The many faces of Saint Martin

Busy working at the farm and looking for our next boat we lead a relatively uneventful but peaceful life.  We did go cycling and walking around this small Island (just 87-square-kilometres!) and we surely noticed many of differences that characterize it.

Many coins for many faces and contrasts. A French side vs a Dutch one. European culture vs American. The very rich vs the very poor. The local ghettos vs super luxury hotels and yachts. Unique natural spots vs never ending urbanization. And so on..

The island is not exactly split in a half equally. The legend says that a French and a Dutch made an agreement that following the coastline they will walk the opposite ways and in the place where they meet they will establish the border… but apparently the Dutch was seduced by a beautiful French woman on his way, or… he just got stoned and took his walk very easy.

Enjoy.

At the Rastafarm with Jabash

It is 6:45 – the morning alarm is ringing. This time by Anto’s head as it is his turn to slip out of the tent first. There are mango trees all around us, but unfortunately the fruits aren’t ripe yet. It is warm, but pleasant outside, the sun is still hiding behind the mountains. On the way to the kitchen we pick some local fruits, pomme cythere, star fruits and we munch them slowly waking up together with the surrounding nature. In the distance we could hear Coco chirping towards us “BONJOUR, CA VA?”. She is a green parrot, that in her special relationship with Antonio, in some miraculous way to the rhythm of her high pitch tones, convinced him to dance in front of the cage as he never did before.

There is also Gucci, recently become mamma- pit bull that in protection of her own nipples against always hungry puppies learned how to comfortably sleep on the plastic chair, and the cat KusKus that eats from the same bowl as the dog, and the turtles that sometimes stick their heads out from behind rocks by the salad patch.

Once everyone got petted, pinched, patted, scratched behind the ear we can continue making our way towards the kitchen for the morning herbal tea. We welcome our host with the fist bump and the words “blessings” as it is customary among Rastafarians. Today’s morning speciality: bay leave arrowroot tea. Apparently it strengthens your bones and puts asleep each infant crying at night.

 

During the morning ritual of watering arugula, spinach, peppers and other plants we got to know about a peculiar night incident. In the kitchen an unknown animal had appeared and stolen all the peanuts from the parrot! It was a raccoon. How do we know it? The raccoon left his footprints on the tiles that Gucci found and indicated. Fortunately it is not as bad as it used to be – says Jabash. “For 1,5 years I could not eat my own crop because of the monkeys. Dozens of them were coming at night eating everything that was ripe. One and a half years…but since I got a dog and we went together uphill to show them where their place is they stopped coming, and now they steal only from the neighbors.”

At 8:30 it is time for the morning radio audition and Jabash’s advice on naturopathy and herbal medicine. Today he talks about diabetes and correlated with it alcohol consumption and physical inactivity. He introduces a gooseberry and recipes on how to prepare a tasty juice that lowers your glucose level in the blood.

After the morning watering depending on the day we prepare the soil for the new beds, we dig, we transplant, we plant the seeds, clip the trees, prepare the water tanks for the upcoming dry season. Sometimes a whole classroom of pupils come by for their lessons in the nature, yesterday also a local TV showed up to shoot a small reality show from our camp place on the farm.

Before the noon is out, our host’s wife arrives together with her sister. She brings crunchy baguettes from the bakery. Together with olive oil, fresh tomato, chive or basil leave it tastes just the best!

At 11 o’clock it is too hot to continue working. Shower time. Maybe a small SPA this time? I fill up a bucket with the rain water as always and go with a small mug to the “shower room”. On the way there I cut an aloe vera leave and mix its gel with grains of brown sugar. I am not sure myself if I would rather rub it on my skin as a peeling or eat it straight away.

After a refreshing shower, it is time for a highlight of my every noon. Relax on the hammock with the landscape of wild, jungle-like hills. In the shade, with slight refreshing wind and a good book. This time it is Mysliwski and “A treatise on shelling beans”.

 

Life on the farm is good and simple. No electricity, but fire, no internet but nice conversations with others, no time frames, deadlines, rush. We are close to the nature. Pretty happy to cultivate food and work this fertile land after spending many weeks at sea. It is also a great opportunity to get introduced to Rastafarianism and its spiritual side.

There are some cons though: heaps of mosquitoes, tarantulas and other Caribbean animals that could trouble the human body.

We just wonder from time to time what is next, where will we go and if it is ever going to be as good, innocent, true in its experience as in here on the farm. Thank you Jabash for your unconditional hospitality!!!

And in the afternoons we are trying to do some boat hitchhiking, but frankly speaking, we are not too effective as it is our 33rd night in the tent on the farm… 🙂

How we crossed the Atlantic by hitchhiking a boat part 3: tips and ideas

This post is supposed to answer some of the most common questions on how to hitchhike a boat but…wait a minute, how many times did you see a hitchhiker by the side of the road thinking “argh it is wrong, he will never get a ride from that spot” and in fact he is far gone and you are the one stuck for hours. Exactly! I do not believe there are right or wrong ways, it is a combination of pure luck, approach, patience and a little bit of technique. Nevertheless having spent many hours staring at the horizon in the middle of the Atlantic, we came up with some tips. Remember they are like an expiration date on the food etiquette: it is only a suggestion (hip hip hooray for the dumpsterdivers!)

Rule nr 1 – RESEARCH – where and when to be?

There are certain timings for crossing the oceans (due to the direction of the trade winds and the scary hurricane season). You need to get familiar with that and the location of the best marinas before you pack your backpack and go.

Local sailing is different. People usually go for one-day sails, without night navigation, not relying on the trade winds but rather the local weather. It could be easier to find such rides.

Internet is your friend, check the followings and maybe you will find a ride without even going out of your room…

2 – MOTIVATION- go out and talk to people!

Once you arrive to the harbor town and start to feel comfortable, you need to convince yourself that you are ready to approach sailors in the marinas. Once you believe in your project you are more than halfway through!

Your body language often speaks louder than your own voice. Put a smile on your face and think: I don’t loose anything trying, I can only win. It is easier said than done, we all have sometimes more social and sometimes – I do not feel like talking to anyone- days. 🙂

But honestly, seamen are friendly, happy to help you, so even if someone you talk to does not go your way, don’t finish the conversation straight away, he might know someone else that can give you a ride. And of course the more people you ask the more chances you get…

Not only that. The quality of the talk is important, it is like your business card, the first impression and judgment can be key here, so first go have a rest after tiring hitching and give yourself enough time to be ready and fresh.

We always hang the leaflets as well (in the marina office, showers, sailor’s bar) but honestly there is not so much feedback from them…so far. Don’t forget to mention your sailing experience if any (often more than your experience it is important to have the willingness to learn about sailing).

3- SAVOIR VIVRE

Behave well. You are seen. Sailors like chilling in the cockpit with their neighbors and talk. Once you show up there, you will be recognized as the one looking for a ride, so any culturally unaccepted behavior might work against your goal. Not only that, the appearance counts as well: leave your backpack stored somewhere, take a shower, have clean clothes and it will be a big plus.

4- DON’T TAKE JUST ANY RIDE – the most important rule actually

You can not jump from the sailing boat the same way you would from a car if the driver turns out to be dodgy. Choose your captain carefully. It is very important. You don’t want to spend weeks at sea with someone you wouldn’t take for a beer.

If someone is willing to take you, have a meeting to discuss everything. Ask questions. Many of them, about the sailing experiences, the boat, its safety, crew members, diet onboard, your responsibilities as a crew, costs. Good point- COSTS. Make sure your arrangement is clear before you leave, who pays who, for what, how much? Some sailors take you with no contribution, some hire you and you get paid, some wish to share food expenses, some also fuel and marina costs. Be clear about your financial situation so you don’t end up paying more than if you chartered your own boat.

We can be a good help for the sailors, they need us to help with night watches, cleaning, cooking or they just wish to have a company. Don’t be shy about your skills! They may be useful if you end up in the middle of the ocean with no wind for many days 🙂 (we know something about that, if you missed you can check here exactly how it went).

Pay attention if the boat is ready for big crossing. Is there auto pilot? Solar energy? Satellite phone or internet connection to check the weather forecast? They say it is better to have a good boat with a bad captain than a bad boat with a good captain…

Make sure you spend some time with a crew before departure, move in a day or two earlier, go sailing for a couple of hours, or days. It will help you understanding a general vibe and with what kind of people you are dealing.

Beware of the alcohol problem: you don’t want to end up in a storm, not knowing how to manage a boat with your captain totally wasted. Sadly it is a relatively common problem, especially among solo handlers. Not so long time ago we turned down a ride to Panama for that reason.

ONCE YOU GET A RIDE

  1. Check customs in the country you arrive to (sometimes they require a plane ticket back home, so be ready to show an unpaid reservation even if you don’t intend to fly back).
  2. Sea sickness: happens to most, so check how to help yourself. Make sure you are not hungry, cold, thirsty, tired. Sleep as much as you can. Your body will thank you for that.
  3. Have no big deadlines, they will stress you out and keep in mind that nothing is going to be on time. 🙂
  4. Go and get provision together to satisfy everyone’s preferences. Think of your needs. If you are a big snacker, get some of your own food as well, you don’t want to munch too much of common food in the moments of stress 🙂 leave some goodies to celebrate arrival! And always get provision for at least an extra week than the total sailing time, just for emergencies.
  5. Make sure you have some waterproof gear or maybe there is a spare one on board and get familiar with all the security/emergency equipment on the boat.
  6. Load yourself with books, audio books (worked awesomely for my night watches), language courses, paper and pen, star gazing app, chess, backgammon, cards….
  7. It is a great time out at sea to THINK without distraction, internet, phone. Use it for your own personal growth and development 🙂
  8. Problems will arise but be ready to solve them…
  9. ENJOY!