Well, the St. John Community received some heavy news over the weekend. A Love City Legend, an iconic presence, an incredibly talented and knowledgeable mariner and all around charismatic character has set sail for his final destination. After decades of exploration, Captain Phil Chalker left this world on Friday afternoon in a facility in Atlanta with his island daughter by his side and voice mail messages from his St. John family playing in the background.
Captain Phil, as most people fondly know him, sailed the Bahamas and the Caribbean for more than 30 years aboard his sailing vessel, Wayward Sailor. The two shared more than 100 thousand nautical miles together.
His incredible knowledge of sea life and local waters may have qualified him to be an experienced Marine Biologist. A day on the water with Captain Phil was not just filled with fun in the sun, but was also jam packed with vast knowledge of wildlife and coral habitats. Knowledge that he gladly shared. Knowledge you could take home with you and keep for future visits. Amidst the island hopping and lunch stops, a family on board would also receive the gift of “natural adventure and environmental education” that only a man with his experience and know-how could give.
The Captain lived in a small home on the remote island of Lovongo Cay, just a few miles from St. John’s North Shore. Every day, he would pop into Connections, the bright pink building in the center of Cruz Bay. More often than not for a social call rather than actual business.
“He always had a smile for everybody,” said Cid Hamling, long time “island family” and founder of the very essential mail center. “He was a colorful character as so many people who live here are.”
She recalled to me his love of their potlucks at Connections and told me he was always first in line for the buffet of homecooked deliciousness and as ready with a compliment as he was to fill his plate.
“He would be singing your praises about a deviled egg,” she laughed. “And he LOVED his chocolate!”
In an article she wrote for the Tradewinds (as featured on the Wayward Son website), the Captain’s long time partner, Allison Smith wrote:
A St. Johnian is more than just a person who lives on the rock. Some are “bo’n here”, some “moved here” or “sailed here” and some “wanna be here”.
Casting for living on the rock calls for a wry wit, creativity, tenacity, joy, cynicism, tolerance, survivorship, love of nature, general respect, infinite patience, resourcefulness and a strong spirit.
As a man who “sailed here,” the Captain truly encapsulated these colorful characteristics and was an exemplary member of our community of “misfits” on St. John.
Captain Phil will remain a beloved captain and St. John icon for years to come. His presence and that smile on island will leave a gaping hole in the Love City community.
It is lucky for all of us that Captain Phil has left behind an account of his many escapades and adventures at sea. Just a year before his ongoing medical problems developed, Captain Phil’s memoir was published. A recount of his memories and stories about his exciting life, Adventures at Sea with Captain Phil Chalker, begins with his childhood days in Michigan and ends with his arrival on St. John. And, you will never believe what you are reading about the journey in between! Please consider picking up a copy of this dynamic novel, straight from the Captain’s pen, that might just change the course of your own life. Much like Captain Phil changed the lives of so many.
Additionally, if you would like to donate to one of Captain Phil’s favorite St. John charitable organizations in his honor, the list and corresponding links are as follows:
KATS (Kids and the Sea) – Offers rowing and sailing programs for children. Please make checks payable to KATS St. John and mail to: KATS St. John, 9901 Emmaus, St. John, VI 00830
Memorial arrangements on St. John and more information about how you can support the family and honor the memory of Captain Phil will be forthcoming.
RIP Captain…This little rock won’t be the same without you. Wishing you fair winds and following seas on your final journey into the deep blue yonder.