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The Sailboat Cruiser, Isssue #6
March 18, 2014

The Sailboat Cruiser

The Sailboat Cruiser brings you the news, views and general musings of, well, me - a sailboat cruiser, and owner of

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The Sailboat Cruiser

Issue #6 March 2014


In last month's issue of 'The Sailboat Cruiser' I wrote about the recent violent attacks on anchored boats in the West Indies, and how I thought we should react to them. Specifically, I said:

"But just how far do we go? I know some crews lock themselves below each night when at anchor, which is something I'd be very loathe to do. Some carry firearms; should we all? I don't think so!"

There was a deal of reaction to this. It was the bit about not carrying firearms aboard that did it. Here's a typical example of the emails I received:

"Hello Dick McClary, I have read the article about Roger Pratt and am deeply saddened to learn of another sailor being murdered by LOW LIFE THUGS. I have read numerous accounts of cases such as this. How many more sailors have to suffer this kind of fate simply because they were not armed. If Mr Pratt and his dear wife were armed THIS MASSACRE could have been prevented. GUNS PREVENT this kind of situation from happening. All sailors venturing to foreign ports need a WAKE UP CALL ......LOUD AND CLEAR!!!!! (Name withheld), Pacific Grove, California"

Whilst I share the writer's sadness and anger at the tragic event, I feel I should explain why I'm so very much against his 'solution' to it...

  • When you arrive in a foreign country you're required to declare details of all firearms on the Customs/Immigration paperwork. If you do so, they'll be confiscated and you just might get them back when depart. So they won't be available to you when the perceived risk of needing them is at its highest.

  • If you do have non-declared guns aboard and they're subsequently discovered, you'll find yourself in a spot of bother. First, your boat will be impounded, you'll be heavily fined and most importantly, you'll find yourself behind bars - probably for a considerable period.
  • If you have a firearm stowed aboard, to be of much use in a boarding incident, it will need to be readily available and loaded. Not ideal on a pitching, rolling sailboat - even at anchor.
  • In the West Indies at least, visits to our anchored boats from piratically-featured but well meaning vendors and boatboys are frequent. Failing light, a nervous armed crew and the possibility of a tragic accident is real indeed.
  • If it becomes known that you have a firearm aboard, there'll be people around that will want it. Your boat will become a target for a budding criminal.

I've never held a loaded weapon - never mind fired one - so I would need to be trained in its use. No problem there; I'm sure I'd soon get the hang of it.

But, like most people who haven't served in the military, I'm not trained to kill. Could I point the thing at another human being and pull the trigger? Probably not.

I'd be more likely to wave it around and say something along the lines of "Bugger off, or I'll have to shoot you!" and of course if the other guy is armed, he's unlikely to share my restraint so they'd be the last words I'd ever say.

So if you've got a gun, you'll have to be prepared to use it first and ask questions afterwards - and that's just not in my nature.


Quite a few fellow cruisers tell me they feel much more secure with the washboards locked in place when they're sleeping below, but this isn't for me. I'm a light sleeper aboard a boat, very much in tune to any change in the boat's motion and sounds both aboard and outside. If something wakens me, I want to see what's going on immediately so the main hatch is always open under the sprayhood.

But this isn't ideal in an anchorage where you feel at risk of being boarded; what you need is an anti-intruder grill at the main hatch, the basic design considerations for which are:~

  • It must be easily and rapidly demountable from inside the boat without the use of locks and keys.
  • It must both look secure, and be robust enough to prevent an intruder from easily smashing a way through it.
  • It must be of open construction to provide ventilation and a clear view from below of what's going on in the cockpit.
  • It must be of such a design that it can be stowed below when not in use.

I'm working on a few ideas at the moment, but I'm not there yet. Any eureka moments anyone?


You'd be forgiven for thinking I've really got it in for the West Indies in this month's issue of The Sailboat Cruiser as I'm now going to warn you about another undesirable resident. This one's a relative newcomer and can trace its origins back to Africa, Southeast Asia and on the Indian subcontinent.

It's the chikungunya virus, borne by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito like the one shown here.

This insect is no stranger to the West Indies, already being responsible for many cases of dengue fever. Recently though, it's added chickungunya to its repertoire of general unpleasantness.

Outbreaks of chickungunya have recently occurred in St Martin, Martinique, St Barts, Guadeloupe, Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis.

Symptoms, which can take up to 12 days to appear, but usually begin within 3-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito include fever, arthritis-like joint pain, muscle pain, headache and nose and gum bleeding.

Most victims recover after a few days, though in some cases joint pain may persist for weeks or months.

There is no vaccine to protect against chikungunya although medication can be provided to relieve symptoms. The mosquito's carrying this disease are most active during the daytime, particularly so around dawn and dusk so make sure you're fully sprayed-up at these times.


Here in the Caribbean, just before the sun disappears below the horizon, the final sector of it sometimes appears to turn bright green. There is a scientific explanation for it in which words like refraction, dispersion and retinal bleaching turn up. Had I paid more attention to my physics professor all those years ago, I would be able to understand the phenomena and explain it here.

But it does happen - I’ve seen it. Not the lighting up of half the sky as I was foolishly expecting, but just a green glimmer for a second or so.

With most of the anchorages in Windward and Leeward Islands being on the western side of the islands, you usually get a clear view of the sunset. Hence a sighting of the green flash is a daily quest for crews of anchored yachts, so much so that we've named a favourite cocktail after it - the Sundowner Special! And here it is...

  • 2oz of White Rum
  • 2oz of Dark Rum
  • 1oz of Grenadine
  • 1/2oz of Lime Juice or Lemon Juice
  • 10z Nutmeg Syrup
  • 1 Dash of Bitters
  • Give it a good shake, pour over crushed ice and sprinkle some grated nutmeg on the surface.

Now it may be just a coincidence, but in my experience it does seem as though there's a correlation between the number of these you've had and the likelihood of seeing the green flash...

And finally...

If you know anyone who might be interested in the contents of this newsletter, feel free to email it to them. It's not secret!

And this newsletter can be a two-way thing. If you've read anything you'd like to comment on, or perhaps there's an event you'd like to see announced in a future newsletter, then please let me know.

Dick McClary

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