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Jol Byerley’s Mar 08 Letter from Antigua

On Monday the 28th of January of this year, my old friend and ex-shipmate Hugh Bailey of the Catamaran Marina and Boatyard in Falmouth Harbour Antigua was called to Government House in St John’s, to be knighted by the First Lady of Antigua who holds the title of Governor General. To say that Judy and I were greatly honoured to be invited there for this ceremony would be putting it very mildly indeed!

Back in the 1960s, Sir Hugh was the skipper of Captain Bruno Brown’s pretty little clipper-bowed yacht Sagittarius and, along with a dozen or so mainly English retired service officers, was responsible for running the then small charter fleet out of English Harbour, Antigua for Commander Vernon Nicholson R.N. Rt. Sir Hugh had previously been to sea with me when I was skipper of the 102ft brigantine Caribee.

He was 16 years old at the time, and even then, it was obvious he would go far in this very new industry. Actually, we spent one whole summer in Marigot Harbour St Lucia, and our crew would climb up into the hills each day to hack down trees which would be suitable to fashion a new rudder and stock for the big brigantine.

Then after that period, when I was running my own charter yacht, Ron of Argyll, Sir Hugh became what I believe to be the first West Indian skipper of the English Harbour charter fleet on Sagittarius. After several years in that position he took over the black-hulled steel schooner Freelance and most successfully ran her, including a very memorable trip to the New York Parade of Sail in 1976 with an all Antiguan crew! If anything served to establish the Antiguan presence in the charter business it was this!

Freelance became the darling of this memorable event and Sir Hugh never looked back. After Captain Brown’s death, Sir Hugh took over both Bruno Brown’s hotel, The Catamaran Club, and continued to run Freelance for many years. It was not long before he built the Catamaran Marina adjacent to the Cat Club Hotel in Falmouth Harbour, and shortly after that also constructed the very large Falmouth Harbour Marina (and also an excellent new boatyard) which is basically responsible for the deep draft dockage for the big yachts of today in Antigua.

In recent years he has been made a member of the board of the National Parks for the now-revitalized Nelsons Dockyard in English Harbour. So, to an old friend, our warmest congratulations, Sir Hugh. Now a Knight of the Grand Collar of the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation. KGN.

Jol Byerley arrived in Antigua in 1957 to captain Commander Vernon Nicholson’s schooner Mollihawk. 2 years later he bought the first of his many own yachts, Ron of Argyll. She was followed by the 73ft Alden gaff schooner Lord Jim. In 2004 he was awarded a G.O.M. by the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda for long service to yachting.

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