Rupert Knowles

From the time Rupert Knowles chal- lenged the best and the brightest Class A boats with his beloved “Lady Muriel” tmtil the year he crafted the “Running Wave”, his boatbuilding skills have in- Huenced and often dominated the major outcome of the Family Island Regatta in Elizabeth Harbour.

The quiet, unassuming artisan from Mangrove Bush in Long Island, who passed away in November of 1988, was the rare breed of Bahamian who not only mastered carpentry and boatbuilding for most of his 73 years, but went on to test the mettle of his handiwork by actually taking his boats to sea in iierce competi- tion against his peers.

If boat names such as “Tida Wave”, “Stormy Weather”. “Running Tide”, “Jiffy”   MargaretL” and “Lady Natalie” all have a ring of championship, that is because each was fashioned from stem to stem to top mast by the patient hands and skillfull imagination of Rupert Knowles at his yard in Mangrove Bush.

Each had a history of hefty battle both at the George Town and Long Island Re— gattas, and each, save the “Stormy Weather”, has chalked up first division victories. In the case of “Stormy Weather”, she too was on a winning course until dismasted in heavy winds.

For years all over the Bahamas, boatbuilders and owners and skippers aspiring to the regatta winners circle measured their skills against those of Rupert Knowles, both in the boatyard and on the ocean. Until you knew for certain what new wonder was coming out of the yard at Mangrove Bush, you had no idea where you stood.

Rupert Knowles always knew precisely where he stood, because each year as he worked his craft on the sea he watched every move, every turn with extreme care, making mental notes.

The next time he drew out a chisel to start a new boat or streamline an old one, he  remembered what he had observed and put his unique skills to work in compensating for this or adjusting that, like an artist mixing colours until just the right hue springs into focus.

The newest rendition had to be faster, prettier, and seaworthier than all that had gone before, and sometimes when he was almost fished he would dismantle an entire section to correct a minor fault, or else to perfect what to the layman was already superb perfection,

Those who remember him reflect on how, more than his woodworking skills and his seafaring prowess, the success of Rupert Knowles consisted in his dedication to the particular task at hand, and his lifetime resolution that whatever he did or whatever his legacy was to become, it would be an exhibition and demonstration of Long Island, and especially his beloved Mangrove Bush.

That resolution has apparently been richly vindicated today, as Long Islanders from as far north as Seymour’s and as far south as Gordons exult in the knowledge and bask in the evidence that he belonged to them, and that his legacy continues as a source of pride for Long Island.

The son of the late Hartsman and Sussana Knowles of Mangrove Bush, Captain Knowles, like thousands of his Long Island compatriots, attended Buckley’s Public School, which is now the N.G.M. Major High School. Except for a brief period when he lived and worked in the United States, he spent his entire life in Long Island with his wife, Muriel, after whom he named his first Class A winner; sons Earlen, Bert, Mack and Rupert, Jr., and daughters Gloria, Ivy and Madeline.

His were also the skilled hands behind the crafting of such notable boats as the “Ocean Wave”, “Running Tide”, “East- em Wave”, and “Angie M”.

The”Lady Muriel” is now owned by Capt Kenneth Rolle of Staniel Cay, Exuma, and the “Running Wave” is owned by Cassius Moss.

The fastest boat Capt. Knowles ever built — the “Margaret L” — is now permanently berthed in New York.

On Saturday 7th April 1990 at Salt Pond, site of the annual Long Island Regatta, hundreds gathered along the shoreline for a touching event as “The Legend”, built by the sons and grandsons of the master builder Rupert Knowles tripped up the harbour with sails billowing and topmast reaching nobly towards the heavens.

A tribute to the legacy of Capt. Rupert Denize Knowles, “The Legend” makes its racing debut in the 37th Family Island Regatta, and undoubtedly the entire sailing fraternity in the Bahamas will be watching closely to see whether the indomitable, unbeatable spirit of the Long Island craftsman still hovers about Elizabeth Harbour.

Regardless of how “The Legend” performs, however, the fact that she is there will be a tribute not only to Long Island and the family of Capt. Knowles, but to a boat building legacy still influencing and dominating the waves after the master builder has made his last tack around the finish line.


A Poem

The Exumas
Sail her down, sail her down,
Sail her down to George Town.
Highborne Cay the first: we see,
Yellow Bank is by the lee.
Harvey Cay is in the moon,
Farmers Gay is coming soon.
Now we come to Galliot,

Out in the ocean we must go,
Children’s Bay is passing fast,
Stocking Island came at last.
Nassau gal is all behind,
George Town gal is on my mind.
A wiggle and a giggle and a jamboree,
Great Exuma is the place for me!
Exuma Islands Poem

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