This has never been nor ever will be a sailing blog. Sailing blogs are like dreams and dramas; only interesting to the people who own them. A friend of mine asked me what it’s like to sail, within thirty seconds I’d bored myself. She agreed that yes, the technical sailing stuff is indeed sodding boring.
I have read a few sailing blogs over the last couple of years and generally they fit into two categories:
- Young Attractive Couple. He has a six pack and surfs. She looks great in a bikini doing a headstand on a rock. They buy a boat, look impossibly beautiful in photos and whine about the terrible inconveniences they have to suffer like not being able to find a decent yoga class.
- Highly Technical. S/he can fix a ripped sail in a category five hurricane and make a brew for the crew. The HT regales you with a blow by blow account of how they fitted their dubry mcflobbem with a special spingle-bollock and they’ve never been happier. Aye, crack on fella. Their Cunningham’s are their pride and joy and they seem to be forever fiddling with them – what the hell is a Cunningham anyway? No don’t tell me, I genuinely couldn’t give a fuck. Do not make eye contact with an HT at the marina bar, it will be five hours of your life that you cannot get back.
I’m over simplifying of course. The thing is there are lots of people sailing around these days and often a blog is a useful way of letting loved one know where you are. In the good old days of letter writing it’s the equivalent of the Round Robin annual letters that turn up inside Christmas Cards.
My one and only stock phrase when asked about a trip from A to B is the following: Shit weather, shit sail, didn’t die. Beyond that I have fuck all interest in the academic bollocks surrounding this whole boaty thing. As long as I know how to stay safe, not fall overboard and not hit things then I’m a happy woman. John knows he has precisely a two-minute window to teach me new things, after that my eyes glaze over and I’ve had my attention caught by a fish jumping or a turtle meandering past. Turtles and dolphin are far more interesting than tell-tales on a jib sheet – see I’ve uttered something technical there and I was bored shitless before I finished typing it.
Now that I’ve had my hissy fit I can continue. We – John, Dogs and me are in Grenada at the moment. After last year’s catastrophic hiccup of a hurricane season we decided to get the hell out of Dodge and go south with Mahalo. All advice suggests that we’re less likely to take a battering here and there are plenty of marinas to haul out if needed. We have always wanted to see the other countries in The Leeward and Windward Islands so we decided to take an extended holiday. I mean when you live in paradise where do you go on holiday? Apparently sailing is one option – hardly fucking paradise sometimes, but as I remind myself, I chose to do this, I can stop at any time and bugger off back home. No-one has a gun to our heads forcing us to live the way we do.
We set off from Antigua on July 15th. I think the phrase is “shitting myself”. The dogs hadn’t been tried and tested on the boat, let alone deal with their business. There’s a lot of business that comes out of Holly and Fred believe me. We were given reliable advice from an experienced sailor that if you want your dogs to pee and poo on a designated patch on the deck, just rub some chilli on their bums. That advice was not reliable. “Oh no you didn’t?” Oh yes, we did.
The triumphant moment of the great deck crapping day came somewhere off St Lucia. After four days of refusing to take them ashore they let the AstroTurf patch have it. Why the toilet drama? Why not just take them ashore twice a day? It isn’t always possible. Travelling with dogs means paperwork. There can be a mountain of paperwork, import licences and Government Vet inspections to arrange for each country in which you intend going ashore. The French islands’ attitudes to animal import licences are similar to French Sailors’ attitudes towards clothes; non-compulsory. So, it wasn’t until we left French territories that we couldn’t legally take them ashore. Getting our confused hounds to crap on a patch of fake grass at the pointy end of the boat will go down as one of my major life achievements, especially the belligerent eleven year old Golden Retriever. We will not speak of the chilli-bum incident again however.
We are seven weeks into our extended holiday. We have not killed each other. I did threaten to catch a flight back to Antigua and he could sail his own fucking boat if he didn’t stop speaking to me like one of his old engineering cadets and I admit I’m not an easy person to live on board with when we’re anchored in a Butlins type marina with all Jolly Hockey Sticks and timetabled social events.
We have settled into some sort of routine and we have slowly made our way through different anchorages in each country. Each time we pull up for a night or several we are the new kids on the block. Every stop is an education. We have had the time served cruisers who shout across, “Don’t anchor there, I’ve got eighty metres of chain out” this translates as “Fuck off you pleb, I’ve been here for five years and I now own all of the water in a two hundred metre radius” We smile sweetly and park up, thanking the wizened wanker for their help. I can half understand why some people see us coming and a sense of dread consumes their soul. They’re sitting there on their lovely shiny boat with all of the buttons and bells and here’s us, on our thirty-two-year-old less than perfect boat looking like a cross between The Addams Family and The Clampetts arriving with two stinky dogs hanging out of the cockpit. I might cringe if I pulled up next to us. Ah, arseholes, you get ‘em everywhere. We should be used to them living in Jolly Harbour.
The sailing or rather the cruising life (my autocorrect wants to correct cruising to cursed for some reason) does attract single men. They spend years alone on their vessels and having met them in bars it’s obvious why these anti-social, loudmouthed, obnoxious cock-snots live a life of solitude. I had imagined that perhaps these men are international drug runners or are wanted by Interpol for exciting criminal acts, but no, sadly they’re just too racist, sexist or down right fucked in the head to exist in regular society. The sea is welcome to them.
Then you have the welcoming committee. They are the first on their dinghy to meet you at the marina or anchorage. They stop by with a friendly, “Hi, is it your first time here? Uhhh lovely, where are you from, where are you going?” Do not be fooled, nah-ah. They’re just scoping you out as worthy acquaintances and it doesn’t take long for them to ask in a crab like fashion how much you paid for your boat. It’s subtle and you could miss it, but the conversation goes as follows:
“What sort of boat is she?”
“Uhhh, never heard of that, how do you spell that?” – partner quickly Googles Wauquiez
“Yeh not many people have heard of them”
“What year is she?”
“Ohhhhhhhh, but she’s had modifications yes?”
And voila! They’ve calculated that we are the underclass with an old boat and not to be invited to play dominoes on their super-duper gin palace.
These people are the regular readers of websites that have reports of crimes against cruisers. Outside the safety of their marina or mooring buoy there be sea monsters and each island is inhabited by Hannibal Lectors who want to steal your dinghy and shit in your cabin – NOT true by the way.
There is a hybrid of welcoming committee and time served. These cruisers are passive aggressive. They pootle through the anchorage looking for their usual spot and get mightily pissed off when they spot us sitting there merrily swinging our legs in the water with no intention of moving for at least a week – the swim deck is down, water maker is on, sun canopy is welded into position and the dogs are lolloping around the deck. They shout a greeting and ask if they might be too close to us if they anchor now and go on to tell us that it’s very roly where we are and we might little to try somewhere else, they’ve been experienced in this area for over nine years. When we don’t move, they shrug and shout across that they’re going around the corner anyway because it’s quieter there and no neighbours means no pants. Yeh thanks for that. Keep your crusty clunge to yourself love. Having been witness to all varieties of saggy nut sacks and gynaecological displays of vaginas from many of our European neighbours at anchor, one more fanny I can do without.
The hippy drop-outs are an interesting bunch. They have a loose relationship with personal hygiene and like to serenade the setting of the sun each night with bongos. Their boats are an eclectic mash-up of gaffer tape and hope. They’re a joy to be around because their energy is infectious. They are invincible. My favourite drop-outs were the guys we met in St Vincent; Australians who are, “Just seeing how long we can go before we run out of money”.
We have the codgers. They are lovely sweet people, possibly in their nineties who have lived on board for decades (or maybe they’re only in their forties and have been left out in the sun too long and have gone crispy?) They spend all day wandering around their deck with a piece of string looking busy. They never thrust advice down your throat when you meet them, but look aghast when you tell them you don’t clean your metalwork every three days. I love the codgers. They are genuinely warm in their welcome, they have seen us all come and go. They are in it for life, parted from their beloved boat and the seas only by death.
The most amazing people we meet are the reason we left Antigua; the incredibly generous, kind, inquisitive and engaging people who are born, live and die on these tiny nations stuck out on the edge of The Caribbean Sea. We have been welcomed in each country we have visited – with a few exceptions but they are rare exceptions.
I will write about our experiences in each country next time when I have time to sit down for a few hours and get my thoughts in order. Now that we are moving just short distances from anchorage to anchorage here in Grenada it is easier to find time to relax. A relaxed mind can write and let friends and family know that we’re not dead yet.