Tortola 1960s – Diving For Coins

Curtney Chinnery - The Ghost
Curtney "Ghost" Chinnery

The following account of his childhood in Tortola in the 1960s was written by Curtney “Ghost” Chinnery. Who for several years lived on St. John and was known to recite poetry and tell stories.

Back in the 1960s in Roadtown, Tortola,myself and my companions would spend  time at the waterfront. Reason being was what we, in the way we were, would call “the days of white action,” which meant the days  the visiting tourist would come on tourist ships, battle ships, yachts and power boats which would anchor at Roadtown. Those were times when we would skip school to meet and hustle at the Roadtown dock.

Whatever antics we would have from our gatherings around the rocks and so on we would sell to the visitors. Another aspect of generating funds was using our swimming and diving skills. When the visitors come ashore, we would ask to clean and take care of their dinghies until they return from shopping or sightseeing.

Most of our money was earned by diving for coins. When the dock was busy with people we would get into the water around the dock. Once in the water our job was to convince the tourist to toss coins into the water. By doing so we would dive and obtain the coins.

An example with a clearer view is this. Picture crystal clear water with visibility of 30 to 40 feet and sand below without debris. Now picture anywhere from four to six kids from the ages of nine to fifteen all about in the water shouting:

“Coins in the water,
Coins in the water,
T’row a nickel, dime or quarter”

At the end of the afternoon, we’d gather and tally up our earnings. A good day would leave us with more money than our parents would make in a week or two.

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