Sea spray showers the face of “Junie Bomba”.  And a strong breeze tugs at his hat as his boat cuts through the choppy blue-green waters off St. Croix.

Four-foot swells hit at 15-second intervals, but Junie is unperturbed.  He has spent years unlocking the sea’s secrets and knows her as few living men do. “She’ll heal your wounds if treated with respect,” he says, but she’ll rise up and kill you at the first sign of contempt. 

“People don’t believe these things,” he says, but he’s weathered enough storms to know.  He’s a third generation seaman – a descendant of men who plied these waters for years in cargo-laden vessels. 

Junie lives in the shadow of his father – a legendary seaman whose exploits are still mentioned whenever local sailors swap tales of the sea.  Those who knew him, say that the seafaring talents of Wilfred “Bomba” Allick, were second to none.  His travels took him as far as Denmark and the Azores. 

He loved racing, piloted 80-foot schooners, navigated by the stars, and was still active at age 84 when he was cut down by the wheels of a drunken driver.  This is the tradition that Junie fights to maintain.  “It’s in my blood,” he says.  “They don’t call me Junie Bomba for nothing.” 

He’s slim but well muscled and tall.  His skin is parched from frequent exposure to the sun, and his hands are calloused from the rigors of job.  Junie Bomba was born Wilfred Allick Jr. on Nov. 23, 1945.  He was his father’s first son.  His mother, Emelda, remembers him as a good boy who liked to tease a lot. 

By age 5 he already was accompanying his father on some of his travels.  He quit school in the 8th grade, picked up carpentry and plumbing in the Job Corps, but wanted to return to the sea.  Nowadays Junie Bomba teaches youngsters the sailing skills that were handed down to him by his father. 

I once sailed with Junie Bomba 14 years ago on a vessel he no longer owns.  She was called the “North Star,” and “eight tons of old boat,” was how Junie described her. She was built from mahogany, teak and ironwood at the turn of the century.  She was 32 feet long, carried 560 square feet of sail, and sported a green-and-white finish. A photo of Junie’s father hung below deck, a talisman that protected his son from the perils of the sea. 

Seven passengers were aboard the North Star on that Saturday morning jaunt to Buck Island, and the departure from the congested Christiansted Harbor was not smooth.  Yes, I remember the events of that day quite well;  and the story will be retold to my grandchildren and their grandchildren the way I recall it –- like a great Caribbean epic. 

And verily, little ones, it came to pass that Junie gripped the tiller and tackled the vicious Christmas winds – stiff gales from the east that make upwind sailing tricky.  Here amidst the swirling spray, is where Junie feels most at home.  This is where he retreats when the pressures of the world crash down on him.  And this is where man – “the most dangerous element of the world” – can do no harm. 

Junie’s path hasn’t easy.  His world almost crumbled years many moons ago when a former girlfriend sold her share of the boat, took $50, 000 from his account and fled to the mainland.  Meanwhile, native sailors and sloops no longer dominate the Christiansted harbor.  Now, white sailors from afar – mainly the continental U.S. – monopolize the industry. 

Some lack manners and discipline, Junie says.  Others stare him down as though he has no business among them.  The Frederiksted resident is undaunted, however. The spirit of Papa Bomba watches over him and applauds each time he drops anchor at shore. 

Under Junie’s leadership, another generation will unfurl their sails when sunrise flickers in tomorrow’s sky. Junie chuckles at the thought of this and eases back on the tiller. The winds are behind him now and a legacy forges on. 

Notes:

  • To contact Junie, call 340-772-2482 or visit his site at: Frederiksted Community Boating.

  • Excerpts of this story were originally published in the Daily News in 1989.

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