Antigua and Barbuda
After a hurricane wreaked havoc on the English fleet in Barbados in 1780, the repair and outfitting center was moved to Antigua. Horatio Viscount Nelson arrived in English Harbour in 1784 and became the Commander of the English fleet in the Leeward Islands. English Harbour became known as Nelson's Dockyard.
In those days, copper was used to sheath the bottom of the wooden ships to protect them from worms and the growth that quickly attaches itself to anything in this warm, tropical water. Hundreds of English seamen were living here while their ships were repaired. The well-protected, deep port was a throng of activity where everything needed to supply the wooden ships could be found, including stores of rum for the daily ration.
The original Copper and Lumber Store that served Nelson's ships is now an elegant hotel, restaurant, and bar steeped in antiques and history. About twelve years ago, an English seaman, retired from twenty-one years in the Royal Navy, arrived and revived the tradition that was canceled August 31, 1970. Traditionally, the daily tot was served before lunch. Today, the dedicated members of the Tot Club meet every night at 18:00 hours to propose the daily toast and honor the Queen.
Membership in the Tot Club is restricted. Only those willing to participate at least four nights a week are considered worthy of the group and full membership is limited. Although membership to the Royal Naval Club of Antigua and Barbuda can only be conferred in Antigua there is now a West Mersea chapter on the small Thames Estuary island of Mersea in the UK.
On most nights, Mike Rose, the founder of the Tot Club, acts as master of ceremonies. Each member and invited guest are served one-half gill - one-eighth of an imperial pint - of Pusser's Blue Label Navy Rum right out of the freezer. A glass of ice water is also served to cleanse the palate and to act as a fire engine afterward.
As the white-bearded gentleman makes sure all is ready, a quiet reverence permeates the group that includes the members, a few wives, girlfriends, and respectful onlookers. Guests are introduced, then the order to cleanse the palate is given. After drinking some of the ice water, silence fills the circle of participants. In unison, the toast of the day is given. All of the toasts end with: "The Queen! God Bless Her." And the tot is drunk in one.
The toasts were originally given by the Royal Navy officers and reflected shipboard life in the West Indies. Two of the traditional toasts have been altered by the Tot Club to reflect the modern atmosphere of the ritual.<
Royal Navy sailors were known as limeys, for the juice that was a part of their diet to ward off scurvy. To the civilians in English Harbour, the limeys appeared to be on vacation while they were in port. Commonly associated with drinking what was most available - rum - and doing what most sailors did in their free time - chase the opposite sex - "liming" is a reference to goofing off and just enjoying oneself. When you are invited to lime, go ahead and enjoy yourself.
Antigua is a yachtsman's paradise and during the winter months is host to some of the most beautiful and luxurious yachts in the world. The third week in April, Classic Week is the most spectacular sailing event of the Caribbean season when scores of classic wooden yachts compete on the race course.
Descendants of two of the entrepreneurs who founded Antigua Distillery Limited qoperate liquor stores in St. John's. The Manuel Dias Liquor Store is on the corner of Long and Market Streets. Quin Farara's Liquor Stores are across the street at Long St. and Corn Alley and at the new Jolly Harbour Marina. Both of these friendly stores have extensive selections of imported liquor and all of the products of this distillery.