Thursday, March 13, 2014

History Lessons

As we travel from island to island in the Caribbean, we check in and out of different countries.  What is exceptionally noteworthy is that most of the islands are British or French, a few Dutch here and there, but no one in the West Indies is governed by Spain and Portugal.

If you go back just 500ish years ago, which isn’t that long in terms of history, Spain and Portugal agreed to split the world in half.  Spain would rule anything west of Europe and Portugal would rule anything east.  Neither of these countries today would even make a Top Ten list of countries that could rule the world.  In fact, the Washington Post published an article that New York's economy is bigger than the entire country of Spain.  I don’t know if kids would even recognize Spain or Portugal on a map of the world.  Just food for thought that power is fleeting and it is best not to put all your eggs in one world domination basket.

I digress…here is our take on the Caribbean islands as they are governed today for what it’s worth:

British Islands – More paperwork to clear in to the countries…very difficult to get Kala into a British country (though none of the island dogs are neutered – most are malnourished and are strays.)  Nice benefit is the are usually on EC (Eastern Caribbean dollar) which is a good exchange rate for USD.  


French IslandsLove love love French islands.  They could care less if I have a dog..they have one too.  Checking in to the country is usually done at a wi-fi café.  No one speaks English which forces me to use my well paid for education (6!! long years of French had to get me somewhere in life.)  and the streets are usually very clean.  As icing on the cake (pun intended), a patisserie can be found on any corner.

Taking it one step further, you can usually identify the countrymen who have come to visit their homeland-removed in the Caribbean.

British Sailors:   Typically have crossed the Atlantic and hail from Falmouth, South Hampton or another port that has been sailing for thousands of years.  They are members of the Ocean Cruising Club, Royal Cruising Club and every other club that has a burgee and it would not be good practice to not raise the burgee accordingly.  Typically, they are on an Oysters (sailboat, not shell), they definitely display day shapes in the rigging (i.e. black balls at anchor), and you can usually hear the word “Lovey” as you approach.  

French Sailors:  Lots and lots of French sailors in the Caribbean – usually on Amels, ALWAYS naked, of course and like to anchor on top of you, the closer, the better.  They are proud and love to be among other french so if they are in a British anchorage it is only to drop off crew and then they are going back to "France" as fast as they can.  We overheard one boat checking into customs on a British island and they were asked for their clearing out papers from their last island (which was French.)  They replied, "Vee don't check out since vee are French, fee just leave."

Discussing the current governments and the sailors as they roll into an anchorage can occupy plenty of time over sundowners in the cockpit.  But as I reflect, the truth is that I am far removed from politics while on the boat and honestly I'd rather just visit old forts and sail away.



Typical French cruiser - on an Amel and very naked.
Two very different types of Brits - Left, modern Oyster.  Right, wood schooner


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