Brian and Pippa of Miramar yacht charter, your hosts skipper and crew for Antigua and Caribbean sailing holiday vacation cruises

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Brian Turton                                                                        

The Quest for an Authentic Life (ack. Richard Bode 1996)

When I bought my yacht in 2006 she was named “Sisley”. For reasons that will become apparent, I renamed her “Miramar”. With hindsight I could have named her “Phoenix”.

To a large extent, the finer details of the history of why I was among the ashes are not important and the bare bones should suffice.
My first marriage in 1973 lasted for 21 years. During this time, 3 fantastic sons were born, twins were naturally aborted, and I started a manufacturing business in the UK in 1984 after being resurrected from a serious bout of depression by a wonderful lay psychiatrist who was fortunately based in the same small village I lived in. The business failed as a result of the recession in 1990 and the marriage failed (possibly as a result) in 1993.

My second marriage in 1997 lasted for 2 years and was probably the biggest mistake I ever made! I had hurriedly chosen the wrong partner (surely we have all suffered loneliness at some point in our lives) and 18 months of the 2 years were spent in divorce proceedings. During this time my father and mother passed away in the space of 4 months. Almost all of my inheritance ended up in the hands of my second wife after what seemed like a lifetime of tedious and time sapping probate proceedings! My fire was dying to embers and the ashes were mounting.

By this time, and as a result of these two divorces and the deaths of my parents, my feelings for the legal profession were far from positive. However, determined as I was to continue to accelerate down my spiralling life path, and become suffocated by more ashes, I hooked up with; you’ve guessed it, a lawyer! Some comfort was taken from the fact that she was a commercial lawyer and not a litigator or divorce specialist, so the relationship carried along nicely for a couple of years until her teenage son came to live with us. I will not go into the depths of his personality as he is the son of a lawyer, so it is enough to say that things didn’t work out quite as I had hoped. I moved out, took a dismal flat in the same dismal town I worked in and simply couldn’t breathe any more.
The beginning of my salvation came around 2002 when I discovered sailing. A gentle breeze began to blow and, slowly but surely, the ashes began to disperse and fresh air was enjoyed again.

From that moment on my passion for wind, sea and limitless horizons took over. I crammed, and passed, as many courses as I could, as quickly as I could, and hungered for more qualifications and experience. I soon moved away from dinghy sailing because my middle aged knees just couldn’t cope with total immersion in water most of the time. I moved quickly up to keelboats and met a wonderful woman as a result of a “crew wanted for a sailing holiday” advert. She was to change my life.

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BN (she is a very private person) was truly an angel with an outlook on life so holistic, and opposite to my own experiences, that it took me a while to adjust. As a direct result of her love, enthusiastic encouragement and support, I gathered my courage into a single back pack, quit my well paid career and company vehicle in a 30 second phone call and departed the UK to become a “Full Time Sailor”, not knowing quite what that meant or where it was going to take me!

My first destination was Thailand and a yacht called “Salamandra” which I joined, as paying crew, 2 weeks after the Indonesian tsunami in 2004. A life questioning experience if ever there was one! We sailed from Phuket, to Langkawi, to The Maldives, to The Gulf of Oman, to Yemen, to Eritrea and up the Red Sea to Hurghada, Egypt.  The original itinerary would have taken me through Suez and on to the Mediterranean. I had left the UK, and BN, with nothing more than a dream and a handful of tiny stamped silver “guardian angels” that she gave me promising they would look after me at all times. I suspect even she did not realise just how prophetic this promise was to become. At this moment in time, and with hindsight, I was “sailing away from the ashes”!

On my travels I met many wonderful people among the sailing community and visited many amazing places. Two people in particular were pivotal. I met Ian & Gwen in Salalah, Oman. Ian was planning a single handed circumnavigation but had been joined by his friend Gwen for the first part of the trip. In real life they were what are termed “life coaches”. They were keen to hear my story and during the course of several adventures inland together, I told them. As a result I was given two books to read. One was “Beachcombing at Miramar” by Richard Bode, and the other was the “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.

Bode’s book was incredibly inspirational. It is his true story of how he suddenly quit his highly paid and highly pressurised rat race career to travel the breadth of the USA to become a beachcomber and writer on Miramar Beach, San Francisco. The urgency of his decision, and the rewards he gained from it mirrored my own earlier escape. As a result, the nagging doubts about my choice had completely dissolved. I was totally convinced that the path I had chosen was unquestionably the right one.  Tolle’s words, albeit rather a lot of them, essentially taught me that to dwell in the past was a waste of mental energy, and such a negative influence on one’s thinking made escaping from the downward spiral difficult, if not impossible. Suddenly everything came together. BN’s, Ian’s and Gwen’s encouragement and teachings, accompanied by the inspirations and truths contained in these books, gave me a mental strength I had not felt before. I went forward from this point safe in the knowledge that my life ahead would be joyful, happy, relaxed, and successful. My guardian angels, and “Beachcombing at Miramar, would be my constant companions.

When I finished “Beachcombing” I was welling up with all sorts of emotions and at that point promised myself that when I eventually bought my own boat I would name her “Miramar” as a tribute to Richard Bode and the brilliance of his mind and writings. Such was my resolve that as soon as I returned to the UK to start my next adventure, I registered the domain name  because I knew it was going to happen one day! The ashes had almost been carried away by the wind of change and I was climbing back.

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I say almost because of what was to happen a few weeks later in Assab, Eritrea. Two events created a wind shift that brought the ashes swirling back. Not only did I have a phone conversation with BN in which she said she had decided to “let me go” and would prefer no further contact, but I also contracted Dengue Fever from the filth of Assab port that took me as low as I had ever physically been, and caused “Salamandra” to sit at anchor in the lee of the Farasan Islands in the Red Sea for 2 weeks while I recovered. Fortunately, my newly gained faith in the future won through and this was the last I was to see of any more ashes in my life.

I quit “Salamandra” in Hurghada because during the passage across the Indian Ocean, I had received a call from a friend (another Ian) who was planning an Atlantic Circuit and needed a first mate and navigator to share the trip with him. I did not kid myself that I was the best sailor he knew, but was content in the reality that I was the only one he knew who had the time to participate in such a trip!

I joined Ian and “Asterie” in July 2005.  The log of this trip is a story in itself and the details are not relevant. The Atlantic Circuit dream ended in St. Lucia after a 24 day crossing from the Canary Islands as participants in the ARC. By this time Ian had concluded that long periods at sea away from his wife and 2 children were not for him and “Asterie” was to be shipped back to the UK. Time for me to make a new plan and roll out the confidence Richard Bode had instilled in me! The Caribbean looked promising, and I loved the climate, so I declined Ian’s kind offer of a flight back to the UK, and told him I would hang about in the area and take a shot at starting  He came back immediately with “well in that case we need to get up to Jolly Harbour in Antigua because if I was in a position to do it, that is exactly where I would start”. My guardian angels were clearly on duty because he was so right!

We arrived in Jolly Harbour in February 2006. I bought “Sisley” 2 weeks later. She was under cleaned, under equipped, under exercised and, I suspect, under TLC’d to a huge extent. By June 10th after a serious refit and upgrade she was re-launched as “Miramar”. With Pippa breaking the bubbly over her stem.

Pippa? Who is Pippa? I hear you question. She is the woman responsible for giving my guardian angels a well earned rest.

During the “Miramar to Be” refit, it occurred to me one morning as I sweated in the bilges struggling with wiring, pumps and water systems, that my planned charter business needed a second person if it was going to run professionally, effectively and become a success. Sure, I had met many people during my sailing up to this point, but who on earth would have the courage to join me, a man on a mission in the Caribbean, in a fledgling, unproven charter yacht venture. Armed with my newly acquired confidence that something would always turn up, I shot off an email to all of my sailing contacts (quite a list by this time) which said, simply, “I am in the Caribbean, have bought a yacht with a view to starting a charter business, and I need someone to help me. Who do you know?” I admit to making it clear that it had to be a woman because people talk don’t they!

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Oh, those guardian angels were working overtime, because Heidi, whom I first met in the Canary Islands, forwarded my mail to her good friend, previous crew mate and mentor, Pippa.  Here was a woman a few years younger than me, with sailing experience and ability oozing out of every pore. She was also stuck in a dead end job and living alone and dreaming of the opportunity to get out to the Caribbean and go sailing! Both our dreams were to come true with this single click of the “Forward” key!

After 4 weeks of Hotmail and Skype communication, Pippa rightly concluded that the only way forward was to visit me in Antigua and “check this guy out”! I had already received a stunning reference from Heidi, the details of which are not for this article, so I was feeling good. Then I thought on. Pippa was about to invest £700 in a flight to meet me and my dreams in Antigua and I had failed to fill in one vital gap. I composed the email and hovered over the “Send” button for ages. After a load of bluster and sales pitch I had admitted that “Miramar” had 3 double cabins and 2 of those were for guests, so she and I would have to share the 3rd cabin! This was a potential deal breaker of the highest order. Nevertheless, it had to be sent. Within seconds she fired back “well if you don’t object to me opening the hatch in the middle of the night when you fart, it’s not a problem!” That’s my girl, come on over!!
Our first week of getting to know each other was awesome. It was Antigua Sailing Week so we partied every night and planned our business together during each day. She returned to the UK at the end of the week promising to return in a month. She returned on June 9th and we launched “Miramar” on the 10th.

This was in 2006 and since then we have built together our Sailing Business “www.miramarsailing .com” based here in Jolly Harbour, Antigua. After 7 years of highly successful Day Sailing, we now have a page one presence on Google and most other search engines; we have been awarded Trip Advisor “Certificates of Excellence” for 3 consecutive years since 2011, and are now developing more sailing orientated markets. As if we didn’t have enough to do, we also successfully started an RYA Recognised Training Centre based in Jolly Harbour.

Jolly Harbour is a large Marina & Golf Resort located on the middle of the island’s west coast. Originally a huge swamp area, a reclamation process began in 1985 that has transformed the area into a “social and cultural enclave” that stands alone to Antigua.

Settling here was easy from our base on board “Miramar” berthed on the doorstep of the Marina’s waterside bar. The community consists of ex patriots from around the globe but is predominantly British, American and Canadian with the odd European thrown in for fine balance. This mix produces an eclectic society comprising many interesting people and backgrounds. There is a great feeling of community and camaraderie and we have made many good friends here.

Such was our passion for sailing that when the opportunity came to revitalise a failing Jolly Harbour Yacht Club late in 2006, I grasped it firmly and was elected Commodore in 2007. Since then I have played a large part in various roles for the Club and Pippa, as Officer in Charge of the Youth Sailing Programme, has developed free dinghy sailing training for Antiguan born children and we are both Directors of the National Sailing Academy of Antigua. This is a government backed academy formed as a result of sailing being added to the school curriculum in 2010.

Despite the fact that we are now established members of the Jolly Harbour community, and destined to remain so for some time in the future (sailors rarely stop sailing!), the importance of maintaining our contact with family and friends left behind was never more evident than when we announced our wedding in March 2010!

No fewer than 15 of these wonderful people took the time and spent hard earned cash to fly the 4,000 miles from the UK to be there! They were all stars and most turned the trip into a holiday but one, in particular, Steve, deserves special mention as he effectively “came for the weekend”, arriving from the UK on Friday and leaving on Tuesday!

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We would not be overstating if we claimed our wedding was possibly Jolly Harbour’s biggest event for some time. The ceremony took place on board “Miramar” at anchor in the bay. Immediate family with the rest of our friends alongside joined us on board, with several small boats and tenders milling around us just to be present at the occasion. Once married and ashore we launched into a champagne celebration followed by a huge party at “our bar” in the Marina that saw many dancing in the rain in a memorable celebration of two people who had simply “got it together”!

Life in Jolly Harbour is better than good. We are among a chosen few with the good fortune to work in the field we love, in the beauty of the Caribbean, pursuing our dreams. This is due, in part, to pure hard work and determination but those guardian angels are still in my wallet, enjoying a well earned rest, as Pippa has assumed the role.

I cannot express strongly enough my gratitude to all the people mentioned above for their faith and inspiration. “Miramar” or “Phoenix” has definitely sailed away from the ashes for good and the rekindled fire will burn forever.

Brian & Pippa are a British couple who have both progressed their sailing experience and qualifications to become RYA Ocean Yachtmasters – Commercially Endorsed and RYA Cruising Instructor, and RYA Yachtmaster Instructor. Their future plans are to keep doing what they do but do it better every day!

Copyright Brian Turton August 2013.

If it's SAILING, it's MIRAMAR!