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The Richmond-based Eros in St. Barth

Yesterday we saw a big schooner anchored a couple of hundred yards from ‘ti Profligate in the Gustavia anchorage. "Could that be Bill and Grace Bodle’s  Richmond-based 103-ft Eros?" we wondered to ourselves. Indeed it was, and we spent a couple of hours this morning recording enough great sailing stories to fill the next three issues of Latitude.

To give you an idea of how large a 103-ft-on-deck schooner is, that’s Grace and Bill standing up near the bow. Nonetheless, just the two of them and one deckhand run the yacht.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Since the ’60s, the Bodles have cruised and run charter schooners of 70 to 117 feet — on deck, mind you — in the Caribbean, the Med, and around the world. First there was Nordlys, then Panda, then Grace, and currently Eros. The Bodles used to own the renowned Stone Boatyard in Alameda, and currently own the Sugar Dock in Richmond. A wealthy German had bought Eros — then Fair Sarae — and had her completely disassembled to be entirely rebuilt at Stone’s. Alas, he quickly ran out of money, and the Bodles spent the last 19 years — and countless dollars — repairing all the parts and putting her back together. The winter before this, they cruised Mexico, then sailed her back to California. Last October they left San Diego and have thus far sailed her to the Eastern Caribbean.

Although Bill is well into his 70s and Eros displaces more than 200,000 lbs, he sees no need for more crew besides Grace and a deckhand.

©2011 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

That the Bodles started schoonering around in the ’60s means they were in at the very beginning of the charter trade. For example, they were not only good friends with Commander Nicholson, who started the charter trade in Antigua and the Caribbean with his schooner Mollyhawk, they know all his great stories, too. And they knew St. Barth long before a movie star or model had ever heard of it, and when it was all about smuggling alcohol, cigarettes — and other stuff — and there wasn’t another yacht to be seen.

They also played host to many Caribbean legends — such as Foxy of Foxy’s in Jost van Dyke. When Foxy boarded late on the night they took off for Gibraltar, he didn’t have much of a kit besides the clothes he was wearing and his guitar. The clothes consisted of a pair of cut-offs and a sequined carnival shirt, plus a sweater. Alas, his mother had boiled the sweater the night before to clean it, and it had shrunk five sizes too small. Foxy doesn’t have any shoes now, and he certainly didn’t have any back then. 

Miraculously, Foxy survived the trip across the Atlantic and a summer of sailing in the Med. "He was a huge hit in the smaller Greek islands and in Eastern Europe, where at that time most people hadn’t seen a black man before," remembers Bill. "Groups would come to the quay asking for him, and Foxy would happily jump out of the salon with his guitar and start singing. When he got on the quay, he pretended to try to bite the children, as though he were a wild animal. Before long, Foxy was the pied piper, leading entire villages around singing calypso songs with him. The people would have died if they knew how dirty all the lyrics were." Foxy met his wife on the trip back across the pond on Eros.

Anyway, much more on Eros and the Bodles in the next several issues of Latitude. Be prepared to laugh.

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With many midwinters series wrapping up throughout the rest of this month, the weekend regattas are back in full swing.