I met Michael Beans in 1988 while attending the Coral Bay Music Festival in St. John and I will never forget it. Beans, as all of his friends fondly call him, sailed into Coral Bay on a bright yellow island sloop, Esperanza. With guitar in hand, he boarded his dinghy rowing onto the beach where I was doing face paintings. I closed down shop, listened to his music, and have been a Beans fan ever since.
Recently, we met again and pieced together his 30-year stint in the Caribbean.
“I come from the Great Lakes region, so I have always been around water. I began sailing on a Sunfish at the age of 11. At 16, I was sailing on cruising boats off Beaver Island where I played music around the campfires, which launched my musical career. By the time I was 18, I was playing the nightclubs of Beaver and Mackinac Island, where I met Jim Sawtelle, a shipwreck salvager and treasure hunter who hired me to work for him. He took me to the Florida Keys on a working expedition and there I met his partner Mel Fisher. In 1975, we headed to Haiti to salvage an old famous Canadian schooner named Bluenose. It was there that I saw my first island sloop.”
Working the north-south trail from Michigan to the Florida Keys, Beans eventually worked his way further south to the Virgin Islands, beginning in St. Croix where he performed at Pearl’s and Beulah’s Fantails. Live music and crab-racing
were his specialties as he became the house entertainer at the Wreck Bar. “Just before Hurricane Hugo I bought my first boat, Esperanza, a 1932 Tortola sloop, with the money I earned from my part in ‘Dreams of Gold,’ a movie about Mel
Fisher’s adventure of treasure hunting and discovering the Atocha. After our futile attempt to sail her to Venezuela, my
boat partner, G. Beer, and I began sailing around the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. This is where my island touring adventure really began, and it blossomed into a lifestyle that still continues today.”
From the early days of the Coral Bay Music Festival, he has been in many bands, including the Beans Traveling Minstrel, The Hornswagglers, and the Seafarin’ Turd Whirlers, performing with numerous talented island musicians. “It became well known that wherever the yellow boat sailed, the fun followed.” He became a regular at Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta and The Sweetheart’s Regatta, as well as numerous other festive occasions in the Virgin Islands. Esperanza is now retired on the beach of Trellis Bay, Tortola, as a monument to theshipbuilders of days gone by.
Beans went ashore to Marina Cay, BVI, in 1999 and created his show “Happy Arrr” as a way to raise money for his next home, a classic 1971 Cheoy Lee ketch named Zetwal. He sails through the islands as a one-man band/boat-jangles performer, flying his new pirate flag, “Show Mercy.” He supports the cause of Mercy ships – old cruise ships converted into floating hospitals that take volunteer physicians and dentists to third-world countries. (Story on opposite page.) “2006 will be a big year for me, as I will be releasing a new CD called ‘Pines to Palms,’ a book titled ‘Hidden Treasure,’ and a full-scale launch of my ‘Show Mercy’ campaign.” For more information on Michael’s history, touring schedule,
and availability of purchasing CD’s, you may visit his website: www.beansmusic.com.
All proceeds from his website sales go to the Mercy Ship Organization.
It was good luck to reunite with my old friend Beans, a fascinating entertainer and a Caribbean humanitarian.