Jim Scott – global sailor, VISAR co-founder & author
All of the tales, yarns and adventures of Jim Scott’s lifetime would not fit into a single book. Perhaps that’s why he’s written three. In these pages, filled with both prose and poetry, are tales of how this UK native turned Canadian resident has sailed the world and left an indelible mark on the Caribbean as a co-founder of Virgin Islands Search & Rescue (VISAR).
Scott spent his childhood days wandering the shores near his hometown of Old Shoreham, forging what would become a lifelong close connectivity with the natural world. He especially enjoyed beach-walking after a storm to see what treasure trove of exotic artefacts might be delivered by the wind and waves at the high tide mark. Later, his father taught him to fish. He landed his first, albeit non-paying, job as weekend crew on a sports fishing boat. Soon after, Scott began helping with the annual dry-haul, making lobster-pots, splicing lines and making nets. He quickly became a boat-a-holic. Scott furthered his desire for a nautical life by signing on as a junior seaman in the British Royal Naval Reserve. Here he spent weekends aboard minesweepers sailing to ports in France, Belgium and Holland. Two years later, he left school at age 17, qualified for a deck apprenticeship in the British Merchant Navy, flew to Kobe, Japan, and joined his first ship. Thus, he became as hooked on travel as he was on a seafaring life.
By his early 20s, Scott had tired of stopping yet never getting to fully explore the ports of call. So, he left the Navy, slung a pack on his back, a surfboard under his arm and headed to Morocco for six months of surfing. From there he cast off on a series of yacht delivery jobs that leap-frogged him from Gibraltar to the Canaries, South Africa, Brazil, Florida and finally to the Caribbean.
“I arrived in the Islands in 1980; first the Bahamas, then Antigua, before settling in the BVI,” tells Scott. “The marine trades were developing back then but had not reached anything like the level of physical infrastructure and commercialism that exists today. I was a ‘boat bum’ and the marine community seemed then more welcoming of such. Not so much nowadays and I think a penniless youngster wouldn’t find it so easy to get by now as I did back then. Immigration was a little less stringent and it seemed life in general was simpler, a little more sensible and a lot more fun!”
Eight years later Scott co-founded VISAR. Prior to this, there was an informal organization named ‘The Power Squadron’ headed up by senior harbour pilot, Capt. George Forster. So the story goes, Forster was asked by the BVI government to develop a more formal organization that would officially take responsibility for marine search and rescue operations and become the territory’s official marine response unit. Scott, who at the time was managing director at Island Shipping and country manager for Tropical Shipping, was tapped by Forster to lend a hand to found VISAR.
“I was elected president in 1989, the year of Hurricane Hugo, for which VISAR provided major support to the marine community from Virgin Gorda to Culebra,” Scott recalls. “I ran the radio net throughout the hurricane and coordinated the relief work we performed afterwards. We made a video documentary afterwards, which included many survivors’ interviews. Twenty-two years later that video is still in the top ten of most frequently viewed on www.onlinebvi.net.”
Scott’s adventures through the years are numerous. He took Richard Branson and John Hurt sailing for three days, worked with Geraldo Rivera and Hugh Downs on a 20/20 segment about BVI diving legend Burt Kilbride and a $2 billion treasure on the Anegada Reef, imported snow for a film shoot for the Republic of Jose Cuervo’s Winter Olympic Team at Marina Cay, had his appendix out in the maternity clinic during Antigua Sailing Week, and skippered what was once Silvio Berlusconi’s private yacht.
Today, Scott has taken friend’s requests to heart and published his stories. His first book, ‘The Songs and Verses’, was printed last November and contains over 80 poems. His two other books, ‘On Five Continents and Three Oceans’ and ‘On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas’, contain short stories and poems, and will be out this year.
“I still like to support VISAR and am donating 10% of all print edition sales of my books in the BVI to VISAR,” says Scott. “Some vendors have jumped on board and upped that donation to as much as 30%. There are some VISAR stories in the books and at least one poem inspired by this worthy organization.”
For more information about Scott’s books, visit: www.caridiangroup.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.