A gentleman, officer, author, and scholar, it was an absolute treat to meet Sir James Mitchell, former Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on our maiden voyage to his country. We delighted in exchanging pleasantries and listening to his animated anecdotes about the three American presidents he worked with during his long tenure as P.M.. The boys were especially awestruck, gaping their eyes in quick glances when the Honorable looked in the other direction. There we were on a tiny, obscure island (Bequia) basking in its bounties, all fresh and new and this is who is eating at the table beside us? How special to have a true piece of the land’s native history right there, and no one else around to give his attention to but us!
We were just looking to get some food for our growling bellies and refreshing cold drinks after our overheated hike about town. And since Paul bought me his autobiography, Beyond The Islands from the gift shop after lunch, which Sir Mitchell graciously signed for us as well, I continued to read in more detail of the stories he began that day on the porch of his beloved family home, which is now the charming hotel Frangipani. It made our continued voyage that much more significant.
I’d like to think that serendipity has some undertones of fate involved since I’m enchanted and moved with the idea of greater forces at work, but truth is that in the cruising life, many sailors rely on what are known as “cruising guides” that often tell you about the people, places and things you may encounter in a given location. Particularly useful are the navigation tricks and anchoring suggestions. They’re also pretty spot-on when it comes to activities and restaurant recommendations. One of the more popular ones is published by Chris Doyle.
The guides will even give nick names, personal histories, physical descriptions of some of the proprietors, and even their idiosyncrasies if the info proves useful, like “call at least 2 hours ahead because…” or something to that effect. After meeting Sir Mitchell and hearing his tales, my memory of reading about him and his family was sparked. I started to remember reading about the Frangipani and its owner in the Eastern Caribbean Guide, a one James “Son” Mitchell. But the guide certainly neglected to add that “Son” was also the former P.M., and that was a sweet discovery indeed.
And so our virgin arrival to Bequia, and our maiden voyage to a foreign land as Admiral and Captain of s/v Rita Kathryn, proved fateful and serendipitous: (though Paul would strongly affirm it was another example of our guardian angels at work…) from the tricky 3 hour hike to the tip of Peggy’s Rock (we expected the hike to be about 1.5 hours and were left open-mouthed at the 360º view), to meeting the first Democratic Prime Minister of this relatively newly independent nation.
In his autobiography he writes very much like he spoke to us that day on the Frangi’s porch, as if he were telling a grandchild, perched on his lap, his colorful journey. It’s filled with struggle, adventure, tragic loss, and downright brilliance. When Paul and I mentioned our general sailing plans to explore more of the Lesser Antilles, Sir Mitchell added that he would then expect to be seeing us more often at the “Frangi”; and we certainly hope that to be true… we are also both hoping that next time, it’s during lobster season!