What sailing owes Jimmy Buffett

Published on September 13th, 2018

by Bill Schanen, SAILING Magazine
He tells us in one of his sailing ditties that he’s the son of a son of a sailor. But he’s more than that—he’s a sailor himself. His latest sailboat graced the cover of the July/August issue of SAILING in a photograph of a turquoise-hulled 50-footer named Drifter carving a frothy white wake through turquoise Caribbean water. Yes, Jimmy Buffett is one of us.

It says something about the allure of sailing that he’s made time to pursue it while building a net worth of more than half a billion (according to Forbes) as a song writer, singer, Broadway play producer and performer, satellite radio entrepreneur, merchandiser, resort and restaurant chain owner, author and idol of a legion of fans who even at Baby Boomer age or older aren’t the least bit embarrassed to be called Parrotheads.

Still going strong in his 70s, Buffett has received ample rewards in his rise from Key West barroom guitar picker to CEO of an entertainment empire, but not enough credit for his contributions to sailing. I aim to right that wrong by declaring Jimmy Buffett one of the most influential sailors of his era, and I’m not joking.

Without Jimmy Buffett there would be fewer sailors, a diminished sailing economy and a little less romance in our sport.

Here’s why: Buffett was a force that helped power the growth of the bareboat charter phenomenon that energizes a large share of the sailing business world, supports sailboat builders and equipment makers and creates new sailors.

Buffett was the muse, the piper, who led sailors and wannabe sailors to the Caribbean to rent sailboats and live the dream.

To be fair, I should also credit Mount Gay rum. If Buffett was the generator of Caribbean sailing fantasies, Mount Gay was the lubricant.

The life Jimmy Buffett sang about was an impossible dream for his most ardent fans. He could sing, “I just dream of the ocean—God, I wish I was sailing again” and “I think about the good times down in the Caribbean sunshine,” but his listeners had jobs, mortgages, kids, responsibilities that kept them anchored to orderly lives. Except: The sailing enthusiasts among them could escape to Buffett’s world for a week or two by chartering a sailboat in the Caribbean, and they went in droves. – Full story

Editor’s note: How about Buffett in the National Sailing Hall of Fame?

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