“Mama, tow my boat out to the sea, pull it down from shore to shore. Two brown eyes look at me, I feel i’m knockin’ on heaven’s door…”
– Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – June 1981
“I started it in St. Vincent when I woke up from a strange dream in the hot sun….I was thinking about living with somebody for all the wrong reasons”
– Bob Dylan – Notes for ‘Carribean Wind’, Biograph, Cameron Crowe, 1985
“Me and another guy have a boat down there. “Jokerman,” kinda came to me in the islands. It’s very mystical. The shapes there, and shadows, seem to be so ancient. The song was sorta inspired by these spirits they call jumbis.”
– Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan christened his sailboat Water Pearl. She was a traditional Bequia boat, having been built on the beach of the small island in the northern Grenadines in the late ’70s or so.
– Latitude 38, Letters, January 2007
“In the late 70’s, Californian Chris Bowman and I were co-contractors for a 68-ft. traditional wooden schooner, built for Bob Dylan near the present Dive Bequia, just off The Belmont Walkway.
We hired some of the best shipwrights in Bequia—Albert Crosby, Lincoln Ollivierre, Lanceford Hazell, Herbert Ollivierre, Gilbert Hazell.
She was handmade with pride. Her ribs were Bequia white cedar curved to the right shape by the N.E. Trades. Her planking was Guyanese hardwood. Her bulwarks were dark as ebony and finished with gleaming brass fittings. It took three years to build her.
We launched her on December 9, 1980, with an all day celebration.”
– Nolly Simmons, 30th November 2012
Bankie Banx, Reggae artist, has lived on the small island of Anguilla most of his life.
In the early 1980s, Bob Dylan sailed into Anguilla on his 70-foot schooner:
“The Water Pearl was made in (the tiny island of) Bequia. He had a Caribbean crew. He sailed to Anguilla. He picked up my cassette with some conch shells at a gift shop. He sent his captain, Christopher Bowman, to look me up. I guess they played the tape on the boat.
Bowman asked me to come aboard and bring a few guitars. I went aboard and met Dylan. We started playing and he was very much interested in ‘Prince of Darkness.’ He wanted me to write out the lyrics and chord progression.
We went for a swim, we went snorkeling, had lunch. In the evening I invited him to my home studio. I had a Tascam (recorder) n my basement. I was always ready to go. He stepped in and started to play my organ.
He said, ‘Bankie, I like the sound of ‘Prince of Darkness’, can you record that?’
I said, ‘Bob, I’ve already done that.’
Then he asked for a reggae bass line. Then a reggae rhythm guitar. Then he wanted some girls to sing backup vocals. I went and got two girls. He never put his voice on the tape. He just played keyboards and gave us the harmonies.”
– Interview by David Hoekstra on May 12, 2007
Dylan paid the women for the impromptu session and loaned Banx his boat and crew for six weeks.
“I overheard the talk at the next table. Water Pearl was in the harbor, and everyone was talking about whether or not the owner was on board. [Dylan] heard I was in town as well and asked if I wanted to come out and see the boat and have lunch.
We didn’t talk music. We talked boats over lunch. He gave me a tour of Water Pearl, and I can still smell that unique combination of pitch, canvas, and wood that is the essence of a traditional sailing rig”.
– Jimmy Buffet
“I started sailing the Caribbean in ’76 with the first Utopia, a Morgan Out-Island 36. So I have put in my time down there. This brings me to Bob Dylan’s traditional Bequia schooner Water Pearl. I first met her captain in the late ’70s, right after she was built, I believe as a mail boat and/or light freighter.
In ’84, I was a co-captain of the Antigua-based Ocean 60 Ocean Mistral. We’d anchored next to Water Pearl at Deshaies, Guadeloupe. We had a tough time getting our CQR to hold, but finally felt we were in for the night.
We all went to bed except for one young lady who wasn’t tired. She stayed up, often looking over at Water Pearl. Around 2 a.m. I sensed there was a strange boat motion. I got up, looked out, and sure enough, Water Pearl was right next to us. But something was strange, as I looked around and noticed that I couldn’t see any land! I realized that both our boats had dragged out to sea.
When I asked the young lady why she didn’t call me, she said, “Water Pearl was always in the same place, so I never noticed that we were going anywhere.”
Utopia, Jeanneau 45, Hermosa Beach
“For 40 years, Lawson Sergeant and his brother Tim have run a model boat-building shop on Bequia. There are now three others, catering for all the yachties looking for souvenirs to take home, or even of their own boats, because they will do a model of your yacht to order.
Lawson has done one for Bob Dylan of his yacht Water Pearl, which has now sunk – the boat, not the model.”
– Hunter Davies, The Mail On Sunday
27 November 2006
SINKING LIKE A SHIP
“My sixty-three foot sailboat had hit a reef in Panama…In the ten years I had her my family and I had sailed the entire Caribbean and spent time on every island from Martinique to Barbados.”
– Bob Dylan, ‘Chronicles’
Chris Bowman was on his way to the Pacific for a long cruise “financed by Bob Dylan” when disaster struck – near the Panama Canal, at about 4a.m.
Instead of heaving to and waiting for dawn, he tried to enter the harbour, missed the entrance and piled up on the beach.
It seems that he could not organize a salvage tug in time and the Water Pearl slowly broke up over six days.
– May 2011 issue of “Classic Boat”.
“Only the crew of Water Pearl knows what really happened, but those of us around the boathouse figured that Water Pearl had old charts, which caused them to confuse the light on Toro Point with the white light on the east point of the entrance through the breakwater.
That also assumes that Water Pearl’s radar either wasn’t on or wasn’t working. There were strong northerly winds the night Water Pearl was lost, so once the crew realized the situation they were in, it was too late to save the boat. Once again, this explanation is not from the crew, but rather speculation by some of us on shore.
Attempts were made to pull Water Pearl off the reef, but the tugs couldn’t get very close to her because of the reef. In addition, the tow lines kept getting snagged on the coral.
After the wreck was abandoned, she was stripped of almost everything. A local even cut a hole in the hull and salvaged the engine — piece by piece! He transported the pieces in a rowboat. I ended up with the anchor windlass and the grating from the shower. I made the latter into an end table”.
– Letter from Bob Gray, LATITUDE MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2011
“When [Water Pearl] went down, the whole of Bequia wept.”
– Nolly Simmons, 30th November 2012