The Pineapple House

The Pineapple House in Antigua is to youth hostels what a Rolex is to wrist bands, it covers all the same area whilst achieving something altogether more spectacular.

Despite feeling like you’re nestled in the midst of a tropical rainforest the place is in fact just a minutes walk from the Super Yacht hub that is English harbour and a stones throw from the Caribbean sea.18083706_10158606207825055_1623539110_o (1)

I first stayed at The Pineapple house in 2013. I flew into Antigua on the 23rd of December, when my taxi driver asked me where I wanted to go I assumed “Take me to Pineapple House” would suffice, it did not, after suggesting that it must be somewhere near a lot of yachts we fortunately made our way to English Harbour.

The prospect of spending Christmas alone, away from all family and friends on the other side of an ocean is never going to be a good one. However no person could ask for a better surrogate family for the festive period, or indeed any other time of year, than the one I found at The Pineapple House.18159805_10158625620520055_147699917_o

The moment I knocked on the door the top half of a very pretty blonde girl (the likes of which are often found staying at The Pineapple) popped up on the main veranda “Just push the door and come up, it should be open” was the advice. So it was and so I did. I was given a brief tour, the main hall of the house offers four queen size four posters, two lounging areas, a communal bathroom and a kitchen. The rest of the Pineapple House is spread out over the hill behind the main house, with a selection of beds away from the hustle and bustle of the main house and a range of beautiful private cottages for those desiring a little more personal space.

I chose a bed at the far end of the main hall, boxed in by banana tree leaves on two sides and enclosed all round with mosquito netting, it was to be my home for the next week or so.
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I’d no sooner dropped my bag than a trio of fellow work seeking house mates invited me to join them for a run. We ran/ scrambled around the “Goat’s Trail”, swum across the mouth of English Harbour to Galleon beach, playing a quick game of water polo with a floating coconut on our return swim then ended the day with a few infamously strong rum punches up at Shirley Hights where a live band plays every Sunday.

Christmas at Pineapple was a fantastic experience. I made the obligatory Skype call with parents then it was up for a champagne breakfast with the new family. After filling a cooler with more champagne and, of course, rum, we marched down to Nelson’s Dockyard. We spent the day basking on the lawn or sprawled under the palm trees that grow there, occasionally dousing ourselves in the ocean before returning to the grassy dance floor to jam with reggae santa. I made friendships that day that will last a lifetime.
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The Pineapple could almost be considered more of a social club than a crew house. The heady mix of sailors, locals and holiday makers that gather most evenings in the main house is what really brings life to the cluster of buildings on a hill. A constant supply of rum punch is always to be relied on, drunk solely from left over jars of various shapes and sizes, people were drinking from mason jars at the Pineapple long before hipsters turned it into a cliché. If you do end up staying in one of the beds in the main house it is best to adopt an attitude of “If you can’t beat em, join em” as what can start as a few quite drinks on the balcony will often escalate into a full-scale, dancing on the bar, swinging from the chandeliers (don’t), crew party and indeed The Pineapple House boasts quite an impressive PA system.
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Over my three winters I spent in Antigua I would regularly pop up to see what was happening in the house, not to stay there as I had my own accommodation but to meet friends and usually just to check out how the party was. Without fail upon entering I would be embraced in an almighty bear hug from Libby. Libby is the owner, proprietor and designer of The Pineapple house. She is a fantastic woman who exudes love and compassion, she’s always the first to suggest a party and would be the first person I’d turn to if I got myself into any difficulties in Antigua.
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I recently stayed for a week in the “Rum Jungle” one of the private cottages, just below the main house, actually vacationing for the first time in over five years. It was just the perfect place for a solo traveler to stay and I loved my week there. I would make myself some eggs in the morning before walking the five minutes the beach, where I could spend most of the day just drinking banana coladas with my book. I ended up racing on the classic yacht “Adix” for two days, after two other Pineapple House residents suggested I should invite myself on board,  I even won the gig racing event in The Pineapple’s own little gaff rigged “Scruffy”.

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I found myself becoming quite emotional packing my bags on my last night, listening to José González probably didn’t help. Many great memories have blossomed at The Pineapple and I’m already counting the days, though I don’t know how many there may be, until I have reason to return.

As it’s written above the door “Heres to the nights that turn into mornings and friends that turned into family.”18175372_10158626616560055_1136906797_o

Everything happens for a reason, really.

Everything happens for a reason, when one door closes another door opens, what will be will be, they’re all classic clichés that people love to post with inspirational text on social media. No doubt most will scoff and scroll on by. Perhaps though these posters have a point. I thought I’d try my hand at […]

Everything happens for a reason, when one door closes another door opens, what will be will be, they’re all classic clichés that people love to post with inspirational text on social media. No doubt most will scoff and scroll on by. Perhaps though these posters have a point. I thought I’d try my hand at one of these “inspirational” musings and write about why I do happen to believe that life may not be quite as random and tragic as it seems at times.

I was distraught when I was sacked from my dream job in Greece. I’d been having the time of my life working on that beach. I was working with amazing people, making friendships that would last for life and I had an absolutely cracking tan. I bawled my eyes out the whole trudge back to my accommodation after the blow was dealt, I hadn’t cried like that since I was a child.

After a week at home, most of which I spent in bed feeling very sorry for myself, I went out for a sail, we rafted up alongside a motor boat owned by a man I’d never met before. We chatted for maybe half an hour about how the sailing I’d done and how I was somewhat between jobs at the time. After which he casually offered me some work helping him cruise his other, much larger, yacht around the Bahamas, I obviously jumped at the opportunity.

I don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t been sacked from that dream job. I was so disappointed at the time, everything had been leading up to being on that beach. It was really all I had planned for and then without warning the sandy rug was pulled from under my feet and I landed back in a very cold and wet Scotland, it was almost snowing when I arrived back in August. Now looking back I thank my lucky stars for losing me that job, if I hadn’t I wouldn’t be where I am now.

This became something of a theme in my life, massive disappointment followed by life altering always for the better.

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My next fiasco occurred when I was working in a ski resort the following winter, the job in the Bahamas didn’t come to fruition for another year or so. I had been offered another job on another beach in Greece, the company sounded like a lot of fun and people who I knew said they were so much better than the last company I’d worked for. I was couldn’t wait to start so I found myself in tears once again when I broke my leg, meaning that I would spend my summer in crutches rather than on the Island of Lesvos. After I had recovered from my spiral fracture but before the company found a new place for me I had time to sail with a sail training charity called Ocean Youth Trust Scotland. It was during this time that it was suggested to me that I should sign up to sail with them for a year and gain some valuable sailing experience and qualifications, this I did after a few months teaching dinghy sailing in Turkey.

My time with the Ocean Youth Trust was without a doubt life changing. It made me a much better person as well as forming the confident young  Ocean Yachtmaster that I am today. If I hadn’t broken my leg, I would have just ended up doing what I’d done the summer before but on a different beach in Greece. I would never have gone sailing with OYTS and again I wouldn’t be where I am today, working as a Chief Officer on board a 105′ luxury catamaran cruising around the Caribbean.

Things ran pretty much according to plan for almost a couple of years before I had another big disappointment. The next mission was to sail across the Atlantic. There was a beautiful 60′ Yacht looking for someone just like me to cross the Atlantic and then cruise the Caribbean for the winter, and they were willing to pay the right candidate. I had two phone interviews and they really seemed to like me, all was going well until a month before departure when they told me I was a very strong second choice, they’d found someone else. I frantically searched the online crew websites and eventually found a much smaller yacht willing to have me as a crew member if I was willing to contribute €200 to the cost of food. Coincidentally, when I joined the boat in the Canary Islands, two spaces down the dock was moored the beautiful 60 footer that I had missed my opportunity on. I got to meet the guy who was first choice. He was a nice enough fella, I couldn’t see why they had chosen him over me though. I spent a couple of nights out drinking with him, all the while my resentment building, especially with the knowledge that his ride would be probably a week shorter, a lot more luxurious and profitable than mine. When I did arrive in the Caribbean I headed for Antigua where I spent four months walking the docks looking for my first job on a Super Yacht. Very little time and energy was put into the job hunt, I spent a lot of time on beaches and in bars. I made amazing friends, had unforgettable experiences and generally had an absolute blast. A few months into my search I bumped into old “First choice” he was not having such a blast. When I met him he was by himself, utterly sloshed, propping up the bar in “Cloggys”. He told me what a dreadful time he was having, being worked to the bone by the elderly couple that owned the boat for very little pay, he had no friends and the boat moved so often he never had enough time to get to know anyone his own age. “Bullet well and truly dodged” I thought as I left him slumped at the bar to join my group of friends on the dance floor. God! Just imagine I’d been their first choice, that would have been me slumped alone at the bar. It was around this time that I fully started to appreciate that things really do happen for a reason or at least have a way of working out for the best.

clichés

One more pivotal disappointment occurred just last year. I had been asked to crew for another trans-Atlantic delivery with a couple of friends, I said yes as it coincided perfectly with me leaving the yacht I’d been working on for two years. Then I was offered a job on a 105ft yacht with an amazing owner and really fun sounding itinerary. I chose to do the Atlantic crossing and hope the position on the yacht was still open by the time I’d reached the other side. We had such a chilled crossing, no bad weather and my best friend, Joe, and I got to basically hang out on deck for three weeks playing cards, chatting rubbish and working on getting “Beach body ready”. When we arrived in the Azores I had an email waiting in my inbox telling me the position had been filled leaving me to spend the rest of the delivery to Palma worrying that I’d made the wrong choice and maybe that was a big opportunity I’d just missed out on. A month later I was ready to punch walls in rage because I’d taken the delivery over the job, I really thought I’d screwed things up for myself.

As it turned out, the guy they’d found for the position didn’t work out, I got emailed back a couple of months after I got back to the UK offering me the position again, things had worked out just perfectly.

I was sitting having lunch when a message from the captain of the yacht I’d crossed the Atlantic on popped up on Facebook. I only read half of it before the world came crashing down around my head. Joe, my best friend and sailing companion, had died in a free diving accident. I haven’t lived long enough yet to find out if that happened for a reason, I suspect nothing will ever justify that but if ever I manage to find a positive spin I’ll let you know. However, had I not taken that delivery, if I’d just accepted the job when it was offered to me like I had been wishing I’d done for months, I wouldn’t have had those three halcyon weeks with Joe. I would never have said good-bye and that doesn’t bear thinking about.

Perhaps the next time life seems cruel or unfair, if you’ve suffered a blow or made a mistake, it would be worth taking a look back at your previous trials and tribulations and realise just how formative they were. What may seem like the end of the world at the moment may in fact be your ticket to freedom and future success. Dare I say it? If life gives you lemons, make lemonade….. It may be naff and corny but if we all strive to live by these cheesy mantras then just maybe we can all achieve greatness.