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Jol Byerley’s Sept 07 Letter from Antigua

Somewhere around 46 years ago the very first Antiguan charter boat show was started by Commander Vernon Nicholson and his family and held in Nelson’s Dockyard. It was a very laid back affair and about 20 brokers visited the various yachts and probably partied long into each night. Suffice to say that everybody had a whale of a time. It was to carry on along these lines for the next four years or so until the Nicholsons had the brilliant idea of taking one and all up to the absolutely deserted Green Island off Antigua’s south east coast.

In those days most of the charter brokers spent the greater part of their time in the Mediterranean but the Caribbean and the Nicholsons were making their presence felt. Certainly the sailing between these practically undiscovered islands was as good as you can get. In those days Rodney Nicholson, under an enormous chef’s hat, would cook up a storm on the beach each night and even the most knowledgeable broker thought they had arrived in heaven when under a full moon Molihawk’s musical crew serenaded them with Sparrow’s calypsos which had probably never been heard before west of the Cote d’Azure.

Naturally, this sort of thing caught on like a wild fire when charter yachts shows in islands such as St. Thomas and Grenada began. The Nicholsons were delighted as were the brokers and the owners of the charter yachts.

So it’s not altogether surprising that I am completely flabbergasted to learn that the St. Martin show, under entirely new management, let me add, is being held at exactly the same time as the Antiguan Show. So can anyone tell me just what on earth is happening here? Surely the only thing this will do is create some sort of bad feeling between those who choose the long-established Antiguan Show and those who choose St. Martin. Quite honestly it doesn’t make any sort of sense at all.

The charter yacht shows have up until now been held purely to benefit the yachtsmen and most of them have sailed many thousands of miles to get to these islands in the sun. Now, as far as I am concerned (and remember please I started chartering in the Caribbean in 1957) there is unquestionably plenty of room for other shows to be held in other islands at OTHER TIMES. Hold in mind that what used to be known as the Nicholson Charter Yacht Show and more recently has become the Antigua Charter Yacht Show has emerged through thick and thin and it is frankly completely beyond me why anyone should want to change this without any sort of explanation.

One thing is certainly for sure. It is not primarily held to get business for the marina operators who will anyway, if they run good facilities, serve to benefit from a charter show like Antigua’s which has been running for 46 years.

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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