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The Sad Demise of Two Old Friends – Part 1

12 Jan 08_75908

I must confess that I’m a very sentimental person. I’m capable of becoming attached to some strange objects; for instance, my favourite hammer which I have coveted for the last 27 years or almost every vehicle I’ve owned which I tend to keep way beyond their useful life.

Boats are no different and rank high on the list. This past year, I was extremely saddened to learn of the loss of two vessels which have held a special place in my heart. Perhaps because boats have names, it makes them easier to form an attachment to. In any case, I’ve maintained a warm affection for two vessels for almost 20 years. Let me tell you about them.

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The first is a beautiful wooden schooner the White Squall II. Until two years ago, she was the oldest charter yacht offering day sails in the BVI. She was berthed on A dock in Village Cay and could be seen plying the waters of Drake’s Channel almost every day.

My first experience sailing these waters was on White Squall II and I’ve gone out on her more than a dozen times since.

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The White Squall II is 80 feet in length, constructed of wood, and was built in 1936 in Sydney Australia. After circumnavigating the globe—including three Pacific crossings—she was brought to St. Thomas where she was commissioned by the U.S. Navy and served as a mine sweeper in World War II.

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After the war, she began a career as a charter yacht out of Charlotte Amalie and in 1979, she came to the BVI and began her life as a day sail charter.

Sailing on White Squall II was a wonderful experience. It felt to me like I had gone back in time to a slower, simpler life. On several occasions, the captain would let me take the wheel and steer the boat.  For 10 years, the owners and crew along with the Marine Centre at the College would sponsor a Christmas day sail for the staff and children from the Rainbow Children’s Home. It was a holiday tradition that made Christmas special for all who took part.

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The mounting cost of maintaining an 80 year-old wooden vessel combined with lean economic times and personal challenges for the owners led to her demise. Two years ago, she was no longer in active service and as dock space was very expensive, White Squall II was moved to the western end of Road Harbour and anchored. Over the course of this last year as attempts were made to find a new owner, she began to leak. On at least two occasions, she was almost up to the deck and had to have emergency pumping.

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Finally, sometime before Christmas, she was towed to Soper’s Hole and driven nose first onto the beach.

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There she sits today. Although there is a rumour that a new owner has purchased her, it is hard to see how she can make a comeback in her current condition.

I dedicate Part 2 next month to another old friend…Isabel

Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum

Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum

Geoffrey is the curator of the Virgin Islands Maritime Museum. He pioneers and takes part in many of the initiatives related to the traditional art of sloop building.
Geoff Brooks, Curator - Virgin Islands Maritime Museum

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