1 LiveBloggin' the ICW

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thurston Howell III on LiveBlogging? What's that about?

Yes, it's Thurston Howell III
It’s been an exciting several weeks since my last blog post. The 2016 Sail to the Sun ICW Rally is now 2/3 full, and there are only a few spots remaining. The itinerary is set up, but not set up in stone because experience shows that there are invariably some last minute surprises - great ones - from cities, towns and marinas wanting to join in on the fun. I like to leave room for the impromptu - it’s what makes a trip such as this so exciting. If you’d like to see the itinerary, check out the website, www.ICWally.com
Week before last, as many of you know, I lead the Vientos de Cambio/Winds of Change rally to Marina Hemingway from Key West, and that was a most exciting trip. It certainly changes the dynamics of being in Havana when you’re there with 30+ other people rather than on your own - and in a very good way too. We all had a fabulous good time and a group of people got to know a little bit of what Cuba is all about. Be watching for a video very soon on the trip.
The only downer on that trip was that I was unable to hold the online Hangout in Havana that was planned for June 1 - the wifi in Hemingway simply wasn’t up to it. 
I was barely able to get online for email most of that day, much less conduct a webinar requiring lots and lots of bandwidth. That webinar will be rescheduled for sometime in the next week or ten days - I just have to find a location to conduct it from - many areas of the Bahamas also have issues with dependable wifi - such as here at Guana Cay. Stay tuned for an announcement on Facebook Sailing and Cruising.
As I write this, I’m now back in the Abacos in Marsh Harbour, and just loving it. This is my first trip into the Abacos, and it’s considerably different from the Exumas, Eleuthera, or the Out Islands. Some will definitely prefer these other locations, while some enjoy what I’ll call the ‘Bahamas Lite’ ambiance of the Abacos.
Hope Town - beautiful small town in Abacos
Why ‘Bahamas Lite’? It’s like this - in most areas of the Bahamas, you’ll not find American style hardware stores, full line grocery stores, pharmacies and so on. But in Marsh Harbour, where I am now, you’ll find all of these and many other amenities that appeal to the casual cruiser who wants a different - but not TOO different, cultural experience. What you won’t find here - at least, I haven’t as yet, are rake and scrape bands and other cultural norms for the Bahamas.
You see this difference most clearly in the pubs catering to the tourist crowd. Very few locals around, unlike in other parts of the Bahamas. A beer is $6, 50% more than on most other islands. 
The hotel tourists wear high end casual clothes, co-ordinated to the max. The boat charter people aren’t far behind them, which looks kind of odd when you see them coming in to the dock - I mean, who dresses up like that to go sailing? The yachties - high end sportsfisherman and big powerboats - all sport brand new deck shoes that, honestly, look like they’ve never been worn. 
The yacht crew types, usually the youngest of the crowd, all hang together, some in crew uniforms, others in shorts and t’s. They’re easy to spot, and easy to chat with too, unlike their owners, who are generally quite standoffish. That’s if they even bother to come ashore to hobnob with we lesser types.
these guys...must be cruisers!
The cruisers, well, we stand out because we look - how do I put this? A bit careless about our dress? T-shirts rather than fancy printed tropical shirts, and well worn rather than Bermuda shorts? Flip flops instead of pricey boat shoes? Hair cuts a bit past the ‘best by’ date?
The difference between cruisers and these other groups, excepting the boat crews, are that they are only ‘experiencing’ cruising, while we are ‘living’ the life. I guarantee you, you’ll not ever see these people at a ‘rake and scrape’ somewhere down island, or at a beach sundowner’s party.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I can’t recall what island I was anchored out at last year, but it was somewhere in the Exumas. A big boat, well over 100 feet, anchored up and very shortly, a 26 foot Intrepid and a smaller boat were launched. On shore, the crew set up tables and a tent, white linen, crystal and all, for about 20 people. 
Meanwhile, not a soul could be seen on deck on the big boat except for an occasional crewperson.
About mid-afternoon, the Intrepid and a big inflatable started to bring people from the megayacht plus a second big boat that had just arrived. Every man going ashore was dressed in clothing that would have put Thurston Howell III, of Gilligan’s Island fame, to shame. White slacks, belts and shoes, blue blazers, the whole clichéd thing. The women were, thankfully, more tastefully dressed.
Everyone stood about for 20 minutes or so with a drink in hand, then on command sat down to their meal, served by the crew of course. Within a short time, well before sunset, they were back on the big boat. 
Beach in the Abacos...
At no time could you hear the least noise from the group either - no singing, no laughter, no voices raised in an ‘anchor discussion’. It was all very...well, very ‘civilized’ - read booooring! It didn’t look like a lot of fun to me. I've seen more excitement in a corporate boardroom meeting.
The crew worked until sunset to clean up and returned the next morning to break down the tents, after which the boats raised anchor and motored off.
I’m sure it’s very nice to be fabulously wealthy or friends of the fabulously wealthy, and to be catered to all the time. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think of the pleasure and camaraderie these people missed out on in not setting up their own party, not wandering to the water’s edge and splashing about, not coming ashore in small dinghies rather than large tenders - one with a landing craft type front that opened out on the beach, I kid you not. Can’t get those Jimmy Choos wet, can we?
I mean, who in hell wears Jimmy Choos on a tropical beach? Who are we kidding here?
I’m 100% certain that had any of us from the anchorage wandered over to talk to the guests, we’d have been shooed off by the crew. As a result, none of us wandered down to that area of the beach. 
Contrast this with a cruisers’ beach party - you’re in danger of being sucked in if you’re within 100 yards of the group, and handed a cold beer and a plate of food - regardless of how you’re dressed.
Ok - the conclusion? Maybe I’m just a poorly dressed, flip flop’s from K-Mart kind of guy in a small sailboat who likes noisy parties - but at least I, and all the other cruisers I know, understand how to have a good time, and the importance of being on the beach with friends to watch yet another beautiful sunset.

Sunset at Marina Hemingway
For those wanting more information on the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally, you can get further information, including the current itinerary, at www.ICWally.com. The cost of the Rally is $895 US and includes all navigational assistance, advice, parties and potlucks, plus discounted dockage rates at many marinas, and much more.

Included in this is all the friendship from fellow southbound cruisers that you can handle! I promise you, by the time you reach Miami, you’ll realize the two conclusions all the other past Rally participants have come to - one, you should have gone south years ago (like you thought!) and two - the Rally will have been the best investment in safety, fun, friendship and great memories that you’ve made in boating in years.