Copyright 2008 by Cap’n Fatty Goodlander
Each ocean offers distinctly different Venus Flytraps for wayward sailors. Yes, it’s true—regardless of whether you sail the Atlantic, Pacific or Indian oceans, there’s always certain ‘sticky’ harbors which are easier to sail into than out of.
I know it is hard to believe, but the Indian Ocean has nearly as many harbors of refuge for refuse as the Caribbean.
I sailed into Gustavia harbor (St. Barths, FWI) and stumbled ashore into Le Select during the late 1970’s—and didn’t sober up until… well, after the millennium.
From what little I remember, it was fun.
Yes, I’d been pie-eyed drunk for so long I’d forgotten how to focus on reality. This was driven home to me when, after a few weeks of cold turkey (not Wild Turkey!), I asked my wife Carolyn, “…Who is the foxy 18 year-old chick in the skimpy bikini sitting next to you?” and she replied curtly, “Our daughter.”
Let’s face it: thousands of ‘around the world’ voyages which started in the Caribbean—have never actually gotten around to leaving it. And why should they? Isn’t it rough enough in the Anegada Passage or between Grenada and Trinidad?
Why search further afield for sea-going abuse? With the internet today, it is so easy to ‘cut & paste’ exotic harbor photographs from around the world—and then painlessly Photoshop your vessel into them. Isn’t this far more comfortable than beating to windward? Why put the wear & tear on your boat—when plagiarizing a few pithy ‘man-against-the-sea’ sentences from a distance cruising blog is so easy?
Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas, is, of course, the most famous Chicken Harbor on the planet. There are almost a thousand East Coast vessels stacked up there each season—with their trembling skippers dreadfully worried that if they continue southward they’d be eaten by sea monsters or, worst, have their masthead WiFi antennas damaged in a gale.
“It’s not worth it,” one wise skipper from Alabama whispered to me. “I was planning on sailing down to Trinidad—but I think I’ll just watch the Carnival on YouTube instead… did you know Stocking Island is now broadbanded?”
That is good news, eh?
Mexico runs a close second—but Mount Gay-addicted Caribbean sailors have to demonstrate their flexibility by immediately switching to tequila.
“Hey, I’m a citizen of the world,” one tipsy sailor belched at me in Puerto La Cruz, “If I sail to Russia, I’ll chug-a-lug vodka… what’s that new international cruising slogan, ‘Sail Globally, drink locally?’”
In Tahiti the hot sailor’s spot used to be Quinn’s bar (the brothel/hotel was upstairs) on Papeete’s waterfront. A lot of Pacific cruisers were forced to ‘hole up’ there for weather. “Zeeeees true,” Freddy DeFrogg once told me, “We have been… how you say, RAKED by zee rhum squalls, no? I mean, there is a stationary drunk front hovering over the Societies… it has been here at least 151 dazes… er, days.”
Later it dawned on me that he’d been ‘waiting for a weather window’ a long time when I told him I’d recently been in France, and he asked, “How’s DeGaulle?”
Bora Bora is, believe it or not, more bizarre: even the blood-splattered winos in the park daintily sniff their corks.
Fiji is currently a popular international destination for the crusier-boozer set. “I really enjoy being around cannibals while I cook my liver,” one Musket Cove sailor told me last year.
That sounds sensible.
But Wild Card—our ocean-weary, 38 foot, $3,000 sloop—is currently, once again, in the Indian Ocean. This is the strangest ocean of all. First off, it is completely, utterly mis-named. Everywhere I go, I ask all the dark-skinned people I meet, “Apache? Mohawk? Navajo?” and it is obvious they’ve never even heard of Indians! Nor does the word ‘firewater’ get a response.
At first I thought it was a language problem so I pantomimed some traditional cultural pastimes… like scalping, for instance… alas, nothing! But I didn’t give up easy. “All red people raise your hands,” I shouted. Zero did. “…white man speak with forked tongue!” didn’t even get a smile out of the puzzled Asians.
The good news is that the Indian Ocean has something which the other oceans don’t: the monsoon.
Yes, the monsoon really exists. I thought (before I sailed around the world the first time) that it was just a rainy invention of Bollywood to allow the prominent display of the nipples of the Hindu female move stars—but I was wrong.
The science is obscure, yes, but take my sterling word for it: the northern Indian Ocean has a sort of ‘tradewind’ which reverses every six months. What does this mean, in a practical way, to the Indian Ocean sailor? Well, it means that there is no bar in the entire ocean which isn’t downwind of the bar you are currently in!
Let’s put this in terms a Caribbean sailor can understand: the reason sailors drinking at Le Select don’t usually drink at Skinny’s in Coral Bay, St. John is because they couldn’t easily get back. It would be to windward. However, imagine if the Nor’east trades reversed every six months—that would really mix up the bar stools of the Caribbean, wouldn’t it?
So the guy in Thailand with a $2/hour ‘short-time’ girlfriend can easily get to Madagascar… where the girls are much cheaper. And when (not if) he wears out his welcome there, he can then sail back to Phuket (pronounced phonetically, the name is a reflection of its licentious character) and still be sailing ‘downhill’ both ways, on all levels.
This situation isn’t inherently sexist: Bali offers the Kuda Beach Cowboys… male ‘companions’ which hang prettily on the arms of fat vacationing German women—most of which are lonely, desperate school teachers. It is funny to see their ‘beach boys’ cling to them while whining, “Buy me a Rolex watch, babe… buy me some shoes, buy me a surfboard…”
The women are cool-with-it. “I like it here,” one confided to me. “It is an honest, upfront place. You can rent a reasonably-priced car, a room and boyfriend… what could be nicer for a mature Euro-babe with more money than time?”
Of course, Madagascar is much more primitive than Thailand. For example, they don’t even know to call me ‘Cheap Charlie’ in Hellville—yes, that’s really the name of its capitol city… who could dream up such a scary, accurate, appropriate label?
Anything else a cruising sailor should know about thriving and/or surviving in Madagascar? Well, sure. Bring plenty of new empty fuel jugs to ‘decant’ the local ‘buck-a-quart’ 151 or 200 proof (your choice, depending on preferred rate-of-suicide) rhum into. If you’re on a health kick, toss some local fruit into the jugs—they’re nice to look at while you drown.
Of course, even heaven has some dark clouds. This applies to the Indian Ocean as well. Avoid the… er, Somalia Coast Guard. (I’d love to find the bastard who gave ‘em those three Johnny Depp movies!) Ditto Diego Garcia, where they’re even more heavily armed. Don’t go to Burma: I don’t believe in coddling religious people but using the local Buddhist monks for target practice seems, well, intolerant. I, personally, find the 24/7 carols of Christmas Island irritating. Sri Lanka is fine place to be eaten by Tamil tigers. And don’t go to Jakarta to refresh your wardrobe—all the sturdy green vests they offer have lots of unfashionable pockets!
Yes, the world is a wide and wondrous place. And, despite all our modern advances, where ever we go, well, there we are. Or as my wife Carolyn puts it with a rueful smile, “We’ve sailed to plenty of exotic cruising destinations—but we’ve never sailed anywhere that my husband couldn’t make a fool of myself!”
Editor’s note: Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of “Chasing the Horizon” by American Paradise Publishing, “Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies” and “The Collected Fat.” The crew of Wild Card continues to ping-pong between Thailand and Malaysia. For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com