Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | June 11, 2012

Lady and the Boat Boys

 N 12° 35.18′   W 61° 24.72

Clifton, Union Island.

Lady on the bow, warning of a boat vendor visit

We approached the Grenadines with a little trepidation wondering if the boat boy experience would live up to all the negative hype we had heard. “Boat boys”, along with a few “boat gals”, are vendors who visit the anchorages in small craft, selling things like fresh produce, bread, fish, ice, water, moorings, beach barbecues, souvenirs and line handling assistance. We had heard tales about how arriving vessels were swarmed by competing vendors as they approached a harbor. Rented moorings couldn’t be trusted, sometimes breaking free. Imposters collected mooring fees and when the real owner arrived a second fee would have to be paid or the mooring vacated. Dinghies that “disappeared” and were quickly found with a finder’s fee requested. Were these local folks providing helpful goods and services or was this a subtle form of organized crime?

We never saw boat vendors in the French, British or Dutch islands to the north, nor the Bahamas – just a couple in the BVI’s and the Dominican Republic. Dominica and the islands from St. Lucia southward through the Grenadines are considered Boat Boy Central. The Captain finds vendor calls annoying, and absolutely hates being escorted around a harbor as we conduct our anchoring drill. Whenever possible, he defers the boat boy interactions and purchases to me. My philosophy is to smile, wave, compliment their beautiful harbor and listen to their spiel. If they offer something we need at a reasonable price, we buy it. We found the vendors in general to be friendly, hard-working folks who sometimes offered items we could use and who took “no” for an answer without a problem. I can’t say that we felt pestered in any place we visited. We have heard that vendors are getting the message to improve their approach along with the reputations of the various anchorages. Perhaps things have changed. Or perhaps the Mar Azul had a different experience.

Lady is our special weapon and we suspect her presence minimizes visitors. She barks fiercely at approaching boats, whether friend or stranger, deterring all but the boldest of dog-lovers. Bandit joins her in the chorus, but this is Lady’s show. A couple of times vendors were greeted by Lady before I got on deck and they turned away. She is a tough sell and they never came with steaks.

While in Deshaies, Guadeloupe I kept looking for the French bakery boat vendor who canvassed the harbor each evening taking orders, eager for a fresh, hot morning bread delivery. We were never visited, and I suspect Lady might have been the reason. Islanders, even more so than folks at home, seem to be wary of large barking dogs. Martin (AKA “Providence”), a vendor we worked with in Portsmouth, Dominica, was an exception, having pet dogs at home. He was a pleasant man with a very positive reputation among cruisers. He joined us aboard for a beverage and chat to tell us about his island and quickly made friends with Lady.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has had numerous challenges with crime, unemployment and poverty. While we motored along the mainland it was heart wrenching to see multiple vendors in rowing shells far from the shore, frantically competing to greet an arriving sailboat. A small motor and fuel was a luxury they could not afford.  That’s a really tough job and there were few potential customers. Sadly, the island’s reputation for crime in the mainland anchorages has reduced boater visits and perpetuated a vicious cycle. We find it interesting that while unemployment has been high in other islands we have visited, some cultures will not even consider the concept of boat-to-boat sales. We have to applaud the folks who are resourceful and working hard to try to make a living and providing quality goods and services.

One of the boat vendors we saw in the Tobago Cays

We have our friends Chuck and Dustin aboard and are having a blast in the Southern Grenadines and Tobago Cays. Today we will check out from St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Petit St. Vincent, Petite Martinique and Carriacou are likely future stops. Then on to Grenada!

Our little Lady in her lady-like pose



  1. We’re right behind you! We stopped in Clifton this afternoon, and will be going to St.Georges tomorrow to settle in at the marina. Hope to meet up with you in person before too long!
    Jeff and Izzy (and Ben, too)
    “Izzy R” DeFever 49

    • Just missed you! We checked out in Clifton today also and left around noon. Currently in Carriacou. Likely here til Friday – subject to change and desires of the crew! See you soon!

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