SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jimmy Buffett knows all about hurricanes and sailing, so it’s appropriate that the singer-songwriter has been enlisted to help promote a regatta on the Caribbean island of St. Barts and show that life is returning to normal after a direct hit from Hurricane Irma in September.
Buffett will serve as U.S. ambassador for the Les Voiles de Saint-Barth, April 8-14, a mainstay on the Caribbean yacht racing circuit.
“I sailed into the harbor in 1978 and it’s always kind of been my second Caribbean home, after Florida,” Buffett said by phone from New York, where he’s getting ready for the Broadway premiere of his musical, “Escape to Margaritaville.” ″My kids all kind of grew up down there. I have a fond attachment from those early days. I’ve seen it in a lot of phases and I think it’s one of the most unique spots on the planet.”
Buffett grew up on the Gulf Coast and said he was “a child of hurricanes.” Besides writing songs such as “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” ″One Particular Harbor” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” he also wrote “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season.”
Buffett owns a villa on St. Barts that was undamaged by the storm. He said he’s impressed with how the island residents are bouncing back and he’s eager to help.
“They’re pretty resilient people there. They always have been,” he said. “They did an amazing job, I thought, in getting the place in any way presentable.”
Buffett played a free concert on the main dock in Gustavia on Dec. 27 to give locals a break from the recovery work and attract visitors to the island.
“People know St. Barts as a ritzy place, but what makes it so unique is the people in the service industry, the working people on the island,” he said. “They don’t live in mansions on the hill. They live in houses that took the brunt of storm. Everyone has worked together to get back to normal.
“It was a relief for those people to have a night out. We couldn’t do a full show but we did whatever we could. The monitors went out on the second song but I didn’t let anyone know. I’ve done this before.”
Buffett held the honorary ambassador position for Les Voiles — it means “the sails” in French — in 2011.
Buffett will be onsite for the regatta but won’t be sailing and isn’t scheduled to play a concert. But he has done impromptu sets at local bars.
“It’s been known to happen,” he said, adding: “It’s always fun. It’s always been a sailing community. Sailors sing, sailors sing in bars and all the accouterments that go along with it are there.”
Buffett’s love affair with St. Barts began when he was moving a boat to the Caribbean. “I had a romantic infatuation about an old movie, and there’s some French culture in my family, so it kind of resonated with me. I wanted to go visit a French island. There was no internet then. I read about it in a sailing magazine. It was the coolest place we saw.”
Buffett has a connection to big-time sailing. Before the 1987 America’s Cup in Australia, he wrote “Take It Back,” a fight song for Dennis Conner and his Stars & Stripes crew. Sure enough, Conner regained the silver trophy he had lost to an Australian crew four years earlier.
“Escape to Margaritaville,” taking its name from Buffett’s classic hit, “Margaritaville,” begins previews on Feb. 16 at New York’s Marquis Theatre.
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