BUSCADORA - HISORY IN THE MAKING
As seen in the "Nautical Scene" publication
BVI is filled with classic yachts telling historic tales but
none is quite so fascinating as La Buscadora, a 1941 Peterson
80' wooden yacht custom built as a private commuter. It all
started when a Wall Street tycoon, living on Long Island, wanted
a faster way to get to work. John H. Wells was commissioned
to build a double caravel planked vessel out of white cedar
in the Peterson Yard on the Hudson River. With inner and outer
fastenings of silicon bronze, WASP as she was originally commissioned,
featured four staterooms, with private heads, a large galley,
a dining salon and an open-air aft deck.
had a top speed of over 50 knots with three propellers powered
by three Curtis Wright gasoline engines and a total horsepower
of 2000. Soon after commissioning, she was procured by the US
government for use in protecting US shores from enemy submarines
in WWII as an offshore patrol vessel. 50 caliber machine guns
were mounted both fore and aft - along with two depth bomb racks.
President Truman held high level meetings on the yacht and,
an interesting note here, is that a very similar design, also
by Wells, was incorporated into the famous PT boats. After the
war, she was given back to the original owner and used privately
for about ten years.
the 1950s the yacht was sold, renamed Bink II and loaned to
the CIA for use in Cuban reconnaissance running guns, ammunition
and people from Key West to Cuba. It was during this time that
the vessel was converted from gasoline to diesel and outfitted
with three 6-cylinder Detroit 6-110 diesels. During one of these
trips into Cuba, possibly the Bay of Pigs invasion, the vessel
received a hailing of bullets.
1961 she changed hands again and was renamed Paratus. She was
donated to the University of Florida and then sold to a young
widow, Lady X, who was conned by a couple of Southern gigolos.
Running off with Lady X's money, they left her with the newly
named Kaywin, a boat she didn't want or know how to use. Lady
X then sold the yacht to a man who promptly suffered a heart
attack. As the final payments had not been made, Lady X held
onto the yacht for another 4 years during which Kaywin deteriorated
to the point of barely being afloat.
Mike Hallett, today one of the BVI's top charter owners. Upon
leaving Southern Illinois University, Hallett left Chicago in
1969 to work in the Bahamas on a charter boat, Highlander IV
, with Skeet LaChance's Adventure Cruises. Hallett always wanted
to work in the charter industry. While walking the dock one
day in Ft. Lauderdale he spotted Kaywin half afloat. Seeing
the possibility to realize his dream he purchased the boat for
$10,000 as a derelict wreck and renamed her La Buscadora - "searchress"
of the good life.
years later, after much rebuilding, Hallett sailed La Buscadora
throughout the Caribbean. He tells me, "In 1985 I picked
Tortola and the BVI as the place to be. It's where the people
are the friendliest and the water is the cleanest. After ten
years of chartering out of Road Town, La Buscadora changed her
base of operations to Sopers Hole, West End, and has remained
there ever since."
yacht's fame does not end here, however. In 1989 she was featured
in the movie "HAVANA" starring Robert Redford and
directed by Sidney Pollack. Filmed in the Dominican Republic,
this movie brought instant attention to yacht charterers. Her
guest list includes international writer, Frederick Forsyth,
Sportsman of the Millennium Sandy Koufax, and Donnatella Versache
success in chartering is due in large part to the skills of
Sandie Merriman who came on board as Hallett's better half in
the early 90s. Hailing from Hampshire, England, and a graduate
of Leiths Culinary School of London, Merriman has helped La
Buscadora become one of the top charter yachts of the BVI.
two just returned from a well-earned holiday in Bali and are
looking forward to another great season. Hallett will continue
his 16 year involvement in the Charter Yacht Society of the
BVI, where he has been a past Chairman and is a current board
member. The two reflect, in every way, the excellence that this
proud yacht deserves. And, if the BVI is lucky, they will continue
to represent the best in motor chartering throughout the Caribbean.
By Nancy Terrell