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Taking a tin whistle to Antigua by yacht

The tropical islands of Antigua and Barbados are located in the heart of the Caribbean about a thousand miles to the east of Jamaica. The sound of a tin whistle across the anchorages of those islands must have been interesting! Alice and Tony Kingston from Kinsale are teaching themselves music as they cruise amongst the Caribbean islands on their yacht, Shindig, a Swan 40 that is fifty years old and which they bought to restore. They sailed it from the USA back to Kinsale three years ago with their son and daughter. It was not in as good condition then as it is after Tony and his brother George restored the boat in Kinsale boatyard. They have been sailing it across the Atlantic since they left Kinsale a few months back and, In a few weeks’ time Alice and Tony plan to bel back into the waters of the United States where they will take Shindig out of the water after many thousands of nautical miles sailed. From there they will fly home, but it may not be the end of their deepwater cruising. There will be discussion, plans and thoughts about future voyaging. They are our NEWSMAKERS OF THE MONTH FOR MARCH ON MARITIME IRELAND.


I talked to Alice by phone for this month’s Podcast, on which you can hear her by clicking on the Podcast box, when they were in Antigua. Unsurprisingly, the weather in Antigua was “gorgeous, we realise how lucky we are to be able to do this, both because we’re retired, have good health and that we promised ourselves we’d try it, so with less shore-based demands it was time to do it,” she told me. “From here we’re going to make our way to Fort Lauderdale. We’ll try and see as many of the islands as we can probably stopping in St.Barts, St.Kitts and the British Virgin Islands and we’ll take Shindig out of the water in Florida and then head for home in April some time. Shindig is an old boat, very traditional, down-to-earth, you wouldn’t’ have the luxury of the super yachts around down here, some of which are massive cruising machines with every gadget known to man, but she suits us perfectly and makes good speed.”


Apart from using the engine for an hour a day to charge batteries, it’s been all sailing for the couple, using the main and head sail. They have found some areas pretty crowded with boats. “At Martinique there was an 800-berth marina which was full and wouldn’t have space for two weeks,” said Alice, “but we prefer anchorages anyway and we swim ashore from the boat, because you’re advised if possible not to use the dinghy. We’ve used it only twice. We anchor close to shore and swim ashore with our dry bags when we need to, so we’re getting loads of swimming, but the water is warm, thirty degrees, so it’s no hardship. Many boats have water-makers. We are living very simply really on the boat which is lovely to get back to that kind of living. It shows you can do with so much less,” Alice said. On one island they made their way to a French beach bar to watch the Ireland-France rugby match. “That was fun. There were two French people cheering France and Tony and myself shouting for Ireland.”From now on they will be sailing “shorter hops” around the islands and continuing to practice their music as they head for Fort Lauderdale.


“When we retired we decided to take up a musical instrument,” Alice told me. Friends encouraged them at home and are managing to send them lessons on their voyage to continue practicing. “We practice our tin whistle and concertina every day. So we have to give a bit of a wide berth at the anchorages,” Alice laughed. “A tin whistle that isn’t really fantastically being played would drive anyone mad but we’re getting better and we’re really practicing!”

Tom MacSweeney

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