Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass   March 2005
Straddling the Millennia: Part One

The Cruisers' Eye View

In the last five years of the 20th century and the first five years of the 21st, what have been Caribbean cruisers' main concerns? We mined the pages of Compass to find out.
Our mission from the beginning has been to provide the best possible original reading matter for those interested in the Caribbean sea and shore, by providing an ongoing forum about the Caribbean sea and shore. Cruisers' first-hand input had been the single largest voice in this lively forum. Aside from contributed articles, we got letters immediately after issue number one, by the third issue the Readers' Forum covered a full page, and it's been going strong ever since.
"It is good to see these subjects out in the open, rather than just bar talk."

Compass was born in a watershed year, a year unfortunately remarkable for the worst hurricane season in 60 years. The yachting centers of St. Thomas and St. Maarten suffered the effects of major hurricanes Luís and Marilyn in rapid succession. The St. Maarten Marine Trades Association reported that of 1,200 or so yachts that had sought shelter in that island's lagoon, over 840 were sunk or beached by Luís, and several disappeared without a trace. Marilyn caused similar devastation in the Virgin Islands.
This prompted a flood of yachts to head to the Southern Caribbean for the summer, permanently altering cruisers' annual migration patterns in the region. The exodus from the Virgins and Leewards fueled yacht-service industry booms in Grenada, Trinidad and Venezuela, and increased the popularity of summer cruising in Venezuela's offshore islands and the ABCs. Yacht "summer suburbs" evolved in anchorages such as Hog Island.
"[In Hurricane Hole, St. John], anchors began to drag, lines to the shore began to snap, and boats began to be thrown up onto the mangroves - at least the lucky ones were. The unlucky ones broke away and slipped into the great ferocity of the storm, never to be seen again, sending tragic, unanswered, unanswerable MAYDAYs as the went."

Grenada's government responds to the influx of yachts by setting up a committee and initiating consultations on a new yachting policy. The president of Trinidad's new yacht services association says, "The pace of growth here is phenomenal, and there will be problems, but God knows we try!"
Lloyd's of London's latest Named Windstorm Excess Clause reads: "Loss or damage to the insured vessel arising from a named windstorm and incurred during the period 1st June to 31st October inclusive and occurring within waters: North of 12°40'N; West of 55°W; South of 35°M shall be subject to a 100% increase in the hull excess shown hereon which shall apply to each and every claim including total loss of the insured vessel."

Cruisers seem immersed in the essentials of comfortable living ? provisioning, cooking aboard, care of the canine crew and the newfangled onboard e-mail (remember PinOak?). A big issue in the Readers Forum was inconsiderate dog owners whose yappy pets annoyed entire anchorages.
Trinidad yards are full and Venezuela is an increasingly popular summer venue, with many cruisers having their eyesight corrected by LASIK surgery there.
The yacht sector begins to feels its economic clout. Says one economist: "The revenue from one visiting yacht is equal to that from one, two or even three occupied hotel rooms ? a good income at no capital cost. Spending US$70 million for only 200 rooms is unrealistic, especially as the occupancy rate is poor in existing hotels."
"We recently completed a 4-month, 3,500-nautical-mile-long, round-Caribbean tour. We cleared in and out through an incredible 20 jurisdictions ? independent nations as well as colonies. This relatively small area is the most politically fragmented in the world. We realized that the area is now developing service economies: tourism, including the yachting industry; offshore banking and the drugs trade."

The loss of the windjammer Fantome with 31 crew while underway in Hurricane Mitch raises questions about hurricane safety that are still being debated.
Security, the environment and clearance procedures remain concerns.
Thanks in large part to efforts by Commodore Escrich and Havana's Marina Hemingway, Cuba becomes a goal for cruisers wanting to get off the beaten track, and for the first time in its 19-year history, Cuba's Convención de Turismo contained a yachting component.
The issue of moorings rears its ugly head as "each and every operator of private mooring buoys in the British Virgin Islands has raised the nightly mooring rental charges by 33 percent from January 1998. The use of mooring balls in populated anchorages has been, and still is, growing at an alarming rate."

Hurricane Lenny, which struck on 17 November, was only the fifth major November hurricane on record. Its track made it even more of an oddity. According to a Weather Channel report, "Its atypical west-east track made it a once-in-a-century event. As a rare eastward-moving storm, Lenny hit many of the islands on their normally sheltered western coasts." While heavy swells affected entire Lesser Antilles chain from the Virgin Islands to South America, the Virgin Islands and St. Martin/Maarten felt the full brunt of Lenny's wind and rain.
Dominica streamlines yacht entry procedures. It's suggested that All the countries that border the Caribbean should sign an accord that creates a Caribbean Cruising Permit.
While some cruisers seek more adventurous voyages and destinations (Barbuda, Martinique's east coast, the Macareo River, the Colombian coast), others tend to settle in one place, take shoreside trips and get involved with local activities, especially charities. We get our first article from a cruiser who has "graduated" from sailboat to trawler. Cyber cafés begin to sprout throughout the islands.
The most frequent complaints Compass gets have to with: 1) theft/harassment, 2) litter/pollution (including noise pollution), 3) high prices/unsatisfactory service.
"There are mixed blessings in the growth of the bareboat charter outfits. It has given more people, who otherwise couldn't afford to buy that type of boat or who simply don't have the time for long-term ownership, the opportunity to enjoy cruising in the Caribbean. A big downside is the trouble the increased bareboat traffic has brought - things like sloppy anchoring practices. This gets me on to asking: where have the real sailors gone? Even among those who bring their own boats to the region, I find sails are now the auxiliary to the motor. No one is sailing. The idea of sailing up to a mooring now is almost unknown. People start the motor two miles outside the anchorage entrance."

We'll tackle 2000 - 2005 in next month's Compass.

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