Monday, June 06, 2011

Beach Boys

Our favorite 'beach boy' - Syricus who toured us around St. Lucia
No, I am not talking about the plucky surfer boys from California who had a penchant for harmonizing...I am referring to boys who work the beach down here.

...And everything else between your boat and land.

When a boat sails or motors into an anchorage - it sticks out like a sore thumb (or, more likely, a big glowing dollar sign on the water).  There is no avoiding these guys - they spot you a mile away and you'll hear their engines revving long before you see them.  As soon as you enter the harbor they pull up alongside you in their pirougues and dive into their well rehearsed spiels.  There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

"Yeah mon.  Welcome to paradise! How is it?  Good?  I have mooring for you.  Local price.  Real cheap.  Follow me..."  all of this is rattled off with nary a word from Scott or I.

"Thanks man, it's okay - we're just going to go ahead and anchor.  We're broke.  We don't need a mooring, but thanks." Scott counters.

We smile, we nod, we wave thanks and goodbye.  It's awkward.  Not because we said no - but because after we say no they stay right alongside the boat, continuing to pitch their "services" with sales skills that would impress even Ari Gold.

It doesn't stop there.  Once we finally do anchor and settle in, they start rowing up from all directions.  Some on old patched-up kayaks, some on derelict surfboards, a few in wooden boats and a lucky one or two in fancy RIB inflatables.  Some come up singing, some whistling, some as silent as Viet Kong whose presence you don't know until they're right there alongside your boat and whistle up at you.  They sell bananas, mangoes, pineapples, vegetables, straw baskets, jewelry, and just about everything in between.

We buy things when we genuinely need them - if we gave in and bought something each time we were pitched by a beach/boat boy, we'd be broke.  Unfortunately, some of these guys get really agressive when you give them a friendly "no thanks".  The other day, when we didn't by one menacing fellow's bananas after a few minutes of fruitless persuasion (like that?), he paddled away mumbling and cussing angrily while glaring back at us with a look that harbored in it so much hate we were uncertain whether to leave the boat for dinner (we did, figuring an old, probably schizophrenic dude on a mangled surfboard was probably not too big a threat).

The majority of these "beach boys", however, are wonderful, kind and just trying to make a buck.  If you chat with them, hold your ground, and be friendly - most will paddle off with a nod and a smile.  Some you might even befriend -  our buddy Syricus - who we met at a karaoke bar* in Rodney Bay, ended up taking us on a guided tour of this beautiful island the next morning.  He and his dreadlocked friend, Future, drove us all around, to waterfalls and mud baths, for a song.  It was authentic and it was awesome.  Check our Facebook page for pics.

Down here it is virtually impossible to avoid these wily salesmen - they are at the dinghy dock ready to grab your line (and take it anyway when you tell them no, after which they tell you they are in 'charge' of the dock and will watch your boat for you), they are on the street ready to take you to the "best" restaurant (where they obviously get a finders fee) and they are always there - waiting, hovering and ready to pounce on your every need (or non-need for that matter).  For the most part - their attitudes and services are genuine and, if you give them a chance, they might even teach you a thing or two.

As someone who previously made a living recruiting and hiring sales people - I am impressed by the consistency and dogged persistence with which these guys work.  If I could have had a dozen of them hitting the phones for my clients, I could have made a killing!  For now, I am learning the art of the tactful no and developing LOTS of "allergies"!



Brittany & Scott

* TOTALLY obsessed with karaoke.  I know most people think it was invented by the devil but I love singing my heart out when you can't flub up the words.  I can't get enough of it.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...