In 2012, when I retired, Brenda and I expanded our cruising grounds, beyond New England and began spending winters aboard. Our travels took us south on the Intra Coastal Waterway to Florida, four seasons in the Bahamas, several months cruising much of Cuba and most recently, the Eastern Caribbean where we have explored many islands from the Virgin Islands south to Grenada.
While our cruising has covered thousands of miles and dozens of islands, we have come to love visiting Antigua most of all.
When we first came to Antigua I was already involved with the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean which had a long history of visiting the British Virgin Islands. However, when hurricane Irma devastated the BIV and many other islands in 2017, we had to move quickly to find an alternate destination.
Based on my limited experiences in Antigua, I got on the phone and within weeks we had everything in place, complete with a dozen events to celebrate the arrival of the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.
So, here we are, five years later and Antigua has proven to be a wonderful partner. This year, I was thrilled to have more than 50 boats, a record, pointing their bows south with the goal of making landfall in Antigua where we filled Nelson’s Dockyard to near capacity.
A few days after my arrival aboard Pandora, I was told that Brenda and I were to go to St John to meet the Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams, the Queen’s representative (yes that Queen) to Antigua and Barbuda.
I was told that I was to be thanked for my work in bringing so many boats to Antigua over the years and I was excited to meet him. I imagined that we would meet briefly and I would get a nice note saying how much everyone appreciated my work on behalf of Antigua.
There is no doubt that I have worked hard, with presentations and articles in publications, always singing the praises of Antigua as “the best place to begin and end the winter cruising season”.
My enthusiasm for Antigua, that I feel is not as widely known in the cruising community as it deserves, has sometimes gained me criticism for being, what some felt, was overly aggressive and too single minded in pushing Antigua. Apparently, Sir Rodney didn’t feel that way.
Friday morning arrives and a car, complete with a very dapper uniformed driver, arrives in Nelson’s Dockyard to whisk us off to St John and Government House. We arrived and were ushered into a large and very ornate room, with only a few chairs. My question, as we were escorted to our seats… “So, who else will be here today?” Answer: “Just you…”. Just me?That was my first sense that something more than a simple ataboy was heading our way.
We were not alone for long and soon others entered the room, all dressed in sharp suits and uniforms. Brenda and I were handed a “program”. A program! I opened it up… Yikes! My name was on it.
And they even spelled our name right. Almost nobody gets it right…
Brenda and I sat, trying to look casual, waiting for something to happen.
Soon we heard a siren and a motorcade, complete with a police motorcycle escort, pulled into the drive, delivering Sir Rodney to meet with us.
More evidence that this wasn’t a simple meet and greet. On the back of the program was a description of what was to come. Soon someone in uniform approached the podium and announced something to the effect of “all rise for His Excellency, Sir Rodney Williams”.
The national anthem was played, of course.
Oh boy, if I had ever been in a desperate need of a blue blazer, that was THE MOMENT. I felt like a kid being awarded for perfect attendance at Sunday school. At least he didn’t pat me on the top of the head. I was asked to stand while the reason I was there was explained. Oh, did I mention that there was a video crew and photographer capturing the whole thing. His Excellency said some very nice things…Then he pinned the award on my shirt. Oh boy, that blue blazer would have been way better. The award. Snazzy, yes? I believe that the big version is for formal occasions and the little to wear “just because”. Meanwhile a photographer snapped away and the entire thing was taped for the evening news. I could not resist putting in a plug for Salty Dawg, presenting a rally flag, the very last one I had on board Pandora to His Excellency. Oh yeah, recall on the program “remarks from honoree”… I gave a brief speech on why I was so focused on Antigua. That part was actually pretty easy as I had been “pounding the drum” for Antigua for years so telling that story was second nature.
Anne, from the Governor General’s office was nice enough to send me the footage of the ceremony so you can see an edited version here. I say edited as I didn’t expect that you, or anyone would stick with me for the nearly half hour that the formal part of the ceremony took.
I hope that you enjoy this but note that His Excellency was, shall we say, a bit generous with the facts, making me sound bigger than life. But, as they say , you had to be there.
Next stop, “processing” for a photo op. I can’t say that I have not had all that much experience “processing” except for when Brenda and I were married over 40 years ago. I felt like a little kid then too at our wedding, which I was, but at least I was appropriately dressed.
Next and final stop, out on the veranda for an interview with the local TV station, and another opportunity to talk about the great partnership between Salty Dawg and Antigua.As if all of this wasn’t surreal enough, it turned out that the ceremony ended up as one of three top news items on the evening news broadcast that night.
Check out this link to see the broadcast yourself and let me know what you think. My bit appears at 11:49 on the timer.
The next day I participated in a meeting of the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Navy Tot Club and Anne, a sweet woman who was my sponsor when I joined the group, congratulated me on my award.
Then she leaned close and said, in a whisper almost to soft to hear… “you did look a little like a deer in the headlights”. No kidding Ann. Perhaps I would have felt better if I had a blue blazer.
Deer in the headlights or not, it was a great day. My only regret is that my Dad wasn’t there to experience it with me.
I mention this as I have been keeping this blog for 13 years. This post is the 1,010th and for the the first 7 years I wrote for my Dad and Mom.
Whenever I put up a post, Dad would pull it up and he would read it aloud to Mom while they were having a glass of wine before dinner.
I expect that he’s up there now, probably having a glass of wine together with mom, and feeling pretty good about all this. For me, this is indeed one of the best ataboys ever and that’s why I do what I do.
And, finally, a special thanks to Ann-Marie who I came to know as Park’s Commissioner of Antigua and a good friend to me and the Dawgs, for helping to make this happen.