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The Publisher speaks: The Goldfield

From The Publisher – Joan Wilson

This was my presentation at The Cayman Poetry Festival on Friday 9th December at The Cayman Distillery about The Goldfield

Introduction to The Goldfield

From the turn of the last century to the start of the Second World War, shipbuilding was a major source of income for the Cayman Islands. Between 1903 and 1950, more than 283 vessels were built in shipyards spread across all three islands.

The Goldfield, a turtle schooner, was built for William Conwell Watler from a design by Fossie Arch, just 23 at the time, at the James Arch and Sons Shipyard on South Church Street. The shipyard once stood in the area now occupied by Hard Rock Cafe.

All those above named are related to me. Uncles and cousins.

The design of the Goldfield was inspired by the famous Canadian fishing and racing schooner Bluenose, which has become a symbol of Nova Scotia. The Goldfield was one of the first spoon bowed

vessels built in the Cayman Islands, with the clipper bow having held sway up until around 1929.

Goldfield was maintained in yacht condition with varnished rails, sparkling white topsides and fancy worked rigging. The crew was a swaggering lot, proud that their vessel was the fastest and prettiest around. Of course all crews did the same thing, but Goldfield was fast and was pretty, especially for a working vessel.”

The Goldfield was unique. It stole the limelight from all the other turtler designs. She was a beautiful example of a fishing work boat, especially when compared to the design and construction standards in the Caribbean Basin. She had flash, a beautiful spread of canvas, a spoon bow, a yacht’s taff rail and a wine glass transom. She was big yet manageable with no engine until her sale abroad, and she was handled by a crack crew and a great skipper in Captain Reginald Parsons.”

What a tragedy she was left to rot in the North Sound after much money was raided in donations to buy her and bring her back to Grand Cayman from Seattle, Washington.

In my opinion it is disgrace.

At the Cayman Turtle Farm there is a model of The Goldfield that was built by William Hrudey in 2002. He said he did much archival research to ensure that every detail was accurate and true to the original.

This, then, is my tribute poem to The Goldfield that was published by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation and has also ended up in a story called “Cayman Turtler” on the Atlantic Creole website.


The Goldfield By Joan Wilson

Once hailed as the most beautiful ship ever built in Cayman

She was a real lady with her Egyptian cotton sails so grand.

They say she broke speed records and was called a hussy,

She was also very sleek and very, very fussy.


Only the best sailors were hired as her crew

Mostly from West Bay came men we knew,

Names like Farrington, Bush, Ebanks and Parsons

Were all hired on the spot for many reasons.


They were very good sailors, the best in the land

No better could be found in Grand Cayman.

This was back in 1930 – seventy years ago

When men were seamen and in the know.


She was launched with the music of guitars in hand

And everyone danced to the beat of the band.

White rum came from Jamaica they say

Oh what a fanfare we all had that day.


A turtling schooner she was for a while

Carrying cargo between the Caribbean Isles.

Then she was sold and became a cruising home

And sold again but alas too soon.


This beautiful ship was a real movie star

And featured in parades both near and far.

Sold yet again to the Goldfield Foundation

Who prepared her for Cayman her final destination.


But the voyage to Cayman was a total disaster

Breaking her boom and later dismasted,

Towed in and worked on and most timbers replaced

Hell bound for Cayman and home again they raced.


With her masts on deck and Bob Soto at the helm

Her arrival was celebrated and we were overwhelmed

For to us she seemed so humble and so very small

And not the proud lady we once knew with masts so tall.


But she was home now and would be sailing soon again

Monies paid and chances taken would not have been in vain

But alas as fate would have it this was not to be

The North Sound claimed this lady – she sank below the sea.


Below the murky water the Goldfield is at rest.

Today she’s rust, a skeleton but yesterday she was the best

So may this lady be remembered and her history archived

Along with our seamen and thank God all who survived.


Introduction sources: The Cayman Compass and Cayman Turtler


  1. Joan,

    We just did a Throwback Thursday article we published in 1983 about the Goldfield. I like the poem you have written and was wondering if I could tack a copy of it to the end of the article, with a link to your website. You can see the article at


  2. Joan,
    I have been writing a book, actually a photo-essay, on the 20th Century turtling from the Caymanian perspective for over 20 years now (off and on) and hoped I could use your poem in the book with a definite credit. The book is being sponsored by the Cayman Catboat Club/ Cayman Maritime Heritage Foundation. There are interviews by many of your relatives and over 200 photographs. We want it to be a definitive book on the subject and title, Cayman Turtler. We cover design, construction, sailings, disasters, characters with a special emphasis upon the book not just aimed at academics but a book anybody can read and hopefully become stimulated enough to assist further research into Cayman’s maritime past and present. Can we use your poem? Thank you for this time, H.E. Ross


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