One of my fears about leaving the Mediterranean, other than the fear about spending 18 days at sea to cross the Atlantic, was the fear of not knowing anyone in the Caribbean. I worried that my cruising social network would decline or even disappear. And the cruising social network that I’m talking about is face-to-face interactions.
After two years of sailing around the Mediterranean with a six-month stay in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily (for ‘wintering’) we made loads of friends. Between connections made through my website, Twitter, Facebook and simply making new friends at a variety of anchorages AND meeting over 150 people (19 different nationalities) at Marina di Ragusa we created quite a lovely social network.
During the last year of our travels there wasn’t an anchorage that we entered without some sort of reunion or putting a name to a face interaction.
I make it sound like our cruising social network is in the thousands but that’s not the case
The sailing community is a small community that’s spread all over the world. I’m not sure how it happens, but meeting someone you know happens almost always.
Getting back to my fear…
Feeling comfortable in the Mediterranean I knew my way around. I could label all the countries, I understood the rules of the road (errr, sea) and of course I had my social network. Through the use of Facebook I kept in touch with other cruisers and we’d often arrange to meet up.
Otherwise, we’d see a friend on our AIS system (a system that tells us the name of boats in our area on our plotter).
All the while we’d also be meeting new friends
When the Atlantic crossing came, I worried that we’d be sailing around the Caribbean feeling a bit lost and perhaps miss our somewhat hectic social life. You might think I’m kidding when I say that an opportunity for evening drinks with other boaters is almost always on the cards. I’m not.
I have never had a busier social life than I do living on a boat
So…we’ve been in the Caribbean for three months now, have travelled to seven islands/five countries, and not one day has passed where we didn’t have a friend or several friends anchored next to us.
As I write this, I’m anchored off Fort-de-France, the capital city of the French Island of Martinique. Anchored to the left of us is sailboat Shelina, and Oyster 545, who was our neighbor in Las Palmas Marina, Gran Canaria (islands off the west coast of Africa).
We spent over a month berthed next to Phil and Helen from Shelina. Drinks were enjoyed, long conversations held and even a 50th birthday party was celebrated. We met family, they were introduced to our friends and friendships were formed. Since the Atlantic Crossing we hadn’t seen them and we didn’t know they were in the area.
Once we anchored, we looked over and immediately had to go say ‘hello’
We had a great chat about what we’ve been doing for the past three months, shared tips about what to do and how to do things in Martinique and decided where we’d meet up next. To have friends next to you makes the anchorage feel homey. I feel connected even though I’m in a completely foreign place.
To the right of us, is sailing vessel, Delphinus, a Bavaria 44
We met Paul, Jayne and 13-year-old Lily last month while berthed at Rodney Bay Marina. To my delight, Jane was walking along our pontoon, noticed our boat and decided to knock on our hull to say ‘hi’. Jane has been following my blog! Being a three year old veteran cruiser AND having a ‘kid boat’ (children on board) Jayne thought she’d introduce herself.
Since we met the crew on Delphinus we’ve enjoyed drinks, a beach day and have been sailing around Martinique together experiencing amazing bays, Carnival celebrations and French food and drink. Lily tolerates our 5-year-old daughter (actually, I think Lily likes Sienna quite a bit and Sienna certainly likes Lily) and when we go out we look like one big happy family.
Recipes are discussed, stories are told and fantastic experiences are shared!
A very long time ago, when I worked quite a bit on the island of Cyprus I often finished my day with a glass of wine while watching the sun go down. Most of the time I was alone. I realized that being in beautiful places or experiencing wonderful things is okay when you’re alone but it’s much better when it’s shared. During my time in Cyprus I felt that I needed my husband to be with me. Knowing what I now know, I’m discovering that the more the merrier.
Being able to spend such lovely quality time with the crew of Delphinus has certainly made our lives more fulfilling
Later on this evening, sailboat el Oro will be anchoring in the Fort-de-France harbor. The skipper on el Oro is a friend that we met while wintering in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily. We met Skipper Kent, his wife Anya and his lovely children Maja and Max when we first arrived in Sicily and spent six months enjoying time with them.
Our daughter, Sienna, went to preschool with Max in Sicily and they are the best of friends
Not only will we have three friend boats in this anchorage tonight, we know of three other friend boats at anchorages around the island. Some we met in Greece, others in Gran Canaria and one we met in Sardinia, Italy!
Crossing the Atlantic with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) has definitely helped us to create a new social network prior to arrival in the Caribbean. For six weeks we stayed in the Las Palmas Marina with 200+ other boats preparing for the crossing.
We made some great friends, put names to faces (people that have contacted me through my website) and connected with old friends during our ARC preparations.
Once we arrived in St Lucia, we already had at least ten good boat friends and an association with loads more. While sailing around St Vincent and the Grenadines, we met up with three different ‘kid boats’ on and off through our month+ long travels.
The moral of my story?
The sailing community is small. If you make friends wherever you go, you’ll surely meet up with many of them later on. To increase our ability to have an ever-expanding cruising social network it helps to:
- Have an extended stay in a marina. Perhaps while wintering in the Mediterranean or finding a hurricane hole in the Caribbean? Extended stays within marina communities allow for meaningful friendships to form.
- Join a group of people making a long passage. I can’t recommend the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers more highly (ARC). Not only were we berthed next to all the kid boats in Las Palmas, but ARC set up social activities almost every night for weeks prior to the crossing. We made some good solid friends in Gran Canaria and I’m very grateful for the opportunities we had.
- Meet cruisers online. There are great cruisers groups on Facebook, there are various forums across the Net and there certainly isn’t any harm on reaching out to bloggers like me to start chatting to. There are a few sailing bloggers that I’ve been corresponding with for years. Some of them I’ve met in person and others I know that I’ll eventually meet.
- Help other sailors. The awesome thing about the sailing community is that there’s always someone that might need a bit of help – perhaps a boater gets their anchor caught or is having issues pulling up a mooring line. So, be on the lookout for situations where you can help someone. When sending a bit of kindness in any direction it’s going to come back to you. By default most sailors are eager to help other sailors. Not only does that create a ‘pay-it-forward,’ situation but it helps to make new friends.
Many cruisers often comment that if the world knew how amazing the cruising community was everyone would sell everything, buy a boat and join us.
What’s your experience with the sailing community? Leave a comment below 🙂