History

Hewanorra: The Island of St. Lucia

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January 2013
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By
Capt. Jeff
Werner

Well over a thousand years before Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World, the Arawaks paddled their dugout canoes north from the forests between the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers to settle in the Antilles. Six hundred years later, the peaceful Arawaks were invaded by the Caribs from South America.

The Caribs arrived with their culture of shamans, hereditary kings, and fast war canoes, and spread north through the West Indies, eventually giving their name to the Caribbean Sea. By the time Columbus sailed through the Windward Islands in 1502 and sighted St. Lucia, the Caribs had already named it Hewanorra, or Island of the Iguanas.

The first European known to live on St. Lucia was a buccaneer named Francois le Clerc but nicknamed Jambe du Bois for his wooden peg-leg. In the 1550s, he would plunder the treasure galleons of the Spanish Main and then retreat to his lair on Pigeon Island at St. Lucia's northwest tip. And so began the long history of European inroads and colonization of Hewanorra.

The Dutch arrived around 1600 and built a stronghold at the southern end of the island.Today, that area is called Vieux Fort in recognition of those fortifications. In 1605, the first true colonists arrived, if unexpectedly.

The British ship Olive Branch was full of settlers and headed for Guyana when it was unwittingly blown off course, and it wound up landing on St. Lucia instead.Mistaking this for providence, the 67 colonists waded ashore to establish an English foothold. Within five weeks, only 19 remained.

The rest had succumbed to disease or fighting with the Caribs.Those lucky 19 fled from St. Lucia in a canoe.Unbeknownst to the Caribs,Hewanorra was later given to the Earl of Carlisle as part of a land grant from the British Crown.

This was the first time the name St. Lucia was used on a legal document. In 1638, Captain Judlee arrived with about 300 men to stake out the land grant.The new settlement thrived for about 18 months until a dispute with the Caribs boiled over. Hundreds of British settlers died in the ensuing attack. Once again, the English survivors were forced to flee.

At about the same time the French were showing interest in St. Lucia. Also without consulting the Caribs, aMonsieur d'Esnambus claimed in 1626 that Cardinal Richelieu had granted the island to him. In 1643, a Frenchman by the name of Rousselan was appointed governor of St. Lucia. Rousselan wisely married a Carib woman and the French colony prospered for 20 years.

Roughly a hundred miles to windward of St. Lucia, out in the Atlantic Ocean, lay the English colony of Barbados. In 1664, Barbados had too many people. The British governor, Francis Lord Willoughby, needed a convenient location to offload his surplus colonists. He decided to ignore the French territorial claim to his west, and invaded St. Lucia with 1,000 Barbadians. The French quickly surrendered, and Barbados began its satellite colony.

Within a year it was abandoned, again due to sickness and attacks by the Caribs.This was the third time an English colony had failed on Hewanorra. Even after a treaty in 1667 placed St. Lucia back in the hands of the French, the British still didn't get the message.

They continued to try to claim possession of the island. From the moment St. Lucia reverted to a French Crown colony during the reign of Louis XIV in 1674 until the end of the Napoleonic era, the island was declared a neutral territory or changed hands between the British and French no fewer than 11 times. St. Lucia was a pawn in the affairs and wars of the European powers during that period.The treaties that ended the War of Austrian Succession, the Seven Years War, and the American War of Independence all played roles in the ever-changing ownership of St. Lucia. Finally, in 1814, Great Britain gained possession of St. Lucia and didn't let go until 1979, when St. Lucia was granted independence.

However, it was the French influence that had the greatest impact on the architecture, language, food, customs and geography of St. Lucia. Place names such as Anse Cochon, Cap Marquis, and Marigot all reflect that French heritage.

The twin Pitons, Gros and Petit, on the leeward side of St. Lucia arguably make the most stunning landscape in the Eastern Caribbean. The Pitons are the remains of an eroded ancient caldera, with active sulphur fumaroles and hot springs in between.

This area was worshipped by both the Arawaks and the Caribs, and it was there amidst the rich volcanic soil that the French built their plantations and slave quarters in the early 18th century.The plantations, called estates, grew coffee, cotton, cocoa and sugar.

The nearby village on the bay was named Soufriere, literally meaning sulphur in the air.

The town was laid out in classic French style, with a church adjoining a square, and the square surrounded by the homes of the wealthy inhabitants. Streets radiated out in a rectangular fashion from the square.

Today, some classic French tropical architecture can still be seen in Soufriere. Just prior to the French Revolution, at Diamond Estate on the outskirtsof Soufriere, a mineral bath was built for the troops of King Louis XVI, reminiscent of French spas of the day.

The final 165 years that St. Lucia spent as an English colony did take its toll on one aspect of life there: in order to find a proper croissant or baguette, one must sail 21 nautical miles north to Martinique, which is still a French overseas state, and it's a beat all the way. But in a nod to the former British Empire, you set sail toMartinique from Rodney Bay, named after the famed British naval officer George Brydges Rodney. Rodney roundly defeated the French many times during his 40 years at sea, most notably at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782, when he broke the line of the French fleet under Comte de Grasse, the hero of the Siege of Yorktown.

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There Once Was a Basket from Nantucket
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For many reasons, boat lovers and landlubbers love Nantucket. The well-known island 30 miles off the Massachusetts coast has great maritime history, picturesque scenery, unspoiled beaches, boutique shopping, a nice marina and seafood galore.It's also home to a unique basketmaking tradition developed in the second half of the 19th century by manly men who manned the lightships that warned of dangerous waters around the island.Today, the Nantucket baskets they wove are ubiquitous to the island as both a popular souvenir and a highly collectible object that reflects the island's fascinating history and heritage.

Baskets Born of Necessity and Boredom

In 1820, the United States began building and converting ships into lightships in coastal waters and the Great Lakes. These vessels served as floating beacons to identify perilous shoals, reefs and shifting channels in places where lighthouse construction wasn't possible. The ships housed bright and navigational light beacons atop their masts to guide maritime traffic.

basket - history - marinalife
Friendship basket purse made by José Formoso Reyes in 1950 | The Nantucket Historical Association[/caption]

xThe waters around Nantucket were well traversed and very treacherous. In Nantucket Sound, sandbars muddled traffic, so the U.S. government placed a lightship there in 1823 to help mark a safe path by the island along a popular commercial route between New York and Boston. It became known as the Cross Rip Lightship.The Nantucket South Shoals off the island's southeast coast proved hazardous for transatlantic shipping. In some locations, the water can be as shallow as three feet. The shoals were a notorious shipwreck site, so the government stationed a lightship at the South Shoals in 1854. A lightship operated at the South Shoals until 1983 when it was replaced by a large navigation buoy. It was at the time America's last working lightship. By 1985, new technologies rendered the old lightship program obsolete.Lightships were manned vessels, and many Nantucket men were hired to work on the ones around the island. Some of these men had been whalers from back when Nantucket was the epicenter of the whaling industry. Rough coastal weather made the lightboat service perilous. For example, they had no onboard electricity, and the crew's only warmth was furnished by manually tending coal-burning stoves always at risk of breaking loose from their mounts and spilling hot coals during fierce storms that churned up mountainous waves that crashed over the ship.It was lonely, too. I've read how life on a lightship was likened to a term of solitary confinement combined with the horrors of seasickness. It's no wonder these men began making baskets to while away the time.

Cross Rip Lightship - history - marinalife
Cross Rip Lightship on station, circa 1930s | The Nantucket Historical Association

According to several sources, it is likely a man named Thomas James introduced basketmaking to men on the lightships. James, the story goes, had worked in the whaling industry and during his voyages supposedly made baskets in his spare time. When he began working on the South Shoals Lightboat, he took up his old pastime while on duty and sold his work on leave in Nantucket town. It wasn't long before he taught his skill to his fellow lightship men.Though the classic Nantucket basket is attributed to men aboard lightships in the mid-19th century, it's important to remember that its distinctive design was probably inspired by baskets originally woven with ash wood by the Wampanoags, the island's indigenous people.Lighthouse baskets typically were round and built on a mold with flat wooden bottoms to which staves (ribs) were attached to form the basic shape. Cane, also known as rattan, was then woven in and around the staves from bottom to top. Each basket was finished with a wooden handle. Tops and decorative elements weren't added until later. These baskets became popular with locals and tourists and thus became known as Nantucket lightship baskets. They're very desirable today among collectors.

Basketmaking Enters the 20th Century

By 1905, the last man from Nantucket manned a local lightship. Shortly thereafter, the federal government banned basket-making aboard lightships to end moon-lighting commerce. The craft then moved on island where it was taken up by a new generation of basket weavers who began personalizing their work and looking for ways to make them stand out and appeal to the growing tourist trade.

Nantucket basket lamp - history - marinalife
The author and Nantucket basket lamp

One of the most significant of this new generation of basket makers was José Reyes, a Filipino with an Education degree from Harvard, who served in the U.S. Navy fighting the Japanese and then after the war immigrated to Nantucket where his wife's family had a home. Unable to find a job in education, he repaired cane furniture and learned to make Nantucket lighthouse style baskets.Reyes is credited in 1948 for adding a top to the lightship basket and turning it into a purse for women. These purses, later known as friendship purses, quickly became de rigour for well-to-do summer residents. Reyes later included ivory carvings to adorn the purse tops. Rumor has it the name originated when a woman carrying one of Reyes' purses while visiting Paris noticed another woman with the same purse. She yelled out Friendship! and the two strangers became lifelong friends linked by their shared love of Nantucket.Paul Whitten, another basket maker, helped elevate artistic appreciation for the Nantucket basket when he was invited in 1974 by the Smithsonian Institution's Renwick Gallery to submit one of his pieces in a national arts and crafts competition. His basket was selected to appear in the gallery and then tour the country with other competition winners as part of a traveling exhibit. Whitten's basket was purchased by the Smithsonian for its permanent collection. Whitten also wrote extensively about Nantucket baskets, which has been important to preserving the history of this unique craft.Today the lightship basket influence can be seen in jewelry, cribs, bike baskets and all sorts of decorative pieces sold on and off island. Yours truly even owns a pair of tall handsome lamps modeled on the classic Nantucket Basket. There's even an auction market for exceptional baskets woven on Nantucket. A recent piece went for more than $100,000. Who'd have thunk it?

Nantucket Lighthouse Basket Museum

If you're visiting Nantucket and want to delve deeper into the history of these unique baskets and learn more about their makers, you won't want to miss the Nantucket Lighthouse Basket Museum. It features a permanent collection of baskets, special exhibits and basket weaving classes. The museum website also has a variety of fascinating videos, including an interview with noted basket weaver José Reyes.Location: 96 Main St.,Nantucket, MA 02554Hours: May 28 – October 17, open daily 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.nantucketlightshipbasketmuseum.org

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The Origins of Fish Capture Flags
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I've never had much luck saltwater fishing. My first outing as a young boy was holding a handline over the side of my grandfather Pop Hunter's motorboat in the shallow bay behind Alligator Point east of Apalachicola, Florida. Pop and my father were after redfish, and I wasn't expected to catch anything. Sit and be quiet, they said. So I did, until something grabbed my line, and I let out a scream.[caption id="attachment_324734" align="alignright" width="200"]

Fish flags - history - marinalife

Fish flags | Jodi Jacobson[/caption]My grandfather snatched the line and began battling a strong fish with just his tough freckled hands. That fish turned out to be a small hammerhead shark! When he finally pulled it onboard, he tossed it at my feet where it thrashed about, and I began screaming again certain it was going to bite me until Pop threw it back in the bay. He thought it was hilarious and told the story repeatedly that summer. Somewhat traumatized, I didn't go saltwater fishing again for years. When I finally did, all I managed to hook was a four-inch starfish. Like Pop, the fishing boat operator laughed. It was a first, he said, and he lamented that he didn't have an appropriate starfish flag to hoist for our return trip to the dock.Spend time around harbor docks and marinas, especially in the afternoon when the fishing boats come in, and you'll undoubtedly notice rectangular flags featuring different kinds of fish fluttering on outrigger halyards. Though they might look decorative, they're not. These fish flags, more formally referred to as capture flags, are colorful signals to let others know which fish were biting that day. It's a tradition born in the days before daily fishing reports began to appear in newspapers and on radio.The earliest capture flags on record are attributed to The Tuna Club of Santa Catalina Island, California, a private fishing club started in 1898 by Los Angeles Times editor Dr. Charles Holder for the southern California and Hollywood elite. The Tuna Club refers to itself as the oldest fishing club in the United States, and it's still going strong.Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby, Cecil B. DeMille, William Wrigley and George S. Patton were among its early members. Teddy Roosevelt was an honorary member. Members flew large colored flags on their boats to alert their fellow anglers when they caught tuna, swordfish and marlin. The practice quickly spread, and sport fisherman and charter boat captains on both coasts began hoisting flags to announce their catch as they pulled into the docks.In Florida, the West Palm Beach Fishing Club (WPBFC) added a different twist to the fish flag. Founded in 1934 during the Great Depression, the WPBFC's mission was to promote fishing to lure visitors to the Palm Beaches and stimulate the local economy. Given the proximity of the Gulf Stream and its big game fish, the club initiated the Silver Sailfish Derby fishing competition, a celebration of one of the world's most elegant and iconic sport fishes. The Derby was the first serious billfish competition in the country. It quickly became the in thing to do for wealthy tourists. And it still occurs every January.[caption id="attachment_324735" align="alignleft" width="239"]

red sailfish capture flag - history - marinalife

Derby Queen with red sailfish capture flag | WPBFC[/caption]Here's the twist. Club members soon became concerned that too many sailfish were being caught and not consumed or mounted as trophies. As a result, WPBFC established new rules to restrict the number and size of sailfish captured and brought aboard boats during the derby. To help incentivize the policy, they encouraged contestants to raise a triangular red pennant to signify smaller sailfish that were caught and released so they could still be given their proper due. The national media seized on it with vigor. And in turn, the red pennant inspired other contests geared toward catch-and-release fishing and helped change the nature of big game fishing. It also furthered the practice and the prevalence of flying fish flags.As sport fishing became more popular and accessible to Americans in the 1960s and 1970s, so too did fish flags. This was driven in part by a growing number of game fishing tournaments with affordable entry fees and guaranteed prize money. Competitors wanted to show off their fishing prowess, so flag companies were more than happy to begin making and supplying 12"x18" canvas and nylon flags featuring the most popular varieties of sport fish marlin, swordfish, sailfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, wahoo, etc. that we still see on boats today.Sharks, by the way, merit a capture flag. You can't miss it. It's usually a vibrant red color and features a white shark. To the best of my knowledge, there's still not a starfish flag.

HOW TO FLY YOUR FISH FLAG

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white marlin - history - marinalife

White Marlin | Lunamarina[/caption]You need not worry about official regulations for displaying fish capture flags. Protocols vary from location to location. That said, more experienced fishermen tend to follow some informal rules of thumb.

  • Fish flags are generally flown on the port or starboard outrigger halyard and in order of merit, meaning game fish with bills (marlins, swordfish and sailfish) go at the top and others follow in order of size from largest to smallest. Shark flags are often flown on the bottom.
  • It's appropriate to fly a flag for each fish caught, though some say you should only fly one yellow mahi-mahi flag no matter how many you land. In Hawaii, some boats will run a black pirate flag beneath the mahi-mahi when more than 20 are caught.
  • Never run flags all the way to the top of the rigger; keep them about three quarters up the rigger and spaced at least six inches apart as this is optimal for visibility.
  • Flying a fish flag upside down is the most common way to signal a successful catch and release. Some fishermen, however, prefer to fly a fish flag right side up with a smaller square red flag beneath it or a red T-flag to indicate a fish was tagged and released. Red pennants are still sometimes used.
  • A fish flag should never hang on the halyard for more than a few hours, though charter boats might fly them for 24 hours to help attract clients.
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On the Trail of Ernest Hemingway
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Mornings at the home on 907 Whitehead Street in 1930s-era Key West were filled with the faint sounds of a pencil on paper or fingers flicking the keys on a Royal-brand typewriter. By early afternoon, this illustrious inhabitant had finished his work for the day, satisfied with the progress on his latest novel and went for a walk.

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Hemingway's fishing boat, Pilar | Sura Ark

Sometimes, the destination was his favorite watering hole, Sloppy Joe's. Other times, he'd head for the docks and cast off on a fishing trip aboard his beloved Pilar. Still other days, he went to the Key West Arena to referee in boxing matches featuring local fighters of Bahamian descent.Today, it's possible to retrace the footsteps of one of Key West's most recognizable past residents, Ernest Hemingway. The same is true of the Bahamian island of Bimini to the north and Cuba to the south. This trio of tropical locations is where Hemingway lived and visited for more than 30 years and inspired some of the Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning author's works.Born in 1899 in Oak Park, Chicago, Hemingway grew up excelling athletically and academically. High grades in English led to his first literary pursuit, as editor of his high school newspaper and yearbook. After graduation, he worked as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star, where the periodical's style guide shaped his writing – short sentences, short paragraphs, no slang, no superfluous words.Over the next decade, he served as a World War I ambulance driver, a Paris-based foreign correspondent, and then transitioned from journalist to writer with the novel, The Sun Also Rises, centered on bullfighting in Pamplona, Spain. Hemingway then married his second wife, Pauline, in 1927, and the two moved back to America.

KEY WEST, FLORIDA1928-1939

Ernest and Pauline never meant to call Key West home. The two first arrived at the southernmost town in the Continental United States on a steamship from Cuba after a long cold winter in Paris. It was April 1928.

Finca Vigia - hemingway - marinalife
Finca Vigia, Cuba | JFK Collection

Pauline's Uncle Gus had bought the couple a Model A Ford, and it was supposed to be in Key West when they arrived. There weren't the bridges we have now. Most everything was shipped in by boat or rail. The car dealer was so embarrassed the car wasn't there that he offered Hemingway and his wife an apartment above the dealership to stay. That dealership was on Simonton Street. It was called the Trev-Mor Ford. Today the building is a private residence called Casa Antigua. Hemingway was so inspired by Key West that he finished A Farewell to Arms while staying at the apartment. Just think, if the car had been ready, he might not have lived in Key West, and it would have been a whole other story, says Carol Shaughnessy, a 40-year Key West resident, who works with Newman PR's Florida Keys News Bureau, and is former director of the city's Hemingway Days festival.Pauline's Uncle Gus bought the Hemingways' home on Whitehead Street for them in 1931. Originally built in 1851, the two-story Spanish Colonial-style house undertook a massive restoration and remodeling that included the addition of a pool in the late 1930s. Today, the Hemingway Home is a National Historic Landmark, open for daily tours.His writing studio probably was his favorite room. He was able to get out of bed in his master bedroom and walk across the catwalk and start his day writing. He would continue writing until around noon, says Alexa Morgan, director of PR for the Hemingway Home & Museum, who adds that the author penned a huge portion of his life's work here.Hemingway was an animal lover, so he enjoyed it when a ship captain gifted his sons a kitten and they named it Snow White, adds Morgan. Polydactyl cats are meant to be of good luck. A quote of his, ‘One cat just leads to another,' is one of our favorites, since we currently have 58 (many are six- and seven-toed) cats on the property. We kept his tradition alive by naming our resident felines after famous people from Ernest's time, adds Morgan.Several other Key West places to visit can pick up on the vibe of Hemingway. One of the most famous is Sloppy Joe's Bar, now located at 201 Duval Street. Local legend tells that Hemingway drank with the owner, Joe Russell, before the bar's official opening date of December 5, 1933, when Prohibition was repealed. Hemingway is also credited with encouraging Joe to re-name his saloon Sloppy Joe's, in remembrance of a bar in Havana, which had ‘sloppy' melted ice on the floor.The Blue Heaven Restaurant, at the corner of Petronia & Thomas streets, is where Hemingway slipped in unrecognized at Bahamian boxing fights in the then-named Key West Arena. The SALT Gallery at 830 Fleming Street, a half-mile north of Hemingway's home, was once called Mrs. Rhoda Baker's Electric Kitchen, where he dined on 20-cent ‘club breakfasts.'Hemingway's passion for big game fishing ignited in Key West. He bought Pilar, a 38-foot wheeler, and often fished with Charles Thompson, who owned a hardware store at Thompson's Docks on Caroline Street, the location of Key West Historic Seaport today. The two pushed far into the gulf stream, as well as to the Dry Tortugas, fishing for monster blue marlin and bluefin tuna. Charter boat captain Bra Saunders was at the helm onHemingway's and Thompson's first trip to the Dry Tortugas. Saunders' gnarled hands are said to be the author's inspiration for those of the old Cuban fishermen, Santiago, in Old Man and the Sea.The last time Hemingway and his friends fished in the Dry Tortugas, a tropical storm marooned them for two-plus-weeks at what is now Fort Jefferson. Nowadays, a high-speed catamaran ferry takes visitors on day trips from Key West to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park.

BIMINI, THE BAHAMAS1935-1937

Hemingway's love of fishing, bolstered by his adventurous spirit and 1933 trip to hunt big game on Africa's Serengeti plains, enticed him to stalk giant bluefin tuna. In 1935, he first ventured to Bimini, with catches of 514- and 610-pound tuna soon to his credit.

Hemingway House Facade - hemingway - marinalife
Hemingway House Facade | Hemingway Home and Museum

When he wasn't aboard Pilar, he was at his home on Alice Town's Main Street, where only cinder rubble and a commemorative sign remain today, or at a small hotel and bar called the Compleat Angler. This hotel burned down in 2006, and with it all the Hemingway memorabilia, though a monument stands there today.Across the way, at the Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina, two framed photos on the wall at the bar are real finds for Hemingway aficionados. One is a 1939-written letter from Michael Lerner, of New York's Lerner Corporation store fame, to Hemingway, in what was initial correspondence between the two avid anglers to promote releasing rather than killing their catch. The second is Hemingway's concurring reply.We don't have a chair at the bar where we can say Hemingway sat, but the old-time Bimini vibe, the way it felt when he was here, is still very much alive, says Stephen Kappeler, the club's managing director. We have guests that come to soak up that feeling of when Hemingway was here. Of course, they also come here to sport fish off their own boats as Hemingway did or on charters.Just west of the club off Queen's Highway is the Dolphin House. This museum and home were hand-built from recycled materials by Ashley Saunders, a fifth generation Biminite. Saunders' relatives boxed with Hemingway on makeshift rings on the beach. Open to the public, the museum showcases Hemingway artifacts, his sayings like Write drunk, edit sober on the walls, and old photos such as Pauline cutting his hair outside.

HAVANA, CUBA1940-1960

Hemingway divorced Pauline, and with his third wife Martha, he bought a home he called Finca Vigía in the San Francisco de Paula neighborhood, about 15 miles south of Havana. The 1886 property, with its incredible view of Havana, is where Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea. It's now a museum, and the grounds are open for public tour. He and later fourth wife, Mary, enjoyed Havana's bohemian nightclub scene in the late 1940s and 1950s with Hollywood glitterati like Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner. Up until the last year of his life, Hemingway continued to sport fish.

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Ernest Hemingway on a dock with a tuna | JFK Collection

In 1960, Hemingway last participated in an Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament. It was then that he and Fidel Castro, also a participating angler, met. When we founded our Hemingway International Yacht Club in 1992, we wanted to recall the history of the former International Yacht Club of Havana, which, in 1950, organized the first Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament. We have a seat of honor at the club and photos on the wall that show that meeting, says Commodore Jose Escrich.The area between the Morro Castle at the entrance of Havana Bay and the town east of Havana called Cojímar is known as the Hemingway Mile. Here he frequently fished aboard Pilar. Escrich says anglers competing in the tournament today catch most of their fish in this area.

Hemingway Days

Immerse yourself in the life, legend and lore of Ernest Hemingway, at the Hemingway Days festival in Key West. Set for July 19-24, 2022, to coincide with Hemingway's birthday on July 21, the week-long celebration features a Hemingway Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe's Bar, a Running of the Bulls where contestants and past contest winners parade down Duval Street with hand-built bulls, a fishing tournament, 5K run and paddleboard race that are both a nod to Hemingway as an avid sportsman, and the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, coordinated and judged by the author's granddaughter, Lorian Hemingway. For more, go to hemingwaydays.net

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