Alwin Hughes earned the name 'Skipper' in the
He was a deck hand on a wooden schooner for some
years. Who knows quite where, or quite why, but possibly in
the US Virgin Islands, or even Puerto Rica, Alwin Hughes missed his
ship. Generally when that happened it meant that an absent sailor
had gone "through the window". A reference to a bathroom
window with a broken latch in either a US Customs or a US immigration
office in either Puerto Rica or the US Virgin Islands. Here I am
necessarily vague because when I heard about "The Window" its
exact location was still a treasured secret.
But Alwin Hughes had always been certain that he had
eaten bad American food and had fallen to stomach distress. He
simply found himself stranded, and like all undocumented sailors he
quickly found another ship. This one was a metal ship. It was
a war surplus landing craft that carried cement.
Those who know the Caribbean Seas will tell you they are
prone to sudden squalls which very quickly produce a choppiness, that can be
unnerving. A landing craft has a shallow draft, it has no bow to cut
the waves. It was designed to surge onto a beach, disgorge its cargo
and leave as quickly as possible. Perfect for carrying cement, or
invading armies, but quite wretched in rough sea.
That cement ship crew lacked experience. When
the squall came, it was a deck hand that took the helm and saved the cargo
for grateful investors who rewarded Alwin Hughes with the position of ship's
And that's how Alwin Hughes earned the name
'Skipper'. But did Alwin Hughes like the name 'Skipper'.
Not really because metal ships had to pay docking fees and stevedores, and
there was always paper work. Worse Revenue Men and Coast Guards, ever
gallant aboard a schooner, became overly nosey on a metal ship.