A DYNAMIC DUO - PETER & BARBARA BAILEY
By - Nancy Terrell (Nautical Scene - 2000)
Two of the most interesting people I have met in the sailing world, in the decade that I have lived in the BVI, are Peter and Barbara Bailey. They are delightfully funny and witty sailors and jointly share Second Nature, a Hughs '38 with their son, Bill, who is helmsman. The yacht is a continual winner in Cruising Class in the BVI. Bill is one of the founding members, as well as a past president, of the Association of Reef Keepers (ARK). In fact, I first met Peter Bailey when crewing on Second Nature during the Defiance Day Regatta at the Bitter End Yacht Club in '96. I knew when I met him that his life was a story that needed to be told. Now, that the 2000 racing season is well underway in the BVI, is the appropriate time to relate the histories of those who have helped to create the successful yachting environment that exists on these tiny islands.
Peter and Barbara are from the UK and have been involved with sailing almost their entire lives. Peter owned his first boat, a small dinghy, at eight. Barbara started sailing at fourteen and owned an 18-footer by the time she entered college. Educated at Balls Park College, Barbara became a teacher by profession and a sailor on the side. The couple met at a sailing club in 1944. They dated others but became serious when Peter entered the Royal Navy the next year. After engaging in a courtship that spanned several years the two were married in 1951. According to Barbara, Peter married her because she "had a bigger boat than he did." They had raced dinghies together in competition since their first meeting. The marriage began a classic mating of helmsmanship and crewing. The two have always sailed and raced together with Barbara taking the windward legs and Peter the downwind.
After the Royal Navy, Peter entered Liverpool University where he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering with honors in Oceanography. Barbara taught primary. Daughter Christine was born in '52 with son Bill following in '54. Peter worked in various dredging and marine engineering fields in the UK and the Middle East until '54 when the family decided to accept a position in Trinidad with Texaco. Barbara continued her teaching. Together they built six GP 14 dinghies so they could begin a team racing series. As Peter tells me, "We were very keen on team racing, a love that we have had all of our lives.
While in Trinidad the family bought an 18' boat, Moonraker, that was an American Sea Bird design. With a half deck centerboard, the family sailed from Trinidad to Grenada and back - a trip few would venture to make today. They then upgraded to a wooden cutter, Draconis, a Channel class 40' Laurent Giles design that they sailed on, with their children, throughout the Caribbean. In 1960 the family returned to England where they lived on the shores of the Irish Sea. By this time daughter Kay had joined the family. Peter taught Math, Physics and Sailing and was an Examiner for the Joint Matriculation Board for the RYA. They both continued with their team racing with son Bill joining in.
Then in '68 a very interesting move occurred. The family became the sole wardens on Hilbre Island, an island of about four times the size of Marina Cay, a Bird Sanctuary and Nature Reserve, thus son Bill's interest in zoology. The family banded birds for the British Trust Ornithology with Prince Philip, an avid birdwatcher, visiting occasionally. The family also served with the HM Coast Guard. Barbara became the 1st female stationmaster officer for the UKCG with daughter Christine becoming the 2nd. The tide at Hilbre ranges some 30'. I found it fascinating that when the tide was out the children would ride their horses to school in West Kirby on the Wirral Peninsula. When the tide was in, Peter would ferry them across in a boat.
In 1976 Peter crewed for a friend on an ocean voyage that brought him to Antigua. Barbara flew to the island to meet him. Together, with the owner and his wife, the four sailed to the Bahamas with a short stop in the British Virgin Islands. They fell in love with the BVI and decided to make it their home. In '77 the two ran a crewed 54' charter boat, Valhalla - a large vessel by the standards of that day- for four years in the BVI. In '81 Peter became the Director of Marine Operations at Nanny Cay Marina. In '83 he added marine surveying to his list of professions and became Manager for Village Cay Marina in Road Town, Tortola. During this time they organized a lot of team races for the BVI Yacht Club. Peter was also an avid angler and helped in that area when the Angling Club merged with the yacht club.
In the mid-eighties the couple built a home on Great Camanoe Island. Peter became manager and maintenance director for the inhabitants of the island. Son Bill returned to assist them after Hurricane Hugo in '89. He has never left and now owns his own Marine Surveying Company, Caribbean Adjusters & Marine Surveyors Ltd.
By 1999, the couple decided to sell their home and retire to East End, Tortola. The amazing thing is that Barbara continues to volunteer her talents as a teacher and Peter still operates the mainsheet on Second Nature. The BVI Spring Regatta 2000 will mark Peter's 23rd year of participation. I think it can be said, in all sincerity, that the Baileys have made a difference in the BVI. We are all the better having known them. Hats off to this dynamic duo and good luck in the coming events.