Company's Coming -
August 28, 2003
Company's coming, they're flying in today
(E. Quinn, Company's Coming)
Before we left to go cruising full time, we told all our friends and family that they were welcome to come down and visit us in tropical paradise. As our departure date approached, we became more and more enthusiastic about the adventures that awaited us and began inviting acquaintances we really didn't know that well. Finally, at our going away party at the dock in Toronto, David got so carried away that he extended an open invitation to everyone present, including the caretaker and someone who happened to be passing by walking his dog. It was only after we had cast off the docklines and were actually heading south that it sunk in: What if everyone we had invited showed up?
"Omigod," Eileen exclaimed. "Do you think Helen and her partner and two hyperactive kids will really come down to visit us? What if they come at the same time as Joe and Gillian and their two Labrador retrievers? Where are we going to put everyone?"
We need not have worried. For the next several months, whenever we checked our mail we were baffled by the distinct lack of messages announcing someone's imminent arrival. We couldn't figure it out. Here we were basking in the sun while the folks back home were trudging through snow drifts. We were offering a free sailing vacation! Where was the stampede?
Maybe we had given people the wrong address. We contacted a few of our closest friends to determine if there had been a mix-up. The replies were all pretty similar: it's busy at work, we might be able to squeeze in a few days in the second week of March 2008; we can't find a baby-sitter, maybe after the kids grow up and go to college; we really want to see Bali, let us know when you're going to be there. Finally, our friends Peter and Carolyn said they'd meet us in the Bahamas. They came down for a week in the spring and we had a great time until Carolyn stepped on some unfriendly sea creature and started bleeding a lot. We packed Carolyn off on the plane with her foot swathed in bandages. She looked like she was re-enacting the curse of the mummy. Eileen waved goodbye and sobbed, "They're the only friends who took us up on our offer to visit and now they'll never come again!"
Fortunately, Eileen turned out to be wrong. Peter and Carolyn DID come back. In fact, they returned every year, right up to and including the year they had their first child, Teika. That year they took five-month-old Teika in tow to meet us in Saint Maarten. The next year they visited us in the Virgin Islands (see our January 17, 2002 entry, "Teika Goes Sailing"). We learned that infants are better cruisers than toddlers.
Over the years others have joined us as well. There has never been a problem of double-booking. Typically, we'll have one or two visitors per cruising season, mostly friends. In terms of family, Eileen's parents have visited us twice in nine years and one of her brothers once. That's it.
We've concluded that our family and friends really DO like us, but a sailing sojourn south is not everyone's idea of a holiday. To start with, we're not always located in a place that's easily accessible via regular air flights and even after we make our way to civilization, we tend to wander off again at unpredictable intervals. This makes it difficult for someone to connect with us who has to book time off work six months in advance. Then there's the question of onboard amenities. It seems that many people like the idea of taking showers, turning on the lights when it's dark, maybe even watching a bit of television while on vacation. They're not impressed when we tell them they can go for a swim right off the boat, have a romantic dinner by the light of an oil lamp, and watch the sun rise for entertainment. The folks who adapt well to our cruising lifestyle are the ones who thrive on wilderness camping or have spent the past decade cloistered in a remote Tibetan monastery.
Not surprising, the best candidates for a cruising holiday are people who are former cruisers themselves. They know what to expect (or, more importantly, what NOT to expect). Our Ontario friends David and Susan fall into this category. We were delighted when we received an e-mail from them at the beginning of the summer asking if they could drive down and visit us in New York. We met David and Susan in Annapolis the first year we were out cruising. They had taken a year off work and were heading south to the Bahamas. We ended up sharing a lot of anchorages in the ensuing months until they turned back north and we continued down the island chain. Five years later, they dropped out again and we cruised the south coast of Cuba together.
David and Susan's sailboat "Kari II", a Niagara 31, is smaller than "Little Gidding". They're used to sleeping in crypt like accommodations and sharing a head that's within a few inches of everyone else on board. They don't pack a lot of extra gear and they don't expect to take long, hot showers. Perfect boat guests.
We met David and Susan in Orient Point at the northeast tip of Long Island, New York, a couple of Sundays ago. We were supposed to connect a day earlier, but we received a last minute phone call from Susan explaining that David was tied up at work. David sells real estate for a living. "No problem," we responded. "It's YOUR vacation, come whenever you can, we've got nothing else planned."
Although a day late in arriving, David and Susan didn't disappoint us. They appeared at the dock carrying all their stuff, not a rigid trunk or suitcase to be seen. They brought their own sheets and towels so we wouldn't have extra laundry to deal with after they left. They brought all of our backlogged mail that Eileen's niece had forwarded to them. And they brought us presents: gourmet coffee beans, curry paste we couldn't find in the local speciality shops, good wine, and the weekend edition of the Toronto "Globe & Mail". The perfect boat guests. Almost.
We were just getting settled in the cockpit, sipping our first drink of the evening, when David's cell phone rang. "OOPS," he said, "I'm expecting a call about an offer. Excuse me for a minute." David disappeared down below. We finished our drinks and started preparing dinner. David joined us briefly until his cell phone rang again. We had a nice chat with Susan. Around ten o'clock David's phone stopped ringing and we all went to bed.
The next day we sailed over to Shelter Island. David was at the helm enjoying the sun and breeze. His phone rang. He closed a couple of deals before we had to tack. The phone stopped ringing long enough for us to anchor in West Neck Harbor. We took the dinghy ashore. We collected seashells with Susan on the beach. David collected a few more listings on the phone.
After three days, we had cruised most of the waters around Shelter Island and David had sold half the real estate in Ontario. We decided to sail further down Long Island Sound to the Thimble Islands. It was a great sail with the current with us and we were out of cell phone range for a good part of it so David's phone didn't ring. After we dropped the hook, David discovered he had 27 phone messages. "It looks like I might have to go home early to sort out a few things," he announced. The next day we took the dinghy to the village of Stony Creek where David called a taxi to take him back to his car, fifty miles away. "It's been a great visit," he exclaimed as he climbed into the cab. That's the last we saw of him. By now, he's probably sold the other half of Ontario's real estate.
Susan stayed with us until we reached Bridgeport, Connecticut, a couple of days later. We were in Bridgeport last weekend for Eileen to give a performance for the Long Island Sound Catalina Association at their annual regatta. The last we saw of Susan she was driving off in a taxi to find a rental car. Before she left, we made plans to meet her and David again in October in Annapolis for the US Sailboat Show. "Thanks for the great time," she said. "See you in a couple of months!"
That night we drank some of the wine David and Susan had brought and finished reading the "Globe & Mail". David put his glass down and remarked, "I think it might be time for them to quit their jobs again."