June 7, 2017
An Interview with William Hibbard by Susan M. Schultz
Bill and his granddaughter at Club Peace and Plenty enjoying the BBQ Grouper and the company of other boaters.
Mr. Bill Hibbard of St. Joseph’s Island visited George Town, Exumas, Bahamas, in March this year accompanied by his granddaughter, Julia. Bill came back by plane this time to visit the places he remembered visiting as a sailor for many years. Instead of being on a boat he stayed at the lovely Regatta Point Resort.
We met with him a few times to reminisce about George Town and Stocking Island as it was in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when he was sailing the Bahamian waters with his late wife, Gertrude. We listened to his stories of cruising here the first time in a Tanzer 26. He also sailed the Great Loop several times, eventually graduating to a Tanzer 31.
Bill has an intriguing history. His was born in China to Canadian missionary parents. His first sailing experience was at 12 years of age. At 19 he returned to Canada, travelling by train through China and India to reach a U.S. troop ship. From there he crossed the Pacific to San Diego, California and took a bus to Calgary, Alberta to his uncle’s home.
For several years he worked at various jobs while raising his family of four with Gertrude. He came back to boating as the first Tanzer dealer in Ontario. In a warehouse north of Toronto, he sold the basic boats and installed the upgrades as customers ordered their boats from him. When he retired in 1986 he moved to St. Joe’s Island near Sault Ste. Marie and began serious cruising.
Bill at the helm of catamaran OtherGoose
As Bill hiked through George Town, checking out the various restaurants, he noted how much the community had built up and changed. Stocking Island was much more populated; Chat n’ Chill hadn’t been there when he first arrived and the island was much more pristine and empty. For Julia, it was a new experience. She had been here as a baby, but now she was seeing it as an adult, and through her grandfather’s memories. Bill called her his “eyes and ears”. Luckily she also had his stamina and was able to keep up with him.
Bill enjoyed his time here. He helmed a catamaran [across the harbour] and remarked on the difference between cat and monohull. He also commented on the number and variety of boats here. He enjoyed meeting the boaters, and remarked,” I’ve never talked to so many people that I will never see again.”
He still races his Tanzer 31 from the Hilton Beach Marina in the long distance races from Little Current to Gore Bay; to Thessalon and Spragge. But he’s worried that his crew are getting too old to race any more. He said that he has participated in more than 20 of the long distance races and in 11 years only missed one or two. He recollects that usually it was his birthday that week, and his family insisted that he stay home for the party. This year he will give it a try again if he can find crew. Bill will be 93 years young in July. Happy Birthday Bill!!