Sunday, March 25, 2012

Internet & Mail, Nevis & Guadeloupe

The internet is very important to us when we are cruising.  It is our main source of news, the way we manage our finances,  our connection to family and friends via e-mail, and our access to our postal mail.  When we have a good connection, we can also use the internet to make phone calls over Skype.

Access to the internet is highly variable.  We have a high-powered WiFi adapter (a couple, actually), and that means that we can sometimes get WiFi from our boat.  But the quality of the connection can be good or it can be terrible.  Often the connection between the shoreside WiFi system and the internet is slow, and it is shared by many boats at a time.  Think back to the days of slow dial-up connections.

Other times, we cannot get WiFi on the boat, and must go ashore.  Some restaurants and bars provide WiFi, if you buy a meal or drinks there.  There are internet cafes that will get you online for a fee.  So we make do as best we can, and sometimes go for days without a connection. 

Handling our postal mail while sailing is a bit complicated.  We pay a fee to the Swiss Post Office to forward all our mail to a mail service in Florida.  They scan the envelopes automatically, and we can see the scans online.  If we ask, they will also scan the contents and make .pdf files available on-line for a fee.  So basically, we can read all our mail while traveling.  But it’s a week or more late.  And the fees add up.  And this all requires an internet connection.  The service will also forward items to any address we specify.  If we are having guests, we sometimes use them as mail carriers.  Rarely, we will have letters sent to us at an address in the Caribbean.  This is rare because a) we have to be in one place for several days, and b) getting quick delivery involves air services, which are very expensive.

We had a very good visit on Nevis, went hiking in the rainforest with a local guide.  We saw a wild monkey, many new plants, and fantastic views of the extinct volcano and of the sea.  Then came the longest daytime sail of our lives.  It is more than 70 miles from Nevis to Guadeloupe, and the whole trip is beating to windward.  Luckily, we didn't have to tack.  We left before 6:00 am, and the trip took 11 hours.  Fortunately, the sea was fairly calm, and the ride comfortable.

Guadeloupe is another French island.  It is very picturesque, and the sight of pastel-colored houses on the hillsides wonderful.  The stores are full of French wine and cheeses.  We are currently at Isles des Saintes, a part of Guadeloupe that is filled with wonderful restaurants.

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