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‘Flying Circus’, Newhard’s Columbia 50 sailboat after Hurricane Irma struck the island of St. John, USVI, Wednesday, September 6, 2017.
The most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade hit a string of Caribbean islands on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 with whipping winds reaching 185mph, along with flooding. The islands were decimated.

As the weather warnings from officials grew, millions of people fled their homes and headed north before Irma could slam them. When Enzo Newhard heard about Hurricane Irma and the path it was taking, he was at the University of Miami. His dad, Neil Newhard, was in the Waynedale area. Despite the warnings to get out and stay out, Enzo decided to head south, back to where he and his dad lived on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Enzo’s heart was on the island, and his desire was to stay with their Columbia 50 sailboat, tagged ‘Flying Circus’. As every good captain would do, Enzo’s intention was to ride out the storm, as they had done many times before.

Enzo headed to the “safe” bay/cove with the Flying Circus. Shortly after he reached Little Cruz Bay, cars were tossed in the air, roofs were ripped off and most of the homes were destroyed.

As Irma was heard howling through the islands, Enzo headed for safety. However, the thrashing winds and heavy rains sent their sailboat flying through the air and crashing down ashore on the island. Enzo, along with a number of St. John’s 4,000 full-time islanders who work in the tourist industry, sadly reported that many of the boats had been reduced to splinters.

The Newhard’s also have a piece of ground on shore for their boat shack where they keep many projects; vintage Triumph and Norton motorcycles, an oversized dirt bike, numerous antique outboard motors, a custom wooden wagon that Neil made when Enzo was nine-years-old, a table saw, band saw and numerous wood carving tools. The boat shack provided the captain with a home-base away from the sailboat when they were not sailing and it’s an indispensable item for stowing extra sails, tools and other paraphernalia. This too was destroyed. Capt. Neil and his son Enzo not only lost their sailboat but also their home and possessions.

“It’s always great to see a trusted friend and fellow Waynedaler, but not under these circumstances,” said Bob Stark. There was an article written in The Waynedale News by Bob, a lifelong friend of Neil’s that brings back some history. “Neil grew up in the Waynedale area where he attended Elmhurst High School with the Class of ‘64. Neil’s father, Paul Newhard was a local contractor and carpenter. The wisdom and woodworking skills he passed on to Neil had served the captain well over his lengthy sailing career.

Neil, for a short time after high school, worked for Fort Wayne Zollner Piston Corporation… whatever it was he left Fort Wayne and” ended up in the Virgin Islands.

Newhard had many sailboats in his time but his favorite was when he “bought Touché, a wood-racing sloop made of oak, mahogany and teak wood that was built in Newburgh, Germany. Touché was a magnificent beauty, with all the lines of a fine lady. Hurricane Hugo sent Touché to the bottom of Little Cruz Bay in 1989 but new deals can be made if you don’t mind doing a lot of hard work and some finagling.”

On Saturday, September 9, I spoke with Enzo’s best friend, Remi Hutchins. Enzo and Remi are both sophomores at the University of Miami and sailing team members. Enzo has a triple major; Marine Biology, Environmental Science and Biology, and Remi a health science-pre-med major.

It has been reported that there has been a communication crisis in receiving information on family and friends in the wake of Hurricane Irma. A lot of people are without a phone or internet access, making it difficult to contact them.

Remi, expressing concern, reported that he had been checking the “Irma Safety Check app.” “On Thursday, Enzo’s name was finally on it,” he said with a sigh of relief. He said that his only ‘live’ contact with Enzo was a text message today that read, “I’m safe.”

Remi commented that, “Enzo is the nicest person ever! He is always there for you.” Remi was staying in Boston, MA until he hears that classes are resuming but he assured me that Enzo would stay at St. John helping friends and neighbors for as long as it takes because “islanders are a big family.” Enzo is currently living on the island in a temporary shelter.

These islanders are really hard workers with big hearts. Most of the residents on the islands can’t afford the insurance premiums or the insurance companies won’t insure, so the rebuilding process is going to be costly.

Enzo’s friends and fellow sailors have started a drive to help him and his father rebuild their lives. “While we cannot bring back their Columbia 50, we can help replace their home. Every gift is truly appreciated.” Search www.gofundme.com/newhards to assist.

If you have ever been one of those fortunate visitors to the beautiful island of St. John, where Enzo and Capt. Neil live, you may recall this story as you sail away with the islanders…

“Aye mate,” said the Captain, “I see a merchant ship fresh from the orient with spices and bounty aplenty. We will board her and rape and pillage. Bring me my red shirt so that if I am wounded in battle, my mates won’t see me bleed and lose heart.”

The next day after the plunder was finished, the old pirate again looked out over the horizon and called for the first mate.

The Captain asked, “What’s that on the horizon mate?”

The first mate raised his spyglass, and answered, “I see three British warships, each with 80 cannon and more speed in their sails then we can muster.”

“Aye mate,” answered the Captain, “bring me my brown pants.”

Enzo & Neil Newhard sailing off St. John, USVI-circa 2008
Cindy Cornwell

Cindy Cornwell

She started her newspaper career over 10 years ago beginning as a sales executive, progressing as copy editor, graphic and paper designer, and former Executive Editor. She enjoys writing about the great place to live, shop, work and play; Waynedale. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer