by Thomas S. Hartt of Ontario
The history of the yacht
Atlanta in the Hartt family began in the spring of 1964 when my father, Don
Hartt purchased an abandoned hull that had been left to the elements of nature
for over 20 years. I remember going
to Indian Town in the north end of Saint John where she was tied, not knowing
know what to expect, only that Dad was looking at a boat to purchase.
After climbing over some barges and a retired tugboat Dad said ‘here
she is’. It took a few minutes to
figure out the shape of a sailboat. A few days later she was towed through the
Reversing Falls to Market Slip in downtown Saint John.
Brian Hartt and I walked to Market Slip on our noon hour from Saint John
High School and there she was tied alongside the wharf grounded out on the low
tide so the hull could be surveyed. It
was a different picture than the first impression standing on deck.
Although battered and bruised she had the lines of a beautiful lady.
Dad purchased her that day.
Atlanta was built in 1898 in Stockholm, Sweden and was named Allona (she was
re-named Atlanta when she came to Canada).
There were stories she had been built for the Swedish Royal Family but
this is not true. She was built
by a private individual and remained in the same family until sold for the trip
to America in 1948. A granddaughter
of the original owner, Mrs. Sigrid Svedin not only made contact but visited
and established a friendship.
Allona was originally built as a sloop (one mast).
She was 85’-4” long overall, 59’-0” on the waterline, with a beam (width)
of 16’-7” and draft (depth under water) of 12’-6”.
There was 22 tons of lead on her keel neatly molded to shape and her
total displacement was 60 tons. She
was build of 1¾” thick mahogany on steel frames.
The Swedes made very good steel and after 66 years there was not a bit
of rust on the steel. The critical
areas of rot in a wooden boat are found in the dead wood along the stem, keel
and stern, but she was sound. Originally
she was a very sleek looking sloop. She
was flush deck with only skylights and companionways protruding above deck.
When built she did not have a motor.
The interior consisted of an owner’s stateroom, a large salon with settees
that could be made into bunk beds, a galley (kitchen), head (bathroom), crew
quarters in the bow and a captain’s stateroom in the stern.
The woodwork in the owner’s stateroom and salon was mahogany inlaid with
birds eye maple.
before the Second World War the owners loaned the Allona to a Swedish Sea Cadet
organization for a certain time each year and made several changes including
a second mast and shortening the main mast, changing her from a sloop to ketch
rig. In addition bulwarks were
added around her deck approximately 12 inches high which gave her more freeboard
and protection from slipping off the side.
A bowsprit (a spar extending forward from the bow to which jibs and stays
are made fast) was also added.
Svedin remembered many happy times on the Allona.
Someone in the family still owned her in 1948, but circumstances were
different after the war and a group of Estonians fleeing their homeland purchased
the Allona with intention of sailing to South America.
Estonia had been under Russian influence before the war, fell to the
Germans and occupied by the Russians after the war.
This particular group of families escaped to Sweden but had to move on.
group consisted of approximately 42 people including young children.
They hired a captain and were approaching the island of Bermuda but
without charts of the area. They
would have relied on sail and been without communications and the other
navigational conveniences of today such as Radar and Global Positioning.
Reefs surround Bermuda and as the story goes they could see a lot of
breaking water and sharks. After a
long trip across the Atlantic the group were anxious to reach land and the
captain said he knew the port of Saint John, N.B. and this is how they came to
sail into Saint John Harbour unannounced in 1948.
They were quarantined and not allowed off the boat at first but
eventually were allowed to stay and most settled in Canada.
Theirs is a story in itself.
N. Wilson, the owner of the Saint John Dry Dock, the Saint John Tug Boat Company
and numerous other business at the time purchased the boat from them.
I am sure this was a charitable jester by Mr. Wilson as this was not his
type of boat and after the war there wouldn’t have been much of a market for
her. He never used the boat
himself, but there are a number of stories around Saint John involving his sons
and others who occasionally sailed her. One
story is she passed the Digby ferry on a return trip from Nova Scotia.
Another that she was coming into Saint John harbour in a heavy wind and
had to run up on the flats in Courtney Bay to stop.
In any case Mr. Wilson did not have a personal interest in the boat and
she lay at the Dry Dock for a number of years.
When the Dry Dock was sold she moved to a docking facility at Indian
Town. The Indian Town site was a storage area for dredging barges
and retired tugboats in Mr. Wilson’s fleet.
It was here that she fell into severe disrepair and was vandalized.
always had a boat and at the time owned the Mar-T-E-Jane (named after 3 sisters
and myself), a 40-foot sailboat. Our
family spent 12 years cruising the St. John River, but Dad was restless with the
same river trips. He occasionally
ventured into the Bay of Fundy with the Mar-T-E-Jane but she was not equipped
for ocean sailing and he had been looking for a larger boat for some time. He sold the Mar-T-E-Jane that summer and for the first time
in many years was without a boat. He
rented a houseboat for the annual RKYC cruise, to the amusement of his friends.
Wilson allowed Dad to keep the boat at Indian Town and it was here that she was
re-furbished. The first task was
cleaning out the interior below decks. The
foul odor of 20 years was unbearable but after the mildewed upholstery was
thrown out and the hatches opened there was a huge improvement.
The work ahead completely consumed my father’s free time for the next
year. The interior was completely
gutted save the built-in mahogany and fancy woodwork.
Some of the work involved water and diesel tanks installed below the
cabin floor, new floor, galley, head and new wiring. A diesel generator was installed to charge two large banks of
batteries for electricity. The old
engine was small and probably used more for maneuvering than for power and was
removed. In its place Dad purchased
the largest diesel he could find that would fit in the space below the cabin
floor. It would power her at about
8 knots, which is quite slow for a boat this size. She had a hull speed in the area of 13 knots, which she often
reached under sail.
the Second World War Dad and his brother Lloyd went to work for my grandfather
(Gilbert E. Hartt) who was in the wholesale lumber business.
They did some logging operations and operated a sawmill at South Bay just
outside Saint John. My grandfather
died in 1950 and the sawmill burned down in the early 1950’s but they had
developed the business from wholesale to retail lumber sales that included a
planing mill for dressing lumber. They
added a building supply store, a millwork shop and sash/window shop.
The restoration of the Atlanta was facilitated using the resources of
skilled carpenters and cabinetmakers along with the ability to obtain desired
decks all the mahogany skylights, hatches, main companionway, helm, binnacle,
coamings and dodger were replaced. Most
of the bulwarks had been damaged or destroyed from the abrasion between barges
and also replaced. The original
bulwarks and knee braces were varnished mahogany, but Dad opted for painted
mahogany that was easier to maintain. The
rail on the bulwarks was varnished oak.
The deck was planked with Scandinavian pine and was sanded and the joints
re-sealed. The original main mast
was circular and huge, maybe 20 inches in diameter but the stays supporting it
were not maintained and it had broken leaving only a stub. The mizzenmast, also circular was in good shape, shortened
Dad had his eye on the ocean he still wanted to be able to sail on the St. John
River which afforded suitable anchorage’s that the ocean around Saint John did
not. This required passing through
the Reversing Falls at slack tide under the Reversing Falls Bridge.
The new Harbour Bridge was built higher than the old Reversing Falls
Bridge whose clearance is between 80 and 85 feet at slack tide depending on the
seasonal level of the river. The
height of the mast when she arrived in Canada was considerably higher than 85
feet so a change in sail structure had to be made.
Dad had a naval architect in Boston design a new rig taking this
important criterion into consideration. The
result was a shorter rig, not as pretty as before but more functional and easier
to handle. Sika Spruce was used for the new main mast.
It was tapered and rectangular in shape, hollow in the middle and
approximately 76 feet long. It took the whole length of the window shop kitty cornered
from one corner to the opposite meaning the whole facility was occupied to build
one mast. The logistics of
transporting the finished mast to a wharf in Saint John Harbour to be stepped in
the boat was a headache for Dad. The
mast was not finished for the first summer in 1965 but was ready along with new
sails for the summer of 1966.
Atlanta moved from her Indian Town location in the spring of 1965 to the Royal
Kennebecasis Yacht Club where Dad had installed a mooring.
The mooring was placed away from the other club moorings in deep water
close to The Brothers Island, a long way out from the club.
He installed another mooring right in front of the cottage at Sand Point.
It was placed so when swinging towards shore she was on the edge of the
shallow water and close to shore especially at low tide.
This was an exposed location and unsettling to see her almost on the
beach at times so he moved the mooring down river just beyond the Sand Point
wharf where she had plenty of room to swing in deep water.
Atlanta looked strange the summer of 1965 with only a mizzenmast, but otherwise
she was finished. Dad kept her at
Sand Point and ironed the bugs out from there.
Towards the end of summer he got itchy feet and motored across the Bay of
Fundy to Digby.
the fall of 1965 he took her to Lords Cove on Deer Island where she would spend
the winter for the next few years. Deer
Island is at the mouth of Passamaquoddy Bay in the Bay of Fundy and close to
Maine, Grand Manan, Campobello and St. Andrews.
The drive from Saint John was about 2 hours including the ferry from
Letete and this turned out to be a convenient location for weekend trips in the
fall and spring. Sam Tucker, a
resident of Deer Island looked after her and was a great source for local
information and advice when cruising in the area.
the spring of 1966 the new main mast was finished and the new sails had arrived.
The mast was stepped using a crane at low tide in Saint John Harbour.
The first time passing under the Reversing Falls Bridge with the new mast
was frightening because looking up from the deck gave the impression the mast
would hit the bridge, but Dad had arranged for someone to be on shore and signal
if there was a problem. As it
turned out there was always 5 or 6 feet clearance even when the river was
seasonally high, but was always a challenge to pass under the bridge at the very
centre where it is highest. The
River width beneath the bridge is narrow and where the high tides of the Bay of
Fundy meet the St. John River creating the reversing action (on the low tide the
River flows into the Bay and on the high tide the Bay flows into the River).
The truest slack tide lasts only a matter of minutes and with 13 feet of
keel underneath, the underwater currents could cause a sudden lurch in any
direction. It was never possible to
know precisely the time of truest slack because the seasonal levels of the river
would vary from the listed times, so it helped to arrive early for the Falls.
first time under sail was a thrill. Dad
chose Grand Bay, the first open water on the St. John River upstream from the
Falls and it was blowing about 20 knots. On
a broad reach (wind perpendicular to boat) she took off.
There were a couple of seasoned sailors from the yacht club on board
along with riggers who had fabricated the standing rigging for the masts.
They kept a careful eye on the rigging while the rest of us were held in
awe at this huge boat slipping through the water at about 10 knots.
Her best point of sail was a broad reach in winds above 20 knots wherein
she would achieve her hull speed very quickly.
At hull speed the quarter wave formed at the stern would be up level with
the deck. Grand Bay was one of the
few places on the River that afforded the room and wind direction for this to
occur. In salt water, conditions
were more suitable and more exciting surging through ocean conditions at hull
speed. She would break through the
heavy seas of the Bay of Fundy sending out bow waves of pure white foaming water
with out missing stride. Close to
the wind she also performed very well and was not uncommon for her decks to be
under water in a good breeze. Down
wind she was sluggish and without spinnakers and bloopers (which required extra
rigging and manpower to operate) did not perform as well.
She no doubt performed better in lighter winds when first built as a
sloop and even when arriving in Canada under a taller rig.
The shorter rig was easier to handle and could be sailed with 3 or 4
the summer of 1966 she stayed at the cottage and the family used her for day
trips on the St. John and Kennebecasis Rivers.
Weekend trips were as far as Foresters Cove on the Kennebassis and
Glenwood on the St. John. Glenwood is upriver at the end of the wide portion of the
River just before Oak Point. After
Oak Point the River narrows and while large enough for the Atlanta there are a
few tricky areas to navigate for a boat drawing 13 feet.
first ocean trip under full rig was down the shore to Maine.
It was a family trip (except for Mary Jane who was married and living in
Toronto) including our cousin Brian Hartt.
In Cutler, Maine, a mechanical problem developed.
The transmission was slipping and would not maintain forward thrust. The nearest town with a mechanic was Machias and after a few
trips back to the shop was found to be burnt out. By the time a new transmission was found, delivered and
installed a week had gone by. The
problem came about under sail without the motor running, the propeller shaft
continued to turn but the transmission was not being lubricated. Dad had a brake installed on the shaft so it would not turn
while under sail, but of course this created some drag from the fixed propeller.
The rest of the trip went well and continued on to Penobscot Bay,
including Northeast Harbour, Southwest Harbour, Stonington, Camden and the
the end of the summer she was returned to Lords Cove and used for cruising the
area on weekends until sometime into October.
Likewise in the spring the weekend cruising started on the long weekend
in May and continued until the 1st of July when she would be moved to
was generous with inviting people for trips on the Atlanta and accommodated
anyone who expressed an interest. One
trip to Briar Island in Nova Scotia included employees from the Hartt Lumber
Company. One friend who enjoyed being on the Atlanta was Val Dexter
and in 1967 offered to purchase half the boat and share expenses.
This partnership worked well in not only were the two good friends but
Dad could draw on the resources of his own company for woodwork and carpenters
and Val had resources of metals and mechanics through his road building company,
Dexter Construction. Dexter’s
equipment was all Caterpillar and more heavy duty Caterpillar parts ended up on
the little BMC engine than there were original parts.
Nova Scotia, 40 nautical miles across the Bay of Fundy was a pleasant days sail
in favorable wind directions. Digby
is a pretty town with a large government wharf and huge scallop fishing fleet
right in the middle of town. Coming
in from the cold Bay of Fundy through the narrow Digby Gut to the large and
beautiful Annapolis Basin and sailing by the Digby Pines Hotel up on the hill
was always a pleasant experience. The
Maritime Lumberman’s Association held a convention every summer at the Pines
and Dad loved to show up on his boat. He
would always take people out for a sail at these conventions.
Many trips were also made to St. Andrews, Head Harbour on Campobello, and
North Head on Grand Manan, all a short sail from Lord’s Cove.
big trip in the summer of 1967 was to Marblehead, Mass., Halifax and home.
Marblehead is one of the premier American sailing areas and contains 3
large yacht clubs and hundreds of sailing vessels of all sizes.
It was a beehive of activity leading up to the biannual Marblehead to
Halifax Ocean race. We were not a
participant in the race but were able to take in all the festivities and left
for Halifax the same morning as the racers.
By nightfall there was not another boat to be seen as the fleet dispersed
well offshore in the Gulf of Maine. The
course was before the wind and as mentioned previously, the Atlanta did not have
the equipment to sail well on this point of sail, so the engine was used,
arriving in Halifax 36 hours later before most of the racers.
men’s wives came aboard in Halifax for the return trip to Saint John. The
winds were too light for sailing and the seas moderate.
It was not a very nice trip for the ladies as the fog was thick.
Dad took the Canadian Power Squadron courses up to the level of Junior
Navigator including celestial navigation and was very competent navigating in
these conditions. It was necessary
to spent hours on the bow of the Atlanta listening for navigational bells and
whistles emitting from buoys. This
is a key element to dead reckoning navigation where a buoy is identified before
moving on to the next course. Besides
fog another nicety of the Bay of Fundy and south end of Nova Scotia is the tides
and they had to be factored in course settings as they related to set and speed.
After travelling from Halifax along the south shore and past Yarmouth
into Saint Mary’s Bay without seeing land, everyone looked forward to passing
through a narrow gap in the Digby Neck, a shortcut to the Bay of Fundy.
This piece of water is about one kilometer wide and while voices were
heard on the wharf at Tiverton, land was never seen. There was more fog crossing the Bay of Fundy heading for
Passamaquoddy Bay to a stop at Lords Cove before returning to Saint John.
The tide runs perpendicular to the course across the Bay, so calculation
of tide set is particularly important. The
first buoy to pick up would have been off Campobello Island.
Shortly before the estimated time of arrival at this first buoy the sun
broke through the fog and the ladies came on deck to enjoy the first decent
weather since leaving Halifax. They
were sitting on the deck when they heard something different coming from the
side of the boat. Visibility was
only about 20 feet and the engine was cut back to neutral.
Shortly we glided past the gentle swell of the Bay breaking over a reef
within ten or fifteen feet. Much
relieved, the crunch never came. Dad
may have misjudged this day but he was quick to narrow down our possible
locations and we went looking for a buoy to determine our location.
As it turned out the crossing was faster than anticipated and the first
buoy passed. That was the worse
scare I ever had on the Atlanta and this event prompted Dad to purchase Radar
the next season. There was a war
surplus Loran set on board but at that time there were only two shore stations
within range. One in the Boston
area could only be picked up in American waters.
Two fixes are okay, but three are better and the machine was difficult to
use and required about 15 minutes to obtain a fix.
GPS and improved Radar used today make a mockery of the equipment
available in the 1960’s.
must have been on his mind for awhile, but about this time Dad started talking
about taking the Atlanta to the Caribbean.
His friend Doug Kirby owned the ‘Lady K’, a 48 foot ketch and
together they were planning to take their boats south.
Kirby was an avid racer and was sailing in the Newport to Bermuda Ocean
race in the summer of 1968. He
would leave the ‘Lady K’ in Bermuda after the race and pick her up for the
trip further south in the late fall. Dad
did not want to lose the use of the boat for the summer so planned on leaving
for Bermuda in the fall. Bermuda is
a natural stop on the direct line to the Caribbean.
summer of 1968 was similar to the previous year, mostly on the river and
preparing for the trip south. One
notable trip was one to Digby. Someone
must have wanted to use the Boston Whaler in Digby because it was in the water
and as we were preparing to leave Digby on Sunday morning decided to tow rather
than lift it onto the deck. The weather station was forecasting light winds and
small waves in the Bay indicating a slow return trip under power to Saint John.
Normally both tenders were carried on deck while on the ocean.
The Whaler was a 14’ unsinkable, sandwiched fiberglass boat with a
30-hp motor and had to be lifted on and off deck with slings using the main sail
halyard. Conditions in the Bay were
ideal, a decent wind and moderate seas. Moving
along about 10 knots on a broad reach, the Whaler was towing fine.
However by noon the wind was blowing about 20 knots and an extension to
the towing line was added, placing the Whaler about 150 feet behind.
By early afternoon the wind was gusting 25 to 30 knots and the Bay was
churning up big swells. The Atlanta
thrived in these conditions. It
would have been a fast and exhilarating run home except these were not the
conditions for the Whaler to be in the water.
The situation grew worse as the whaler acted like a frenzied dog on the
end of a long leash. She would rise
on the crest of a wave and come charging forward at planning speed right up to
our stern and then drop back and do the same thing again.
This was an impossible situation because to shorten up the painter (line
towing the Whaler) would bring her too close to the Atlanta and would risk the
danger of her crashing or coming right up on the deck.
What happened next, she was riding down the crest of wave on a plane but
travelling perpendicular on a slack line. When
she reached the end of the line the pull from the Atlanta snapped her around and
she flipped over. She began to
porpoise up and down creating a tremendous strain on the painter and within
minutes the line broke. By this
time every one was on deck, Dad started the engine and we rounded up to take the
sails down. At least one person was
assigned to keep an eye on the whaler, but by the time the sails were down the
Whaler was lost sight of in the heavy seas.
Motoring back she was found and an attempt was made to bring her on
board. When sailing in these
conditions one has to wear a safety harness and be careful moving about because
there is constant movement and always the chance of sudden pitching.
Forward movement and the steadying of the sails provides some
predictability, but when these conditions are taken away the situation on deck
becomes very serious. The Atlanta
was rolling from side to side at the same time riding up and down waves as she
approached the Whaler. There was
still a piece of line on the Whaler’s bow that if retrieved could be attached
to the main sail halyard and hoisted on board.
However the Atlanta rose and the Whaler dropped.
A few passes were made before securing the line but as she was being
lifted by the bow the Whaler came crashing in and the line broke.
Another attempt was made and this time someone jumped on the Whaler to
grab the shortened line. He was
almost lost trying to hold on to something, dropping with the Whaler what seemed
to be 20 feet as the Atlanta rose on a crest.
That was enough for Dad and the Whaler was abandoned.
Dad reported the loss to the Coast Guard Station in Saint John mainly
because it could be a hazard to other boats.
Sure enough about a week later he received a call from one of the
Thompsons in Chance Harbour who had come across it upside down and was able to
lift it on his fishing vessel. He notified the Coast Guard and was given Dad’s name.
That night we took a truck to Chance Harbour and picked her up.
The Whaler was in good condition and the motor while submersed in salt
water and then exposed to the air was eventually brought back to life.
Dad gave Mr. Thompson a $100. reward and the look on his face and then
the big smile suggested he was wasn’t expecting anything.
$100. was a lot of money in those days. The
Atlanta returned to Lords Cove in the fall of 1968 and preparations we made for
the trip to Bermuda. Dad
did not plan on leaving until the end of Hurricane season around mid October.
While this meant sailing in October/November conditions he reasoned they would only have a couple of cold days before reaching Bermuda. It was never a topic of discussion for me to go on this trip or on to the Caribbean, although I really wanted to. I had just received a Business Diploma from the S.J. Institute of Technology and was starting Civil Technology at the N.B. Institute of Technology in Moncton. We all went to Lords Cove to see them off.
prepare he and Val Dexter took a couple of trucks and Dexter mechanics to
Halifax. They were successful in
claiming her in the Harbour and took her to the Bluenose Wharf.
The Bluenose was away for the winter and Don Oland whose family owned the
Bluenose kindly offered the use of the wharf until spring.
They stripped out the interior and what they didn’t haul to the dump
loaded in trucks for Saint John. Dexter
mechanics removed the main engine and re-furbished it over the winter. After she was abandoned considerable damage occurred during
her time drifting in the North Atlantic or during the tow in.
The bowsprit was broken, probably from the towline and her steering was
gone. The bowsprit and hardware Dad
had built in Saint John. The steering was another matter as the extent of damage was
unknown, so Dad had her hauled out at a shipyard in Dartmouth and discovered the
rudder had broken away, so the shipyard built and installed a new one.
Hauling out also afforded a chance to inspect the bottom and keel.
Luckily no other damage below her waterline was found.
Atlanta spent the winter in Halifax but was too far for Dad to do any work on
her. Over the winter he ordered new
sails, cushions, mattresses and re-furbished what was taken back to Saint John.
He was anxious to have her back in New Brunswick so in the spring of 1969
planned to return her to Lords Cove. The
engine had been re-installed but the new sails had not arrived.
trip was planned for the long weekend in May.
I arrived in Halifax by train from Moncton on Saturday and cast off as
soon as I was on board with an estimated arrival in Deer Island on Monday.
The run out from Halifax Harbour was pretty easy but after turning south
at Chebucto Head the seas were large and continued to build during the night.
This was not unusual but would make for a slow trip down the south shore
of Nova Scotia without sails. I was
on watch in the early hours of Sunday when the engine quit. The Atlanta wallowed
helplessly about in the seas. The
problem was dirt in the fuel that clogged the fuel filter.
By daylight it was determined the engine could not be started with the
resources available and would have to ask the Coast Guard for a tow.
We were roughly 25 kilometers off Lunenburg when the Coast Guard was
contacted. The same Coast Guard
vessel ‘Rapid’ that brought Dad and his crew into Halifax the previous fall
arrived within a few hours and towed us to Lunenburg.
made arrangements to leave the Atlanta at the Smith and Ruhland boatyard where
both Bluenoses had been built. He took advantage of their expertise and had the
rigging checked and repaired as well as the hull painted and the mahogany bright
work varnished. Smith and Ruhland were doing some of the work intended to be
done back in Lord’s Cove and Dad decided to wait until the new sails arrived
in June before attempting another trip under power alone. He was also a little gun shy and didn’t want to risk
another round of publicity. In June
the Atlanta looked like a new lady with fresh paint and varnish and new sails.
This time the trip was uneventful.
Atlanta was back on the St. John River for the summers of 1969 and 1970.
Dad enjoyed her more during these two years than ever before and made
some of the old runs across to Nova Scotia and down the shore to Maine.
However the dream of sailing her in the Caribbean never left and he was
soon planing the next trip south. This
time he knew he would have to forfeit the use of her in the summer and sail to
Bermuda before the hurricane season started.
the summer of 1970 Dad and his brother Lloyd received an offer to purchase the
Hartt Lumber Company. Dad at 58 was
eager to retire while Lloyd only 52 was not.
The offer was too tempting because they continued negotiations and the
sale went through in the fall.
is all the incentive Dad needed to get the Atlanta south and sail the Caribbean
in the winters. The trip to Bermuda
was made the next summer and the Atlanta left there until late fall.
I had finished school in June of 1970, traveled in Europe until the
spring of 1971 and was just into my first job so wasn’t asked to go, although
two of my best friends, John Bacon and Eric Thompson made the trip.
For the same reasons I wasn’t asked to make the trip from Bermuda to
the Caribbean in December of 1971, but Dad arranged for the family (except Mary
Jane who was with her family) to be together for Christmas in Antigua.
was working in Labrador City and when flying out at Christmas for two weeks
vacation was given lay off papers. I
think my employer new the golden opportunity, because the company went bankrupt
in February. Arriving on Christmas
Day, I was free to spend the winter cruising.
There were already two crew from Saint John on board, Gord Mouland Jr.
and Cyrus Blanchett and to my relief Dad was glad to have me too.
next four months were some of the most memorable of my life.
From English Harbour in Antigua we sailed the Leeward and Windward
Islands including Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the
Grenadines as far south as Grenada. My
sisters Margot and Elizabeth had returned to school but my Mother was on board
until March. My parent’s friends
would come for two-week visits and we sailed back and forth between the islands
discovering new anchorage’s and enjoying the warm climate.
Grenadines were a favorite. These are a group of smaller islands between St. Vincent and
Grenada with lots of white beaches and great snorkeling.
One time while anchored off the island of Mustique, Dad and Val Dexter
went ashore and didn’t return for a very long time.
They purchased a piece of land together, big enough for two houses.
The island was then owned by an English Lord, Colin Tenant and he had
given a piece of land to Princess Margaret as a wedding gift on which she built
By April everyone had returned to Canada leaving Dad and I. He had made friends with Walter Boudreau and his family (originally from Cape Breton) who owned a hotel in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia and operated a charter operation on his large 120’ schooner the ‘Janine’. The Boudreaus agreed to take care of the Atlanta in the off season, use her for day chartering, possibly purchase her and Dad still retained use for a few weeks in the winter. We first sailed her back to Antigua where she was hauled out and the bottom cleaned and coated with anti fouling paint. Dad and I flew home and the Boudreaus returned her to Marigot Bay. Dad was quite satisfied with the arrangement as he didn’t want to spend the whole winter sailing again and besides he was thinking about building on Mustique. He made a couple of trips to Mustique with Val and they proceeded to divide the land and build identical homes, which were ready the following winter. On one of his trips he stopped by St. Lucia and was not happy with the condition of the Atlanta and decided to end the arrangement with the Boudreaus. He returned her to Antigua for storage at Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour and shortly thereafter received an offer from a Canadian to purchase her. It was a hard decision for him but he had done what he set out to do and now wanted a little diversion in his retirement. The harsh realities of the Caribbean climate required constant attention and he wasn’t willing to give himself and all the resources necessary.
story of the Atlanta continues as the new owners returned her to Canada and
Toronto. She operated day charters
out of the Harbour Castle Hotel on Toronto’s waterfront.
In 1976 she was en route for chartering at the Olympics and hit a reef
approaching Kingston Harbour. Apparently
there was no vessel available to haul her off and she broke open after sitting
on the reef in the swells for a day or two.
She was eventually hauled to a field east of Kingston.
I saw her there once, leaning up against a big tree.
One side of her was wide open and she was completely stripped including
the lead from the keel. I felt like someone had died and couldn’t bear to stay very
long and have never been back.
Dexters, Mom and Dad moved into their new homes on Mustique in 1973 and enjoyed
the idyllic life. People from all over the world were building winter retreats
on this little paradise. Faye
Dexter and Mom enjoyed the people, life and climate, but Dad was restless.
There was not a lot to do and he and Val frequently traveled to St.
Vincent for day trips. In their
wanderings they discovered a resurrected golf course far out in the mountains.
It was the only golf course on the island and had gone bankrupt and
abandoned. Someone had re-opened it
complete with a small casino. The
original owner of the course had build a home beside one of the greens and
overlooking a huge valley that looked down to the sea about 7 or 8 kilometers
away. It was a secluded place
surrounded by dense brush and forest. It
was also abandoned and thick with overgrowth.
There was a beautiful large pool that was full of debris.
They bought it. The place
was cleaned up and it was like a little Eden in the middle of a jungle. Dad was golfing again and he liked the people on the island
as opposed to the upper crust clan on Mustique.
Mom and Faye wouldn’t spend much time there. Val was there more often but did not golf.
Dad spent most of his time there returning to Mustique for a day or two
each week. When I visited in March
1977 Dad was complaining about something happening in his stomach and would have
it checked out on his return to Canada in the spring.
Later that summer he was diagnosed with colon cancer and died in April
S., Donald D., Gilbert E., Alfred E., Thomas E., Thomas A., Thomas, Jonathan,
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