Tea Party Alert: Redcoats Banned from Being Thrown off Sultana – What?


If you are a fan of Tea Party traditions—and we are—your tea might not be as bracing this year as last. Word from on high, possibly the ghostly wrath of King George III’s himself, has fired a 12-pound cannonball through the mainsail of our festivities. And we’re left a ragged hole in our fantasy.

No more British seaman to be thrown off the Sultana! No more, I tell ya.

The insurance company underwriting Sultana is now forbidding the hurling of bodies from the vessel during the Tea Party reenactment. (We would have liked to have seen those actuarial tables).

While the wonderful Sultana Educational Foundation is not to blame—they have to walk the plank—the Spy is investigating whether or not the insurance underwriters have current ties to the United Kingdom or any affiliation with what we might call “revenge underwriting” organizations similar to the U.S. Weather Service’s attempt to censure Punxsutawney Phil from appearing above ground during the first day of Spring.

The Spy is also trying to find out if individuals wanting to be heaved from the deck of the Sultana could sign some sort of waiver, complete with a wax seal, drop of blood (and a map of the Northwest Passage on the other side).

Sadly, it seems that sometimes the world can be made too safe for us, forcing artistic spontaneity into the style still life of a bell jar.

Surely a “redcoat overboard” rider clause can be inserted into the insurance contract. Part of freedom is the allowance for gleefully leaping off a ship with a bale of tea, damn the actuarial tables.

Avast. We’ve always wanted to say that. Or is it “Divest?”

Letters to Editor

  1. lynda willard says

    This is a great fun filled event with everyone involved volunteering to be whatever it takes………even it it means being thrown overboard the Sultana!

  2. MARY WOOD says

    What if the Redcoats wore life preservers ? Red ones ?

  3. Janet Brandon says

    First of all the individual

    First of all the individual “jumpers” are volunteering for the jump. They should have their own insurance, as if they were diving into the river or jumping off a diving board. No one is “pushing them.” It’s not too different than simply diving into the river voluntarily…why would that be a problem? They could sign an agreement that they are willingly and freely jumping in…not too different than slipping off your dock or belly flopping on your sled…freedom of choice.

  4. Bennett Price says

    It breaks my heart…. I’d be willing to sign any document that would allow me to continue in this tradition. We red coats are a small loyal bunch. We show up every year from around the country to be thrown over. I’ve been doing this for years and was hoping for many more. I can’t imagine a Tea Party with out having my red coat smelling of the Chester.

  5. bill arrowood says

    To the editor:

    If you have not heard, the Sultana has informed that the team of Redcoats that participate in the Team Party Re-enactment would no longer be allowed to jump off the boat due to insurance regulations. As the steward and captain of this group, I offer my response.

    I notified my team of jumpers and did not mean in any way to throw the Sultana under the rudder as it were when this notice went public. The Sultana could as easily decide not to participate in the re-enactment as they please, and just offer private charters that weekend. I would not want to see that relationship damaged.

    My crew is reasonably upset, both by the notice and its timing, one of them is flying in from Denver to participate and clearly, having this come up just weeks before the Festival is simply put, lousy.

    I have been at every Tea Party since 1976, actively participating as the de facto captain of the redcoats for 20 years. With the exception or Andy McCowan and Mark Mumford, I don’t think anyone else has been in more re-enactments than I have. It is something that defines my life here and I have grown deeply honored to have been fortunate to participate.

    When I began, folks had been jumping in the river at the end of the re-enactment for years, (usually on both sides as a way for folks to know it was over). But by the late 1990’s the loyalist team was in a lull. My first year there were but two of us, myself and Rob Janega and we jumped from the Pride of Baltimore II, (which I can tell you is a much higher fall down to the water than our Schooner).

    Slowly I built up a stalwart crew that reveled in our experience and camaraderie in defense of the tea and leaped from many ships before the Sultana came to port in Chestertown. About 10 years ago I purchased a gross of redcoats from a costume supplier, so that our team might be recognizable from the colonists, when we realized that from the shore, folks couldn’t tell who was fighting who. Among those that have proudly worn the King’s Red are Neyah White, James Martinez, Gibson Anthony, Ben Joiner, David Scott and Bennet Price who have been with me for over a decade. Others in the regiment including David Cousineau, Glenn Tosten, David Massoni, Devin Brown, Ian Diaz, John Wasserman, Sam Little, Vico Von Voss and even the great erstwhile historic skeptic Adam Goodheart have joined in the fun over the years. We have all been grateful for the chance to participate in our hometown’s greatest celebration. It is annually an honor to be the first cast in the river as that leap gets the loudest applause and the hope to be immortalized in the Kent News for the most spectacular flop. There are but a scant handful of people that have seen the Tea Party from that perspective as a crowd of thousands cheer as tea and crew get keelhauled and we count ourselves lucky for it. It is magnificent to behold the throng gather as we wait for the colonists to arrive and then in a flash it is over as we fight and leap in to save the tea before it is carried swiftly downriver.

    This week when the President of the Sultana called to break the news to me, I offered several alternatives, including covering the insurance policy for the event via my production company, as we would when filming an action scene in a movie, (you don’t think the owner of the high-rise is responsible for the stuntman jumping from a window, do you?) Additionally I offered to have the entire crew sign waivers, like one would sign if renting a jet ski or bungee jumping. Neither of these passed the muster, and I ultimately I cannot fault an organization for taking a position that it deems necessary when so much of its work is based in a high-risk environment like the open water.

    I would be lying however if I said I am not saddened by the Sultana’s decision. I understand that our world and businesses are more often defined by the rules of others and the fear of litigation.

    I look back at the long history of the Festival and lament the loss of Ye Olde Greased Pole, kids playing with water guns in the park, even throwing candy during the parade and many other pieces of my youth that went away when someone worried more about the possibility of a lawsuit than anything else. I am amazed, (and yet grateful), that the Raft Race, even as it gains in popularity every year has not had a similar fate.

    I have chosen not to take part in the re-enactment for the first time in two decades, because I believe our little pastiche is silly enough when we have to help the colonists board to then pretend to fight and jump overboard without much provocation. It seems awkward to fail to defend the tea and then be subdued to have to ride back in with them as pals. It feels wrong and I would rather abstain.

    (I do not speak for the rest of the team and hope that each will make their own choices and that in my stead, someone else will take up the defense of the tea.)

    This year, I will miss the show, I will miss the plunge, the crisp briny water, and the muck at the bottom of the river as we retrieve the tea bales. I will miss the crowd cheering our ouster and descent. I will miss the soppy walk back up High Street, pausing for a celebratory beer and photos with dozens of tourists as they want to have a personal contact with the Festival. The river may be cold and dirty to some, but for me on that one Saturday in May it is a sweet baptism back into all that is good about being from Chestertown. This is hard and sad for me, this day is as much a part of who I am as my fingerprints or my heart and it breaks a little at the loss.

    For a lark, google the festival and look at just the pictures, count how many are of redcoats jumping in the river if you’re not sure how much a loss this will be for the folks watching from the shore. I hope that the folks that run the Festival will realize that those that protect the tea and suffer for its dumping are crucial to the experience of those that come to see our unique history and someday can find a solution for bringing the Redcoats back into the river.

    Bill Arrowood
    Captain, (ret)
    British Regiment aboard the Geddes

    • Steve Payne says

      It sounds like you’re on the right track as far as buying your own policy or rider for it. If they were named as additional insured and the amounts were good I don’t see why they wouldn’t accept that. As you have said, one time riders or separate policies are fairly common in the event and entertainment business and they typically cover third parties.

  6. John Murray says

    Aye, Aye, Laddie….tis most sad that the insurance company for the Sultana is Lloyds of London—I suspect some nefarious dealing by the British to protect the hapless Redcoats and Torries from their justified fate in the Torrie Toss. Oh well, I’ll just go brew a cup of tea.

  7. Joe diamond says

    DUMMIES! Throw dummies in red coats overboard.

    Do not let the dummies sit around at other times. Some will read books and pass examinations for deck officer slots.

  8. Helen Merenda says

    Why not tie up all the ‘slip & fall’ lawyers and toss them overboard?

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