Now that I have been home for nearly two weeks, Antigua seems like such a long way away. Actually, it is when you travel home aboard Pandora, try 9+ days at sea and 1,600 miles.
Anyway, after only visiting Antigua for two seasons, I feel like the island has become a part of me. One major contributor to this has been my involvement in the “Tot Club” short for The Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda, a group that I became a member of just before heading out to return home to CT a few weeks ago.
I first became aware of the group when Brenda and I were tied up in Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbor last April. There was this mysterious group lined up in a circle. What were they? Druids? I was intrigued. The group has met each day since july 31st, 1991 to carry on the tradition, ended on July 31st, 1970, of the British Navy of issuing a “tot” of rum each day and making one of seven proscribed daily toasts along with a toast to the Queen.
One thing lead to another and when I arrived in Antigua the following November, and was looking for interesting things to do with fellow participants in the Salty Dawg Rally, 55 boats worth, I thought it would be fun to have them participate in one of the evening toasts.
Mike and Ann, two of the senior members of the club, agreed and invited our group to participate in one of their meetings. While the club meets in various different locations around the English Harbor and Falmouth areas, we thought that the most fitting would be at Copper and Lumber, a wonderful historic building located in the Dockyard.
We assembled, some 40 of us, and easily outnumbered the Tot Club members in the inner courtyard at Copper and Lumber. It was a wonderful event and when I later did a survey of rally participants, it was one of the most popular events that we did.Of course, I was really taken by the club, the tradition and the great folks that are members and just had to join. The problem is that in order to join you have to commit to taking seven tots over a 14 day period and, on top of that, have to memorize all sorts of facts about Lord Nelson and his battles. Yes, I am repeating myself as I have written about all this in a number of past posts but bear with me on this. If you feel compelled to read ALL of these posts, go to the search window and type in “Tot Club”. It’s that easy…
So, earlier in the spring, Brenda flew out of St Lucia and I returned to Antigua to prepare for my run north. I had nearly two weeks in Antigua to work on becoming a member. I began “totting” on a near daily basis. You might say “Bob, how hard can that be, taking a tot of rum each day?” Actually, I am not a big guy and don’t have a lot of “reserve buoyancy” to absorb that much rum.
At one point, when I called Brenda before I headed back to Pandora in the evenings, following yet another tot on my journey to become a member, “Bob, I can’t wait until you call me and your voice isn’t slurred.”
I’ll admit that there was more than one morning when I woke up, shall we say, not feeling my best. The problem is that an “aspiring member” must take a “full measure”, a solid two ounces, of rum in a “single go”, each evening. For me, that’s a lot of rum. Fortunately, once you are a full member you can pour your own, and don’t have to take a full two ounces, so it’s more manageable. I should note that on your first night, and the night you become a member, you have to take two tots. Those were not my best nights, according to Brenda. Me, I’m not sure I recall…
The Club is well known in Antigua and has members or guests with some pretty nice boats or homes who offer to host meetings of the club. One such event was held and sponsored by an aspiring member aboard Ashanti, a 115′ schooner. What a boat. I wrote about that event in this post. She’s spectacular and after leaving Antigua has begun a round the world journey via the Panama Canal. The club was also hosted, twice, aboard an 80′ Oyster by a member, another spectacular venue. And, another event at a home overlooking Falmouth Harbor. What a view. So, after 8 days and more tots than I can count, or remember, I took my test and passed. And, let me tell you, I would not have passed if it weren’t for the help of Simon, a member that took nearly a half day to tutor me on the finer points of club and British Navy history along with facts about the various battles that Lord Nelson was involved in.
But, I passed, by the skin of my teeth, I expect. Here’s me and Simon on the night of my “induction” following my exhaustive oral testing by an official club “examiner”. As well as Ann, my sponsor, and her husband and one of the founders of the club, Mike. If it weren’t for them I would not be a member. I am looking forward to the arrival of the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua next November and, as “Antigua Port Captain, the opportunity to introduce rally participants to The Royal British Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda. Just try saying that three times fast after a ” full measure”. And, believe me, that’s way easier than memorizing all that Nelson lore.
So, now I am a proud member of the club and am happy to have the “white ensign” hanging in my office here at home. I’ll be sure to have it aboard Pandora when I return to Antigua in November.
It was a long and hazy journey but I became an official Tot Club member and I look forward to returning to Antigua in the fall.
Oh yeah, a tradition of the club is for members returning to the island to bring something to share that is emblematic of the returning members home country. So, what food is uniquely American? American cheese? Hmmm…
I’ll have to think about that for a bit. Perhaps after another tot it will become clear. Uniquely American, uniquely American?
Oh no, that’s going to take a lot of tots.