I was lucky enough as a child (age 10 or 11 and again at age 14) to have sailed twice on the Romance with my parents. The first time was a trip through the US and British Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, Norman Island, Tortola, Virgin Gorda) in either 1967 or 1968, and the second time through the Leeward Islands (Antigua, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, etc) in about 1971 (I'll have to check with my father about the exact years). I have very fond memories of both trips. My parents, Garth and Margaret Coombs, had the Max Von Sydow cabin both times as I recall, and I was in the "bachelor's quarters" in the forecastle, though we usually always slept on deck.

Among my memories are being allowed to drink some of the Marlin Spike punch when I was 11, even though it was pretty well laced with rum. I remember a crew member who had a guitar with him who would play on deck in the evenings for everyone to sing along. There was the fear and exhilaration of climbing the rigging for the first time and thinking that it was a long way down and noticing how much the mast swayed. There was the fun of standing up at the bowsprit and calling out the location of fishing buoys and of swinging out over the water when they would rig a rope from one of the yards. I also remember being awakened by Gloria early in the morning before anyone else was up to go diving for conch for the stew she was making for dinner that night. I think that may have been at Norman Island. The water was so clear that the conch looked like they were only a couple of feet down, but when I would dive for them I would discover it was more like 15 or 20 feet. She would put the conch in a bucket and then wait for it to come out of its shell. She would quickly set a hook in it and then hang it so the weight of the shell would pull it free.

On the second trip, I have a vivid memory of sleeping on deck at anchor in Antigua in December, and listening to the sound of Christmas carols being played on steel drums coming across the water. I also remember Captain Kimberly calling me over to take the wheel while we were under full sail. He pointed to two islands on the horizon and told me to keep her aimed between the two and then he disappeared below decks. About an hour later he reappeared and relieved me -- an incredibly empowering experience for a 14 year old! During that second trip, the Kimberly's invited me to come back when I turned 16 to travel with them to the Galapagos as a crew member, but one of my great regrets in life is that that was also the summer my family moved from New Jersey to Colorado and I was not able to take advantage of the opportunity.

I also remember how everyone would jump to when the Captain said jump, whether it was to help raise the anchor or to help pull a halyard; and how everyone knew to leave him alone when he went up in the "crow's nest" to sew patches on sails and to get away from everyone for awhile. I still know how to tie off a line to a belaying pin, though I don't have much call to do so as a business school professor.

By the way, my dad has a cookie tin from some brand of butter cookies that has a photo on it of the Romance under full sail.

I would love to get a copy of the Gloria's book when it is finished and I hope that your site will have information on how to get one.


Gary Coombs

Back to the Top Back to the Guests & Crew of the Romance