A Matter of Trust -
August 15, 2002
Eileen checks out essential boat maintenance supplies at the marina store
The liveaboards at the Coan River boatyard where we're currently parked form a fairly good microcosm of the greater cruising community. Our neighbours on one side are a couple of young French Canadian teachers on a 25 foot fibreglass sloop. On the other side is a retired German couple on a 50 foot self-built steel cutter. Throughout the yard are folks of different ages, backgrounds and viewpoints. For a diverse group of people, however, cruisers tend to have certain qualities in common. Qualities like self-reliance, generosity and frugality. Qualities that spring from the demands of the waterborne lifestyle.
Anyone who lives on a boat in relatively remote locations is likely to be self-reliant. Either they are resourceful by nature or they have developed the necessary skills to make do when resources are scarce. If the toilet in the head clogs up and the nearest plumber is 500 miles away, the future of your marriage may depend on your ability to deal with the crisis. Cruisers who aren't self-reliant have big bank accounts. You don't need a graduate degree in economics to figure that one out.
The survival imperative encourages other characteristics among cruisers. They tend to be remarkably generous when it comes to assisting others in their community. If you haven't managed to repair the clogged head and your spouse is about to file divorce papers, the chances are another boater in the anchorage will come to the rescue with the spare joker valve you're missing. Beyond sheer altruism, most people are willing to help out when they recognize the probability that they, too, could need assistance with a similar emergency in the future.
Most (but not all) cruisers tend to be somewhat frugal. Again, this is related to the limits imposed by their chosen lifestyle. Brutal necessity as much as a heightened environmental awareness promotes a conservation mentality among cruisers. Nothing encourages responsible water consumption like the prospect of having to schlep several five gallon plastic water containers a mile or two to where you're anchored. Similarly, you don't leave the fridge open and the lights on when the consequence is having to run the engine for an extra hour to recharge the batteries.
Intuitively, you might think that the traits of frugality and generosity would be at odds. Happily, this usually doesn't seem to be the case. The guy who's measuring out the fresh water with a tablespoon for his next shower won't hesitate to hand you a jerry can of gasoline if he sees you drifting by with a dead outboard engine.
There is a wonderful sense of trust and mutual support within the liveaboard community at the Coan River boatyard. You never bring cash to the marina store. The chances are there won't be anyone around to take your money because the owners, John and Linda, are often out in the yard working. When you need a few sheets of sandpaper and a roll of masking tape, you simply take the items off the shelf and list them on a chit that you leave on the counter. You settle up at the end of the week. This honour system has at least one drawback, however. Given the lack of self discipline among the crew of Little Gidding, there's always a surprising number of sodas and chocolate bars to account for when it's time to tally the charges.
Unfortunately, there are always a few thoughtless individuals who abuse the largesse and goodwill that's offered them. John and Linda told us about one cruiser who woke them up at 10 o'clock one evening. He was irate because he went to use the marina's courtesy vehicle and there wasn't enough gas to get him to his destination and back. Although the vehicle is free for anyone who needs to use it, it hadn't occurred to him that he might pay for some of the gas himself. They laughed when they told us the story, but they ruefully added that there's also been the odd customer who has walked away without paying his bill.
We hope John and Linda continue to believe in the honour system. And we hope cruisers continue to be responsible and to help each other out. That's why we like cruising.
Cheers, David & Eileen