HRH PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK, VISITS THE BVI
By - Nancy Terrell (Reprinted from the Nautical Scene Magazine)
When HRH Prince Andrew, The Duke of York and 2nd son of Queen Elizabeth II, visited the British Virgin Islands recently it was in an official capacity as a royal liaison officer between the United Kingdom and it's territories. However, when he visited The Royal BVI Yacht Club, VISAR (Virgin Islands Search and Rescue), and KATS (Kids and the Sea) his interest was in the maritime interests within the BVI. Prince Andrew is also the Commander of the Directorate of Naval Operations for the Royal Navy of the U.K. and as such is interested in all aspects of maritime operations within the territories of the U.K.
The Prince spent almost an entire day during his visit (March10-13) reviewing maritime operations in the BVI, displaying his love for both the sea and children, apparent to all that observed. While visiting the Police Marine Base, staffed by the Royal Marine Police, he also conversed with Tom Gerker, President of the KATS Program, and members of the program. These children eagerly demonstrated their love of the program by showing the prince their knot-tying skills. The organization sponsors a 12-week seamanship course that students take in order to receive KATS certification. Hundreds of students received certification during the 90's, a fact of which sailors and residents of the BVI are especially proud.
VISAR is another organization that earned the prince's total recognition and respect. As the BVI has no coast guard, VISAR answers all calls of distress and disturbances at sea. It is an entirely volunteer effort and Prince Andrew was visibly impressed as he spoke with VISAR President, Rob Lyons, and viewed the launching of the organization's newest vessel. He congratulated Lyons and his staff on a job extremely well done and made us all proud of the fact that such excellence at sea exists in the BVI.
HRH, The Duke of York, also officiated at the official commemoration of The Royal BVI Yacht Club during an informal gathering and luncheon for yacht club members. Members were thrilled to meet the prince, which they did as he chatted and shook hands with those attending. After unveiling a plaque commemorating his visit to the club and congratulating Commodore Peter Haycraft and the board members on their new royal status, HRH was presented with a locally crafted wooden sea chest - designed and made by shipwright Michel Ticot. Prince Andrew thanked the club and included the four young members of the club's Junior Sailing Program who volunteered as waitresses for the event.
At all events that occurred on the island Prince Andrew was relaxed, informal and attentive. "He sincerely seemed to enjoy each place he visited and seemed right at home. Everyone made the same comment wherever he was" reported Haycraft. HRH also gave a check to the National Parks Trust (NPT), who are responsible for many of the territories moorings at the trust's snorkeling and dive sites, for $40,000. This is to help in establishing a youth environmental program. The NPT donation came from a special fund for environmental projects within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, according to BVI Governor Frank Savage. The governor hopes the grant will "help foster young people's appreciation for the environment." While at the Rainbow Children's Home, HRH unveiled a donation of playground equipment. The prince saw the children's delight as they immediately began playing on the swings and slide - all smiles.
The British Virgin Islands have been the recipient of many royal visits, many of which had to do with maritime commemorations. The first of such royal visits began in 1960 when HRH Princess Royal visited the island enjoying the tropical climate and sea.
• HRH Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visited the territory in 1966, which incidentally coincided with the 300th anniversary of when English buccaneers drove out the Dutch from Tortola in 1666.
• HRH Princess Margaret visited in 1972 for another momentous occasion - the 300th anniversary of the BVI under British administration.
• In '73, HRH Prince Charles arrived aboard the HMS Fox. The ship was assigned to update the existing charts and survey Road Harbor.
• In 1977, the BVI welcomed back HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during the Queen's Silver Anniversary. The couple arrived on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
• HRH Princess Alexandra visited the islands in 1988 and was so impressed that she returned after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 to see how the territory's residents were coping with the disastrous hurricane.
• In 1993, HRH Prince Philip returned to the islands to unveil a plaque at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, now known throughout the Caribbean for its excellence in Marine Studies. The college owns the oldest Island Sloop in existence, Vigilant (1882) and, in a joint effort, with the Royal BVI Yacht Club, will soon be able to teach the entire syllabus with RYA accreditation and certification.
All in all it appears that the Royal Family is as impressed with the maritime credentials of the BVI as the yachting community is with Prince Andrew's visit.