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Islands, Rafts & Remarkable Men

What’s new on the boatyard scene? According to Carol Bareuther’s annual boatyard update there’s plenty going on as yards throughout the Caribbean expand and add new services to their facilities. All is revealed on page 44.

Years ago, as the editor and publisher of a St. Maarten sailing/boating newspaper, I got into trouble for running a story about hurricanes. Advertisers said it would put people off traveling to the islands and so it threatened their business. I like to think All At Sea readers are a worldlier bunch who understand that countries within the hurricane belt might feel the effects of the occasional tropical blast. September is the height of the Atlantic storm season and, as you are turning these pages, I hope you have one eye on developments in east. Quite a few of our correspondents have been through hurricanes and I have experienced several firsthand. Julian Putley rode out hurricane Hugo at anchor in St. John and to mark the 25th anniversary, he tells his story.

Geographically, the Bahamas are not part of the Caribbean but we often feature this beautiful region knowing that many cruisers, power and sail, make this 5,358 square mile wonderland part of their Caribbean adventure. My wife and I spent over a year cruising the Bahamas in our cutter Driac II and so it holds a special place in our hearts. On page 49, Rosie Burr describes a cruise through the Exumas. Just look at the color of that water.

It is almost a certainty that if you have ever bought a boat, it won’t be your last. Boats are an addiction that many never overcome. Of all the boat addicts I have ever met, Todd Duff takes the biscuit. He has owned more than 50 and he’s still counting. If ever a sailor needed help, it’s Todd! See for yourself. His story is on page 34.

 

Photo: OceanMedia
Photo: OceanMedia

As editor of All At Sea I have met some truly remarkable people and one of the most remarkable was Anthony Smith. In 2011, aged 85, Smith, with companions David Hildred (57, from the Virgin Islands), Andrew Bainbridge (56, from Canada) and John Russell (61, from the UK) crossed the Atlantic on a raft made of water pipes with a corrugated sheet-metal pig pen for a cabin and a telegraph pole for a mast.

In a life of action, Smith pioneered ballooning and in 1962 flew a hydrogen balloon across Africa, and a year later became the first Britain to fly a balloon across the Alps. He rode a motorcycle from England to South Africa and back, presented a science show on TV, wrote 30 books and even had a fish named after him.

Smith had long harbored a desire to pay tribute to the survivors of the SS Anglo Saxon, a British merchantman sunk off the west coast of Africa by a German warship in 1940. Of an original seven sailors who scrambled into the merchant ship’s lifeboat, only two — Roy Widdicombe and Robert Tapscott — survived the 2,800-mile journey across the Atlantic. They eventually landed on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

“As I grew longer in the tooth, I began to think that some kind of re-enactment might be interesting,” said Smith. “The idea grew in my mind that, using a raft, I would cross the very waters where Tapscott and Widdicombe had suffered so horrendously. With luck, I might even land on the beach where they had struggled up the shore.”

Smith’s eventual enactment, on the raft he named Antiki, went a little off course and instead of the Bahamas they ended up in St. Maarten. A year later, Smith, then 86, left St. Maarten to complete the voyage and after a hair-raising time off the Silver Banks, rode a gale of wind over the reef onto the same beach in Eluthera where Roy Widdicombe and Robert Tapscott had stepped ashore.

In my interviews with Anthony Smith, he said he hated getting old. I don’t believe he ever did.

Anthony Smith born March 30 1926, died July 7 2014

 

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