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Sailing with Charlie: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre
Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

With much of the Northern Leewards still suffering from the devastating effects of the horrendous storms of August and September 2017 the events bring to mind the pirate days of yore. How villainous pirates plundered unarmed seafarers and helpless civilians; how religious Quakers started efforts to emancipate subjugated slaves and how murderous and greedy Spanish opportunists slaughtered indigenous populations in their quest for gold in return for the gift of Catholicism.

Recently Charlie was asked, “How did pirates originate?” The answer is simple – sailors were laid off from naval ships when wars ended – they had to survive – but how?  Some became beachcombers in tropical climes, but there’s only so much conch you can eat; others became pirates attacking ships of previously hostile nations, but rum, the sword, the cannon all took their toll. Still, it was a life of freedom on the high seas and easy booty was often wasted on easy booty, as it were. “A short life and a merry one,” was the oft quoted mantra. Adventure, booze and women were the rewards for avenging the atrocities of Spain, who claimed the New World for itself with the exclusion of everyone else. If you’ve seen the instruments of torture in the museum in Cartagena, Columbia, designed for those guilty of heresy you’ll realize the Spaniards of the day were not nice people.

The parallels of the effects of devastating storms have similar results. Normal life is turned upside down. The effects of no jobs and no income leads to increased criminal activity – desperate times see desperate responses. Looting became rampant after the storms with shops and their contents laid bare and within easy reach – gangs of modern day pirates, machetes in hand, roamed the streets with impunity. Price gouging was evident in shops and restaurants and six months after the catastrophe many islands have only limited electricity.

On the other hand the Quakers of the day were the counter balance to the existing evil. Men who saw that slavery was an abomination and took steps to eradicate it decades before emancipation. It was all about the first baby steps to healing a terrible injustice.

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Now, in the BVI and other storm-ravaged islands, there are organizations, volunteers and genuine lovers of paradise that are leading in rebuilding efforts. There are those in the public eye and many unsung heroes. A modern day army of folk who feel the need to help the suffering and perhaps to ‘give back’ for past times spent enjoying Caribbean island life.

Karma is a powerful force, a force that cannot be denied. To give to worthy causes creates a certain satisfaction just as greed or selfishness has detrimental consequences… OK! Enough of philosophizing.  But if you see a man in a wig and black-rimmed hat – as on the Scotts Porridge Oats box – he’s likely to be doing or contemplating good works. Offer him a tot of rum and he’ll likely decline it, being of a temperate nature, but Charlie won’t.

Cheers to the continuing recovery.


Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.


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Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

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