We first arrived in St. Thomas in April; six months after leaving Maine aboard our 47ft Pedrick designed Cheoy Lee. We’d cruised in the Bahamas, visited Luperón in the Dominican Republic, and Salinas in Puerto Rico—none of which had prepared us for the bustle and frenzy of Charlotte Amalie Harbor during cruise ship season. Walking along the waterfront we were exhorted to abandon our stroll for numerous taxis, and to spend our cruising kitty on gold and silver jewelry at tremendous duty free savings. At one point I suggested we start our own business in St. Thomas selling t-shirts that said: “No, I’m not going to buy jewelry or ride in your taxi … I’m a cruising sailor.”
Sailors are cruisers, and cruisers aren’t found on cruise ships. Generally, we’re better dressed (or at least more covered up) than folks who stroll down the gangplank in bikini tops and shorts. After all, cruisers have a much more ‘up close and personal’ relationship with customs and immigration officers, and we’ve found that wearing modest shorts and tops makes a better impression on the uniformed officials. While we can sit in a waterfront café and pick the real cruisers from the cruise ship tourist, it seems that most who work in the duty-free shops can’t tell us apart.
In April, as EW and I walked along the Charlotte Amalie waterfront, a tanned, silver-haired gentleman caught my eye, offered a blindingly white smile he said with a New York accent, “Nice shoes. I saw ones like them on the Internet and said to myself, ‘We have some jewelry that would look great with those shoes!’” I looked at him in amazement, and then down at my old boating sandals. He hadn’t seen anything like these on the Internet. The soles of my sandals had separated and EW had glued them together with 5200. I laughed and said, “Good pitch, but no thanks”, and we moved on.
We sailed down the Eastern Caribbean, spent hurricane season in Grenada, and sailed back to St. Thomas for Thanksgiving. The next week, EW and I walked from the dinghy dock at Yacht Haven to Frenchtown one morning, returning as the shops were opening. I recognized the dapper, tanned gentleman who caught my eye and moved toward us, and I surprised EW by putting up both of my hands in the universal code for stop, saying “No!” The man took a step back as I smiled and said, “You don’t have jewelry to go with these shoes, either.” He was nonplussed for a moment, then smiled and said, “Oh, I guess you’re not off a cruise ship.”
As we walked away, laughing, EW gave me a high five, and said, “Good one!”
We are not off a cruise ship. We are cruising sailors.
HOW TO SPOT A CRUISER
- Folks off cruise ships tend to be under-dressed or very well-dressed. They don’t wear paint-stained or frayed shorts, boat shoes, or Mount Gay Rum Regatta hats.
- Sailors walk or take local buses. We rarely take taxis or rent cars.
- More sailors make and sell jewelry than purchase high end gold and silver pieces.
- We’re cheap, but not seeking-a-deal-on-a-$15,000-gold-watch cheap. Sailors are splitting-an- entrée cheap.
- We tend to be more polite. Sailors greet the other passengers on the bus, say “Good morning or afternoon” before asking a question of a store clerk, and often seek to meet and get to know the locals.
- We use services, such as laundromats, marinas, riggers, varnishers, woodworkers, mechanics, and local restaurants; and we purchase groceries, clothing, house wares, Wi-Fi, and a lot of marine products.
- We may travel in packs, but we plan our own events. If we want to go snorkeling, we go snorkeling. If we want to go for a hike, we seek maps of hiking trails, ask locals for advice, and go for a hike.
- We wouldn’t be caught dead on a tourist pirate ship.
Now sailing in the Caribbean, Barbara Hart lived aboard with her husband year-round in Maine for eight years. She has an active blog: www.HartsAtSea.com, sharing what she’s learned about living aboard, cruising, and staying married.