The year was 1980. Peggy and I were vacationing in Guadeloupe in June. It was a fun trip, we had a small French rented car and went on a discovery trip of the main island and also took the put-put taxi boats to the many smaller islands that surround Guadeloupe.
We went on that trip for a pause in our lives.
In ’69 after years of living in upstate NY, I had received an offer from an executive I had known at Kodak who had become a senior marketing person for Philip Morris Intl and wanted me to join his team in Switzerland. I had been given the plum job of running the Marlboro World Championship Team of motor racing.
I literally worked seven days a week for years, clocking 200 flights every 12 months. Two sons born in Switzerland. Construction of a house overlooking Lake Geneva. Two Formula One world championship titles, world rallye racing championship, outboard racing championship, Marlboro Sailing Cup on the Med. Hot dog skiing demonstrations from the Alps to the mountain above Teheran. Thank Heaven Peggy had been travelling with me on a great many of those adventures.
In ’76, I left Philip Morris when my father was diagnosed with emphysema and remained involved in motor sport organizing vintage car rallies while at the same time representing an investment group in their plan to expand a wine operation based in Beaune, Burgundy.
On the little put-put taxi boat going to Ile Sainte, Peggy was looking absolutely gorgeous and tanned in a light T shirt and khaki rolled up short. Turning over to me, she raised a big question, “What are we going to do next? We came to Europe in March ’70 and at the time we thought it would be for a couple of years overseas. Now, it has been over ten years. We are now living in Spain. You are the busy CEO of an international operation and where is our life going?”
That was a pretty dramatic question. Peggy was the kind of person who had this incredible ability to raise fundamental questions that would or could destabilize just anybody. More about that later.
I was speechless at the time and asked what her thoughts were on that topic.
She stretched a bit showing her smooth curves, leaning back on the bundles of sacks of merchandise that the taxi boat was taking over to the isolated little islets. She was relaxed and, smiling, with eyes twinkling behind her glasses.
“Let’s do something very different,’ said she, “like buying a farm in a place that has a good climate; you should quit your corporate rat race business involvement and we can raise Patrick II and Terence on a farm that breathes freedom and independence. You and I want to be autonomous and we should be.”
Soon the little boat stopped to unload passengers and freight on a small dock on the side of what looked like a very rocky promontory sticking out of the water. Then we were on our way to the Isle Sainte. As we were approaching it, we looked at the outline of the little colonial houses on the waterfront with one jetty where the taxi boat stopped. On an impulse, we asked how long the boat would remain to reload the passengers and would we have time to go visit the little port.
The answer was simple, five minutes maximum. We asked if there was another taxi boat that would stop later in the day. The answer was negative but he would be happy to pick us up the next day. The spirit of adventure caught us and we jumped off the taxi boat and told the driver that we would be there on the dock to return to the main island the next day at the set time.
So, we were walking on the dock towards this beautiful small village with different colors on the various house fronts. We had no overnight luggage. Peggy had her bikini bottom under her shorts. I wore a shirt with a credit card and the rental car keys in the pocket, my swimsuit under my jeans and we both had our beach sandals.
The main street of the village was probably five hundred feet long and we inquired about hotel accommodations. There was one hotel owned by a Frenchman from Northern France who had gotten tired of the rainy, drizzly weather of his native area. We booked a room and decided to walk to the nearest beach about one kilometer over the steep hill at the end of the main street.
The tiny beach was deserted so we dropped our clothes and took some sun. Since our trips in St Tropez in the seventies, Peggy had become a fan of topless sunbathing. The topic of where we wanted life to take us was on the top of the agenda. “Ok,” said I, “I know you have felt a tad frustrated at my being the ever travelling husband, and, we have serious concerns over some of the questionable ethics and pressures in this environment of world-wide globalism. Yes, a new direction sounds right for you, for me and for the whole family. How do we get there?”
After a couple of hours, minds churning, we needed a distraction, looked around and saw an abandoned house constructed in typical tropical style. Set in a coconut grove, overlooking the sea from both the front and the back of the house and surrounded by a covered porch on all sides, it looked like the perfect place for a Hemingway story. There was a “For Sale” sign. It was an image of temptation.
All of a sudden, the blue sky turned dark grey and heavy rain began pelting the area. For a while we waited on the covered porch, but as there was no indication that it would stop we put our clothes back on and walked back to the hotel arriving absolutely soaked, dripping of the warm rain. Wet as we were, we went to a small outdoor restaurant, sat under an awning and ate some chicken Creole with a bottle of French rose. The conversation continued, analyzing the many challenges we would be facing.
We got back to the hotel and installed ourselves in the room. No air-conditioning. No running water except for a few minutes in the morning, we had been told. All the water available on the island came from water collected from the rain higher on the hills and piped to the village. It was very hot and muggy. We felt sticky. Another storm broke. We walked on the terrace in the nude and got a refreshing shower to cool us down. The next morning, in our clothes, kind of almost dry, we had our breakfast and talked, identifying all of the issues to be considered. The taxi boat took us back to Guadeloupe. The little Renault rental car was waiting for us on the pier and we drove back to our more comfortable hotel.
The discussion developed and continued over the next days, weeks and months.
That was the beginning of the adventure that would bring us to settle next to Jamestown Island, some 376 years after the first British settlement in the New World.
Patrick G. Duffeler
Founder & CEO