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Sailing with Charlie: Names An’ Ting

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It seems as though there are often obscure meanings to names. People’s surnames are often indicative of the occupations of their ancestors. A Cooper was a barrel maker, a Smith worked with iron, a Baker – well, that one’s obvious.

The BVI has some unusual names on its nautical charts. On Jost van Dyke, named for a Dutch pirate, there’s a point named Pull and be Damn’. One can imagine a fisherman rowing his skiff against a current and battling to make headway. Similarly, Throw Way Wife Bay, on Camanoe. Again a fisherman can be imagined making little progress on a lee shore – his boat and catch in danger of being lost. Perhaps the wife was jettisoned, hopefully to swim to the shore. Or perhaps not, “She were wuthless, judge. Nuttin but ballast! ‘Twas the fish I wanted.”

And then there’s Quart o’ Nancy Point on Cooper Island. A Nancy may refer to a rum drink but really it’s not clear at all, especially after a quart of the stuff. Other nautical names have a definite historical link especially those surrounding the piracy and buried treasure on Norman Island. An excerpt from the log of the pilot cutter Escape, Virgin Gorda, 1933 is historically interesting:

“March 22 – Heavy squalls from the SE during the night, but very little swell coming into the roadstead. Visited a Nova Scotia fishing schooner in the morning, taking a load of very fine ponies on board to ship to Barbadoes. H. the owner of the schooner, a most interesting fellow, and one of the characters known all over the West Indies.

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“March 23 – Under way at 1300 nominally for Nassau in the Bahamas, but ready to call at any island that took our fancy. Loaded up with a cargo of vegetables and fruit, a kind present from R, the planter. Sailed over to watch the ponies swimming out to the schooner and being hoisted aboard, a most exciting operation. Ran out of the Sound through Flanagan Pass. What a perfect cruising ground for a small boat and what lovely names. Ding-a-dong Nook, Dead Man’s Chest, Treasure Point, Careening Cove, Fallen Jerusalem! Stevenson must have looked at this chart when writing ‘Treasure Island’.”

So next time you’re sailing the waters of the Caribbean Sea take particular notice of the names on nautical charts and view them with renewed curiosity. Who knows what might lie behind that designation of yore.

Charlie’s sailing over to Money Bay next week.


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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