Friday, October 2, 2015

The social side of sailing


There is a camaraderie in sailing that I have not found in many other pursuits. For example, it is rare to strike up a conversation with other skiers who are unknown to you on the mountain, even during lunch at large communal tables. Yet put two sailors in a room together and before you know they have become the best of friends.



One thing you learn while cruising is that most sailors are on a watery conveyor belt that takes them in a pre-determined route around the planet. The route takes advantage of favourable winds and currents and follows the favourable weather around in circles as it changes throughout the northern and southern latitudes. As a result, like it or not, most people end up on the same circuit with the same schedule, using the same cruising guides that recommend the same stops. It's hard not to develop friendships along the way as you continue to bump into the same folks sharing your route and timetable.

But there's a lot more to it. Sailors seem to have more in common with one another than others do. Perhaps it's having felt the distinct temperaments of mother nature out there that makes us all humble and helps us recognize that we will never know everything. There is always something to learn from others who may have had different experiences that you are yet to come across. A little preventive action never hurts.

Perhaps it's that sailors share a free spirit that causes us to cut the lines and go. Others are chained to their desks so they can buy that new set of gear every year. Cruisers buy used on the premise that it survived a round and must be up to it. (Not to be confused with racers who buy new several times a season in the spirit of one upmanship.) Whatever it is, it's a funny thing that happens. Chances are that if you meet a cruiser out there, they will know other cruisers who you know. Much like Irishmen all know someone who knows you.  

Sailors tend to be very nice people, too. Sometimes there's the oddball recluse, but for the most part, perhaps because they are out at sea and alone so much of the time, they tend to be more social when coming ashore.  Parties on the beach, in the tiki bar, and impromtu gatherings aboard, keep the sanity in check and the stories flowing smoothly, though continually refined in each telling. By the time you get to write your book, your stories have all been vetted and crystallized. It's like verbal editing. Very useful.

And then, the unusual happens, which of course turns out to be usual.



It's a small world after all. 

 

Alex and I recently traveled to London by air to attend a family event. Afterwards, we decided to do some sightseeing, using the Cruising Association House at Limehouse Basin as a base. We arrived on scene and proceeded to the bar for a cocktail and to see who was around.  Jimmy Cornell had just arrived in Limehouse Marina after his completion of the Northwest Passage a few days before but he was not in evidence that day.  There were three people playing cards at a table in the corner.  Naturally, we had to meet.

As it turned out, the couple were Max Fletcher and Lynnie Bruce, s/v Juanona, and their nephew Rudy.  Max said, “Wait a minute, Blackwell, Daria & Alex, you wrote a book called Happy Hooking that I reviewed.”  We shook hands and thanked him for his excellent review.  Then Lynnie introduced herself and said she’d written some of the bios on the OCC website. Those were among the first things I posted on the website when I became the OCC webmaster.  We had corresponded at the time.  “You’re Lynnie!” I exclaimed. 

We learned they were in London to get Rudy back home to Maine. Rudy had spent three weeks sailing around England with them, including his first offshore passage.  We talked about our shared connections and finished our round of drinks, then decided to go in search of dinner. We finally ended up choosing an Italian restaurant called La Figa and it was excellent.  We laughed and talked and laughed some more, then celebrated Rudy’s 21st birthday with candles and several different renditions of Happy Birthday. 
It was an impromptu OCC gathering. We shared information about Ireland (non-Schengen) and the possibility of overwintering there.  They shared information about Norway and the Med, our next destinations. We talked about writing books and winter weather.  It was like our paths had been converging for several years. Instant connections. Instant friendship. And a great party to go with it. 

That’s the small world of OCC and cruising. Despite the distance around the circumference of the earth, it's a small world after all.


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