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Crew Compass: Storm holdup reminder of ‘food chain’ effect

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Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon

Last month, I touched on the unpredictability of yachting and how the unknown can affect all of us involved in the yachting food chain. Shortly after I wrote the article, a lingering storm came over the islands that we were cruising. This meant taking shelter in the safe haven of Palapa Marina in St Maarten, with the boss on board. Anybody who  knows the area knows that it’s generally better known for the crew favorite Soggy Dollar bar and the proximity to cheap food spots – not to mention the adult-only establishment a stone’s throw away.

Let’s just say, perhaps it’s not the ideal hideout for an owner on the first week of his Caribbean season. 

The storm brought strong gusts of wind and, of course, with that came choppy seas. The docks were full in the whole of the Simpson Bay Lagoon and for about five days, nobody moved. 

We made the most of the time and got a few repairs completed on board. Meanwhile, the owner took the land approach and explored the island by  splashing through water – only this time it was driving on wheels through puddles of rain rather than being propelled by a jet engine on the Caribbean Sea. 

While the captain was feeling guilty for the weather being beyond his control, the stew and I took a drive to do some provisioning. Crossing the Causeway Bridge in St Maarten takes you from the Dutch side to the French side across the lagoon of Simpson Bay. This is where the majority of yachts dock and is seemingly the most protected area.

It wouldn’t appear so, however, to the stew, who for her first time on the island was witnessing first-hand the remains of the Irma devastation. The overturned yachts from the 2017 hurricane lay in a jumbled pile just off the side of the bridge and bore a solid reminder of the devastation. We couldn’t help but shiver with the thought of how terrifying gusts any stronger than the 40 knots we’d experienced earlier that day would be.

Later, I was talking to a friend on a yacht in St Kitts who was feeling the wrath of the same storm on the nearby island. With a craving to flow on her yoga mat, she was unable to unroll it on deck or on the dock due to the strength of the wind and after a couple of days began to feel frustrated. 

Not only this, but as a fellow chef I was showing her the quality of the produce I’d just picked up – something that impressed me greatly, given the fact that the last time I’d been in St Maarten was just two months after Irma destroyed the main supermarkets. She, however, had a different scenario completely.

The supermarket was awaiting a delivery of a container. The ship carrying said container was stuck in the weather pattern. You know what’s coming. For three days the supermarket sat with empty shelves – no fresh produce, meat or milk. Being a small island with only one chain of supermarkets, she was in contact with the manager of the store, who was keeping her updated with the status of fresh goods. Suddenly it dawned on us both that not only was she relying on him getting the delivery so that she could satisfy the crew’s vegetable fix, but the island was in turn relying  on the yachts to get their provisions and make a living for themselves.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the self when something beyond our control holds us up in some way. But with this lingering storm, I got to thinking about the whole food chain: the pile of yachts abandoned in the lagoon from Irma, the businesses that struggle without the yachts, and all the others who get held back by the gusts of wind or the downpours of rain. 

The struggle spans far beyond the worries that we conjure up and allow into our heads, and although the local people may be used to dealing with these uncertainties, it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to swallow the effects  or reduce the inconvenience. Everything is relative and everyone feels the pain; we just get to decide how we deal with it.

Lauren Loudon has worked as a yacht chef for more than four years. She hails from Lancashire, England. Comment at editor@the-triton.com.

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