After writing several pleasant articles about our life at sea, I began to miss some of the things that made life both more pleasant and more frustrating at the same time. I know that this statement is a contradiction within itself. When we all write letters or tell stories about our family adventures or accomplishments, we tend to forget or diminish some of the unpleasant circumstances that we experienced. Indeed, we could not have lived aboard a forty foot boat for more than four years and in the past, sailed three different boats over a span of forty years if we could not deal with inclement weather at sea, living in tight quarters, having to live without most conveniences, missing family and friends, celebrating holidays away from family and on and on.
Life at sea is a contradiction of pleasures and inconveniences. You must adjust to planning and doing every day things a bit differently while at sea. Shopping for groceries, often not the brands and particular products you prefer, offers a weekly challenge. You learn quickly how to improvise. Laundry, for me, was the most inconvenient chore to do while living and sailing aboard.
While we were cruising in the nineties or earlier, in the seventies and eighties, banking, bill paying, and all money matters were not too easy as we had to get to a bank from time to time. Nowadays with global banking, much can be done from your computer or phone lines. We didn’t have all those conveniences from1992-1998. Also, we did not have ready access to a telephone! No cell phones, no Skype, much less internet communication. Pay phones from booths or shops ashorewere our links back home. Don’t forget we were still living an island lifestyle, not a modern, vibrant big city existence.
Today, there are big, very clean, and well stocked supermarkets on the bigger and more populated locations such as Nassau, St Martin/St. Maarten and St. Barts. However, you will still have to deal with the smaller “mom & pop” variety stores where you can get fresh groceries as well as shoes, shirts and many non-edible products. No, I am not speaking about “Wal-Marts”. These all purpose stores exist in small towns and villages. There are “supermarkets”only in big cities.
Please, if you have time, leave the bigger city ports by bus, car, or taxi and explore the quiet villages where the real lifelong residents live. These people are descendants of the original natives and a mixture of many different cultures. Some smaller tribes of people still live very much as their ancestors did. Very primitive. One culture comes to mind, the Orinoco Indians who live on the Orinoco River, which is part of the Amazon in Venezuela. They still live in huts, men wear leather thongs, fish with long sticks armed with an arrowhead for a fish hook.
Throughout the Caribbean chain of islands, there is a world of difference in cultures as day is from night. Some of the islands are very continental and up scale, such as the French islands of St. Barts, St. Martin, Guadeloupe, Isle Des Saints, Marie Galante, and Martinique. Other islands which previously were British possessions, such as Anguilla, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antiqua, Barbuda, St. Lucia, St. Vincents and Bequia have changed hands a number of times in their history and therefore reflect thevaried cultures of their past.
Southward from St. Vincent, on the island chain of the Grenadines, you can alter your course and head southeastward passing Mystique, Tobago Cays, Carriacou and Grenada, Tobago, Trinidad and then westward to Margarita, to the outer islands of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire. If you prefer a different island experience, drop down southeast to Isla de Margarita to the north coast of Venezuela, on to Puerto La Cruz.
Completing such a cruise really enlightens you to the many different cultures along the Caribbean trail. There are English, French, Spanish, African and other influences. While we were in Venezuela, we had some work done on our boat. Before they would launch it, we had to pay the bill. This was on a holiday and we would have nowhere to stay for two days until the boat was launched. We would have had to find a bank and cash a check for the money to pay for the launch.
The boaters next to us, whom we only knew casually, offered to pay our bill in cash until we got to the bank on Monday. We accepted their most generous offer. Our boat was launched and we were able to stay aboard in the comfort of our own sleeping quarters. Monday morning, as soon as the bank opened, we obtained $2,000 cash to repay our most generous and trusting cruisers.
That’s how most cruisers are. We each take care of other cruisers and know that they will come through. We are all in this sailing circle together looking out for one another.
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.