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Cruising Tales: How to Prepare for your First Charter Yacht Boat Show

WHAaat? You sayin’ we gotta wear shoes? Keep our shirts tucked in? Hey man, the VICL is goin’ too X@)&# far!

Under the wise advice of Bob and Dorothy Smith who ran Ocean Enterprises as a charter yacht booking and mail service in St. Thomas, the very loosely-organized Virgin Islands Charteryacht League held its first boat show at Yacht Haven in 1975. The idea was to promote business by inviting charter yacht brokers to meet the crews, inspect the boats, and have some fun. It was also important to show the V.I. Government and the Department of Tourism that the charter yacht business was growing into an important industry that would benefit all of the islands.

 In the summer of 1968 about 46 boats ranging from 33 feet to 88 feet chartered out of St. Thomas. There were many more ketches and schooners, only three powerboats, and two multihulls, a tri and a cat. The average cost per person per day for a party of four for up to five days was $45.

Boat show participants, which meant boats and crew, had to look spiffy. Crew members were encouraged to wear collared shirts that were mostly clean and tucked into their shorts.  My charter yacht skipper husband Mike inspected his shirts. Like most big men, he uses his shirts as bibs to catch his tucker. Each shirt is worn for specific meals, i.e., a multicolored shirt for pizza or a dark red shirt for BBQ. Most were ordinary shirts but there was the one he really liked. It had no spots – almost – and had an interesting history.

In 1967 while bringing our boat down from Florida to St. Thomas in late November squally weather, we stopped at Long Island in the Bahamas to dry out. The kind constable took our soggy laundry to a young mother in the country. She did a super job, pounding the clothing on rocks at the spring and getting every spot of grease, food, snot, barf, and paint – except the epoxy – out of most of his shirts including his favorite engine room shirt. That was the one he wanted to wear but it was so thread bare from her scrubbing that it was falling apart.

One collared shirt looked pretty good and allowed his chest hair to show so he naturally chose that. After all, all captains have to be hairy-chested and show it, right? (Except for the lady skippers.)  As to shorts, zippers were required with no gaps allowed. This was important because most skippers didn’t wear underwear. That was just something else that had to be washed. One hopes! Shorts also required loops for a genuine belt, not a dirty rope or braided string. What the girls should wear was never broached to avoid a monstrous rebellion.

The boat, too, had to be clean and tidy. No empty beer bottles rolling around. Blood stains from recalcitrant anchor windlasses removed. The girls polished the brass, even put fairly clean sheets on the bunks and used lots of throw pillows to hide torn upholstery from “robust night-time activities.”

Drinks and snacks to offer the brokers was a good idea. Koolaid was tasty. Leftover popcorn with that special greasy flavor would do. Salted nuts were fine even though a little stale – or some soggy cookies from last month.

Rubber mats were popular for hiding the place on deck where someone threw up the night before or for covering those vivid rust marks from blow “torch-turers” for unruly guests, homemade leaky scuba tanks for those deepest dives or one’s trusty “007” 16mm spear guns. Cleanly-sweeping decks were desirable so stills were removed along with other bulky items.

Just as the brokers were coming down the dock on the first day, Jeff Hart on Green Norseman asked Mike if he could come aboard his boat and throw a heavy, bagged mainsail off the bow to Jeff on the dock. Mighty Mike lifted it from the bow but his heave was not hefty enough and he and bag went into the drink, right in front of the brokers.

This guaranteed that Mike would be well remembered by the brokers!

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