January 4, 2001
Rodney Bay Marina
St. Lucia, West Indies

Donít stop de carnival-or, how to become
a cruising sailor on a new boat and
remain functionally sane.

By Gunter          

Being docked in Rodney Bay Marina here for several weeks gave me plenty of time to reflect on my life in specifics and on my situation in general.

Much of my wisdom comes from other seasoned cruisers; there are about 50 at this Marina. The education is taking place mainly at the bar of Three Amigos, a Carribbean Mexican hangout with awful food and great rum punches. It takes about two of them to shake out the wisdom from fellow cruiserís brain:

Lesson one: your mental capacity is diminishing and your memory becomes a sieve. Most of the time, this a blessing, because it allows you to fill out a whole day with small tasks and still gives you the feeling of achievement at the end of the day, which, of course, needs to be celebrated at Three Amigos. From the bar one can see the boats which look very pretty against the setting sun between the palm trees across the bay.

So, I learned that a new boat is an incomplete project, which takes about two years to bring to a satisfying conclusion. By then, all the systems on the boat have broken down at least once, forcing to acquire a detailed understanding of their functioning and the skills of repairing.

Lesson two: develop multiple personalities and talents. Become a plumber, electronics expert, electrician, carpenter, fiberglass man, rigger, sailmaker, diesel mechanic, refrigeration systems expert, navigation expert, and last, but not least, a fine tuned psychologist to deal with all this demand in yourself and in communications with others.

Of course, one can not expect to acquire all this talent instantly-thatís the reasons for the two-year time scale; but it helps to take every session at the Three Amigos bar for educational credits in cruising.  Very essential tricks are shared there, e.g., after you dock, spray your docking lines with insect repellent, so that the cockroaches do not invade your boat. (By the way, they get so big here, they successfully take a stand against attacking cats.)

Now, in order to do all the repairs on the boat, one needs parts for anything that can not be glued together, which is the most desirable, though temporary, repair. This requires interaction with the homeland by FedEx or other means or the tracking down of parts and substitutes on the island. This is a challenge. The further south one sails, the less stocked are the Chandlerís, if there are any at all. So the best is to carry spare parts for everything on board, however, this takes up a lot of space. The best solution would be to have a spare parts boat following your boat, which can be gradually used up as you sail along.

One can also adopt the Columbus solution: Leave all the hi tech systems on your boat unrepaired until you are down to the basics which Columbus had: sails, compass, live animals instead of refrigeration, and sauerkraut against scurvy. Many older, mostly wooden boats in the marina appear to follow this path. One can still discover new lands with this method though the natives nowadays want more than a few strands of pearls for goods and their women are not as generous as they were to the Bounty gang.

It is too early to for us to resign ourselves to this solution; we still believe in comfort and believe that things that we buy should work, at least for a while.

This brings up the issue of warranties.  The builder of the boat makes certain promises in return for paying good money. It turns out that most of the things on a boat are bought from other third parties, and it is always their fault if things donít work. Where these third parties are, is shrouded in mystery most of the time. All this is another story, which we tell at another place on this web site.

A fellow cruiser gave me a primer for island life: a book by Herman Wouk: Donít Stop the Carnival, which I devoured yesterday.  This book leads to a deep understanding of the ways of Caribbean islanders, which may be quite universal to any island culture.  So Lois and I have made a choice. We have decided to leave our old habits behind and join de carnival.







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