23/01/2013, Chaguaramas, Trinidad
NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT...
President Obama has been sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America. There is no question (in the minds of most reasonable people) that he was properly elected by the States of the Union at the Electoral College, and incidentally by a clear majority of voters who participated in the election. The Constitution of the United States makes provisions for election of a president, and all indications are that those provisions were duly followed - ergo, Barack Obama is the legitimate President of the United States of America.
There seems to be far too many people unwilling to accept these constitutional principals of succession and order, and to allow the majority to rule. We think that personal political agendas, often driven by financial greed, are driving this destructive attitude. In our minds this is clearly unpatriotic activity which undermines our form of representative democracy which is based on the concept that the majority rules - but the minority can, and should, constructively protest. But that minority cannot and should not set aside or disrupt the will of the majority. Some of the people in our circle of contacts have taken their protest (actually an attempt at the disruption of legitimate constitutional government activities) to the level of a HATE CRIME. At the least, we consider these individuals to be unpatriotic; and in fact, they are a threat to a government OF the people, elected BY the people, and FOR the people - as Abe the rail-splitter would put it. We hope that these unpatriotic disruptors and haters will take some time to reflect on their nefarious activities, and realize that they have crossed the line of legitimate protest. Unfortunately, based on how these people apparently think (actually, it appears to be more of an emotional reactionary process than logical thought) we do not expect that they will come to this conclusion.
These screwballs exist on BOTH the conservative and liberal extremes of the political spectrum. Neither of these extremes move our country forward (they certainly are not "progressive"), nor do they preserve the American way of life (they do not "conserve" our precious freedom), they tear it down. One of the by-products of the vile hate which they spew on the Internet and TV is that it discourages many citizens from speaking out and participating in our democracy for fear of having to engage these people (often friends or family), and then being viciously attacked by them... Informed, reasoned, discourse is simply not what these characters want. In our view, our country needs a strong and legitimate minority to maintain balance in our government; but the current minority political party has diminished their standing to such a degree that they are no longer effective at bringing this much needed balance to our government. The recent inept negotiations regarding the self-inflicted "Fiscal Cliff" make this point all too well... If YOU think that OUR stating these observations is wrong-minded or offensive, then you are likely the very people we are referring to. We hope that more of our friends who find this behavior offensive will also speak out against your disruptive and inappropriate activities.
Recently, we were enjoying Shark & Bake (fish sandwiches) at pretty Maracas Bay on the north shore of Trinidad. We found ourselves sharing a table with some nice folks from Venezuela who made the statement that, "You Americans hate Venezuela and our President Chavez." We assured them that we did not hate the Venezuelan people, and that we were in fact glad that they had a republic, governed by a constitution, under which the majority of their people elected a leader. We told them that we were looking forward to visiting their country in the coming months. What we did not say is that there is no way we would vote for a socialist from the far left for president, but we did tell them that we were happy that the Venezuelan people were able to select their leader, and then allow him to lead them in the face of strong domestic and international opposition. It is their choice who leads them.
For the record, we are registered to vote as "independent" with respect to party affiliation. We endorse neither of the two major American political parties because, in the aggregate, the ACTIONS of them BOTH do not reflect our views of good government; but then, we do not condemn them either. The majority has spoken, and President Obama is our lawful elected leader - so please let him lead. As American citizens traveling the world we fly our national ensign onboard Tiger Lilly daily - we are PROUD TO BE AMERICANS! God Bless our president, and God bless the United States of America.
Tom & Lilly Service - Ambassadors At Large
S/V Tiger Lilly
02/11/2012, PEAKE'S Boatyard, Chaguaramas, Trinidad
We just completed three weeks of maintenance on the hard, and Tuesday morning Tiger Lilly was launched - we are waterborne again :-) (Although this blog's title is SPLASH, "dip" would have been more descriptive, but less dramatic...) All in all it was a good haul-out, and the price was right. Last November at the Seven Seas Cruising Association Gam in Melbourne, Florida we won a FREE haul-out at Peake's! The only catch was we had to use it in 2012, and we had to sail 2000 miles south to take advantage of our good fortune. Well, Trinidad was right on our way to South America so it worked out just fine. The folks here at Peake's really know how to run a boatyard - it is the cleanest, most professional, and friendliest boatyard in Trinidad. Their 150 ton Travel Lift is the largest in Chaguaramas, so we did not have to remove any rigging to be hauled - a real plus. We are enjoying the convenience of being stern-to at Peake's dock, here on the busy Chaguaramas waterfront. Their haul-outs include 5 days at their dock after the on-land work is complete; a great opportunity to wash down the boat after the dusty yard, and give the crew a bit of needed rest and relaxation. So, if you get down here and need a bottom job, check out Peake's.
We will spend the next week or so here in Trinidad, then we head north to the pretty island of Tobago, just an overnight passage from Trinidad. After cruising the northeast coast of Tobago we will return to Trinidad for Christmas and the SSCA New Years Day Gam, provisioning, and then we are off for South America in early January. Not many cruisers sail south down the northeast coast of South America since this requires sailing against the Trade Winds and against (or inside) the Guiana Current. But we think it is worth it to explore the region's tropical rivers, and we know that Tiger Lilly will take good care of us. Our first stop after leaving Trinidad is the Rio Orinoco Delta in eastern Venezuela - the eighth largest river in the world. This delta is quite remote, populated only by the Waro Amerindians, and covered with thousands of square miles of tropical rain forest and jungle - a rather unusual place to navigate an ocean-going sailboat. As we work our way southeast we plan to explore the tropical rivers and villages of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Our first stop in Brazil will be at the mighty Amazon River, the largest river in the world, and a bit of a challenge from a navigation and security standpoint. We will just have to wait until we get there to see what state the river is in (it changes a lot with the seasons), and where it is safe to sail. Schedule-wise we have an open time table as the east coast of South America does not have a hurricane season; but of course the winds and currents vary with the seasons - wet and dry. Lilly sez: Read that mosquito season followed by snake season, what's not to like about that?
We have posted a few pictures of our haul-out on our PHOTO GALLERY (upper right corner of this blog), and you can navigate thusly to see them: PHOTO GALLERY / PORTS OF CALL / CARIBBEAN / TRINIDAD / PEAKE'S HAUL-OUT - see you there!
25/09/2012, The Spice Isle - GRENADA
On this day, 22 years ago, Lilly gave birth to a son whom she named Ryan Christopher. That boy became the light of her life - he is truly a gift from God. Ryan has developed into a fine young man of character, honesty, heart, and (predictably) athletic ability. As a member of the Senior Class and a business major at Florida Atlantic University he is putting together the credentials, skills, and knowledge to become (again, predictably - after all, he is Lilly's boy) a successful businessman. We have every confidence in him... We have dedicated this blog, which describes the past nine months of our Caribbean cruising to Ryan Christopher Szabo.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY RYAN!!!!
CRAWL / WALK / RUN
When we were married, coming up on two years ago, we decided that a "normal" retirement lifestyle just wasn't for us.
Lilly sez: Normal is a setting on a washing machine, and anyone who knows me knows that is not my style...
Tom had been living aboard his sailboat for quite some time and yearned to return to the other side of the horizon; so he mounted a concerted campaign to convince Lilly of adopting the lifestyle of a cruising sailor and citizen of the world. By way of describing idyllic palm fringed anchorages, fun filled evenings enjoying the company of the international sailing community (complete with dancing monkeys and lively tunes squeezed out of a concertina), and relating exciting sea-stories peppered with the colorful exploits of Captain Daring-Do (some of which even contained minor elements of the truth) - well, the lass was convinced.
Lilly sez: Actually, the tactics, and tact, of the Royal Navy's 18th Century press gangs comes to mind...
At any rate, the decision was made to go to sea. But Lilly wasn't quite sure where that was... Not to worry, Mr. Planner to the rescue; after giving the subject some serious thought (Jack Nicholson's Colonel Nathan R. Jessop, USMC would state "Is there any other kind?") a ramped-up progressive training plan was developed and promulgated (with actionable milestones, responsibility assignments, and of course a calendar annotated with metrics). We call it CRAWL / WALK / RUN. The object of the plan was to take Earth Person Lilly and make a real sailor out of her.
Lilly sez: Is your hair hurting yet? Mine is...
It goes something like this: CRAWL, we would cruise the coastal waters of the US East Coast and ICW); WALK, sail south to the balmy Caribbean for the winter/spring sailing season; and the final phase was RUN, exploring the East Coast of South America, south to the Horn, and then across the Pacific. Our current Grenada hiatus marks the end of the WALK phase of our sail training work-up together: during the WALK Phase of our plan we have sailed about 2300 miles since leaving Cape Canaveral in December 2011 (including a 1600 mile non-stop passage from Cape Canaveral to Antigua), visited 12 different countries / island groups, and called at 43 different Caribbean anchorages. To cap it off, this month Lilly has been raised to the sublime degree of Commodore in the SSCA - the woman is a sailor! It has been a great sailing season for the crew of Tiger Lilly. Well, that is our plan, and it seems to be working...
Each year, as hurricane season approaches, we migrate out of the tropics and head for an anchorage safe from tropical cyclones. Here in the Caribbean we have chosen the south coast of Grenada for our 2012 hurricane season anchorage. Although Grenada has experienced hurricanes in the past (Ivan devastated the southern end of the island in 2004); we like it here because it is such a clean, friendly, and crime-free country. We are always ready to make the overnight 80 mile sprint for Trinidad, and safety, should we be threatened by a hurricane. Since we are headed south onto the northeast coast of South America, we really did not have to hunker down for hurricane season this year as the area from Trinidad south (where we are headed) does not experience tropical revolving storms, but we needed the time to do maintenance and make repairs to Tiger Lilly. Also, after 7 months of being on the move, the crew was ready to take a break. There are about 200 boats on the south coast of Grenada, and most of them are here for the same reasons. Our day usually starts at 0530 with a friendly wave from Capt. Collins and his crew aboard the work boat Tuff Lady as they run through the anchorage on their way to the exclusive resort on Calivigny Island. Lilly often tosses him a small Thermos of fresh brewed coffee as Tom admires the lines of the US NAVY 52 foot utility boat on her third (at least) career. At 0700 Amateur Radio Operator George (KP2G) from the Virgin Islands starts the Caribbean Ham Weather Net on the single side band radio with the latest weather report from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. At 0730 the Grenada Cruisers Net is on the VHF radio, and we hear the latest announcements from the cruising fleet and plan our day. Although we have been pretty busy with boat projects, we have enjoyed being part of the international cruising community and making many new friends here in Grenada.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
We know that many of you back in civilization, raising families, developing careers, and doing serious stuff while running the Big Rat Race are saying to yourselves, "What DO those people really DO all day?" In no particular order here are some of our activities while we have been anchored in Mount Hartman Bay, Grenada (aka day-care for Baby Boomers):
Yoga class (Lilly sez: Picture a grunting oriental pretzel, with elbows and knees sticking out every-which-way, that's my Tom-Tom attempting Yoga); Lilly and Rosie (The Flower Girls) hiking through the Mount Hartman mangrove forest and dove sanctuary; Island Tour with Cutty (Tom was fascinated by that huge water wheel at the rum distillery - we could actually feel the raw power of that huge wheel as it rumbled around, and we met Grenada's past United Nations Ambassador Dennis Noel O.B.E.); Grenada Summer Carnival (quaint country fair, but nothing like !Carnival! in the French Islands or the Greatest Show On Earth in Trinidad); Saturday morning market in St. Georges (wonderful aroma from bags and bags of fresh spices); monthly book swap at the Island Water World chandlery (to see and be seen); organized a benefit concert for musician Donnell Best (young local lad undoubtedly on his way to music stardom); selling Mack Sails and rigging (we really believe in their superior product, Tom is Mack's Caribbean Rep); working the Project List (but it seems like we actually add more items than we complete...); worship at Grand Anse Baptist Church (Pastor Royston Isaac has become our Grenadian pastor, and Grand Anse is our spiritual home in the Caribbean); started an AA group here in Secret Harbour; wrote an article for The Caribbean Compass Magazine about a Customs Officer who was killed during a drug bust in the Grenadines (see previous Blog); held a SSCA Passage-Makers seminar for crews interested in sailing around the world; dinghy concert (kool time when the cruisers tie their dinghies to an old tug anchored off Hog Island and local musicians perform on the tug's fantail for us); Secret Harbour Marina for music by eclectic Barracuda / tasty Caribbean Cuisine / free Wi-Fi / Summer Olympics on the big-screen TV (the entire country of Grenada came to a standstill, and then went absolutely NUTS when Kirani James won GOLD in the 400 meter run) / secure dinghy dock / local cruisers hang-out; free jazz concert at the Grenadian Museum in St. Georges (cruiser motto - If it's free it is for me!); cruiser Sunday afternoon jam sessions at Whisper Cove Marina; cleaning the anchor chain / bottom of the boat / dinghy bottom / and the weekly bilge scrubbing (the 84 degree F water we live in really promotes marine growth and fouling); American Independence Day picnic at Clarks Court Bay marina (with a Reggae concert featuring a local judge doing a Ray Charles on the keyboard); weekly Scrabble and Mexican Train Dominos at Secret Harbour Marina (Lilly's idea of fun...); and a memorable performance at the Spice Basket Theatre for the final concert of the Undisputed World Champion, The King of Calypso - The Mighty Sparrow (Lilly sez: At 77 years-old, Sparrow even tops Mick Jaggar - BELIEVE IT!).
We actually enjoy living in two neighborhoods in Grenada: the area ashore around Mount Hartman Bay called Lance Aux Epines, and the 50 or-so international cruising boats out here in our anchorage. The homes surrounding Mount Hartman Bay (aka Secret Harbour) are million dollar plus properties, and have some of the most beautiful tropical landscaping imaginable. In fact our friends Dennis & Cathy, who live at the top of the hill, just won a gold medal for their orchards at the London Flower Show. What a great place this is to go for a walk in the cool of the early evening - it is such a genteel environment. Our neighbors in the anchorage are from all points of the compass: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Europe, Great Britain, Canada and the USA. Florida Cracker Lilly has adjusted quite well to being a member of the international sailing community. (She hardly ever calls them "foreigners" anymore...) Here is what she has to say about our neighbors and her new lifestyle: The cruising lifestyle is so satisfying, and what I hear from almost all of our neighbors is they NEVER want to go back to life ashore, most of them want to cruise for as long as their health holds out - and this is a very healthy lifestyle. Although sailboat cruisers are from many different cultures, we all seem to be at a similar station in life, and we seem to share many of the same values. Not many rich people can be found cruising in sailboats (there is way too much manual labor required, and way too few creature comforts - remember, we live outside...); most of these sailors seem to be just ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We come in from all points of the compass to gather together during hurricane season in safe anchorages, make some wonderful friends, and then back out we go to cruise the tropics during the sailing season. In my life ashore BTT (before Tom-Tom) I hardly ever saw my busy neighbors. Usually they drove down the street with their garage door remote control in hand, pulled right into the safety and security of their garages, and then quickly closed the door behind them. I would NEVER have thought that my new friends were going to be such interesting people coming from such varied walks of life. WOW! I am certainly not in Jacksonville anymore. For those of you wondering how I have survived the WALK phase of Tom-Toms tailored "Get Lilly Ready For Sea Program" all I can say is that my watchword continues to be progress, not perfection! (Neither of us came out of this without a few gouges, but no permanent scars; we are still in love, and very happy to be together!)
WHERE WE ARE BOUND
With only two weeks left until our Grenadian visas expire, things are really spinning up aboard the good ship Tiger Lilly as we prepare for our departure, and the RUN phase of our cruising plan. In early October we are headed south for the East Coast of South America, by way of Trinidad & Tobago. Trinidad is our first stop to haul-out and anti-foul the boat bottom, then up to Tobago for a mini-cruise down the northwest shore of an absolutely delightful island, back to Trinidad for their colorful Christmas and New Year's celebrations, and then into the Rio Orinoco Delta of Eastern Venezuela to cruise among the Waro Indian people and explore the tropical rain forests of the world's eighth largest river.
CHECK IT OUT
To get an idea of what cruising a sailboat through the Eastern Caribbean looks like, check out some of the pictures we took over the last nine months. Go to the upper right corner of this page, click on PHOTO GALLERY, and navigate thusly: Ports of Call / Caribbean / 2012 Caribbean Cruise. See you there!
10/06/2012, Union Island, The Grenadines
We were at Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines (SVG) for the First Annual End-of-Season Pig Roast. We were eating, drinking and re-sailing the cruising season just past when we heard the disturbing news; A SGV Customs Officer had been drowned during the boarding of a suspected Venezuelan drug-boat off Union Island. The drug-runners resisted, resulting in a viscous melee, and gun-battle; three of the drug-runners were killed, one wounded, and the remainder of the vessel's nine-man crew were taken into custody. The dead Customs Officer, Othniel Whyte, was married, a father of four children, a grandfather, and had been an SVG Customs Officer for over 21 years. As cruisers we have regular contact with these officers, and we enjoy sailing the waters where the attack took place. All of this was very sobering news to the sailors at the Tobago Cays.
The following day we sailed down to Clifton, Union Island. Our cruising season was drawing to a close, and we were there to check-out of SVG on Monday morning. Sundays in most West Indian towns are usually quiet, however, 10 June in Clifton was eerily so. We asked a local fellow on the street what was up. He said most of the island's residents were down in Ashton for the funeral. We asked if the funeral was for the SVG Customs Officer and he said it was. Since we had come ashore to hike and explore we were certainly not dressed for a funeral. However, it was about to begin, and we decided to go and represent the cruising community - dressed just as we were. Usually our contact with Customs and Immigration Officers is restricted to standing before them at a high counter and filling out multiple copies of antiquated clearance forms, separated by sheets and sheets of messy old-fashioned carbon paper. Most of the cruising community hail from First World digitized countries, and to be perfectly honest, we tend to be a bit smug when dealing with Third World bureaucracies. But not today; today a man was in his coffin, and that man was dead because he did his duty and stood up against evil.
Make no mistake about it, the people who manufacture and distribute illegal drugs are evil, and those that use this poison are fools. As a retired Naval Officer, the current fad to romanticize the pirate/drug culture image goes right against my grain... (Lilly sez: Should we put the boy down as undecided?) The Windward Islands of the southeast Caribbean are often the first stop of the narco-terrorists operating out of South America as they head north to the United States. Officer Whyte was a casualty on the front line of the international War on Drugs; a protracted conflict which seems to have no end, and only a few victories. As cruisers, we are grateful that there are courageous people like Officer Whyte trying their best with limited material resources and scant public support, to make the world a safer and better place for us all. Lilly and I feel quite strongly about the many sacrifices law enforcement personnel make for us each day, and that is why we found ourselves hurrying across Union Island towards Ashton Village on that quiet Sunday morning. We would go to the funeral dressed in shorts and tee shirts, and the ubiquitous cruiser backpack; and we would stand and pray with Officer Whyte's family and friends. As we left Clifton a local man fell-in walking with us; he told us how to get to Ashton and where the church and cemetery were located.
We heard the procession well before we saw it. The first sounds which worked their way up the Trades to us was the deep thump of a base drum, juxtaposed by the staccato trumpets of a marching band. As we rounded a hill and came down into Ashton Village we could see hundreds of people in the road ahead. They surrounded the hearse, and their presence seemed to lift it, giving the scene a spiritual buoyancy as the procession left the church grounds. They were marching, dancing, and singing loudly: "When we all get to heaven, what a glorious day that will be. When we all see Jesus, we will sing and shout for victory." We had come for a funeral, and found ourselves in a joyous celebration of life; the life of a man well-loved. The Saint Vincent Police Marching Band preceded the hearse in their full regalia; sparkling crisp white uniforms, the flash of their horns reflecting the bright light of the tropical sun, and the beat of their triumphant music carrying the celebration forward. This was in-fact a celebration. We had come to support these good folks who had lost a loved one, yet it was they who lifted our hearts and reminded us of the Good Fight and a race well run. They sang this rejoin as they danced down the road: "Would you be free from the power of sin? Would you over evil a victory win? There is power, power, wonder working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb." Ours were the only white faces in a sea of black. The celebrants were decked out in their Sunday best, and we were in casual garb; but we were welcome and comfortable among fellow believers. Our spirits soured as we marched along with them - good had indeed triumphed over evil.
After nearly an hour of marching, singing, and dancing, the procession approached the cemetery located on a gently sloping hillside overlooking the azure Caribbean. A severe rain squall suddenly swept in from the east and raked the funeral party, but it certainly did not dampen the Islander's spirits. West Indian lore holds that rain is the teardrops of the dead, and this was easy to visualize as we looked across the emerald cemetery grounds, dotted with white marble monuments, and the fresh earth of an open and awaiting grave. Just then, as the rain poured down, several of the women left the road and headed for the grave. They danced on the grave-side newly piled soil, and enthusiastically claimed the ground for their God - and a final victory. This was faith: to stand up and shout when your heart is broke, when it would be so much easier to just lie down and cry; to dance and proclaim life and light when the deepest darkness presses in. These folks were clearly victors, not victims.
We had come ashore that morning in tropical sunlight, anticipating an enjoyable day of hiking, with perhaps an ice cream cone to top it off; but there we stood, in a steady rain, chilled and watching these good people celebrate life, and reminding us just who we really are - Children of God. Evil had indeed been defeated by light and life and faith. Thank you Union Islander's. "When we all get to heaven..."
(This blog was published in the August 2012 issue of Caribbean Compass Magazine)
16/04/2012, Prince Rupert Bay, DOMINICA
Hello from the island of Dominica (pronounced DOM-E-NEE-KA). We are anchored off the town of Portsmouth, some 20 miles south of the Isle de Saintes, waiting for our lost mail which seems to have gone walk-about in the French Postal System . Oh well, these things are just part of the cruising lifestyle. Dominica is a clean and friendly island. It is much poorer than the French islands, but the people here have such a strong proud spirit for their homeland - they certainly go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome. High, green, and volcanic, we have enjoyed hiking the rain forests; and meeting the hard working and resourceful Dominican people. Here is a picture of Lilly holding Kimba, while watching his dad Dean and friend Kunta repair their chain saw - while taking their daily dose of "herb". Dean is an interesting chap: a devout Rastafarian, he built his family a home in the top of a big almond tree along the shore of Prince Rupert Bay, next to Big Pappa's Bar & Grille - a popular cruiser's hang-out. Their home reminds us of Noah's Ark coming to rest on a tree-top! Dean is a quiet man of faith, and he works from sun up to sun down to support his wife Marva and their three wonderful children; Sasa (age 6), Kimba (age 2), and baby Khai. Tom enjoyed spending the afternoon with Dean and Kunta and working on the chain saw; but somehow the naval officer in him was just not comfortable with their herb smoking. Their bong did not seem to be conducive to Good Order & Discipline, nor a safe workplace! All the while the repairs and test runs were being effected, two year-old Kimba was jumping back and forth and bouncing a ball across the recalcitrant chain saw! Lilly sez: OH MY GOSH Tom-Tom - lighten up, it is just a case of different strokes for different folks! Once our mail comes in we will sail back north to the Isle de Saintes, pick it up, and then head south for Martinique.
17/03/2012, Pigeon Point, Antigua, West Indies
I had just finished hiking the marked trail which overlooks the shimmering Caribbean Sea and climbs over the emerald hills of Antigua's south shore from English Harbour's Berkeley Point to Falmouth Harbour's Windward Bay. As I came down out of the hills and approached Pigeon Beach I passed a tall, trim, elderly lady coming off the beach in a swimsuit. She carried herself in a stately manner, and as we passed she returned my "Good afternoon madam" with a warm smile and a friendly "Hello." She was quite attractive, had the stature of an athlete, and I thought to myself "I'll bet that is what Lilly will look like when she gets old." The next time I saw this lady was the following Sunday morning as Lilly and I were walking up a steep hill to Baxter Memorial Methodist Church. A typical Caribbean morning rain shower, complete with sparkling sunshine and a rainbow, was cooling us down as we climbed the hill in our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. This kind soul stopped her car and offered us a ride to church. After the service she introduced herself as Lisa Nicholson, and invited us to her home up on Pigeon Point for a visit. As we walked to her car I told Lilly who this lady was - the Grand Dame of West Indian Yachting. We had a delightful afternoon in the open air home she and her late husband Desmond built overlooking the entrance to Falmouth Harbour; she freely answered our many questions about her life and recounted the history of yachting in Antigua from her first person perspective. She gave us a copy of the brief memoir Desmond had written, which I had already read while visiting the Dockyard Museum, which Desmond had established. We told her we were really interested in how SHE came to Antigua, and what it was like living there and raising a family. One of the many things we learned was that the trails around English Harbour, which Lilly and I were enjoying so much, had been established by Lisa and Desmond in the early years of their marriage. This is her story:
Born Louise Dodd in 1934 on another small island - as Lisa says with a twinkle in her eye, "You might have heard of it, Manhattan, New York!" Her given name Louise was replaced with Lisa while still in her childhood. Her father, Edward Dodd, was the owner of a maritime publishing company, and her mother was the daughter of the founders of the esteemed Hampton Institute of Virginia - one of America's first black colleges. A daughter of privilege herself; education, travel, and service to mankind were stressed in her upbringing and education. Her parents were strict; radio (TV had not yet been invented) and comic books were simply not allowed to be part of her childhood experience - but classic literature, the outdoors, and physical activity certainly were. Lisa's father Edward was an interesting chap. As a young man, he and 5 other fellows bought the schooner "Chance" and sailed her off to the South Pacific in the 1930's; he then authored the book "Great Dipper to the Southern Cross." As a member of the OSS (the forerunner to the CIA) in World War II, he saw service in Europe and worked with Winston Churchill. After building his publishing company into a very successful business, he took early retirement and went off to French Polynesia to study the culture and write five more books.
As a result of growing up during WWII and of her parents' divorce, Lisa attended a variety of public and private schools, ending up at the Putney School in Vermont. In the early 1950's she was off to Cambridge, Massachusetts and Radcliffe College where she lived on the Radcliffe women's campus, but attended many of her classes with the men at the adjacent Harvard University. Lisa studied science, literature, philosophy, and art history, and after graduation had a job waiting for her in Manhattan at New York's prestigious Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
During the summer of 1956 with her newly earned Liberal Arts degree in hand, Lisa's life took quite a turn on the way to a career at MOMA, and what would have been a sophisticated life in New York City. It seems her mother remarried while she was at Radcliffe; her new stepdad was quite a clever fellow who made music with electricity, perhaps you have heard of him, Lauren Hammond, the founder of The Hammond Organ Company! During the summer of 1956 Mr. Hammond chartered one of the Nicholson yachts in Antigua to treat his new family to a Caribbean sailing cruise, and Commander Nicholson's son Desmond was the skipper. Well, young Lisa fell for her dashing yacht captain, and the rest is history - over 50 years worth. (Lilly sez: You have got to watch out for those dashing yacht captains - even the old ones can change your whole life!) Lisa never did find her way back to a career in art at MOMA!
At an early station of life she had developed a character trait which many of us seek in a lifetime of pursuit - she knew who she was, and what she wanted. With a liberal urging from her heart, Lisa saw a window of opportunity and courageously jumped aboard her ship of opportunity. She traded a lucrative career in art and the bright lights of the Big Apple, for a family life in quaint colonial Antigua along-side the sparkling Caribbean Sea. After all, she is her father's daughter. Practical folks of necessity, Lisa and Desmond combined their honeymoon with some much needed maintenance on the Nicholson family schooner Mollihawk; with worms in her rudderpost the yacht urgently needed to be hauled for repairs, and the nearest facility that could handle her tonnage was the steam screw dock in Barbados. So south to Bridgetown our gallant young couple sailed, beam reaching on the Trades without a rudder, and steering the big schooner by trimming her sheets and dragging a bucket over the side - nothing one would expect to read about in "MODERN BRIDE" magazine.
One day early in their new marriage Desmond and Lisa climbed the hill at Pigeon Point and sat on a huge rock overlooking the entrance to Falmouth Harbour and the southern approaches to Antigua. They envisioned a home built on that hill, and a house full of children. As Lisa is so fond of saying, "Everything starts with an idea." and today that rock sits right in front of her home. Their first purchase to make their idea a reality was a diesel generator; the lot atop Pigeon Point was off the grid, as was most of colonial Antigua in the 1950's. In those early days of their marriage teams of oxen tilled the sugar cane fields, local fisherman and island trading vessels worked the waters under sail alone, and windmills crushed the cane for the local rum. It was a Spartan life with few of the comforts enjoyed today; they were the pioneers of the modern West Indies. Lisa and Desmond bought a set of chairs made by shipwrights in Barbados as their first furniture, and two local masons named Reuben and Rafael were employed to lay a foundation for the house and set corner posts for the walls - these fellows had fitting names for craftsmen working on a home for a Radcliffe graduate with a degree in Art History! Desmond paid the equivalent of about $40 in pounds sterling to purchase a huge piece of surplus plate glass which they set into the wall overlooking the anchorage in Falmouth Harbour. That picture window has withstood several West Indian hurricanes, and is the only window in Lisa's open-air home which is glazed. Their four children, Sarah, Chris, Nancy, and Celia, were raised in that home and it saw a lot of joyous celebrations throughout the years. Lisa had quite a grin on her face when she recounted the New Years Eve Party (but of course our English cousins would call it an Old Years Night Party) when the dancing in the front room was so robust that the floor joist gave way and the planking sagged. But of course, as with all families, there were difficult times also - at age 24 their son Chris was killed while climbing Mount Cook in New Zealand. At the time he was the foredeck captain aboard a large Swan racing yacht; and their mountaineer, sailor, world traveler son was taken from them. While we were visiting Lisa she was wearing Chris' well worn chambray sailing shirt - a mother never forgets.
As we sat in her modestly furnished front room and looked out over a forest of masts and rigging stepped on the keels of many millions of dollars worth of the world's most POSH sailing mega-yachts, we asked Lisa what was it like to put together a business and to support their family in the early days of Antigua's yacht charter business. Lisa stressed to us that their first and foremost obligation was to raise up and educate their children the very best way that they could. Early on in their marriage Desmond decided to swallow the anchor, retire from yacht skippering, and stay home and run their businesses out of the Dockyard at English Harbour. The economy of colonial Antigua was sparse, and they had to work very hard to make ends meet. They did their part in operating the Nicholson family yacht chartering business, and they founded the Carib Marine yacht chandlery. With the backing of an investment team, Desmond and Rodney rebuilt the wrecked Engineer's Workshop in the Dockyard at English Harbour and developed the famous Admiral's Inn hotel, pub and restaurant. Lisa kept the books and helped to manage the business. Today, the Admiral's Inn garden and the adjacent sail loft pillars have become the icon for Antigua, and it is featured in virtually every marketing pamphlet describing Antigua's tourism and yachting industry. Forty five years ago, as a pleasurable way to wrap up the yacht charter season and have some fun, they founded a regatta in late April / early May to sail down to Guadeloupe and back, followed by a rousing West Indian Jump-up (party) and prizes for the fastest boats. Today that annual regatta is known as Antigua Sailing Week, and it is the premier sailing event in the world. Everything starts with an idea, but ideas must be carefully nurtured and worked to fruition; Desmond and Lisa were a busy and hard working couple indeed!
In 1984 Desmond retired from the yacht charter business, but he certainly did not retire from the vigorous activity and creativity which had marked his professional career. He called retirement, "Putting on a new set of tires." Desmond had quite an intellect; he loved knowledge, and his passions were science and history. Desmond spent countless unpaid hours researching the history of Antigua and the Dockyard at English Harbour, and then teaching others what he had found. He was fond of saying that knowledge to be of any value must be communicated - and Desmond dedicated his retirement years to doing just that. He studied the ancient people who first inhabited the area, and he developed a keen sense of awareness of the importance of the islanders, black and white, who lived and worked with him. He loved Antigua, her history, and her people. After the former colony was established as an independent nation he took Antiguan citizenship and proudly carried an Antiguan passport. He was a modern West Indian, and a pioneer in every sense of the word. In early 2006, after a long debilitating illness, Desmond left this world. Lisa lovingly described his passing: Desmond was in the hospital, the nurse came in and took his vitals at 8:00 AM, and told her that he was going; He heard the nurse say that - opened his eyes for the first time in a couple of days, looked at Lisa with radiant blue eyes (he had brown / hazel eyes all his life), and smiled at his wife of 50 years; A typical West Indian morning rain was rattling the shutters, and as it passed by his spirit was gone from her sight on the wings of that squall.
These days, Lisa Nicholson is a busy lady enjoying a very active retirement: A fit and flexible woman, she attends Yoga classes every Monday; She swims at Pigeon Beach almost daily; She makes delightful music with her friends in an a-cappella singing group; She takes an interest and supports her church, Baxter Memorial Methodist; She walks most places she goes, traipsing Antigua's rough roads and hilly countryside in flip-flops; she volunteers with Hospice; She picks up trash everywhere she goes, which is why the locals call her the "Trash Lady"; She works with the local school board, and gives freely of her advanced education; She enjoys her three daughters and nine grandchildren. A breast cancer survivor - she knows full well just how precious life is, and she lives it to the fullest. She is still an American citizen, and for many years her United States passport was quaintly stamped by Antiguan Immigration as a "BELONGER," but with changing times she now holds an Antigua passport as well. Lisa is at one with her environment. As we visited in her open air home, her friend the gecko patrolled the living room for insects, and a dainty banana keet flew in and out of the kitchen. Her garden (us yanks would call it her yard) was colorful and fragrant with many of the islands tropical shrubs and flowers in bloom. This Grand Dame of West Indian Yachting told us that her life has been a wonderful journey, and she hopes to find some time and record it all in a memoir. If you get down to Antigua, hike up the hill to Pigeon Point and say hello to Lisa Nicholson, a charming lady with a jump in her step, a fascinating spirit, and a story to tell.
It matters not how straight the gate,
how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
from "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley