Friday, 20 December 2013

Human nature

One of the things that cruising sailors chat about over drinks is boat theft.  Mostly it isn't about the whole boat that has been stolen, (although I'm sure it's happened somewhere) but theft of dinghies, fishing gear, or electronics off boats is something we heard about regularly in our travels.  To be sure, we have often sailed in regions that would be considered poor, and those on sailboats are often viewed as rich foreigners (and rightly so, comparatively.)

The Captain and I subscribe to the "no advertising" policy.  This means that everything gets picked up and put away, on the deck and even in the cabin.  The theory is that we do not want to leave any visible temptation for someone to come aboard, and if they did get as far as below decks, they'd have to work a bit to find anything of value. It won't stop a determined thief, but might put off an opportunist.

We've still had our adventures, but they haven't turned out the way you might imagine.

In Bocas Town in Panama, we were told in several places to keep our dinghy close to the boat and only use the public docks in daylight. Now, to be fair, our dinghy isn't the most desirable, only having a 3 horsepower engine, but we would still be upset if we came back and found it was gone.  So we were diligent, pulling it up on deck each night. And then a funny thing happened.

We were coming through the main channel of the town in Diva, returning to town from Starfish Beach, and I was on the helm.  Something caught my eye on my right, so I looked over and there was a man in a panga (the taxi boats in Panama) who was waving frantically at us.  I called to the Captain to see what the man wanted, since I needed to concentrate on getting us through the channel, watching for shallows and other boats.

The Captain looked over and after some yelling back and forth, turned to me and said, "He has our dinghy. Hold your course so he can approach us and pass it back to me."

"He has what?" I said, not understanding right away.

Turns out that although the Captain had tied the dinghy on the back as we usually do, the vibration of the engine must have loosened the line and it slipped away without us even noticing. And one of the fine citizens of this supposedly-dinghy-thieving-town had seen it happen and had taken it upon himself to return it to us!

In Jamaica, the prevailing wisdom is also that if it isn't locked or behind bars, your possessions will find new homes all by themselves. The Captain had a bicycle in Montego Bay, which he kept locked to a gate at the Yacht Club and used for runs into town to buy groceries, etc. It wasn't the snazziest of bikes, but it was functional, and he was very annoyed when someone stole the brake cable off the back wheel one day in May back when we were getting Diva ready to go.  He replaced the cable, (it cost less than $2 in town) and when we left, we told a friend that he could have the bike. He didn't really want it, but agreed to look after it. The day before we left, we took the lock off, (which we thought we might need for something else, like maybe our dinghy?) and left the bike leaning against the fence.

Imagine our surprise when we returned back to Jamaica 6 months later to discover that the bike was still there, leaning against the fence!  The tires were flat, but with that exception, it was as good as new, (okay, even new it was a bit of a sucky bike, but that's not what is important in this story.)

Three or four nights ago, we took the dinghy ashore to do some shopping and were late coming back. (Long lines in stores these days, sound familiar anyone?) We rushed back to the boat to drop off the shopping and then over to a friend's place on the far dock, where we were late for drinks.  It wasn't until we were ready to go back to the boat, at about 7 pm in the evening, that the Captain commented,

"I haven't checked the petrol lately; I hope we have enough to get home."

"Well, no worries," I replied, "We can always just row back."

In Montego Bay we almost always just row instead of using the outboard, but one of the oarlocks broke in Providencia and it is a bit of a complicated fix so it hasn't been done yet.  We still carry the oars everywhere, because the outboard is temperamental, and we can paddle canoe-style if necessary.

So - I bet you can see where this is going - imagine our surprise when we arrived back at the dinghy to find that the oars were missing. And partly because we'd already had a few drinks and partly because we were worried about running out of gas, there were some not-very-nice curse words spoken out loud and threats made to get those *&%#*#$ oar stealers!

Fortunately, we did have enough petrol to get back to Diva without any problems.  Montego Bay inner harbour isn't very big, and the Captain is well-known by most of the neighbourhood boaters, so it seemed unlikely that a blatant theft had occurred without someone knowing about it.  So the next morning he went out early in the dinghy, (after having put in some more gas) and found our oars in another dinghy that was regularly used to ferry people back and forth to a big catamaran out on a mooring.  They had just been "borrowed," of course, so the Captain "borrowed" them back!

And so the moral of the story is... Well, I'm not exactly sure, but it is nice to be reminded that human nature is a fickle thing, no matter what you've been told.

P.S. In case you haven't heard yet, we are stopping in Jamaica for a month or two, and expecting to head out on Diva for more adventures in February, weather dependent.

P.P.S. As we left Providencia, they finally turned on the lights of their town Christmas tree.  Only 5 shopping days left - I hope you're finding some time to enjoy the season amidst the frenzy.

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