ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE CARIBBEAN CHARTER INDUSTRY, RODNEY NICHOLSON.
Rodney, his brother Desmond and their father, the Commander, sailed into Antigua in 1949. They had found their yacht, the 70' Mollyhawk, in a mud berth in England. She was built in 1903 and was in sad shape, but they had gradually restored her.
The sugar trade was dying out and jobs were scarce. They were 'squatting' at the derelict English Harbour (now beautifully restored), when a wealthy American tourist asked if they could sail him down island. That was the start of the charter industry. The two sons started taking visitors on Mollyhawk (see picture below) and shortly after, two owners left their yachts in Antigua for Rodney and Desmond to care for and to charter.
The brothers never left English Harbour and were a driving force in its restoration. Originally home to Nelson's fleet, this harbour has become alive once more and is often filled with beautiful sloops and high tec megayachts. The Nicholson 'clearing house' currently manages 49 yachts from 38 to 250 feet. A clearing house looks after the boat's interests, while a broker looks after their charterer's interests.
The Nicholson family is unusual in so many ways. Like many pioneers, they are true characters with a 'sink or swim' attitude and loads of charisma. In 1957, Rodney married Julie, who had just sailed around the world on the brigantine 'Yankee'. Julie is still a charter broker, with her daughter Shelby, and lives in Blue Hill, Maine. Oh the stories she can tell!
Rodney died on November 7th, aged 82, during the Tortola boatshow. The announcement of his death at the awards ceremony cast a somber note for the many of us who had known him, at an otherwise festive occasion. We join the Nicholson family in wishing him Godspeed, fair weather and following seas.
Thanks to the Nicholsons for permission to include these photographs.
Return to the Newsletter
Return to the Charter Connection Past Articles home page