After sailing all day, your salt-beaten, sunburned body wants nothing more than to get the anchor down and get some rest. But as soon as you enter the harbor you see that familiar sight: a brightly colored skiff speeding toward you–the first boat boy of the day. He may help you tie up to a mooring buoy or just introduce himself, but he’ll be there rain or shine.
After you anchor and clear the deck you are finally ready to relax. You lie down on the settee and close your eyes, and then there is a knock on the hull.
“You want some bananas, mon?” You say no. You are good on bananas.
Then you get back to your settee, put your cap over your face, close your eyes, and are just about to doze off when there’s another knock. It’s another boat boy.
“How ‘bout some green coconuts?” You stick your head out of the companion way and politely tell this guy that someone has already been there and you are good on green coconuts. Then you go down below and resume your position of comfort and you hear yet another knock. This time, there is a guy there kneeling on a surf board selling jewelry or ganja, which ever you prefer.
“No man, I’m set.” You say. Then you go back down below and think to yourself that if you hear one more boat boy you are going to have a conniption fit. You are just about to lie back down when you hear a soft slap on the hull and in a tiny West Indian voice a man says:
“French wine?” It is not just you, but the whole crew and charter guests that miraculously hear this small voice and bound up out of their bunks, cabins and even showers to get to the deck and start buying up this guy’s entire inventory. Rose, Bordeaux, Vin Blanc, this guy has got it all. And it is an event like this that lifts your appreciation of boat boys to the uppermost level.
The truth is that boat boys are an infamous part of the Caribbean. They are there to serve and protect, to give you a tour, to look after you and your boat, to show you around town and even host parties, all for you. There isn’t anything they would not do or any object they would not try to find. They are companions, acquaintances and even friends. They have traveled, sailed across the ocean, lived in France or Holland and they still come back to relish the Caribbean lifestyle and be at your beck and call.
So the next time you hear that familiar knock on the hull, don’t be rude, be appreciative of the service provided. If you don’t want what he’s selling, just ask, and nine times out of ten he will come back with exactly what you are looking for and deliver it right to your doorstep.
Merab-Michael Favorite is a journalism student at the University of South Florida who crewed on a Swan 42 for the winter season.