. The second, the enigmatically named Mistress Challenger was also not in this weekend either. With no cargo ships to talk of and hardly any yachts in port, I despaired of ever getting off this island to anywhere, never mind Antigua.
So I headed down to the marina and tried my luck asking around – it didn’t take long – there were only 5 people there. I got chatting with Seamus (from Ireland) and Derek (from Manchester) – a couple of guys in a glass-bottomed boat who, liking the idea of The Odyssey, offered me a beer and then promptly kidnapped me and took me on a impromptu snorkelling trip. The captain of the boat was a local lad called Wayne who would take me under his wing for the next few days.
Here’s me panicking about getting off the island and here’s the island fighting back – trying to get me to chill the hell out and enjoy myself for five minutes.
We got back from snorkelling in the afternoon. Wayne and Seamus insisted I come to the cricket with them – England were playing a warm-up match against St. Kitts. It was free to get in and I was soon feeling the ill effects of too much alcohol in the sun.
I headed back to my guesthouse and Wayne insisted that I stay at his place – after describing my room as ‘a prison cell’! So I hiked all my kit over to his house and then we headed out in pursuit of more beer and fun.
Got back to Wayne’s house and crashed. Would have loved to have gone to shwarmy shake shake (or whatever it was called) where the England Cricket Team were hanging out, but St. Kitts had me bushed.
Got up bright and early to go and see a man about a boat – Wayne had organised someone to take me over to Antigua in a speedboat for US$500 – only, this being the Caribbean, he didn’t show up. So I spent the morning listlessly roaming around and then gave up entirely and spent the afternoon at Wayne’s house watching reruns of CSI waiting for the phone to ring. It didn’t ring.
I’m WAY WAY WAY behind schedule now, I should be in Central America and I’m not – I’m stuck on an island miles from anywhere that has about 3 boats on it.
But Wayne remained upbeat that I’d get a ride today. We headed down to the marina at 9am and asked one of the guys who worked there if he knew of any boats going to Antigua. Yeah – that one. He pointed to The Vagrant, a yacht sporting a Canadian flag.
We wandered over and spoke to the captain, Grant Gordon. I explained what I was doing and he said jump aboard, we leave in 10 minutes.
I was so grateful, I nearly cried.
I ran back to Wayne’s, grabbed my stuff and jumped on the boat. I was introduced to Jim and Freda who were sailing with Grant and we were off on our way to Antigua.
Now…Antigua is upwind and against the current. It’s not far, but it took all day and all night to get there. I haven’t been seasick since the September Song and I was alright on the Vagrant, so I was quite an enjoyable jaunt with some really lovely people.
But if I’m going to finish this thing within a year, I can’t be wasting three days in each port and then travelling at 4mph to my next destination. I’m really starting to panic.