28 November 2016
We are able to sense a change in seasons, even in the tropics. Evenings have a slight chill and days are cooler. Even the water causes an initial shiver that goes away after a few seconds. One sign of the coming “cruising season” is the return of charter boats to the Caribbean. They're back!
Charterers engender mixed feelings among full-time cruisers. I enjoy seeing the enthusiasm on board these crowded boats. Crews squeal with delight as they plunge in the turquoise water. Dinghies are loaded to the gunwales with pink people going ashore. I saw one large monohull leave the anchorage with the entire crew decked out in new sailing gloves, inflatable vests/harnesses and Tilley hats. They looked ready for the North Atlantic and had serious looks to match.
Some cruisers are more skeptical about the sailing skills of charterers. I know many of them own boats at home they just can't bring south for a few weeks. Some could be rock star racers just wanting to relax with friends. Still others are new to sailing but most likely well schooled in the safety aspects. I saw a Moorings boat anchoring last week. The couple in the cockpit were backing down on their anchor, diligently sighting points on land to be sure they weren't dragging. Textbook anchoring technique. Still others drop the anchor and jump in the dinghy before the boat even stops, heading for a rum punch. When in doubt, please take a mooring ball.
The worst offense is when a charter boat motors through a crowded anchorage at mach 1.2. These are most often big catamarans. Seems the captain wants to prove his (yes, I'm talking about the guys here) prowess with a powerful, expensive boat. Can he see the people swimming around their boats? Thank God charter companies don't put a big enough outboard on the dinghies to get up on plane!
Cruisers are a gregarious and social bunch. Unfortunately, we won't introduce ourselves or invite charterers over for cocktails. Charter boats seldom spend more than one night in an anchorage and after you leave, we will never see you again. Please understand that we aren't snobs, this is our lifestyle and we do what works. On the other hand, feel free to ask questions of cruisers. We will be glad to tell you where to find the best snorkeling, good restaurants ashore, weather advice, etc. We will be most pleased to snorkel on your anchor if you are the least bit uncertain.
I am reminded of the expense and effort charterers incur to come down and sail in our pond for a week or two. Your enjoyment of this experience is clear. It just makes me feel more fortunate that this is the lifestyle we are able to enjoy full time.