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Profile of Oliver Deligny and the Varnish Extraordinaire

He didn’t start out that way. Oliver Deligny was the oldest of twelve in a family who owned a banana plantation on St. Lucia in the Leeward islands. When at seven years old, he got his own little sail boat, his family thought he’d gone crazy. But it was only the beginning.

The call to the sea was strong and Oliver left home at age 14 for the Bahamas where he got drunk for the first time with St. Thomas, Virgin Islands shipwright Monty Montenegro at Highborne Cay in the Exumas. It was in the 60s that Oliver learned the fine finesse of perfect varnish, mostly on Art Crimmon’s charter boat, Traveler II.  Afterwards Oliver skippered Jacaranda, a 91-foot ketch for eight years in the Bahamas…and crossed the Atlantic not once, but 16 times!

On one of those voyages, he broke the record for a boat of that size by sailing across from West Palm Beach, Florida to Cannes, France in 21 days.

His next stint was as captain aboard Yellow Cat, a 78-foot twin diesel ketch for thirteen years, mostly in the Caribbean. But finally, his dream came true when in 1983 he bought a Gulf Star 50 and renamed her La Creole.

Oliver, who is a well-liked, soft-spoken, polite West Indian, seemed to have little trouble establishing himself as a topnotch skipper and varnish extraordinaire. When he didn’t have a charter, he was varnishing. You could tell La Creole apart from other Gulf Star 50s by her gleam. There was nobody – well, very few – who could match Oliver’s fine technique.

The arrival of Hurricane Klaus on November 6, 1985 at St. Thomas, the day before the Virgin Islands Charter League Boat Show was to start, did not deter Oliver’s grit and determination. Anchored well out in long Bay at St. Thomas for the storm, Oliver found himself caught in a web of dragging boats and landed on the beach just by Yacht Haven.

Knowing that he had to remain on the boat and protect it, he was visited by the police who did not come to warn him of thieves but to tell him that he should get off the boat, insinuating that they wanted to loot the boat themselves!  Oliver, of course, did not budge. At 2 a.m. three guys threatened him as he prevented them from climbing aboard.

“You’ll never see daylight,” one of them said. Oliver bluffed them, making them believe that he had a gun. He didn’t. Later more police came by to check on him (or maybe to see if he had abandoned the boat). They seemed glad that he was o.k.

Oliver had a dilemma. The boat show was starting the next morning and he was still hard aground, as were most other boats. So he arranged to have a barge with a crane lift La Creole off the beach and back into the water. That was done and incredibly, he got the boat spruced up in time for brokers to come aboard to view her. As you can imagine, he won the hearts of the charter brokers that day and has continued to be a successful charter captain since that time.

But Oliver has had other plans in mind. He dreamed of having a bed & breakfast on St. Thomas.  After parting ways with La Creole, he has built in the last four years a very spacious seven-bedroom villa named Villa La Creole which has just recently opened. High above the south shore of St. Thomas with a spectacular view, the villa has become his new boat on land and, like a boat, there’s always something to finish, repair or improve. Oliver will have no trouble maintaining his reputation as the number one varnish extraordinaire!

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