Friday, February 24, 2012


There is a marketplace in St Martin, beside the ferry dock, where the islander ladies sell the frilly dresses (made in India) along with hats and beach bags etc., intended for tourists. At the same place there are some nicely made stalls for vegetable and fish vendors. Unfortunately the meager offerings of produce and fish do not occupy all the spaces, but I like checking them when we pass by, almost every day. I found really good tomatoes (my staple) and cucumbers in one of the stalls where the vendor lady chatted with us. The sailing guide recommends this place, and indicates that the wares were coming from Dominica.

The other day I bought tomatoes from an old guy, who tried to charge us too much, but Al told him that we were not tourists off the cruise ships, so he did not insist. Then we proceeded to the lady. I exclaimed that she did not have tomatoes, but she showed me the ones she had, and pointed out that we did not come directly to her. We ended up buying mangoes from her. Then she showed me a page of a Canadian magazine (One), which writes about her, Augustine, depicting her in a photograph. It tuned out that the author of the book “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” had been to her stall in her travels in the Caribbean, and wrote about her, in the magazine and also in a Caribbean cooking book that she wrote later. We expressed amazement about her being famous, and she smiled. She said that she had been at this spot for thirty five years. She does not look too old herself, so she must have started really young.

I have to tell about my connection to the book titled “An Embarrassment of Mangos” by Ann Vanderhoof. A bout six years ago, my daughter gave me that book, which chronicles a year-long trip of a middle aged couple aboard a sailboat in the Caribbean, starting from Toronto, ON. The author confessed that she had not been a sailor herself, but agreed to this adventure to please her partner, and took time off from her work.

After reading it, I identified with her immediately, and realized the possibility of living aboard a sailboat, while spending the winters in hot climates, not too far from Canada. We had thought about Florida for our retirement, but living in US can be expensive and sometimes problematic. As well, I don’t like staying in one place too long. This idea of living in a home that provides mobility without straining one’s budget was so appealing to me, that I seriously discussed it with Al. He thought the idea attractive but alien to our way of life. Then I started to bounce ideas with our friends at our yacht club in Ottawa, and leaned that many of them had done it, spending years in the Bahamas or further down, and loved it. When we listened to the stories, we got convinced that it was doable. And look where we are now! My sincerest thanks to Ann Vanderhoof for opening my eyes, and my daughter for letting me know about it. Our friends first laughed at the idea, but humored us, and helped on the way, to let me have first-hand experience on living aboard, by joining us to charter two boats, one mono-hull, and the catamaran two years after. I did not like the 46 foot mono-hull for limited living space and the heeling of the boat, although it gave such reassurance in the waves that I never got scared in our first trip to the St Vincent islands.

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