One of the things I like most about cruising, aside from being alone in mid ocean, is visiting places that are off the beaten track. Places that for various reasons we are not recommended to visit. Now, before you go accusing me of sending you into ‘unsafe’ harbors and anchorages, I’ll explain.
I came to understand long ago that cruising means different things to different people and that yachtsmen and yachtswomen are an unusual lot. Cruisers experience one of the last great freedoms allowed to mortals, the freedom to sail beyond the horizon on their own little ship.
The right to come and go as you please brings with it huge responsibilities. The choice of where to go and what you do once you get there is down to you. Logically, you would learn as much as possible about a place you might want to visit and base your decision to go there on what you have learned. But does that always work? The answer is no.
In this edition, Birgit Hackl talks about her voyage to the Caribbean and a stopover in the Cape Verde Islands (Cape Verdes – República de Cabo Verde). The Cape Verdes have long had a reputation for lawlessness and yachts avoided the place. Birgit found the archipelago to be a magical place, safe, with warm and friendly people. Her article makes you think.
Elsewhere in this edition, Capt’n Fatty Goodlander has a rant about dirtdwellers and why he is desperate to get to sea (Madness of Modern Civilization vs. the Joy of Offshore). He also touches on the subject of ‘off the beaten track’ cruising, how people deal with it, and how they can be talked into doing something they later might regret.
Fatty’s article touches on the perennial question of whether cruisers should or should not carry weapons. I have had my own experience with them and it was rather interesting.
When we were in Gibraltar preparing to sail to the Caribbean, I was given an antique 4.10 shotgun (one up from a flintlock) and a bag of cartridges by an old man who said “you’ll need it to shoot pirates.”
I had been at sea about a week when I remembered the old gun and dug it out from under my bunk. Standing on the aft deck and feeling like Dirty Harry, Rooster Coburn and Rambo all rolled into one, I rammed a shell into the breach, tossed a bottle over the side, pulled back the hammer, aimed, fired, and … click! Nothing happened. I tried again and all I got was another ‘click’. No big bang, no recoil into the shoulder, and the bottle, which could well have been a pirate, had made off unscathed towards the horizon.
Frustrated, I lowered the gun. BANG! The shot blew a hole in the deck between my feet. As I was naked at the time, I had powder burns where no man should have them. In fact I was lucky to have them at all!
Why, I don’t know, but I kept that gun on board for years. The last straw came when we visited an island (I prefer it remain nameless) and declared the gun while clearing customs at the police station. You would think I was armed with a nuclear bomb. I was frog marched back to the boat, a distance of about half-a-mile, by three guards armed with submachine guns. The old gun was brought in triumph from the boat and I was frog marched back to the police station, only now accompanied by an army of howling kids. My protestations that the gun didn’t work and that you were safer standing in front of the damn thing than you were pulling the trigger got me nowhere.
It was the same procedure when I went to clear out; only this time in reverse. Worse, on reaching the dock I was bundled onto the boat and the police immediately threw off the lines and waved me away, at gunpoint.
And still I kept the gun! That is until we went to Florida where I met a chap, an engineer, who loved and understood guns. I showed him the 4.10 and he swooned. He said it was an English fowling piece of around 100 years old. A collectors’ item that he would love to have for his collection but as it was quite valuable, I should keep it.
Before leaving Florida I gave him the gun. I hope he wasn’t naked when he pulled the trigger.