Daredevil relives racing days
Manuel Raposo does not pass up an opportunity to relive his period as one of Bermuda’s daredevils.
In the summer of 1963, he signed up for the first Around the Island Power Boat Race with his brother, John.
They were at the starting line in Yellow Bird, the brightly coloured boat they built from a kit, when they learnt of a hurricane 200 miles off Bermuda.
“There was not that much wind, but the waves were like mountains,” the 81-year-old said. “They had a sailboat acting as a crash boat. When my brother and I went past the sailboat we were on one wave and it was on another, and I could only see the top of his mast.”
Yellow Bird was the first across the finish line. The experience gave the brothers an advantage the following year. Conditions then were even worse, with 30 knot winds.
Seventeen boats “chickened out”; others floundered during the race. The Raposos had the time of their lives.
“Scared? No! When you have a thing you love, fear doesn’t come into it,” he said. “My boss said to me, ‘There’s some pretty big waves off the South Shore’. I said: ‘I’ll see them when I get there’.”
In the end, only three boats crossed the finish line, with the Raposo brothers again in first place. The win, however, did not come without consequences.
According to Mr Raposo: “After the second race I couldn’t stand up properly for a week because I’d taken such a beating from the wind.”
During the third Around the Island race, Yellow Bird’s engine caught fire. The Raposo brothers had to be towed in.
“These things happen with boats,” Mr Raposo shrugged.
The next year, he slipped a disc in his back trying to lift something heavy and his glory days were over.
Today, framed photos of his early racing career line the walls of his St David’s home. Each summer he watches the race. Having his grandson, Ryan Resendes, win in the B-Class last year made it all the more interesting.
“You have to be very disciplined to win a powerboat race,” he said. “You have to know the limits of your boat. If you push it past its limits everything will start breaking off it.”
Mr Raposo arrived in Bermuda in 1950 from São Miguel in the Azores with his mother, Diamontina, and his younger siblings, Maria and John. Their father, Miguel, had come nine years earlier to work as a gardener.
“I loved Bermuda from the first day I got here,” Mr Raposo said. “I loved the freedom. In the Azores it was a dictatorship. Back then, they were just for the rich and didn’t care about the poor.”
The 12-year-old took some night classes but had to go to work almost immediately, gardening for the Mayor of St George, Leon Fox. After two years he went to work for Meyer & Co, where he learnt welding.
“I wanted to be a motor mechanic at first, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “But I loved welding. In the shop we were repairing ships for Meyer & Co. We’d repair boilers, engines, all sorts of things. At that time the ships came to Bermuda to get repaired.”
After 17 years, he and his brother formed Raposo Welding Service.
“I don’t do it as much any more,” he said. “My brother is still at it. As long as he’s happy, I leave him to it. He’s four years younger than me. I still go in the mornings and pay bills and that sort of thing.”
He married his wife, Marta, in 1967. They had two daughters, Marina and Sophia.
It took him a year to build his Narrows Lane home by hand, in 1995. He did a lot of the metalwork, such as stairs to his dock, himself.
His wife died in 2011 after a battle with ovarian cancer.
“It was hard on everyone,” he said. “I certainly never thought I would marry again [but] I don’t think any man should be alone.”
He remarried in 2013. He and his wife, Evangeline, spend a lot of time with his four grandchildren.
“He is a wonderful grandfather,” said Felicia Da Sa, a student at Toronto’s Seneca College.
“My grandfather is wise. Every time I have a problem, he always has some solution. He is just awesome. If you call him and you need something, he’s there in five minutes.”
As for Mr Raposo’s old boat, Yellow Bird, he burnt it a few years ago.
“The wood had gone rotten,” he said. “I gave it a great send off. I didn’t want to just chuck her in the trash.”
Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them
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