Worlds Rarely Seen

Antigua is a small island. And despite the fact that you can drive around the entirety of the island in a couple of hours, it actually holds entire worlds that many people likely don’t realize exist.

For instance, there’s the world of yachties. Blond-coiffed and tan, typically young and sporting baggy shorts and flip-flops, they’re easily mistaken for surfers. But they tend not to congregate in places known for having big waves. Rather, they can be found around marinas and bays, congregating among themselves and speaking a language known only to initiates, a language that includes words and phrases from the English language but having completely different meanings…words such as “Cowes” and “Race Week” and “crossing” and “Med” and all sorts of arcane navigation and racing terms. It’s a unique and homogenous subculture, entry to which requires either youth and energy or age and money. Like many subcultures, yachties are entertaining but somewhat closed off to the general public, and their social mores appear to be a cross between prim, upper-crust behavior combined with periodic binges into rugby parties. Given its small size, however, it’s unlikely that any real sociological research into yachties will ever take place. And that’s probably a good thing.

And if you have any doubts about how the one percent have fared in the recent economic downturn, come to Antigua and wander around the docks. You will be, to put it quite simply, stunned. Stupified, even.

Antigua is the Monaco of the Caribbean for the sailing set (the luxury powerboat set tends to congregate in nearby St. Maarten) and here you will find several dozen behemoths in the hundred-foot-plus range, including famous vessels such as The Maltese Falcon and Athena. And they’re only two of the superyachts currently on the dock here in Antigua. It’s a bit surreal to pull up in an extravagant, ornate 70-foot yacht and feel like you’re an ugly stepchild. Or to walk the docks and realize there are three dozen superyachts who have components — small things like a cleat, a line or a gangplank that likely cost more than what one would consider a “normal” yacht, let alone bigger items such as a sail, a mast or an engine that cost more than an upper-class family’s home. So if you’re not in the world of the one percent, you can rest easy: they’re doing just fine.

These are just two of the oh-so-foreign worlds on display in Antigua. There are other worlds here, of course, ranging from small country villages inhabited by families with kids running around barefoot to resorts for well-to-do North Americans and Euros, but you’re likely familiar with them already. It’s those other, far-out worlds hiding away in places like Antigua that are eye-popping scenes for normal Earthlings. It has been an experience.

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