Melodye and John Pompa have long been known throughout the Caribbean as the backbone of the Caribbean Safety and Security Net, heard each morning on 8104.0 SSB at 8:15, but few people realize the great work that they do raising money for educational supplies for the children of Carriacou, Grenada.
During the week of the 2007 Carriacou Regatta, they again led the campaign that raised over $16,000 EC for school books, uniforms and two two-year scholarships to the local community college. They have also established “Meals from Keels” for the Harvey Vale School in Tyrrell Bay and have contributed many articles in various international newspapers concerning boating safety and Caribbean community projects.
The couple began sailing as novices in 1985 on Narragansett Bay on a Sovereign 23’ day sailer pocket cruiser. Enthused, they took lessons to learn how to sail for $50 and as John says with a broad grin, “We’re still at it.” They sailed on weekends while both worked. Melodye, who earned an MBA in management, was a computer software executive with Dun and Bradstreet while John worked for Monet Jewelers as a systems development manager.
In 1988 they bought a Catalina 30, Millennium, as a project boat, which they sailed on weekends. After retiring in 1994, several family deaths in the late 80s and early 90s convinced them that, “life is too short and we wanted to get out of the rat-race. We took the plunge and bought a Pearson 422, naming it not Millennium 2 but Second Millennium and laid out a five year plan…after much agonizing we decided not to wait so we hit the water.”
“We left Rhode Island in September of ‘94 and promptly went aground. Deciding that it would be safer to sail with a group, we sailed to Hampton, VA, and joined Steve Black’s Caribbean 1500 to Tortola (the inter-waterway version). We became waylaid in the Turks and Caicos but made it to the Jolly Roger, West End, in time for the Super Bowl. Nanny Cay was our destination. The BVI was the Caribbean to us so we sailed to both Puerto Rico and St. Martin.”
“After hurricanes Luis and Marilyn we decided 18 degrees north was just not the place to be, so the next year we sailed south to Venezuela. We were joined during all of this by our wonderful 65 pound Weimaraner named Millie, who unfortunately died in 2007 after 16 wonderful years – she loved boating.”
Melodye continues, “During the late 90s we cruised from Grenada to the Virgins; however, the cruising grounds continued to shrink so that now we really limit our travels to the Windward Islands with a two month side trip to Dominica.”
One of the reasons for this is their extensive community involvement with children’s education and sailors. Melodye is Caribbean Project Director for Boaters For Books (www.boatersforbooks.org), currently focusing on bringing library books to Dominica and Carriacou and looking for other islands who need assistance in upgrading their school libraries. They try to spend six to eight weeks each spring in Portsmouth, Dominica, where Melodye works with first and second grade slow readers and John does handyman jobs at St. John’s Primary School.
John continues, “This is our neighborhood, these Caribbean islands, and we are not doing anything here that we wouldn’t be doing if we lived on land back in the states. Besides, it’s not a one-man-band, as Melodye continues to say on the Security Net – there are many other cruisers, a number of local businesses, and, more and more, friends and family back in the states who contribute to these projects. None of what we do would be possible if it were us alone.”
In my opinion, these two cruisers have become icons in the field of community service. The Caribbean is fortunate, indeed, to have sailors like John and Melodye in our waters—most definitely “Cruisers with a Heart.”
Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 21 years. She holds an MA Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean.