Lynn and I met a lot of people in our just completed voyage through Central America, the Caribbean, and around the Eastern United States and The Great American Loop. During this 15,000 mile voyage we were able to accumulate a significant experience with the peoples in Central America, the Caribbean, as well as those in the Eastern United States and Canada. We did have some apprehension when we first departed on the voyage that we would be met in other countries with greetings expected for the stereotypical Ugly American. And in a very few instances we did. However, not any where near as much as we expected.
What we did experience was a proportionate variation in the way we were greeted and treated, all the way from; a warm, generous, pleasant greeting; to one of guarded interest; to a reluctance to interact unless approached. This change from one of warm, welcoming interaction, to total standoffishness appeared to be directly associated with how many cruise line visitors or vacationers that frequented the area. I suppose what they saw most in these high vacation areas was a preponderance of the loud, arrogant, flashy dressed Americans, buying cheap trinkets and generally making an ass of them selves. We certainly saw it and can relate to the “Ugly American” image now more than ever. However, when we were aboard our own cruising boat, or obviously just disembarked from our boat, we almost always were regarded with respect and warm appreciation. The ‘cruisers’, at least in the areas we visited, have obviously conducted themselves in a manner that has created a more moderate image of social behavior. Thank you, cruising forerunners.
A SURPRISE EXCEPTION
The only time we actually experienced an air of disdain was in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. However, it was not from the locals, but from American fisherman who were there on their million dollar sport fishers, having skimmed down from Florida spewing fumes from their 50+ gal/hr diesels, doing 30 knots or better. Aboard “Cottonwood” we normally anchor when ever possible, but we had tied up at the upscale marina because we had repairs that were needed. We disembarked from our 1970 DeFever trawler and strolled toward a line of 10 sport fishers all backed up to the dock at the end of a fishing day. Because we were not experienced in fishing, and felt any advice would be valuable to us in our cruising, we approached and asked if we might watch and ask questions as they unloaded and cleaned their day’s catch. Let’s just say that our impression of well healed sport fisher boaters will forever be tainted in our eyes, and I’m sure the locals are not blind to their attitudes. ‘Ugly American’ was indeed being reestablished in that port.
But as I stated early on, for the most part we were amazed at the greetings we received. In Central America, the people were so nice and friendly and overtly willing to assist in any way they could, at first it was hard to believe. And unlike our early experiences with the Mexican people near our borders who only seem to be interested in the money in our pockets, not once were we ever asked for compensation for any assistance we received from those people we met in these countries. And when you are cruising in far away places like this, you frequently are in need of assistance, from help getting your boat unstuck from a sand bar, to parts and boat supplies, or at times just directions. We had read about the graciousness of these peoples and were prepared to exchange what we could for any assistance we were given so we could perpetuate a positive image of the American Cruiser. We took along things that we could be specifically used for this. Those items that were most appreciated were hand me down children’s clothes, cans of meat, excess plastic containers, rope and fuel, both gasoline and diesel. But we had to offer to give something as a thank you, it would never be requested. And I truly believe from their attitude, although appreciated, it was not expected. They were obviously very appreciative, and not once did it create the crowd of followers looking for additional services to be rendered, or products to be purchased. The peoples in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, and southern Mexico, are indeed very hospitable people and we would recommend cruisers to these areas in a heart beat. The exception might be Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which again is a very popular tourist attraction with many vacationers, sport fishing boats, and rich Americans frequenting the port and surrounding area.
We also found that the people we met in and around the boating community in almost every port of the Eastern U.S. and Canada were very friendly and hospitable as well. Although not as quick to offer free assistance, at times it did occur, and we were very favorably pleased. The degree of welcome and hospitality was also proportionate to the size of the city. The New York City areas the least, the Carolinas were probably the most hospitable. And the South in general certainly lived up to its reputation of friendliness and hospitality, as well as those communities along the rivers in Kentucky and Tennessee. The Florida boating community is nice and welcoming, and we would recommend it, although it cannot stand up to the hospitality of the Southern States.
So those of you who may have a reluctance to visit Central America, or even venture to far away places in the Eastern U.S., (We are from Southern California), we have to recommend that the peoples you meet will be more than gracious enough to compensate you for your effort in getting there.
We hope our articles are well received, and "We wish all of you who cruise, fair weather, and may the wind always be at your back. But we know better, and that's just part of the adventure."©
Les and Lynn Cotton
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