SOME of you who are reading this are hoping to set off on your own Caribbean/etc. sailing adventure soon (see, everyone else? not just us!). If so, then you have been patiently reading the forums (10% been-there; 90% trolls) and the cruising books (100% been-there; 90% out-of-date) and have no doubt heard all the horror stories about the islands’ “boat boys” (a patronizing colonial term for the guys who try to sell you shit from little boats; preferred term is “boat vendors”).
Well, we have had varied experiences of boat vendors. Firstly: anyone who has lived in a city has experience fending off beggars and it saddens me to say this (not much cuz I’m kind of a dick) but handling boat vendors is a bit like that–you spot them coming and are waving them off before they have even asked if you want to buy fish/fruit/moorings/slaves/pet-monkeys/timeshares/whatev. If you are country folk, well, pretty much you are going to get taken for a ride a few times before you get the hang of things. Don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there.
In Portsmouth, Dominica, the boat vendors have formed PAYS (Portsmouth Association of, um, something), precisely because so many yachtsmen were being driven off by obnoxious boat vendors. PAYS is fantastic and if you come to the Lesser Antilles and don’t visit, you are a gigantic luser who will never amount to anything. They are professional, courteous, honest and generally A Good Thing. They mount security details and have trainings and a weekly barbeque and you will totally love it.
St Vincent also has its own boat vendors. Actually, St Vincent is rather notorious for the general shittiness with which its coastal entrepreneurs treat incoming yachtsmen (oo! Aside: “Yacht” is the term used outside the US to mean “pleasure boat,” it doesn’t have to be 150′ long and staffed by Ukrainian 20-year-olds). We were all ready to dismiss this repute, and had planned a stop in Wallalalou Bay, on the north-west coast of St Vincent, home to the gradually decaying set of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the Anchorage Hotel, which has moorings and beer.
We had a bit of a slog to get to St Vincent. As usual, we were beating into F7, but we are getting used to that. The frustrating thing was that we still have to hand-steer (if you are thinking something along the lines of “pussies, I hand-steer all the time,” I totally feel you, but unless you have actually done it on serious passages, withhold judgement for now). So when we got to St V the next morning, we could have done with a nice, easy, quiet end to the passage. Instead, we were approached by a kid in a rowboat about a mile out who tried to get run over before offering to help us moor. We declined, several times. Then, just inside the bay (right past the rock arch where the hanged pirates in the opening scene of PotC hung), we were accosted by a sterling citizen with the biggest goddamn doobie I have ever seen apparently permanently attached to his face–srsly, it was like Stoner-Churchill. He was less pleasant, and after we failed to run him down and refused his services, he cursed out just about everything, including all Americans (I’m not one, so no objections here). Then we picked up a mooring.
The problem with our experience with St Vincent was not that one guy, who was stoned all the way to Mars, said some very incoherently unpleasant things. Our problem with St Vincent was that (in our brief, brief experience) Every. Single. Act. of service required recompense. In St Vincent, there will be no favors. If you need water, you will pay for the water, and the guy who turns on the water, and maybe another guy to turn off the water. I got the distinct impression that if someone held a door open for you, they’d expect to be paid for it. It reminded me of nothing more than the Kenyan concept of kitu kidogo.
I get it. Fine. These people are really, really poor and we are rich (relatively), but if the Dominicans, who are poor too, can get their shit together like PAYS did, and make more money for themselves like PAYS did, and attract more and more cruising boats to Portsmouth like PAYS did, then I can’t see why St Vincent can’t do the same.
It’s too bad, because St V is seriously stunning. The island is quite amazingly beautiful, but it can be very nicely be viewed from a mile off, so just go clear in at Bequia, like we did today. The hell with St Vince.
NOTE: Your mileage might vary. Go there yourself.