Story written by Samantha Fischer
Visiting Jost VanDyke several times a year and calling it “my second home” has allowed me to meet many of the colorful people that make this island so different and special. Among the 180 residents is one personality that everyone needs to meet, Colin David Aldridge aka “Captain Colin.“ Through many tours, dive intervals, and hours chatting on the beach, I have picked his brain and questioned him on his interesting past. The following was compiled from my interview submitted in a Caribbean Travel Magazine:
Colin is from the great island of Tennessee. Growing up, with family in Florida, his English father introduced him to the sea and the love of fishing that would eventually lead him through endless oceans by sail. Colin will tell you that happiness for him was always found by the ocean. Colin moved to Los Angeles when he was 17 to complete a degree as a Graduate Gemologist to work in his family’s jewelry manufacturing business. He was also traveling throughout the States on the weekends playing Professional Racquetball Tournaments. When he moved to the Caribbean he was ranked #3 in his age group in the United States and was sponsored by Spalding Sports Worldwide.
After finishing school he experienced the tragedy of losing his parents. He decided to “re-evaluate life” and its priorities. Colin moved to the island of St. John and leased a house in the remote area of John’s Folly to slow down and consider what life was all about. For six months he fished, snorkeled and dived throughout the USVI and BVI most everyday. Realizing that his money was dwindling away through rent, gasoline, and carefree living, a friend encouraged him to buy a sailboat. “It made perfect sense to me! The wind is free and I was in no hurry to get anywhere. I loved to travel and this way I wouldn’t have to buy plane tickets, pay for hotel rooms, and all my things were always with me! If I got tired of a place, I would just pull up my anchor and sail away to the next island, no problem.” Colin spent his last $10,000 and bought a 27-foot sloop with no engine… and that was the beginning of his journey!
Weeks later while sitting at a bar in St. John one evening, Colin had a conversation that would change his destiny. He asked the fellow next to him what he did for a living. The man replied that he was a ‘Yacht Captain‘. “I take people out sailing the islands for a week and at the end I get paid for it and get a big tip,” the Captain proudly proclaimed. Colin will tell you that what he heard from that drunk changed his life! He flew straight to Fort Lauderdale, enrolled in Sea School, and received his Captain’s license. Just a month later he was skippering charter boats out of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
Colin will admit that he learned on the job as he started delivering yachts to different parts of the World and continued doing yacht charters in high season in the BVI. Colin lived in White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, between charters in the mid-90’s. For the six months of each off-season, Colin could be found ‘cruising’ the Caribbean islands in his sailboat from Cuba to as far as Venezuela. He says that this is where he got his true education. He has been up and down the Caribbean chain so many times that he has visited even the remotest of islands and there is not one he hasn‘t experienced extensively.
Colin developed an obsession while sailing that involved looking for the most remote and undiscovered SCUBA diving areas in the Caribbean. He was continually researching the underwater topography of the various Caribbean islands using nautical charts: their reefs, ridges, canyons, walls, and seamounts. When he would sail through an area, his priority was to see what was under the water there, regardless of the primarily dangerous locations. This type of exploration eventually led him into a position as a diver on a treasure hunting venture in some of the most remote offshore islands of Venezuela.
At age 26, Colin found himself as Captain of the largest day-charter sailboat in all the Virgin Islands, an 86-foot Ketch named ‘Goddess Athena‘. With a crew of four under him, he sailed daily up to 50 guests to beautiful Norman Island and other parts of the BVI. Colin advanced his education by becoming a PADI certified Rescue Diver, Divemaster, and Open Water Scuba Instructor. He also became a Medic-First Aid Instructor and instructed sailing courses for the American Sailing Association (ASA).
Seeking the next adventure, Capt Colin decided to buy a bigger boat and to do charters for himself in other parts of the Caribbean. “Basically, I wanted to travel full time, meet new people, and experience different cultures. I started mailing postcards to all my old charter guests stating, ’help me avoid getting a real job and just keep sailing! I’ll be in the Grenadines all of July, Guadeloupe and the Saints in August, Curacao and Bonaire for September,’ and so on. I got a website and people flew down to meet me in different islands. It was the best! I was living the dream.”
By 2001 Colin had a catamaran that he was working in Cuba, a race boat in Venezuela, business was good and the lifestyle was even better. Then came September 11th.. Within days, all reservations had been cancelled and it was time to reorganize again. Colin sailed his catamaran to Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, to regroup and that is where he told his girlfriend, Andrea, about this tiny island about 500 miles North called Jost Van Dyke. He had always said that if the going gets rough, he would go start a scuba diving and snorkel-tour business there. In December 2001, Andrea and Colin sailed 3 days offshore to reach Jost and started their newest adventure together. Captain Colin admits that there have been a lot of bumps in the road getting established in Jost Van Dyke, but he loves the island with all his heart and proudly calls the island, home.
Colin promotes the Territory internationally with the BVI Tourist Board and enjoys being involved in conservation and environmental programs. He has been called the ‘Voice of the Reefs’ and actively educates children and adults in local marine life and preservation techniques. Andrea and Colin recently formed BVI Eco-tours, which is evidently the only company in all the British Virgin Islands devoted to “Eco-tourism.” Colin takes guests throughout the islands educating them about the local flora, seabirds, weather patterns, history and culture, while combining boat rides with nature walks and snorkeling. He is a valuable source of information about the entire Caribbean and a day spent with him will most likely be the best day of your vacation.
Colin speaks fluent Spanish and just enough French “to get into trouble in Cote d‘Azur.“ Articles have been written about him and certain exploits in various Caribbean newspapers and magazines. He loves to share his many sea stories and adventures with guests. He is a Trans-Atlantic sailor with over 100,000 logged miles, an avid fisherman, and a family man. He lives in Little Harbour, Jost Van Dyke. What does Colin miss about the States: horses, golf, racquetball, and grocery stores.