By Lucy Chabot Reed
Not even a global pandemic can keep yacht crew creativity sequestered.
The captain and chief engineer of M/Y My Aurora, a 120-foot (36m) Nordhavn docked in a Fort Lauderdale shipyard, have released their creativity through regular concerts from the yacht. With video rolling and microphones catching the sounds, Capt. Neill Burger and Engr. Niel Rossouw have had their guitar strumming performances piped live on their Facebook page and talk directly to their countrymen back in South Africa.
Their sets are made up mostly of older, classic songs from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Eagles. And they don’t shy away from some of the most classic guitar performers in history such as Eric Clapton and Santana. They even have a few songs in their native tongue from their former band, Small Room Sunday.
“These are all the old songs we used to play,” Burger said.
The two men were part of a band in high school in South Africa, and after school, they recorded an album.
“We used to play at the rugby matches, so we played songs that motivated them, you know, like “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, songs like that,” Rossouw said.
But then, as usually happens, life took over and Burger left South Africa to work on yachts. The two didn’t lose touch, however, and five years later, Rossouw followed him into the industry. Two years ago, Rossouw joined Burger on My Aurora.
“It started all over for us again in San Diego, we did restaurants and pubs there,” Burger said of their performances. “But then the boat was put up for sale and we sailed it over to Fort Lauderdale, so we did gigs in the marinas and bars when we could. We called it our world tour, traveling on our private yacht.”
Now they call themselves Neillville, with Burger on a six-string acoustic guitar and lead vocals. Rossouw is on lead electric guitar and backup vocals. Burger also breaks out the occasional harmonica.
When they got to Fort Lauderdale, they played several times at the new restaurant YOT at Lauderdale Marine Center, and were excited when the yacht was scheduled to relocate to the yard.
But then COVID set in and the restaurant closed just as the yacht settled in. About a month later, Rossouw’s dad reached out to say he missed their performances and suggested they do a Facebook live session. They found a strong following. Two of their recent Facebook live events attracted more than 70,000 views each. (Find those here and here.)
Their latest performance was at 11 a.m. Sunday, which is their normal time “because that’s a good time for people back home,” Burger said, making it about 5 p.m. Sunday in South Africa. In fact, one fan commented on a set “When I see this, I know the weekend is over.”
The two men laughed to think how hard they tried after high school to get famous, with songwriting and recording, marketing and performing.
“Now, we’re not trying and it’s just happening,” Burger said. “But this could all end tomorrow. The boat could be sold and the new owner could have his own crew, then he could go to work on another yacht and I could find another job. The industry is very unpredictable, so we have to make the most of what you have while you have it.”
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.