NICOLA: So we’ve been back in the Caribbean for about 6 weeks now and it’s like greeting an old friend. Sure a few things have changed since I was last here about 18 months ago but it’s mostly just the same. The taxi driver who picked us up from the airport remembered us, as did various yachtie acquaintances who welcomed us back at the regular Hog Island Sunday Beach BBQ. The roads are still full of potholes, the music is always played loud, local guys walking around with huge machetes is no cause for concern and the locally made hot sauce is way hotter than any dodgy vindaloo you might have chanced at your favourite curry house.
The constant sunshine and warm soft breezes have turned our crusty pale New York skin into deep brown, our feet have got used to being constrained by nothing other than the occasional Jesus boot (a.k.a. flip flop), we have returned to saying good morning/afternoon/night to everyone we pass in the street regardless of whether we know them or not, and we have re-learned how to get back on island time where things happen slowly and usually not in the way you thought they would rendering planning a mostly pointless exercise in needless frustration.
And rum still tastes great.
What’s nice about floating around on a boat meeting other like minded souls is no-one asks what you do, they know what you do. You spend most of your time pootling between islands, fixing and/or cleaning something on your boat and drinking local beer & rum in various beach establishments usually around the time the sun sets. How you got to this point involves the past and no-one much cares about that. But as most sailors here are travellers like us, they do often ask where you’re from. Where’s home?
We hate that question. It’s just so hard to answer.
One clue for the enquirer is the flag on the stern (blunt not pointy end) of your boat. By law you have to fly the flag of the port the boat is registered in. For most people this is their ‘home’ port. We fly the flag of The British Virgin Islands. This is because Pandora was registered there when we bought her new in order to not have to pay VAT as we were taking her out of the UK. The BVI is not our home.
For most people it’s where they were born. Mikey was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and I was born in Aden, Yemen. Nope, that’s not home.
For others it’s what passport or other similar residential documentation they have. Mikey has a British passport and is a resident of St Vincent and the Grenadines. I have a British passport, am months away from having an American one and also have residency status in St Vincent & the Grenadines. But we have no houses in the UK and haven’t lived there since 2008. Even Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue Dept have us listed as non-residents. So no, that’s not home.
So where do you have a house? Well we have an apartment in New York City but Mikey is not legally allowed to ‘live’ in the US (he’s only allowed to be a visitor) and even though I am technically about to be an American I still can’t bring myself to say it’s where I’m from.
What about families then, where did you grow up, maybe that’s where you’re from? Well Mikey spent his early years in Venezuela before going to England and I flitted between England and Germany before moving to Australia when I was 12 years old where my family still live. But I haven’t lived in Australia for 25 years and have no legal residency status there any more. So maybe Mikey is still sort of English and I’m....well, I still dunno.
Hmmm....see the problem now?
The fact is we don’t really care where home is and we don’t mind that we don’t really have a sense of where we’re from. Home is an abstract concept for us. Quite simply wherever we are is home and we’re good with that. More often than not it’s other people who are more bothered than we are when we have difficulty giving an answer to what is usually a straightforward question.
So while we always sigh when asked ‘the question’ knowing our answer is not going to be satisfactory and is never succinct, we have come up with a cunning plan to de-fray the first assumptions based on our stern flag. We’re going to buy a load of different countries‘ flags then depending on what kind of mood we are in will insert the appropriate one in our flag holder and adopt the cliched sailing stereotype associated with that country. So for instance when we want to park right up someone’s jacksie and go ashore before waiting until we’ve seen if the boat will swing around into anyone we’ll pop in the French flag, if we want to have a loud argument on deck we’ll grab the German one, if we want to get naked when we shower off the back off the boat, time for Sweden, if we want everyone to avoid us like the plague, it’s up with the Stars and Stripes.....you get the idea.