We have had many discussions around the dinner table about the relative value of education vs work ethic. We have some members in our family with long and impressive academic credentials and others with more modest scholastic achievements, however, the degree to which they are successful and contributing members of our society is academic (all puns intended) to their schooling. I have often felt that education is unrealized potential and without a desire to capitalize on that education through hard work, the potential remains unrealized. Conversely, a strong work ethic can overcome a lack of education for those who did not have the privilege or support to attain one. This has been very evident throughout this trip, but no more so than in Dominica (your mother just chimed in to add that we are fine examples of the educated who are currently not contributing members of society, but I digress…).
All through the Bahamas and the Northern Caribbean, we have been struck by the economic potential of the region and the unmotivated ambivalence of many of its inhabitants. Island time, the weather, a different value system, historical impediments; I don’t pretend to understand the answer, but the locals that we have met, with some notable exceptions, seem uninterested in the floating cash cows in their midst. Then we arrived in Dominica, a small island with neither an international airport nor scenic beaches, and largely skipped by the tourist crowd.
We had been warned about the “boat boys”, (Mommy was quite intrigued…wondering if they were related to our Northern “pool boys”), and I was not relishing the thought of a swarm of aggressive teenagers in fishing boats trying to flog their local wares. As we rounded the bay into Portsmouth harbour a brightly coloured fishing boat roared from the shore and took up an intercept course with us. As he approached we saw “Providence” written on his boat and Mommy recognized the name from one of the guidebooks. He waved and we slowed our speed so that we could communicate. He introduced himself as Martin Providence, welcomed us to the island of Dominica, and asked us if we would like to take a mooring ball and did we need to clear customs. We had heard about an organization of local fisherman who had banded together to form PAYS, The Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security, to reduce crime against boaters, capitalize on the needs of sailors and increase tourism. They have placed a dozen mooring balls in close proximity to the beach, constructed a rustic, but functional dingy dock, and built a small gazebo structure on the beach. On Sunday they host a beach BBQ for the sailors with local food and music and cruisers are strongly encouraged to attend.
We elected to anchor because we sleep better on the hook, but paid the mooring ball rate to support this fantastic initiative. All through the islands, we deal with the ever-present insecurity of a strange environment and the physical security of the boat, and you, is an ongoing concern. There are numerous reported incidents of violence towards cruisers, some as mundane as dingy theft and other more serious tales of boat boardings and physical attacks. They spread through the cruisers net like wildfire and those harbours and sometimes entire islands, are avoided by the entire armada of Northern boaters, dealing a significant blow to the economy of the entire area.
In Portsmouth, we encountered a group of fishermen who had, through personal initiative and hard work, created an environment where we felt safe to leave the boat and wander through town. Martin was polite and well spoken and offered to take us on several tours of the island. He offered to purchase local produce and deliver it to the boat and to remove our trash, all for a modest fee. When other boats approached, we simply told them that we were dealing with Martin and they waved, smiled and turned around.
It struck your mother and me that here were a group of people with seemingly modest education and means, who have created a viable business through hard work and motivation. We were happy to support the organization although Martin told us that we were not required to do so unless he provided a service for us. His professional attitude and personal initiative were service enough.