The late Jimmy Buffet (far right) perched on the stern rail of a crew of a Navy 44 sloop with a crew from Navy’s offshore sailing team in October, 2020. Photo by Frieda K. Wildey

Changes in Latitudes

Jimmy Buffett, the beloved “Margaritaville” singer/songwriter and entrepreneur, died of a rare, aggressive skin cancer at the age of 76 on Sept. 1, 2023. He made several visits to the Chesapeake and made a big impression on the people he spent time with on the Bay. 

John Potvin, manager of the restoration project at the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, recalls when Buffett visited the Bay’s iconic landmark in October, 2020. Buffet’s signature aqua-colored multihull powerboat, a custom-built 42′ Freeman called Last Mango, docked at the newly renovated lighthouse, where he spent three hours touring and recording. (That’s Last Mango at the lighthouse on this edition’s cover.)

“He went upstairs and then he actually sang his songs in a gallery at the very top,” Potvin says. 

Potvin was impressed with Buffett’s laid-back attitude, despite being a world-renowned yacht rock star. “I thought he was extremely down to earth,” he says. “He really paused with the information we were giving him. And he really had intelligent thoughts about what the lighthouse would have been like in 1875 when the keepers were out there.” 

More refreshing than the margaritas he sang about was the time spent sailing with Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Frieda Wildey, a Navy Offshore Sailing Fleet captain, recalls that Buffett “went out sailing with a crew of our offshore team on a Navy 44, one of the blue-hull sailboats with the blue-and-gold spinnakers. You can see him sitting on a stern rail with his phone. He’s videoing the action of the crew, because he was so fascinated by how these young people, you know the oldest is like 21 maybe, how they work together in a complex environment.”  

Buffet performed at Alumni Hall in 2018 and was awarded the Department of Navy’s Superior Public Service Award. But he wasn’t all Annapolis—Buffett spent a few days in the upper Bay in October 2020 docked at Chesapeake Inn Restaurant & Marina on the C&D canal.  

Potvin says, “What I found with him is that he was fully engaged, in the moment. When we had him there, he was ours.”  

A “Fins Up” flag hangs in Eastport, across Annapolis Harbor from the Naval Academy, somewhere where it will always be five o’clock. 

Potvin is sad that Buffett won’t be around for the 150th anniversary of the lighthouse in 2025. “With the exposure that we got from Jimmy, a lot of people found out about Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse that didn’t know anything about it before.” 

Potvin is forever grateful for the star’s interest in the lighthouse, and we’re forever grateful for Jimmy Buffett changing our attitude.

CBM’s Multimedia Journalist Cheryl Costello spent nearly two decades reporting for television stations, most recently at WJLA in Washington, D.C.