What a thrill it was for those of us who love our Island sloops to discover Sharlita Millington, Miss BVI, dressed as the oldest Island Sloop in the Caribbean – Vigilant.
She tells All At Sea, “Celebrating our 50th Anniversary of Festival signifies the strong cultural heritage that we, British Virgin Islanders, value. Our emancipation from slavery is the foundation of our festival; but sloops such as Vigilant have been the foundation of what we call ‘Paradise – Nature’s Little Secrets.’ When I think of Vigilant, I think of my ancestors and life back in the 1800s. I chose Vigilant for my Cultural/Historical costume for the 2004 Miss BVI Pageant because I thought that it was time that we acknowledge the important role the sloops (better known as Tola Boats), have played in the history of the BVI. Most of a day’s work depended primarily on sailing the seas that surround these islands. These sloops were the main source of transportation as they took lumber, cattle and produce, as well as our forefathers, to islands like the Dominican Republic, where they worked to earn a living.”
Sharlita continues, “Boat racing has also been a long cultural tradition in the BVI and it all began with the sloops, such as Vigilant.
Presently in the BVI, we see the reflection of these sloops in our Marine Tourism Industry. Even though chartered yachts, power boats and cruise ships keep our seas busy, it is Vigilant, the oldest of them all, that carries a legacy all its own. It tells the whole story from emancipation to where we are at now. May this historic and cultural significance live on!”
It is comforting to know that Sharlita will represent not only the islands of the BVI, but our marine heritage in her travels. Good luck, Sharlita.