Years of cruising aboard a small yacht has taught my wife and me how to dance around a cockpit without hindering or injuring each other. Our movements are almost choreographed, a kind of nautical soft-shoe-shuffle that, for the most part, happens in silence. Sheet-tails are always where they should be, winch handles are returned to their holders and harmony rules. The same can be said when we are down below, we seem to be able to maneuver around each other, one going left, one going right, without thinking. Over-enthusiastic guests play havoc with this harmony and within minutes a simple tack, a maneuver made thousands of times, day and night, in all weathers, can be reduced to chaos. While sailing as guest crew on Mike ‘Moose’ Sanderson’s ABN Amro One, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, it was a joy to watch his crew at work. Sanderson never raised his voice (if he spoke at all) and the whole boat ran like clockwork, almost on a nod and a wink. Like long-term cruising couples, Sanderson and his crew had sailed together for thousands of hours. There’s little joy to be had when skippers scream and shout at inexperienced cockpit crew. If they haven’t the nous to take them on a few training missions then they deserve it when maneuvers turn into a Chinese fire drill. Sometimes boats have to pick up a scratch crew, and will often end up with a mix of experienced and novice sailors. This is where a good skipper shows his metal by ordering a skilled crewman to watch over a novice while he learns the ropes. Sanderson did this with me and by the end of a long day, I might not have been ready to race around Cape Horn, but I certainly felt like part of the team.
I love history, especially maritime history and wish my old teachers had been more enthusiastic about teaching the subject beyond beating dates into us with the help of a stick. This month, our senior contributor Carol Bareuther shines a light on some of the Caribbean’s wonderful maritime museums many of which I have had the pleasure of exploring. Because of limited space, Carol has focused on the larger museums but there are plenty more. Some of the smaller museums scattered throughout the islands are run by wonderful amateur historians and storytellers and there’s just as much pleasure to be had in their well-curated environs. For the maritime history buff, and others, Caribbean churches and graveyards have much to tell us, and it’s rare not to find a memorial to some long-dead naval hero as you explore. The churches in St. Kitts and Nevis come to mind.
Global warming! Is there such a thing? If you put that question to a Caribbean environmentalist then the chances are you will receive an emphatic “Yes.” One thing for certain, our reefs are in trouble and rise in sea temperature is a factor. Don’t take my word for it, go online and you will be shocked at what you find. Bonaire is noted for its stunning diving and they want to keep it that way, which means being proactive when it comes to reef management and maintenance. On page 90, you will see exactly how they are tackling the problems of reef loss in Bonaire before it becomes a more serious problem. By spreading the word and discussing the problem more islands will rise to the challenge. Some, like St. Maarten, have already done so but there’s room for more.
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