Recently, the editor of All At Sea asked contributors for photos that best demonstrate the meaning of ‘Cruising’. His Email said: “Possibilities are endless for a photo that depicts the Caribbean cruising lifestyle.”
I didn’t submit a photo as images of our two years at sea tumbled through my mind, and I couldn’t decide which one was the quintessential cruising photo. Certainly we’ve all taken photos of a pretty boat under sail. I have photos of the Classic Yacht Regatta in Antigua, of the Regatta des Saintes, and of other cruisers passing by. (While I recognize there are an increasing number of folks who cruise under power, I’ve taken no photos of boats motoring past.) We’ve also taken photos of the sea and sky as we sail. Most of our first year of cruising was spent sailing to windward from Florida to Antigua.
Since I had the dawn watch, I have many photos of the sun rising behind the clouds, and that image of making our way toward the east depicts cruising in the Caribbean to me.
But sailing is actually only a small portion of life as a cruiser. We sail because that is our preferred means of travel and we travel because we want to visit new places, so the quintessential cruising shot could include local sights, such as a particularly handsome rooster in Deshaies, Guadeloupe, or just a photo of that beautiful town from the anchorage. I love the flamboyant tree, and have many photos of its brilliant orangey-red blooms on waterside hills. One of my favorite photos from Five Islands in Antigua is of a small mangrove island just off the beach.
Just like real tourists, cruisers hike and take in the sights, such as forts, rain forests, gardens, and animal sanctuaries. We particularly notice things that are different to what we’d see at home, such as an unusual beach sign in Grenada, or the volcano on Montserrat. I’ve taken photos from the local inexpensive buses found on every island. We’ve ridden in family vans in Guadeloupe, in small, refreshingly air conditioned buses in Trinidad, and in unbelievably packed vans in Grenada. And like every other cruising sailor, we have quite a few photos of La Luna at anchor in favorite harbors.
We like to eat and love to try new foods and, unlike most tourists or the folks on cruise ships, regularly purchase and prepare local foods. We have many photos of public markets taken from the Dominican Republic through Trinidad. We’ve been hosted for an Oil Down in Grenada, and had a roti making lesson there as well. In Trinidad, we learned how Brazil nuts grow in gigantic acorn-shaped pods, actually enjoyed cow-heel soup and barbequed pig’s tail, and ate doubles three times in a week. Can any photo, truly depicting the cruising lifestyle, not include the food?
This cruising life is a social life. We make friends and reconnect with sailors (OK and power boaters) that we’ve met up and down the islands. We chat from the dinghy in the cruising version of a Maine doe-ah yaahd call. (That’s ‘door yard call’ to folks not from New England.) We gather for drinks and snacks in the cockpit of one boat one night, and another the next. We attend events on shore, such as picnics on the beach, pot luck dinners, music jam sessions, and domino games. We’ve been privileged to make friends with a number of island residents, enjoying the hospitality of their home. Any one of these activities with friends could be the subject of the quintessential cruising photo.
We are cruisers, living and traveling aboard our own vessel; therefore, we repair the boat. This one thing may separate cruisers from all other visitors to the islands. We have many photos of my captain, EW, repairing the dinghy, outboard, auto-pilot, alternator, and a myriad other items. We have photos of the boat and lockers torn apart for any number of projects, photos of one or the other of us up the mast, photos of me mending the sails, and photos of each of us working on La Luna when she was hauled out in St. Lucia and Trinidad. Cruisers fix things and perhaps take more photos of things being fixed than any other group of people.
Any of these could be the quintessential photo depicting the cruising life. But if I had to choose, I’d pick a photo I don’t have. It would show EW and me, sitting in the cockpit on a weekday afternoon. He would be practicing his guitar and perhaps singing, I would be reading an engrossing book on the Kindle, and would look up to take in the view from our deck just as the photographer captured the moment. That’s my quintessential cruising photo.