order to understand the life and times of today’s Caribbean cruiser, one must
know something of what is arguably the
world’s best cruising waters. The
Caribbean Island Chain extends from the South American Continent, with Trinidad
and Venezuela in the south, to the Greater Antilles
- Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hisponali in the north, and includes hundreds of
islands of widely different sizes, cultures and geography in the 500 miles
between. Notwithstanding the unrelenting onslaught of the jet propelled tourist
and a steady march of concrete as condos, marinas and shopping malls appear on
these once pristine shores, virtually all of the islands can still be accurately
described as beautiful as a Bottecelli painting.
Their location in the
Southwest North Atlantic Ocean and their distance from the American mainland and
cruising areas, such as the Bahamas and the Mexican Rivera, are for the cruising
sailor all to windward, thus insuring that only the most committed of the
cruiser species make it to the boundaries of this unique island paradise.
These magnificent islands
were long ago at history’s center stage, but are now relegated to a subsidiary
role in the current course of world events.
It is hard to conceive that at one time the happenings in these islands
directly influenced the course of western civilization. The Caribbean
- then as now - attracted seekers of adventure and wealth. The early
settlers imported the African slave and indentured the workers from the Indian
subcontinent, in their effort to recreate a European style of life.
Ultimately, the importees became the masters of their own destiny and now
dominate the public affairs of the islands. While today there is little wealth
and much poverty, the noble descendants of these settlers are a proud lot.
Virtually all of the inhabitants trace their roots to sources outside of North
America, but focus their life’s expectations and goals in an attempt to
imitate the life and style of the North American.
Cruisers are often astounded
by the contrasting variety of societies that can be found after a short, but
sometimes terrifying, sail between islands.
The populous of the islands reflect the results of the past European
conflicts with the original islanders—the Caribs and the Arawaks—virtually
exterminated either by internecine warfare, the hand of the early settlers or by
the western plagues which were brought to the island paradise. The influences of
the Spanish, French, British and American societies are clearly discernable, as
are the societal results of slavery and indentureism.
moves at a different pace in the islands, without the sense of urgency found in
the western mainstream societies. It
is said that each island tomorrow will be like yesterday, which is, like that of
today. In the Latin countries, this
pace is called “manana” – in the island chain it is called “ island
most of the year the islands – green rain forests on the east side of
mountainous terrain, with arid conditions on the western shores – enjoy what
might be the best weather in the world. The
temperatures never require a wrap for warmth, and the wind always blows from the
east either – as is said – hard or harder.
Fogs or other visibility restrictions do not plague the island waters,
except for the brief periods during the occasional tropical rainsqualls.
However, for a few months each year during the hurricane season, the
islands sometime experience for a period measured in days what may be the most
frightening and worst single weather condition that can occur to the populated
world—the West Indian hurricane, which can produce death and destruction on an
paradise has it all – mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes, rain forests, deserts,
secluded beaches and coves,
amenities of every kind, and the best and worst of the modern world. The mix of
inhabitants in the limited area of the island chain includes people and cultures
from every corner of the world. Anyone
who has ever experienced island time in the islands will forever remember the
beauty, the people and the atmosphere, and will probably be forever changed.
After really experiencing the Caribbean islands chain, nothing is ever again the
same. Life for most cruisers after
the Caribbean experience is often at best described as mundane. The island
experience is as indelible as it is life changing.