In the winter of 1992 Sue’s brother Kevin was a manager at a little tavern on the west end of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands called the Jolly Roger. Kevin invited us to travel down there. We took him up on his offer, and ended up hitchhiking around the island for weeks that winter, exploring and having an unforgettable time. We fell in love with Tortola.
Since that first trip in 1992, we’ve spent time on the island almost every winter/spring. When our daughters were born we started taking them along. They learned to swim in Tortola, and thought of “the outdoor house” as their second home.
Over the years, we’ve made many close friends in Tortola, the kindest people you will ever meet anywhere. In the summer of 2003 we even arranged for the staff of the Jolly Roger to visit the United States to see Phish play in Camden. It was an amazing weekend. Kevin and I rented a van, and he was the chauffeur for the trip. Everyone went into NYC, and many in the group had never been there before.
When the eye of hurricane Irma went directly over Tortola last week, the devastation was incalculable. Sue and I are so worried for our Tortola friends, most of whom cannot be reached, and with so many people suffering today right here in America, we fear that it could understandably be easy to forget and overlook a small island territory.
The island looks like it was leveled by a bomb. It’s been completely devastated. There’s no electricity, no basic services, water, shelter…many, many people are homeless – many yet unaccounted for. The situation is desperate.
I love Tortola. I’ve written so many songs there. It’s where I’ve gone in the winter to slow down, write, and to bring new song ideas to completion. Songs that were born as little germs of ideas elsewhere, often were crafted and came to life in Tortola.
The bulk of “Mercury” was written while sitting by the water in Tortola. Recently “Breath and Burning”, “Tide Turns”, and “More” were all written there. Loads of older songs were written there, too many to name, dating all the way back to the early 90’s.. I remember writing the melody for “Lifeboy” while walking with my little travel guitar in the hot sun on that first trip in 1992. I can still hear the pace of the island in that guitar riff.
Of course there is plenty of crisis right here at home with massive flooding in Texas and the recent Irma related destruction in Florida, as well as many people on the islands surrounding Tortola who desperately need help, and they will not be forgotten. Due to our family’s history on the island, we wanted to start by trying to help the people of Tortola in any way that we possibly could. Thru the WaterWheel Foundation, we have established a Tortola Relief Fund which will be focused on helping the people of Tortola start to rebuild. Here is a link to donate to the fund. We will be matching donations to this fund and any amount you can give is greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking a few moments to read this and for remembering the residents of the BVI during this difficult time.
In the spirit of thinking of Tortola, I’ve included links to a few recordings I made this past winter in Tortola while practicing for my first acoustic shows.