Up until the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve this year, all was as normal in St. Barths. Over a hundred large yachts vied to be the closest to the tiny port of Gustavia, like a leering group of men outside a trendy club eying up a lone French model, pointing at her suggestively with their bulbous bows. Grudges that will last a lifetime were made in the anchorage when a latecomer pushed into the pack, and fist fights between tender crews broke out on the dock over who had the fluffiest pillows. It was just another year.
But as the midnight fireworks died off, and the last giddily sleep-deprived stewardess stopped laying on the ship’s horn that the captain had told her to run up and blast as long as she liked, a strange thing began to happen. The sound of engines being fired up was heard throughout the anchorage. Deck crews emerged, and anchors began to be raised. In a matter of minutes anchor lights were off, navigation lights were on, and the entire fleet of large yachts began heading out to open water, out into the night, out to the world’s first ‘Wild Yacht Rumpus’.
“I’ve been working for Mr. Pennybags for many years,” Explains Captain Schiphase of the M/Y Monopoly, “And he’s proposed some pretty out there ideas, some of which we’ve done, and a lot of which we’ve pretended to do. But this was by far the craziest thing he’d ever come up with. I loved the idea immediately.”
The story goes that following the fireworks last year a number of well-oiled owners, partying with Mr. Pennybags on his yacht, came to agree that it was a shame to have all of these boats in one place, all there to celebrate, and not do something more memorable, something special.
“So they agreed, right then and there, that this year we would all raise anchor at midnight, proceed to a designated point in open waters, and dance. With the boats. Which is really more of a rumpus when you think about it. Word spread, and as you can see we had a great turnout. So good in fact it got downright dangerous up in there.”
The spot chosen as the dance floor was three nautical miles south of Gustavia. By 12:30 a.m. on the first day of 2015, in the vicinity of 75 yachts were on location, holding station in the 1.5 to 2 meter swell and all tuned in to a designated VHF channel over which was being piped music to get the party started.
Just as with the early going at most night clubs, initially most vessels hung back, waiting to see how this was going to go. But without much hesitation a couple of the more agile and energetic younger yachts got straight to it, splitting their engines and flashing their spotlights as they churned up the Caribbean waters, underwater lights on, letting it all hang out and throwing the Collision Regulations to the wind. By the time the unseen DJ on channel 11 dropped T-Pains ‘I’m on a boat’, the entire fleet was circling and backing and laying on their bow thrusters in that ‘who-cares-if-I-trip-the-breaker’ sort of way.
“We did a lot of free dance at first, just letting everyone do their thing and get a feel for their moves,” says Capt. Schiphase, “And then we mixed in a few routines. Folks seemed to really get into that, falling right into their slots and performing some pretty complicated manoeuvres. It was essentially just like running a search and rescue operation, except the only thing we were looking for was a good time.”
Unfortunately the event didn’t go without a bit of contact, some of which seemed intentional as vessels got right up on each other and showed what they really thought, with a few instances of the bows of more aggressive vessels grinding on the sterns of other yachts who didn’t look all that impressed with the damage being done to their after sections. The word ‘scandalous’ was used a number of times.
The night ended ended with M/Y Eclipse taking a run right through the middle of the pack of dancing vessels, and then pulling to a crash stop, the at-sea equivalent of big old Uncle Freddy at your cousin’s wedding, skidding across the dance floor on his knees and scattering dancers left and right in his wake.
As first light broke to the east and a passing squall dropped a welcome rainy on the salty, overheating vessels, the fleet made their way back to the anchorage in packs and pairs and threes. Many shouts were heard over the radio, and occasionally groups of yachts burst into a harmonized horn-playing of ‘Danny boy’, before finally coming to rest and throwing out an anchor off of the by-now quiet port of Gustavia. But not before declaring this the best, first, Wild Yacht Rumpus, there ever was, and that there would be many more of these to come.