September 7, 2012

Raft-up: Boat Swag and Trade Items

I made the mistake of looking at Verena’s post raft-up post on this months topic: 'what do we have for boat swag and what do we trade with the locals' and come away with a, “hey I was going to say that” kind of thought. 
We also only have boat cards (though we opted for the free vista print option) and somehow we missed details on them—like our blog address. Beyond that we carry a few Canada-oriented gifts as boat swag: an ever changing assortment of t-shirts, ball caps, pens and pencils as well as a stack of my mum’s art cards (you end up with a lot of people to say thank-you to in this lifestyle). And we've also  struggled to find the perfect (doesn’t take up too much space or weigh too much) trade item.

We were given a lot of bananas
We trade a moderate amount. Actually I would say more than trading we do a lot of reciprocal gift giving. A local will show up with some sort of gift (typically fish or fruit) and after hanging out for a while chatting—we frequently invite gift givers up to the nets for refreshments—I’ll dig out some sort of gift (school supplies if they have kids, or fishing supplies, galley overstocks or a baseball cap.)  
Occasionally at this point we might make a trade deal for a future item: more fish, a specific type of fruit or vegetable, or some sort of handy-craft and the guest we have aboard will mention a specific need: batteries, rice, rope… Usually though it’s less formal than that and the next day more gifts show up and we again reciprocate.

If you happen to read cruising sites you will see there is a lot of debate as to what makes up the right trade item. Some people swear by alcohol and Playboys (though personally I’d be mortified to offer skin mags, and the combo strikes me as idiotic and verging on dangerous considering that some of the places we’ve travelled aren’t really Mecca for women’s rights…). The list of the ‘right’ trade items is longer than the list of what we typically trade for.

Our focus has been twofold: We stock up on things that are affordable to us but perhaps out of reach for the people we meet. And we save our castoffs if they still have life in them. All of this doesn’t amount to much—we have a moderate size  ‘trade bin’ that at various times has been stocked with school notebooks (after school starts they’re cheap), pencils and pens, paint, crayons and beach balls for kids. I’ve also picked up wind-up flashlights when they’ve been on sale, multitools we’ve found at garage sales, fish hooks and fishing line.

We also save old clothes (particularly Maia’s or mine—Ev’s are pretty nasty by the time he’s done), cast-off sheets, or fabric I never got around to using (both were hugely appreciated), short lengths of rope, pots or pans we’ve upgraded from, plastic yogurt containers (these were seriously appreciated in isolated villages). Basically—we keep stuff we’d hate to throw away. Because it really is true—someone somewhere can use them.
I have to say the gift-giving/trading interactions have been some of the best we've had with the people we've met. I highlight gift-giving because that's really been the spirit we do it in. We're not after getting the best deal--because honestly what does it matter to me if I get two fish, four tomatoes and a yam for my fish hooks, baseball cap and used sunglasses, or two fish, four tomatoes and two yams?

We're not out sailing to get the best deal--we already got it. And my feeling is all these places leave us feeling a little richer so why shouldn't our presence do the same for the people we encounter?
When this is the view from your boat and your visitor arrived by hand carved canoe--how good a trade do you really need to make?
More Raft-up
Date     Name    Blog
1           Dana
2          Jane
3         Behan
4         Lynn
5         Toast
6         Verena
7         Diane    me:)


Brette Sember said...

I've been reading your blog for a while Diane and wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your insight into life on board. I knew you from FLX and remember when you began your journey. You have really educated me about what life on a ship is really like.

Diane, Evan, Maia and Charlie the cat said...

Thanks, Brette! What a lovely thing to say. It's easy to think our life is normal and forget to look at all the ways it might seem unique to people form the non-sailing parts of my life:)

Doug and Carla Scott said...

Wonderful article and such a wonderful experience. I tend to over gift/trade, which definitely isn't necessary. I will get better!

Behan said...

So very very true... we are so lucky. Why work on driving a bargain? We are vehicles of access to normal sh*t that someone else can't readily get in a way that is sometimes hard for other folks who won the life-lottery to understand...

Verena said...

LOL. I read all other posts before writing my laundry post and tried really hard not to do that this month!

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