First-time cruisers to the Caribbean, and old salts seeking out new island destinations to explore, will find they have friends in many places. This is especially true for members of the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA), one of the world’s oldest and largest cruiser organizations. One of the SSCA’s many benefits is that of Cruising Station Hosts, who can help visiting cruisers in a number of ways.
“Cruising Station Hosts have been recommended by our members on passage, and now a true network of nearly 160 contacts exists for our members worldwide,” explains Joan Conover, the SSCA’s Cruising Station Coordinator, who is based in Hampton, Virginia, and sails with her husband Greg aboard their Morgan 51, Growltiger.
Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada and Trinidad are a few of the Caribbean islands that are served by SSCA Cruising Station Hosts.
There are two SSCA hosts in Haiti. One is Samuel Michael in La Gonave, who has helped sailors such as those aboard the yacht Tranquility. Tranquility suffered a huge rip to its mainsail and ran out of fuel in stormy weather. Michael provided diesel fuel, hand carried in small batches to the boat, and then he and the men of AAE (Association Amis des Enfants, an international educational organization in La Gonave), hand-stitched the ripped sail working in shifts over several days so that the boat and crew of eight could return safely to the U.S. mainland. The other host is Altema Jean Samuel, in Île-à-Vache.
“I like to help bring more cruisers to visit us here in Haiti,” says Samuel. “I have taken cruisers on tours and to the mainland to arrange repairs and to go shopping. My host station is my little shore where I sell a bit of everything.”
Yolanda Renal is the SSCA Host at Marina Zar Par, in Boca Chica, in the Dominican Republic.
“There are so many ways we have helped cruisers,” says Renal, who admits she very much enjoys her work. “One cruiser left his boat title by accident at the Coast Guard station 60 miles to the west of our marina. We used our contacts with the Coast Guard in the capitol, Santo Domingo, to find his document and then have it sent by courier to our marina. Another fellow had an accident with another boat and heavily damaged his catamaran. We were able to contact his insurance company in Germany, coordinate with many Spanish-speaking tradespeople, who came to the marina, provided estimates and made the necessary repairs that allowed him to continue on his journey.”
Olga Perez hosts the SSCA Cruising Station at Sunbay Marina in Fajardo, while Tom Cordero, who is developing Discovery Bay Resort & Marina on Puerto Rico’s west coast, is the SSCA host in San Juan.
“Over the years we have assisted cruisers in areas like Customs and Immigration guidance; issues regarding the sending and receiving of mail and parts; medical, hospital and veterinary recommendations; hurricane season storage and anchorages and suggestions for travel issues like flights, car rentals and accommodations,” says Cordero.
The BVI’s Brian Duff’s parents were members of the SSCA for as long as he can remember. Duff is the host in Tortola.
“The issues I have helped with have been advice on boat repairs, where to store boats and how to get mail easily,” Duff says.
Hubert Winston, at the Dominica Marina Center in Roseau, Inga Luce in St. George’s Grenada, and Jesse James, who operates his Members Only Maxi Taxi Service in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, are some of the other Caribbean-based SSCA hosts.
“I know that being a visitor in a foreign country how difficult it is when you don’t know anyone and you need someone trusted to help you out,” says James. “Being a SSCA Cruising Station Host is important because people put a lot of trust in me and I try my best to live up to that and give the best to everyone.”
For more information on the SSCA, visit www.ssca.org
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.