A Day in the Life of Caribbean Cruisers

Date: 25 January 2014

Position: 14:04.530N 060:57.558W, Rodney Bay, St Lucia (yes, still)

Yes, we’re still in Rodney Bay in St Lucia and are likely to be here until Tuesday. We’ve managed to cobble together what I hope will be a longer-lasting solution to the mainsail problem. The yankee problem required a large spare part to be flown in from Florida and because of a mix up with the shipper it didn’t arrive until Friday afternoon which was too late to clear customs. So it should be with us on Monday morning and the riggers are standing by to detach the forestay and fix the new part Monday afternoon. Having done all the organising we needed to do in the dreaded marina, on Thursday we managed to escape into the bay where we have been anchored.

Given that we have been here for four days, it’s remarkable how little we’ve done. Granted there was still quite a lot to do on the boat, and we’ve had to organise the spares and repairs, but even so. Mind you we have done quite a lot of socialising. In the bays we have been anchoring in, there have been about 75 to 100 yachts – more than we have seen in the last four years put together and, not having seen one other British yacht in four years, here there are plenty. One of the advantages of being a member of the Royal Cruising Club is that it is just one of only four yacht clubs in the world where it is a requirement to fly the club burgee (flag) from the truck (top) of the mast. As doing so nowadays is a complete pain in the neck what with all the other paraphernalia you have up there such as VHF antennae, wind instruments, lightning distracters etc etc, a quick scan of the mastheads on arrival in an anchorage, and if there is another burgee fluttering at the masthead, the chances are it is another RCC boat. An additional Club tradition is that if there are two member boats in the same place then the junior member (in terms of years membership) goes to the boat of the more senior member to introduce themselves, aka being invited aboard for several large gins and a long natter about blocked heads and other gear failure. In the three weeks we’ve been in the area we have bumped into two RCC boats and two OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) boats, so we’re almost exhausted by the hectic social engagements.

We did feel that, being in St Lucia for almost a week with only twice having moved out of the marina complex to go a quarter of a mile down the road to the shopping mall, was not exactly seeing the country. So tomorrow we are off on a day’s tourist excursion to visit the volcano, mud baths, botanical garden, a walk in the rainforest to swim under a waterfall etc. St Lucia done and ticked. But we are expecting to spend more time here on our way back south in May, so hopefully we will be able to explore the real country in a bit more depth then.

One thing that has saved a lot of time is that in Bequia we discovered we could buy a data SIM card for our MiFi that gave us internet coverage from the boat, not only in St Vincent but also in all the other countries up the Windwards and Leewards. The limit at just 50Mb per day doesn’t exactly allow us to live stream Downton Abbey, but it does allow us to email to our hearts content and access a number of web pages, without having to go ashore twice a day with our computers and iPads and find a WiFi hotspot. For instance, from the comfort of my own bed I can now check up on you all by looking at the hit count on mina2.com. You’re doing well – 400 hits today, which surprised me given how dreary this holiday blog is.

The end result is that it leaves us with more time to spruce Mina2 up to the standards of a proper Luxury Holiday Yacht (LHY). The DS has spent what seems to have been days taking down all the intricately pleated curtains from all the windows and ports, bleaching them and ironing all the pleats back in before re-hanging them. Given the amount of bleach that has gone down the galley sink, I’m surprised the boat isn’t surrounded by dead fish. And having the iron on full blast for most of the day has been a challenge for all the solar and wind generating power we now have, but it is still just about holding its own and in the three weeks we’ve been on the boat, we haven’t once had to have the generator running. Thankfully the DS is down to the last couple of curtains after which hopefully she will find a slightly less energy-consuming obsession to absorb her.

Meanwhile I was introduced to a wonder-product by the name of Snappy Teak-Nu which very quickly and easily transforms tired grey-looking teak into brilliantly clean golden strips of wood like they had been cut and laid only yesterday. And this without having to scrub all the grain out of the wood. Absolutely fabulous. My decks haven’t looked this good during my ten years of ownership.

The cruiser’s working day ends quite early in these tropical latitudes, as night falls like a curtain at shortly after 6pm. If we are entertaining or being entertained it is the norm for drinks or dinner invitations to be for as early as 5pm. By 9pm (the cruisers’ midnight) the evening is over, and by 10pm we are in bed and snoring – if we can. The bay has a couple of Sandal’s type resorts whose party animal guests clearly have a different timetable and the sound of their highly amplified dance music shrieks across the anchorage until about 3am. Who said cruising in the Caribbean was fun?

When we are not socialising the DS and I have other treats in store for the long evenings. When we were in La Sagesse whilst Mina2 was being readied, we met Graham and Chris, circumnavigators and veterans of Caribbean cruising for a couple of decades. Apart from the wealth of information they were able to impart about the Caribbean, it was extraordinary how much Graham and I discovered we had in common, including our love for the Aubrey-Maturin novels of Patrick O’Brian. Suffice it to say that I now have downloaded the audio books of all 23 volumes in the series. At 6pm, rum punch in hand, and whilst watching the sun plummet over the horizon in a blaze of colour, the DS and I settle down for an hour or two’s narration of arguably the best series of books in the world. There’s nothing the DS doesn’t now know about futtock shrouds or how to corbel an upper t’gallant yard. She’ll be surprising me soon by remembering the difference between the bow and the stern.


Tim Barker is a sailor and occasional adventurer. Since 2004, Mina2, his Oyster 485 yacht, and he (with the Downstairs Skipper and a wonderful bunch of friends) have sailed from the Arctic to the Antarctic and many places in between. Come join their adventures and read Tim's award winning blogs and journals from the comfort of your own computer screen.

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