Caribbean Queen – The Tipsy Gypsy!




Carole Jean and Patty Washington aka “The Tipsy Gypsy,” Caribbean Queen

Patty Washington taught me how to be a “Boat Wench” several years ago. I had gone on vacation to St. Thomas with some Miami friends where I was working as a real estate agent in South Beach. As I luxuriated in the velvety turquoise waters I was transported to a state of peace, joy, and tranquility. My real estate stress melted away. The blaring horns and sirens of the city were non-existent. I wanted to stay. I wanted to be one of those people who went on vacation and never went home.

So I did.

I was no stranger to the Virgin Islands. I had moved to St. Thomas right after graduating Cortland State College in upstate New York. After four years of brutal winters, like Jimmy Buffet said, “I wanna go where it’s warm!”

I taught P.E. in the local schools by day and worked at a water-front Disco by night. I went to Magens Bay often. I became a “local” and I was happy. 

Some thirty years later, I had come full circle. I got a job on a charter catamaran where I was trained to be the chef/first-mate by Patty Washington. Patty, a trained nurse, had moved to the Virgin Islands several years prior, gotten her Captain’s license, and bought herself a sailboat. I don’t remember the cause, but I do remember that her boat caught fire and burned completely. Fortunately, she was not on board at the time. She was left with the clothing on her back and her life.

She worked on other people’s boats. And worked. And worked. Until she had enough money to buy another boat. She fixed it up and it became home.

Hurricane Irma took it. It is gone along with everything on board. Once more, Patty lost her home but kept her life. She happened to be in North Carolina caring for a sick friend when the Irma hit the Island. 

Patty is now organizing an “Angel Flight” and rescue operation for the victims of the devastation. She plans to pitch a tent on Water Island and start rebuilding! She is not a wealthy woman, but she has strength, determination, and an unsinkable spirit! I thought about buying a tent and setting up next to her. Perhaps, after I meet my obligations here, I will do so. St. Thomas is near and dear to my heart – as is Patty. She is a hook-bracelet sister; the bond will not be broken. Now is the time for all good bracelet friends to come to the aid of their sisterhood (and a few guys, too)!

The best way to help is to make a donation to this site: 

The drive is organized by the reputable John P. Wheatley who has done a plethora of good for the Virgin Islands under “Virgin Islands United.” Check it out.

It’s legit. I checked. There are many many people and places in need in many parts of the U.S.A. and they are getting help from FEMA, etc. Let’s not forget the Virgin Islands!

I used to write stories for Crew Life, an Island publication which was a subsidiary of  “All at Sea” magazine at the time. I called it the “So there I was…” series which covered my adventures while working as a charter chef. Here is a reprint from 2008 titled “Tangled Anchors”:

So, there I was holding my breath, eyes wide open staring at Patty through my flooded snorkel mask, wondering where the underwater stuff was in my job description of catamaran chef/crew. Sheesh!

I had applied for the job as crew/chef after a “girls” vacation to the Virgin Islands where we visited Captains Scott and Cara, friends from Miami. Although I had limited boating skills, I had hoped the motivation of a new life in the sparkling Caribbean Sea would carry me through my inexperience. The Capt. who hired me offered a free training week with his existing crew, Patty. I was to shadow her for the week’s charter with 2 well-behaved couples from New England. How perfect! I promised to stay out of the way in HER galley and to make myself useful.

I learned the art of outdoor table-setting in the wind, gracefully hooking a mooring ball, tying off fenders at just-the-right, and pulling in the dinghy when under way as we had no davits. I quickly learned why this was important. 

Patty was in the galley. I was on deck watching the Captain turn the boat after leaving our mooring. Suddenly, he turned to me and shouted: “Get in the water and unwrap the dinghy!” I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.

Being brand new to the boating world, bikini-clad, I jumped in the water. He frantically pointed at the propeller where I saw the tightly twisted line on the shaft, so I just started tugging on the line. Freeing it was easier said than done! With the encouragement of those on deck, I managed to extricate it. Yay! This was early in the day as we started out for Dead Man’s Cove at St. Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands.

We were day 3 into the charter. Patty and I had learned to work together with the established pecking order, and now trusted on another – and none too soon for what was about to ensue. 

It was crowded in the popular day spot. We had arrived early enough to snag a prime anchorage The Captain had been running charters in these waters since the 1960s. He knew the good spots. His anchoring techniques were superb. He always patiently waited to make sure it was set, personally dove the anchor, and kept an eagle-eye on incoming traffic, often helping bare-boaters. When it was time to leave, I went to my post at the bow to signal progress of the rising anchor chain. Much to my surprise, there were TWO anchors at the end of the chain. I did a double-take, not fully comprehending what my eyes were telling me. He lowered it quickly! We saw another catamaran being pulled toward us. Where was the crew? Oh boy. Yet a third boat was being inexplicably pulled in our direction. Everybody was puzzled. As the boats got dangerously close, we knew something was terribly wrong.

Patty leaped into action! She looked at me and shouted, “Get your stuff on!” I thought to myself, “What stuff?” 

As she hastily donned snorkel gear I followed suit. We dove to the sandy bottom and there was the spaghetti snag of all three anchors. She immediately assessed the situation and we went to work disentangling. We surfaced for air and saw three 45′ catamarans converging to a center point, exactly where our “gasping-for-air” little selves were. Adrenaline kicked in, we re-submerged and untangled the mess. We surfaced to find both crew and charter guests snarling at one another.

Patty got her strong voice on and yelled, “You’re free. Go!” When they realized what she was saying, each boat slowly motored away from the pack and went their merry way. Patty and I boarded our boat, looked at each other and burst out laughing. We felt like the “Bond Girls” from the 007 movies and now we are “bonded” for life. I can still vividly picture those 3 seemingly massive objects creeping toward us. What an initiation!

What I learned that day will forever enrich my life. Don’t panic, assess the situation, do your best and top it off with a smile! Such is a day in the life of a charter crew – you never know what the day will bring. Smooth sailing!

So now, here we are. Standing on the sidelines assessing the situation of our demolished Virgin Island paradise. Let’s take action. Send some money. When things settle down in a couple of months, I think I will bring my tent, pitch it next to Patty’s and plant some palm trees! 





12 thoughts on “Caribbean Queen – The Tipsy Gypsy!

  1. I feel for your friend Patsy and will be making a donation this afternoon.
    I have a friend who has a condo in St. Maarten and she says what she heard
    is that somehow it has survived. Life is strange.

    Loved hearing from you and reading your story, wherever you go, you will create
    superb writing and will give heartfelt support. Many hugs.



  2. Great story! I donated too… Secret Cove used to be my favorite place

    *Thank you,Anne Marie* Anne Marie Sorcenelli Realtor, SRES, SCCPRO, Certified Negotiation Expert Sereno Group Real Estate I’m never too busy for your referrals!

    831.227.4567 2407 Porter Street #150, Soquel, CA 95073 CalBRE # 01408660

    On Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 4:08 PM, Carole Jean’s Capers wrote:

    > CaroleJean’ posted: ” Patty Washington taught me > how to be a “Boat Wench” several years ago. I had gone on vacation to St. > Thomas with some Miami friends where I was working as a real estate agent > in South Beach. As I luxuriated in the velvety turquoise water” >


  3. Wonderful stories as always.. Love hearing them and hope your friend is able to recover..Just made an donation myself…
    Would Love to camp next to Patty too!!!


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