Four years on a 37ft boat with only one other human being for company, sounds a bit of a lonely existence right? That was certainly a concern when we set off on this adventure. The reality is that we spend far more time socialising out here than we ever managed at home, and we have met some wonderful people who we can now call friends.
As well as all of the locals that we meet, we are travelling within a huge sailing community. In the UK the vast majority of boats are sailed at weekends by people who have jobs/families/friends to go back to at the end of the day. But by the time we reached Madeira pretty much all of the boats we saw were long term cruising for one or more years away from their family/friends/country. If you are away from your established friendship group for that long then you become very open to making new friends. Add to that the fact that all the cruisers around you have similar interests/experiences/dreams and you have fertile conditions for new friendships to be formed (a bit like freshers week at uni, but with slightly less beer).
To illustrate just how social things can be, look at our social calendar for a short period out here in the Caribbean.
Thursday 12th Bumped into Sturmschwalbe (originally met in Cape Verde) on way into an anchorage and were invited on board for a beer that evening Saturday 14th Arctic Smoke (another British boat) stopped by and invited us for a beer just because they hadn’t seen another British boat for a while Sunday 15th Met up with Britannica for a pre-arranged dinner Thursday 19th Bumped into a group of French sailors at the steel band concert that we had previously met in Cape Verde Friday 20th Spent the evening with two Dutch guys from a charter boat at a blues night Saturday 21st Dinner aboard Blue Zulu with Sandy Cheeks too Sunday 22nd Entertained Anima IV for a beer onboard Florence Monday 23rd Invited aboard Simoust
Sometimes we plan to meet with a boat we have met before. Our dinner with Bernd and Britta on Britannica was one of these arrangements (via email) since we knew our paths would be diverging after this point, we celebrated with our first ever taste of Lobster!
Other meetings can happen out of the blue. When sailing from Bequia to Canouan we suddenly found ourselves on a head on collision course with Blue Zulu, friends we had met in the Cape Verdes. We executed an about turn and sailed back to Bequia with them and were treated to dinner that night. There are plenty of tales from respective Atlantic crossings whenever we meet a boat that crossed at the same time as us, and we enjoyed sharing experiences with Blue Zulu until late into the night.
As well as catching up with old friends, we are also continually meeting new people. The ways in which we are introduced to new friends are wide and varied. In Tobago Cays a couple of guys went past in a dinghy, Matt gave a friendly wave and they asked if he was a 49er sailor as they had spotted the old 49er branded jib bags we use to hold the dinghy mast on deck. This led to an invite to join them aboard their catamaran for a beer at sunset. On board Simoust we found a group of Swiss RS800 and moth sailors, would you believe it, the same boats as we used to sail back in England. We had a whole host of friends and people we knew in common and spent a very pleasant evening talking about boats. It really is a small world.
We are yet to meet an unfriendly cruiser on our voyage, all that is needed to start a conversation is a simple ice breaker. Our beautiful and unusual dinghy is often the ice breaker for us, especially when we are sailing her around an anchorage. If you are open to making new friends it is easy to do so, you can socialise as much or as little as you like. We have found the people in the cruising community very open to making friends. This in turn has led in turn to us being more open too.
So far we have visited 8 countries, but we have met and made friends with people of at least 17 nationalities.
Countries Nationalities England British Spain French Portugal Spanish Cape Verde Austrian St Lucia German Martinique (France) Norwegian Dominica Danish St Vincent and the Grenadines Dutch Swedish Polish Swiss Canadian New Zealand American Thai Australian South African
We knew that the places we would see would be amazing but we had no idea about people we would meet and the friendships that would develop. Meeting and chatting with the other cruisers really makes this adventure come alive, we are looking forward to meeting more new friends and hopefully re-uniting with some old friends as we converge on the natural bottle neck of the Panama Canal.