SAILING THE WINDWARD ISLANDS
Living aboard a boat gives you an entirely different perspective on the Islands. Your whole world is water and if you love to swim and skin dive and scuba dive and just feel the wind on your face, sailing is the only thing, really, to do down here.
Probably the best sailing in the world is down here. Sailors from all over the world come here to sail in the Caribbean, because it’s to sailing what—say—Garmish, Innsbruck, is to skiing. Once you’ve sailed in the Caribbean—you’ve sailed! The land is so interesting and the winds are great—steady trade winds blow all over these islands.
I am standing right now, standing in the sand in the darkness on the island of Dominica, deep in the heart of the Caribbean Islands down in the West Indies. And they’re having a pig roast and I’ve just come ashore from a beautiful sailing yacht, the Sealestial.
In all my travels, having been many times to the Caribbean, I must say that this trip is very different from any I’ve ever taken, primarily because it’s on board a sailing ship. This gives a flavor and a beat and a tenor to your life all day long down here that makes the entire trip a total experience apart from an episodic experience.
These vessels are captained usually by intrepid Englishmen—almost all the charter captains are Englishmen who have gone tropic. And they’re all licensed, master seamen and they sail these sailing vessels in and out of these islands like they’ve been here all their lives. A different breed. All through these islands you see people who are expatriates of all nationalities—British, Swedes, Russians, even an occasional American, and they’re all drifting in and out of these islands instead of melding into the background and into the scenery. It’s that kind of a backwash of civilizations here. There’s a kind of universal, unspoken, unheralded union around the world of people who are drawn inevitably to the tropics. The absolute lure that the tropics have for some people is unmistakable. And when you see it in action, you know that there’s never any come-back. It reminds me a lot of Conrad’s stuff or some of the stuff that Somerset Maugham did. You see many guys who in other years would be called “remittance men.”
We’re at a pig roast and any minute now the party is going to break out. The music has been hot, the night is tropical and cool, the wind is blowing through the palm trees above me. Truly an idyllic experience. The band is now resting on its haunches, the rum punch is flowing freely, and it won’t be long before the first course of the first pig announces that it’s ready. In the meantime, hang loose and watch out for that Caribbean rum punch that sneaks up on you like a godad about to spring out of the dark.
So ends Jean Shepherd’s narrative of life during a yachting trip aboard the seagoing Sealestial–the final known radio description of his travel adventures. Although he visits several islands on this trip, it is the voyage on the boat that, for him, is the major adventure– literally, the traveling is the destination.
Stay tuned for a return to Maine and then
some final summing up comments
by Shep and others regarding
the importance of travel.