The West Indies is the favorite cruising ground for boaters from around the world. Many couples dream of selling everything they own, buying a sailboat and cruising the Caribbean. And those of us who have sailed this island chain know just how unique that paradise is. Much of what we imagine the Caribbean to be like has been shaped by movies that we grew up with. Hollywood has been America's dream factory for the past hundred years and its portrayal of the Caribbean idyll has colored our mind's eye.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the swashbuckler movies of the Hollywood studio era gave us our first vision of the West Indies. Treasure Island (1934) and The Black Swan (1942) were filled with pirates and corsairs. But in those days, films were shot primarily in the studio or on the back lot with the set designer dressing up a make believe island setting. At best for realism, a California beach would become the background for a sword fight, as Laguna Beach did for Errol Flynn and Basil rathbone in Captain Blood (1935).
It was not until after World War II, that Hollywood producers and directors left the studios to shoot their films on location giving us a taste of what the Caribbean really looked liked. Fire Down Below (1957) was shot in Trinidad and Tobago and The Old Man and the Sea (1958) was partially filmed in Cuba.
Starting in the 1960s, the Caribbean became a very popular setting for films shot on location. Visiting the sites in the West indies where all or parts of movies were filmed is a great way to develop a cruising itinerary for your next sail down island. try these movies for starters:
Island in the Sun (1957) This was a very controversial film at the time it was released since the story revolves around interracial romances and race relations. it was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, entirely on location in Barbados and Grenada. The all-star ensemble cast included harry Belafonte, James Mason, Joan Fontaine, Joan Collins and Dorothy Dandridge.
Dr. No (1962) Sean Connery portrays 007 in the first James Bond film ever made, with Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, the model for all future Bond girls. This film established all the well-knownstyles of the James Bond series including an elaborate main title sequence followed by the introduction of Mr. Bond through a view down the barrel of a gun. This movie also launched the secret agent genre for both film and television. Set in Jamaica, much of the film was shot in Oracabessa, a small town east of Ocho Rios, and Kingston. But the most iconic scene was filmed at Laughing Waters Beach, near Dunn's River Falls. That is where Honey Ryder emerged from the surf in a white bikini.
Dr. Dolittle (1967) Rex Harrison has the lead role in this musical as a physician who believes he can talk to animals. The other stars, not including all the animals, are Samantha Eggar and Anthony Newley. The tropical island scenes were filmed at Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. A very kitschy giant pink snail was built for the final scene shot in the bay, and left there as a memento of the production but looked quite out of place as the years went by.
Water (1985) This comedy, starring Michael Caine and Valerie Perrine was a box office flop. Ex-Beatle, George Harrison, was the movie's producer and Harrison, Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr perform on the soundtrack. The major redeeming value of this film is the spectacular scenery in and around the town of Soufriere, St. Lucia as it looked 40 years ago.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Only the final beach scene of this critically acclaimed movie was filmed in the Caribbean. After 40 years in prison, Red (Morgan Freeman) searches for and finds Andy (Tim Robbins) in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. In the plot line, Andy had escaped Shawshank Penitentiary and settled in Zihuatanejo. But St. Croix, USVI was used as a stand in for Mexico; that beach scene was shot at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Frederiksted.
Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) While this film won the award for Worst Re-Make or Sequel, the final scene, in which a cruise ship crashes into the island of Saint Martin, set the record for the most expensive and largest stunt ever filmed. It was shot at Marigot, the waterside capital of French St. Martin. Six month's was needed to build an addition to the town that was used for the filming, only to be destroyed by a hurricane before the production started. It was rebuilt, and a full scale mock up of the bow of a cruise ship was towed down from Florida, put on underwater rails, and crashed into the town, all for about $50 million.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) What's old becomes new in Hollywood, and everything comes full circle. Swashbuckler movies returned to the big screen with this first in a collection of fantasy films starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. For this film, the anchorage at Wallilabou Bay, St. Vincent was transformed into the movie set of old Port Royal, Jamaica.
That's my list of films with Caribbean island locations that I enjoy, what's yours? Before you head down island, download your favorite Caribbean movies to yourtablet. You can watch them along the way, and they will help you discover the locations of those island movie sets.
Capt. Jeff Werner has been in the yachting industry for over 25 years. In addition to working as a captain on private and charter yachts, both sail and power, he is a certified instructor for the USCG, US Sailing, RYA and the MCA. He is also the Diesel Doctor, helping to keep your yacht's fuel in optimal condition for peak performance. For more information, call 239-246-6810, or visit MyDieselDoctor.com. All Marinalife members receive a 10% discount on purchases of equipment, products and supplies from Diesel Doctor.
Join a time-honored celebration of life on the sea
As we welcome the arrival of spring, boaters are eager to christen the new season with activities ranging from a fresh coat of paint on the hull to a thorough inspection or a bottle of bubbly with glasses held high. But across the country, some seaside communities celebrate their return to the water with The Blessing of the Fleet, a ritual that turns to the heavens to safeguard mariners, pray for a bountiful catch and remember those who were lost at sea.
The ceremony dates back to ancient times and finds its roots in Mediterranean fishing villages. European colonization spread the practice around the globe, and Catholic immigrants brought the tradition to America about 300 years ago. During the 20th century, it became more widespread along North American oceans, rivers, lakes and bays, and other denominations absorbed the rite into their services.
The basic elements of the Blessing of the Fleet are quite simple: a priest or pastor offers prayers and a sprinkling of holy water to a variety of vessels including working boats, rescue vessels, trawlers, recreational craft, tugboats and even dinghies. Often in attendance are members of the Coast Guard in uniform, Knights of Columbus with their pointy hats and sabers, church choirs singing hymns and other groups.
Most Blessings of the Fleet take place in spring to kick off the fishing or shrimping season. Others are linked to religious holidays such as the Epiphany or Easter. Some Portuguese and Italian communities celebrate on Mother’s Day to honor Our Lady of Fatima and decorate the base of her statue with red flowers for living mothers and white blooms for the deceased. An anchor made of red and white blossoms is tossed into the sea in remembrance of those who perished beneath the waves.
A mass often kicks off the festivities, followed by a processional of officiants and the faithful from the church to the waterfront where an armada of boats is waiting to receiveblessings. Colorful flags, lights, streamers, banners, pendants and more decorate the fleet as they parade through the water. Friends and family line the shore, waving, cheering, singing, drinking and feasting.
No two Blessings of the Fleet are the same. What makes them especially interesting and unique are the size of the seaside communities and the religion, culture, history, traditions and heritage of their people. Some small towns like somber, intimate ceremonies with only a handful of vessels and watermen receiving prayers. Others prefer a more boisterous celebration with thousands of well-wishers gathered for food, music, games, pageants, fairs, fish fries, races and lavish after parties. Many are attached to other regional maritime festivals such as seafood or holiday events.
If you’d like to witness a Blessing of the Fleet this season or join one and let your boat receive good thoughts for safe journeys, see the following list for some of our favorites across the country. Or contact your local marina to find out if a blessing event is taking place near you.
Blessing of the Fleet at the Sponge Docks
Tarpon Springs, FL
Every year on the day before the Epiphany, priests from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral bless the sponge boats and divers and remember those who lost their lives. Part of the ceremony includes tossing a cross into the water and young men jumping in and competing to retrieve it.
Mariners’ Church Blessing of the Fleet
March 12 (second Sunday in March)
Hosted at this historic landmark and the oldest structure on the Detroit waterfront, Mariners’ Church has been a place of worship for seamen from around the Great Lakes since 1842. The annual ceremony invites boaters to bring their burgees, colors and pennants to receive blessings for safe passage, calm waters and fair weather on their nautical journeys.
Blessing of the Fleet U.S. Navy Memorial
Since 1987 when the memorial was dedicated, waters from the Seven Seas and Great Lakes are ceremoniously poured into outdoor fountains at the memorial with a blessing to protect sailors, ships and crew.
Blessing of the Fleet & Seafood Festival
Mount Pleasant, SC
As tribute to the shrimp and fishing industry, the event presents a boat parade, ceremonial blessing of the vessels, shad and shrimp eating contest, art exhibits, food and crafts vendors, and family activities in Charleston Harbor.
Blessing of the Fleet
Sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce, with blessings from the clergy from St. Paul’s Church and Mother of Sorrows Church, this 34th anniversary event aims to shield from misfortune ships, planes, water taxis and other service-related boats and aircraft.
Blessing of the Fleet
This festival celebrates the regional shrimp and fishing industry by offering prayer to safeguard local vessels and fishermen. Festivities include a morning boat parade, live music, food trucks, craft vendors, beer garden and other activities along the Wilmington waterfront.
Four days of music, parades, food, dancing, games and more celebrate Portuguese culture and seafaring heritage and offer a blessing by the bishop to decorated boats and their crew.
St. Peter’s Fiesta
The local Italian-American fishing community’s annual celebration honors the patron saint of fishermen with a parade, live music, road and boat races, Blessing of the Fleet, children’s activities, mass and a greasy pole contest (costumed contestants try to pull a red flag off the end of a heavily lubricated pole before falling into the water).
Blessing of the Fishing Fleet
Boothbay Harbor, ME
Part of the Windjammer Days Festival, local residents remember those in the maritime industry who lost their lives to the sea and others who still earn their living on the water. The boat parade honors commercial fishing vessels.
Lions Club Blessing of the Fleet Celebration
Attended by almost 30,000 people annually, this three-day festival includes a parade of boats, 10-mile road race, music, beer tent, food vendors, rides, and more.
Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival
Morgan City, LA
August 31 to September 4
To toast the shrimping and oil industry, this huge celebration features boat and street parades, blessing ceremony, a pageant to coronate the festival king and queen, a children’s village, 5k run, art show, carnival rides, fireworks, food and more.
St. Clement’s Island Museum Blessing of the Fleet
Coltons Point, MD
Near the point where the Arc and Dove ships landed in 1634 carrying Catholic passengers avoiding persecution in England, the blessing of the boats of Southern Maryland’s watermen takes place with festivities such as exhibitions, food and craft vendors, boat rides, music, and fireworks.St. Clement’s Island Museum Blessing of the Fleet Coltons Point, MD October 7-8 Near the point where the Arc and Dove ships landed in 1634 carrying Catholic passengers avoiding persecution in England, the blessing of the boats of Southern Maryland’s watermen takes place with festivities such as exhibitions, food and craft vendors, boat rides, music, and fireworks.
Yacht Rock: The Soothing Sounds of the ’70s and ’80s
Yacht rock is a genre of music that has been making a comeback in recent years, especially with boaters who love to listen to soft rock music from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. The backstory of how yacht rock came about is fascinating and involves writers creating a tongue-in-cheek video series, a band that was looking for a spark, and an internet radio executive who saw the potential of the genre.
The Birth of Yacht Rock
In 2005, a group of young music and TV comedy writers created a short video series called "Yacht Rock" for the internet film network Channel 101. The series imagined funny backstories behind the making of soft rock classics by musicians such as Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, and Hall & Oats. The writers wanted to poke fun at the music while also reintroducing the tunes they liked to a new generation. The series became one of the channel's top shows during its run from 2005 to 2010.
The Rise of Yacht Rock Revue
In the fall of 2007, the Atlanta-based pop band Y-O-U was looking for inspiration. Drummer Mark Cobb burned a CD of songs by old soft-rock artists such as Christopher Cross, America, and Little River Band and thought it might be kind of fun to play the songs at a show. The band dressed in '70s fashion and played soft rock music, which turned out to be a hit. They formed the Yacht Rock Revue in 2008, the country's first official yacht rock tribute band, and even trademarked the term "yacht rock."
The Popularity of Yacht Rock Today
Yacht rock has some serious staying power and can be found on various platforms such as SiriusXM, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. Yacht rock tribute bands, such as Yachty by Nature, Thurston Howell Band, Three Sheets to the Wind, and The Docksiders, have also proliferated. Yacht rock is enjoyed by people of all ages and has become a festive audience favorite, with some attendees donning yachting caps and '70s attire at concerts.
Looking for a Yacht Rock Playlist?
Here’s a yacht rock sampler from Philadelphia’s Boat House Row guaranteed to float your boat.
“Baker Street” – Gerry Rafferty “Southern Cross” – Crosby, Stills & Nash “Baby Come Back” – Player “Reminiscing” – Little River Band “How Long” – Ace “Rich Girl” – Hall & Oats “Heart to Heart” – Kenny Loggins “Reelin’ in the Years” – Steely Dan “Brandy” – Looking Glass “What a Fool Believes” – Doobie Brothers “Still the One” – Orleans “Africa” – Toto “Turn Your Love Around” – George Benson “Ride Like the Wind” – Christopher Cross “Lovely Day” – Bill Withers
To sail around the world is an ultimate endurance test and a dream that has for centuries tempted explorers, adventurers and those who love sailing. Ferdinand Magellan was the first maritime globe trotter, and he gets all the credit — even though he didn’t finish the journey.
During a skirmish with natives in the Philippines, he was shot by a poisoned arrow and left by his crew to die. His navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano then captained the Victoria, a 31-foot, 85-ton ship with a crew of 45 men back to Spain in September of 1522, three years after Magellan led his flotilla of five ships westward across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a new route to the Spice Islands.
In September of 2022, Ellen Magellan set off down the Trinity River in East Texas in the Evelyn Mae, a 22-foot, carbon fiber rowboat outfitted with two cabins and a solar power generator, on her way to the Gulf of Mexico in the first leg of an audacious, seven-year attempt to row a boat solo around the world. At the age of 27, Ellen seeks to raise awareness of the state of the ocean and promote the notion that it’s okay for women to travel alone and experience life-changing experiences.
Will Magellan complete her journey? Who knows. But, inspired by her passion, Marinalife presents the stories of eight trailblazing women who circumnavigated the globe via boat in their own ways, taking on a challenge historically reserved mainly for men.
JEANNE BARET of France became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, albeit without knowing it. Jeanne disguised herself as a man to illegally accompany her botanist lover as part of a French Navy scientific voyage looking for exotic plants. Women weren’t allowed on Navy boats. In Brazil, it is believed she discovered a new exotic flowering vine and named it Bougainvillea in honor of Louis de Bougainville, who headed the around-the-world expedition. Her identity was eventually discovered in Tahiti where some historians claim she was sexually assaulted by her crewmates. Baret and her lover Philibert Commerson were later left behind in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean as the expedition continued. On Mauritius, they befriended the governor, an avid botanist, and studied the flora of the region. When Commerson died, Baret married a Frenchman and together they returned unceremoniously to France three years after Baret’s journey began, thus completing the around the world journey. Bougainville later arranged for Jeanne to receive a Navy pension in recognition of her contributions on the exhibition.
NELLIE BLY was an American investigative journalist widely known for going undercover to report the terrible conditions of a New York City insane asylum. In 1888, she began what would be a 72-day trip around the world via steamship, horse and railroad to emulate Jules Verne’s popular fictional character Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days. She was the first person to turn the fiction into fact. New York World Publisher Joseph Pulitzer initially was against it, believing only a man could make such a trip. He eventually acquiesced and published daily updates on her journey. The entire nation followed along as Nellie raced not only time, but also another woman. Elizabeth Bisland, representing Cosmopolitan Magazine, finished her circumnavigation four days after Nellie triumphantly arrived in New York. Bly was honored with a U.S. postage stamp in 2002.
KRYSTYNA CHOJNOWSKA-LISKIEWICZ, an experienced Polish sailor and ship construction engineer, became the first woman to sail around the world solo. Krystyna was selected for the challenge in a competition held by Poland’s Sailing Association to promote Polish sailing during the United Nation’s International Women’s Year. Her husband, also a shipbuilder, custom- designed the Mazurek, a 9.5-meters long by 3-meters wide boat for Krystyna. During her voyage, Krystyna was stopped and suspected of drug trafficking, overcame storms, and battled not only kidney stones, but New Zealand sailor Naomi James, who was also trying to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe by herself. Krystyna beat Naomi by 39 days. Now retired, Krystyna continues to sail and encourages women to take up the sport.
TRACY EDWARDS was expelled from school in Britain at the age of 15 and began traveling the world. She worked on charter yachts in Greece and learned how to sail, eventually taking part in the prestigious Whitbread Round the World Race as a cook in 1985. Four years later, Edwards skippered the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Race. Edwards’ Maiden, a restored second-hand racing yacht, went on to win two of the six legs of the race and finished second overall. The media covering the race was often derogatory. One sailing journalist described the Maiden as a “tin full of tarts.” Nevertheless, Tracy and her crew garnered worldwide praise, and she was awarded Britain’s Yachtsman of the Year Trophy and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). Today, she works with charities around the world to break down barriers preventing girls from getting an education.
DAME ELLEN MACARTHUR, a British sailor, broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2005 on her first attempt. Her time of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds beat the previous record by more than a day. Shortly after her return to England amid a flotilla of boats and cheering crowds, MacArthur became the youngest woman in modern history to be made Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE). In 2009, she announced her retirement from competitive sailing and subsequently launched a foundation promoting the concept of the “circular economy” — rethinking how to design, make, and use the things people need, from food to clothing, to transform our economy into one where waste is eliminated, resources are circulated, and nature is regenerated.
LAURA DEKKER, a New Zealand- born Dutch sailor became at age 16 the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe single handedly. Because her parents were divorced, Dutch courts stepped in to prevent her departure earlier at age 15 because national law prohibited a captain of a boat younger than 16 to sail a boat longer than 7 meters in Dutch waters. Dekker, who was born to parents living on a boat off the coast of New Zealand, first sailed solo at the age of six and soon thereafter began dreaming of sailing around the world. When she finally won the right to sail, she launched from St. Maarten in her 38’ boat Guppy. In 2018, she founded the Laura Dekker World Sailing Foundation to provide programs for young people to develop life skills such as teamwork, self-confidence, responsibility and leadership.
British sailor JEANNE SOCRATES became the oldest woman at age 77 to single-handedly sail around the world, non-stop and without outside assistance. It was her third attempt. When she departed Victoria, British Columbia, aboard her 38’ boat Nereida, she was still recovering from a broken neck and broken ribs from a fall in a previous attempt. Socrates accomplished the feat in 11 months, sailing around all five great capes (Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin, South East Cape of Tasmania and the South Cape of Stewart Island) and dodging three cyclones. In honor of her feat, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority in Victoria named the inner harbor commercial dock the Jean Socrates Dock. Socrates is still sailing today.