First Time's the Charm
In a world growing smaller by the day, a seasoned circumnavigator finds that with the right mindset, the exotic is everywhere.
|Whether deep blue or frozen white, the ocean is there to wander. Wanderer III passes slowly through the iced-in South Georgian bay to reach open water.|
According to the Old Salts, the Caribbean of the early 1970s was the most fantastic sailing area in the world. It held the perfect mix: wind and warmth, great anchorages, easygoing locals, and just enough infrastructure. It was easily accessible by boat or plane from Europe and the States. And the original Sea Dogs were still likely to pop by.
When I arrived in the Caribbean in the mid-1980s, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers had just newly transplanted a piece of Europe across the Atlantic. The extra sailors went more or less unnoticed in a Caribbean that was already undergoing a charter boom. That Jimmy Cornell’s ARC had turned bluewater sailing into a business wasn’t a worry to anyone there.
But something huge was indeed taking place: a transformation of the ethos of bluewater sailing. The ARC totally redefined the concepts of independence, adventure, and self-sufficiency. Ideals shifted. Paying for inclusion implied some sort of greater safety in crossing the mighty ocean. One paid for camaraderie, for familiarity, and perhaps to help convince a spouse it was safe to go.
This struck me as strange. Wasn’t the whole point to do it on your own and for yourself, not so that you had half of London with you? How can you fulfill your longing for the foreign and exotic when you head there in a herd? Cruising became more a social event among peers than a discovery of other worlds.
Next to sun and sail, maybe all some want from the world is a carefree backdrop, colorful décor, and ice-cold beer around 1700—the Caribbean as Muzak, soothing as it plays in the background. I look for more. No doubt, I had a great time in the Caribbean, much of it among first-generation have-a-good-time cruisers still hanging around from the late 1960s. I hung out easily, much of the time with wooden boaties. Yet, back then, I couldn’t help feeling that a circumnavigation didn’t really start until Panama. And now?