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Keeping Lennon's sailing spirit alive

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The sailing boat on which John Lennon voyaged to Bermuda in 1980 is still in immaculate condition 34 years later — and is regularly sailed off the East Coast of the United States.

The sleek 43-foot sloop is now owned by Stephen Fuller, a university professor, and his wife Susan. They have spoken of the pleasure they get from sailing the Jubilee and knowing that the famed musician also enjoyed an open-ocean experience on the boat

Every summer the American couple sail between the Washington, DC area and Maine, and in the winter she is hauled out of the water and stored in a heated shed for protection.

A plaque on board commemorates the journey Mr Lennon took in June 1980 when he, together with a crew of four, sailed from Newport, Rhode Island to St George's. The boat encountered a fierce storm and the former Beatle steered alone for a number of hours as the captain, Hank Halsted, rested and the other crew members recovered from sea sickness.

Mr Fuller bought the Jubilee in 1997 and estimates he has sailed her 20,000 miles, going as far north as Cape Breton and also enjoying trips to the Caribbean. The boat was built by the Hinckley company in 1977 and was originally named Megan Jaye.

The Jubilee has had only a handful of owners, with the Fullers owning the sloop the longest. It was a year after he had purchased the boat that Mr Fuller discovered Mr Lennon had once chartered her.

He feels a connection with the late musician through the shared sailing experience.

Coincidently, Mr Fuller, who was born in 1940 — the same year as Mr Lennon — sailed to St George's in June 1980, on a different boat, arriving one week after the famous Liverpudlian. Like most people at the time, he had no idea the singer was on the Island.

Mr Lennon stayed in Bermuda until the end of July that year, working on songs that appeared on his final album Double Fantasy and the posthumous Milk and Honey. His sailing experience is credited, in part, with reawakening his creativity after a five-year period when he did not release any music.

“It gives me some psychic release and pleasure to know that he enjoyed and met some of his musical ambitions through his sailing journey,” said Mr Fuller.

“When I am sailing I experience the pleasure that he got. It gives me a better sense of who he was than if you only knew him through reading about his music or his causes. It shows me that those guys [The Beatles] wanted to enjoy a regular life. He got lucky to be away and to test himself. He grew. It was a reaffirmation of sailing and connectedness with the sea.

“I think about the pictures I've seen of him sitting on the boat. I've sailed with people who are famous, but they are not famous when they are sailing. We are all the same people out here.”

During the summer, the boat's former captain, Mr Halsted, returned to Bermuda and visited the John Lennon sculpture in the Botanical Gardens, which commemorates his stay in Bermuda. Mr Halsted has been back on board the Jubilee in recent years and gave the Fullers an insight into what it was like during the trip to Bermuda with Mr Lennon.

The couple take great care of the sloop, and say they enjoy their own magical moments when sailing.

Mrs Fuller said: “I miss it when we are not out on it. I feel 'transported' when we sail. I do not think about work or about family. I feel the wind, the waves and the night.

“It's sleek and beautiful. It embraces the water, especially when you have the sails up and the wind.

“The conversations you have on the boat are not day-to-day conversations. We have conversations that we never have any other time. I sleep better on the Jubilee than when I'm on land. There is a rhythm, you slow down, you don't rush around and every move is measured. You pay attention to more of the things around you. It becomes your world.”

Mr Fuller said: “It's about the journey. Getting from A to B is half the pleasure. You don't complain about things when you are out here.”

Connected by the water: Stephen and Susan Fuller have owned the Jubilee since 1997
Still looking good: The Jubilee (formerly Megan Jaye) as she looks today (Photo by Scott Neil)
Sailing experience: John Lennon and son Sean on the Megan Jaye sloop in Bermuda
Skipper: Hank Halsted, who was captain of the Megan Jaye in 1980 when John Lennon sailed to Bermuda, visited the Island this summer to see the Lennon sculpture in the Botanical Gardens (Photo by Scott Neil)
Out on the ocean: Susan and Stephen Fuller, the current owners of the Jubilee (formerly the Megan Jaye) at the helm of the sloop, with Heather Brain and Royal Gazette reporter Scott Neil
Famous past: Above, the plaque on the Jubilee commemorates the trip made by Lennon from Rhode Island to Bermuda in 1980, when the sloop was named Megan Jaye.

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Published December 04, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 04, 2014 at 1:02 am)

Keeping Lennon's sailing spirit alive

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