Come on Down to the Caribbean!

There's a special excitement in the air this time of the year: sailing, surfing, fishing, carnivals, cricket...

  • English Harbour, centre for Antigua's legendary Sailing Week. Photograph by Chris Huxley

Dear Malcolm

This is the best time of the year in the Caribbean, remember? Well, how could you forget, stuck up there in the sleet and the snow, mist swirling, your own breath turning to smoke as you talk? You must remember as you go striding down the avenue, shoulders hunched against the wind. What you still doing up there?

Down here in the Caribbean, it’s hot days and cool nights, sunlight glinting on the deep blue sea, and the wind blowing strong to cool you down. It’s the best time, I tell you.

And you forget what’s going on, what you’re missing! To start with, it’s carnival time. Of course, you know all about Trinidad carnival. But the trouble with Trinidadians is they know they have the biggest and best carnival and they forget about everyone else’s. They think that because they invented Caribbean carnival, nobody else’s counts! But you and I know better. That third weekend in February there will be so many carnivals going on across the Caribbean, so many dancing feet landing on the ground to the same beat, that you’d expect the whole Caribbean to overturn.

St Lucia. Dominica. Aruba. Curaçao. Carriacou. Martinique. Guadeloupe. And they’re all different, they’ve all got their own special flavour. In Martinique they go till Ash Wednesday and make a great thing out of burning up the devil Vaval on the last day. And if you miss February, there’s St Maarten and Jamaica in April.

Carnival round the clock. Nobody could turn repentance into a party the way the Caribbean does. But you know that.

Right now the wind’s blowing and the swells are coming, and it’s time to head for the sea. You know I’ve always been scared of those great waves they have in places like Wilderness in Puerto Rico or Bathsheba in Barbados, huge waves like Hawaii that drive the surfers crazy. But this is the time for it; if you see the surfers coming in these days, with all their fancy boards and gear! Me, I prefer boats. There’s nothing like setting off into the wind, sails crackling in the breeze, the sun hot on your bare back, cold beers in the cooler, the light dancing on the waves, the boat settling into a rhythm and the sea even bluer than the sky.

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I do it for fun, but there are plenty who do it for sport, and spend these weeks cruising from one regatta to the next. Grenada in early February, then St Maarten, Curaçao for the fishing, Tobago, then Grenada again or Bequia or Curaçao for one of the Easter weekend regattas; then up to Antigua for the big one, Antigua Sailing Week at the end of April.

What a season! And you know these sailing people, how they like party on land just as much as racing on the water. And lots of them mix in the sailing with the carnivals, but I don’t have to tell you about that.

And as if all that isn’t enough, Marlon, it’s cricket season in the Caribbean. You forget that? The West Indies are playing Pakistan in the Caribbean from the middle of March after they finish battling it out in Australia and South Africa; Jamaica and Guyana and Trinidad and Barbados and the Windwards and the Leewards are all fighting it out in the regional competitions; everyone’s walking around with radios in their ears to follow the action, staying up all night to tune into commentary from Australia.

What you still doing up there, Marlon? This is the time to be in the Caribbean. Come on down, boy, come on down!

Your friend,