Editor's letter December 1999

Sitting here overlooking the river Fowey, hunched over a pint of the local Tinner’s ale and wondering if Drake really sat here or whether the view was better from the lounge bar in those days, it does seem that the similarities between Cornwall and the Caribbean have seldom made themselves more elusive. Particularly in November, when the first of the winter gales is trundling through, giving the remaining boats in the estuary a good buffeting and causing widespread comment at bus stops. In the Caribbean they have hurricanes, and they make the evening news.

Drake was ahead of his time. The West Country may have had its charms, and few knew its creeks and harbours better, but there came a moment when desire met with opportunity and he took off to foreign parts. To us the Caribbean might seem a relatively recent discovery, but in the 16th Century he was among the very first Englishmen to put that turquoise sea on the cruising map.

Of course, a Caribbean cruise for Drake was not quite the experience that we would recognise today, being after all a means of enriching his own economy, not his host’s. But there are certain similarities, many of which will also seem familiar to those who cruise in the Mediterranean: the menu could be rather monotonous, for example, and when things went wrong they were often only resolved after a heated discussion in Spanish.

Drake never made the Caribbean a British sea in the way Nelson laid claim to the Mediterranean, but he made quite an impression and came back with some fantastic stories. Some things don’t change much. And I bet it’s not raining in Antigua.