In January local residents Tom & Karen Purkiser and Bill & Linda Stark spent two weeks in the Virgin Islands. They rented a two-bedroom villa on St. John, overlooking Turner Bay. Turner Bay is just a short walk to the main town of Cruz Bay where there are many unique shops, bars and restaurants. This is where Captain Neil Newhard, an original from Waynedale, keeps his yacht ‘Flying Circus’ docked in Cruz Bay.
Highlights of the trip included visiting the many white-sand beaches, snorkeling, hiking, viewing the Annaburg sugar plantation, grilling by the pool, eating, shopping, and sailing.
Captain Neil grew up in Waynedale. He attended Waynedale Elementary, Maplewood Jr. High and Elmhurst High School. After high school he worked briefly at Zollner Piston Corporation.
His first boat was a 24-foot rowing scow in which he entered and won several of the WMEE raft races during the Three Rivers Festivals. He and his father Paul then built an 18-foot mahogany racing canoe. After the captain’s canoe racing days ended he fell in love with sailboats. He learned to sail a 22-foot sloop at Syracuse, Indiana on Lake Wawasee and after that season ended, the following summer he sailed a 36-foot Columbia sloop from Michigan City, Indiana to Elk Rapids, Michigan. After the Columbia he found his next boat at Thunder Bay, which was named ‘Sir Tom.’
After racing several seasons in Grand Traverse Bay he bought another wood boat, a 55-foot Aba-King Rasmussen racing sloop named ‘Touche.’ In 1985 he sailed her from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Cruise Bay in the USVI’s. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo’s 220 mph eye-wall-wind blew her to bits. Neil bought another Aba-King Rasmussen, a yawl named ‘Herondelle.’ He successfully raced and chartered her for several seasons until he found the boat he currently owns, a “fifty” named ‘Flying Circus.’
The first trip for Bill, Linda, Tom and Karen with Captain Neil was a day-sail with 20-30 mph winds and 14-foot waves. They sailed around St. John and other nearby islands at racing speeds, which have made Captain Neil famous around the Virgin Islands. When Captain Neil saw Karen and Linda braced on the deck floor looking pale, he backed off and found smoother water. The hard weather was perfect for an old salt such as Neal but his novice sailing guests preferred smoother water. They found a quiet bay and Karen and Tom did some snorkeling on a coral reef while Captain Neil dove for lobster.
During the second week with calmer seas they all enjoyed a two-day sail to the British Virgin Islands. They made land at the Baths and Virgin Gorda and then night sailed to Yost Van Dyke. Breakfast included Neil’s famous pepper-fried egg sandwiches after which they visited the shops and bars. Evening found them at Foxey’s, a local ocean-side café.
They boarded their dinghy and motored back to the ‘Flying Circus’. On their sail back to Cruise Bay, they were serenaded by Neil’s first mate, Andrea. She sang Happy Birthday to Karen as they sailed into a beautiful sunset.