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Sailing with Charlie: Tourists Dem

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Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre
Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

Charlie’s occupation as a charter yacht skipper/instructor takes him around the islands several times a month and as such he has to deal with all types of personalities. There are delightful ones, difficult ones, those easy to please, others not so much and some who find fault with everything. Thankfully the latter group are rare but sometimes there are those who expect the captain to be everything from tour guide, history buff, underwater guru, cook, cleaner, mechanic, plumber, electronics expert and dinghy driver, available 24/7. Luckily, Charlie is reasonably good at filling these demands since he had his own boat for decades. But even tolerant and patient Charlie takes exception when an irate client raps on his cabin door at three in the morning and demands attention because the air conditioning isn’t cool enough. It’s mid-March and about 75°C. “Open the (effing, under his breath) hatch – I’ll look at it in the morning.”

Air conditioning is a particularly irksome luxury – some guests expect it 24/7, even when no-one is below deck, and on rare occasions Charlie has had requests for more blankets because it’s too cold! A second lesson on using the air condition controller is then required. 

Blocked heads and smelly holding tanks are common complaints. No matter how forcefully it is explained that nothing goes into the head unless it has been eaten first – blockages are regular occurrences. One day Charlie had the unpleasant experience of unblocking a head only to find at the discharge elbow a partial denture and a condom! Yes, I can tell, you are as aghast as Charlie was. The reason was eventually arrived at when the truth emerged that the items had fallen into the toilet bowl when the yacht heeled on a particularly windy morning.  

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Most sailors are a singular lot – not easily accepting of obsequious behavior, but it’s a tricky business. Most mariners in the hospitality business rely in large part on gratuities to make a decent living. Not long ago, Charlie arrived at a busy marina and at the last minute and with more than gentle persuasion managed to get a slip at the water and fuel dock. All the guests immediately jumped ship for the party at the beach bar. In the late morning the head honcho guest, with a raging hangover, appeared from his cabin and was upset that Charlie had untied from the dock (at the request of the marina staff) and was heading to a quiet anchorage for a belated breakfast. With much whispering and derisive comments, it was obvious that Charlie was in the doghouse.

When he arrived at the next destination it became the unbidden job of head honcho’s partner to direct Charlie to the spot in the anchorage (right in the middle of the ‘action’ with all the other moored yachts) where she felt she would like to be, regardless of her complete lack of knowledge of depth, hazards, etc. Of course, Charlie was diplomatic, “We will go to the very best spot for most fun, party atmosphere, safety, security and convenience.” Then he anchored in a safe spot. 

Next morning, on a beautiful beam reach, Charlie overheard the crew, “Wow, what a job he has, so lucky, continuous holiday, blah, blah, blah … Charlie raised his eyes to the sky and said a silent prayer – even though he’s not particularly religious. 

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Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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