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An article written by our staff and featured in The Charter Connection

THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS - BACK WHEN CHARTERING BEGAN #2
by Ed
June 2005

Last month’s article, which described landing in Tortola in 1972, generated all kinds of responses. Thank you for your letters, stories and memories. I enjoyed reading them and later will certainly include some of them in the newsletter (with your permission). Keep them coming.

In 1972, there were three charter companies in Tortola: CSY, The Moorings and Fleet Indigo. For this issue we will concentrate on CSY.

At that time, CSY (Caribbean Sailing Yachts) was based in Maya Cove, on the narrow peninsula to the east of the cove. This area is now used by Sunsail as a maintenance area, immediately opposite the ends of their longest docks.

In those days, CSY was by far the largest company, with Carib 34s (built by Bristol) and 41s. The company was started and owned by a dentist, Jack Van Ost and the booking office was in the basement of his practice. Though Dick Avery’s Pearson dealership in French Town, St. Thomas was technically the first bareboat company, Jack was the pioneer that started the concept of the bareboat fleet on a larger scale, with investors buying identical boats and placing them in charter. Though a man of relatively few words, he was a truly dynamic leader, with energy and vision way ahead of his time. His boats were designed for easy maintenance and the fiberglass interiors could even be hosed down during a turnaround. The facility, though simple, was completely self-sufficient, including a railway for haul-outs, as there were virtually no services available on the island.

In our picture of Maya Cove , which was taken in 1973 from the new West Indies Yachts' base, you can clearly see the CSY boats to the left of the picture, and a collection of live aboard yachts in the anchorage.

Don Walsh was CSY's manager. Like Jack, he was full of energy and ran a tight ship. His tiny office was in a wooden ‘tower’, with a view over the harbor. He often used to retire there for peace and quiet when things got too hectic!

Bill DeMoranville was assistant manager. Two years later he moved to the Bahamas to run another bareboat company BYS (Bahama Yachting Services). Miles Cortner looked after woodworking and maintenance. In the mid 70's he sailed off on his beautiful yacht, The Sea Swan (which he built with his wife, Betty Lou), and cruised for the rest of his life, living off his woodworking skills. Don surprised him a few years ago in a remote Pacific Island anchorage. After a few expletives ("can’t get away from anyone”) there was a great reunion. Sadly he joined the ‘cruisers in the sky’ a couple of years ago. He was in Guatemala.

In the middle of the facility was the ‘Bilge Bar’ - an open sided structure with a huge wooden circular roof covered in palm fronds. This was the social center for the area. Maya Cove was a favorite for transient (and not so transient) yachtsmen, who liked the breeze and the lack of bugs. They anchored behind the reef, roughly where Sunsail’s main docks are now. After the charterers had left for the day, yachtsman, staff and others in the area (including myself!) spent many enjoyable evenings in the Bilge Bar. The half empty bottles of liquor left over from returning charterers were always placed in the bar, so the drinks were ‘free’.

Three years later, when CSY built their fine new marina in Baughers Bay (currently being renovated as a mega yacht marina), the Maya Cove facility fell into disrepair, but the Bilge Bar roof was sold to Fleet Indigo and was floated, like a huge overturned toadstool, all the way down the Francis Drake Channel to West End, where it served for many years as their charter briefing area. It stood roughly where the shops are now, next to Pusser's Landing. Later this was also the site of the popular Poor Richards Restaurant, known for great entertainment and their fabulous Sunday brunch, but this has to wait until next month, when we remember Fleet Indigo and the other charter companies.

Postscript:

In 1976, Jack needed to replace his Carib 41s and turned to Irwin. Though some sleeker center cockpit prototypes were built, Jack was unhappy with the quality and in 1977, started his own boat-building factory in St. Petersburg, FL. The pretty CSY 44 cutter and later the 37 and 32, were incredibly strong cruising boats. They can be seen in harbors all over the world, and are still sought after by serious cruising yachtsmen. Unfortunately, the new venture proved to be Jack’s downfall. Due to delays in start up and constant expensive improvements to the boat, each hull, for at least the first 2 years of production, was sold well below its building cost. For the next few years, the successful charter operation subsidized the boat building side, but in 1980, things fell apart and the CSY yard, and eventually the charter company, went bankrupt.

For more about Jack Van Ost and CSY boats, check out ‘About CSY Yachts’ and The CSY Corporation .

Next issue: Fleet Indigo etc.
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