Never-ending story

There are certain things you’ve come to expect from TradeWinds. How about “a rain-soaked night of passion”, “a cursed sunken treasure”, “long-hidden family secrets”.

We’re not talking about the weekly newspaper, of course. Not even our website, let alone the high-end quarterly magazine. No, we’re referring to the latest in our series on the other TradeWinds — the ones that aren’t the world’s most authoritative shipping publication.

In the 1993 NBC television mini-series Trade Winds, “a forbidden love affair blossoms on the beautiful and sultry Caribbean island of St Martin in this tale of two wealthy and powerful families vying against each other for power and dominance” (description courtesy of the Internet Movie Database and the miracle of cut & paste).

And who better to tell us about the programme than Stephen Meadows. The 63-year-old is worth a mini-series all of his own. The former US Marine came to acting late, at 34, and left it after 15 years. His TV CV includes LA Law, VI Warshawski, Murder, She Wrote and the role he is best known for, Peter Flint in Santa Barbara.

But it’s his life beyond the screen that makes really compelling reading. These days he lives in Venice Beach, California, “raising three kids, managing chaos”. A surprisingly good artist, sculptor and photographer, he’s also the main man behind ParaBounce. He calls it “my Willy Wonka invention” — a patented System and Apparatus for Propelling and Carrying a User within a Confined Interior. We’re talking self-powered flight, and it’s worth checking out:

And through it all, there has always been the architecture. As if all that painting, acting and inventing isn’t enough, Professor Meadows is a practising architect, who has taught architecture and design at several California universities. Oh, and then there’s his charity work. “I feel like I really make a difference there, as the people are truly desperate and lack even the basic essentials. Sri Lanka [where he helped rebuild homes in 2004] after the tsunami changed my life.”

But, hey, this isn’t The Stephen Meadows Show. Back to Trade Winds. He has fond memories of those months on location. “When we worked, the sets were crazed for a variety of reasons. When we were off, we took in the slow pace of the island. I also took my windsurf gear to St Martin for the shoot and found an amazing beach. For me, warm water is what it’s all about.”

Ah, yes. Warm water, gleaming white sands, balmy tropical evenings under starlit skies. All those boats you got to play on. Not to mention the wild showbiz parties on super-yachts under the wide Caribbean sky! Feel free to share all with the world’s most knowledgeable maritime readership.

“Unfortunately, my character was not on many boats,” Meadows admits. “Hate to say it, but I don’t recall any yacht parties either. Possibly the production company was watching the $$. But I have sailed for many years... even square-riggers. Once I turned over in a Hobie [catamaran] on San Francisco Bay in 40-knot winds and the Coast Guard had to come and rescue me!”

Okay, so what are his impressions of the show, 20 years later? “The cast and crew were fantastic, but there were many problems on that production. The issues came from the network and producers, and were generally financially related,” he says.

“There were creative disputes as well. I must tell you that none of the cast was especially enthusiastic about the script. Most of us felt that the series was going to be a hard sell. The storyline was really nothing new. The production company was attempting to make another night-time soap, but the genre was dying at the time.”

The cast’s instincts were right: the first five episodes rated so badly that the network didn’t even screen the final episode, so viewers were left wondering how the series was supposed to end. Incredible! No matter how poor the product, no matter how few people are watching, how stupid is it to pull the plug on something just when it’s