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Sailing with Charlie: Launchings

Graphics by Hannah Welch
Graphics by Hannah Welch

Ship/Yacht/Boat launchings are such fun. A launching is the birthing of a yacht that months or years before was a mere concept. After much work, trial and tribulation a vessel is born; it is a time for celebration. In big ship launchings, especially the royal navy, a female royal is usually invited to give a speech, swing a specially prepared bottle of Champagne onto the hull and, as it smashes, spray the (hopefully cheap) bubbly onto the crowd, the retaining blocks are removed and the vessel slides down a railway into the water to the cheers of workers and dignitaries. “I name this ship the Ark Royal and may God bless all those who sail in her,” may be her blessing.

Charlie has been to many launchings but the recent one in Jost van Dyke of the Preservation Society’s island sloop Endeavour II was a typical island event. The scheduled day didn’t happen; the barge that was to bring the flatbed across from Tortola had a lucrative concrete deal that took preference. The next day all looked set but then the weather was squally and rough so it wasn’t till the following day that she was eventually splashed. A lovely ‘christening party’ was planned for the following Saturday. A tent was set up for dignitaries to give speeches – but they didn’t turn up. The local children’s choir did a good job of singing God Save the Queen but the relevance of that anthem was somehow lost. ‘God bless those who sail in her’ didn’t get a mention. The dignitary stand-ins did a good job but they should learn the wisdom of a great speech: a good beginning, a good ending and as little as possible in between. Foxy, President of the Society, sang a couple of good songs. Charlie liked the one: ‘Gimme flowers when I livin,’ I don’t need ‘em when I dead’, or words to that effect  There was music planned – a steel band didn’t materialize – mocko jumbies, attired in brilliant costumes, looked a bit lost, a purported lunch didn’t happen. But in the end it didn’t really matter. The day belonged to all the old salts who had helped to bring the eight year project to fruition. It belonged to the children of Jost van Dyke who helped and learned about their heritage. They will be the ones to reap the benefits of learning the history of the islands as Endeavour sails the Caribbean. Towards the end of the proceedings Lorraine Callwood, Foxy’s granddaughter, christened the boat with a splashing of fine (not too fine) rum.

For those who thought they might see the Endeavour sail away and out of the bay, there was one thing missing – a headstay. Apparently there had never been a definitive decision on either roller furling or hank on. The roller furling gear is now on its way. Don’t worry, be happy, it’s Jost van Dyke!

Susan Zaluski deserves a special mention. She joined the JVD Preservation Society as director in 2007 when the sloop project was well underway. She persevered through all the frustrations of raising funds, materials and man power on the tiny island of Jost van Dyke through to the launching in November 2013.

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