By Tom Neale, 2/9/2006
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I don’t know whether it was the wakes rolling us or Mick Jagger’s white belly wiggling on the flat screen. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt seasick, but that night I felt a little funny. We were on a friend’s trawler in Ft. Lauderdale. There were four cruising couples, a cat, and there was enough food to put some weight even on Mick.
The wake had been coming from all the big boats gliding past, ever since late afternoon. They were full of people yelling and screaming and partying and watching some really big flat screens—getting wound up for the Super Bowl. These boats had been cruising up and down the ICW and New River with “pre game” parties swinging into a frenzy. The partiers were, from their perspective, “cruising out on the high seas,” but I think they had a different concept about cruising.
The captain of the trawler Mel and I were aboard had better sense than to untie from the dock and go out and join the big boat parties. Why should we? The friends were good, the food was good, the party was good, and when you cast off from the dock it’s a real pain to go back and get some more beer if you didn’t bring enough. True, there was more than enough aboard, but we’re people of little faith when it comes to important things like this. (OK, OK. I know that’s a bad thing to say. We really don’t drink beer underway.)
I know it wasn’t the beer making me queasy because I had been holding back so I could get a memorable view of the Mick when he pranced out. Also, our hostess had a mission for us all: Find her niece. The niece who was going to be “dancing in front of a mouth” after a tarpaulin was pulled back. The niece had been practicing for days. She was going to be wearing a blue sweater. The “mouth” was going to be either in front of or behind Mick. All we had to do was find the mouth—not a mean feat when you consider the plethora of mouths at any Super Bowl.
Even though this trawler was around 48 feet long and very fancy and high tech, the flat screen wasn’t one of those 6’ by 8’ things you see on the big party boats. And since you do other things on a cruising boat than watch TV, the flat screen was in a corner. It wasn’t out in the middle of the floor at one end of a theatre-like room. And since we were on a cruising boat, all of us were regularly walking around, because that’s what you have to do when you want another beer or glass of wine. It’s not like there are people waiting to serve you. Cruisers serve themselves. And it’s not like there’s one big bar area with all you could desire neatly stacked up. You’re on a cruising boat, not in a gin palace. So you go get it from wherever it’s been stored, such as in the cooler out in the stern, or on the fiddled counter in the galley, or in the binoculars holder up on the fly bridge. And bottles of wine kept appearing from bags, but the bags had all been stuffed into out of the way corners when we came aboard, as is the habit of cruisers, mindful not to take up too much space on a host boat. Cruisers have a custom of bringing their own booze to gatherings on boats, because few of us can afford to supply the fleet and few of us have the room on our boat to do this even if we could afford it.
Cruising Roots 1. Just because you take off cruising doesn’t mean you must do without the special occasions that have been important in your life. 2. Especially when cruising to other countries or regions, it’s important to the psyche to continue the observations that help define your heritage.
1. Just because you take off cruising doesn’t mean you must do without the special occasions that have been important in your life.
2. Especially when cruising to other countries or regions, it’s important to the psyche to continue the observations that help define your heritage.
So we went back to the football game half time pursuit of talking. Talking about things we like to talk about the most. Mick jumped and wiggled and big corporations spent millions per minute on ads, but we talked about going to the Bahamas and weather windows and islands and spare parts and breakdowns and dragging anchor and catching fish---important stuff. No matter that people had bet billions on that game. We had our own little pool of a dollar a quarter and the Captain had a reputation of being able to figure out things like odds even after a few beers, so we talked about cruising and didn’t worry about all that other stuff.
As the game wore on, the noise on the party boats passing by grew louder and louder. And louder. From things I was hearing drifting over the water, I think it had something to do with the stage of the party and with the fact that more and more of the landlubbers aboard were realizing that they really were “at sea” on their own floating island where they had to “SURVIVE” and, if push came to shove (always an unfortunate term on a boat) they could sleep aboard till morning.
On our boat, things were quieting down. The cat reappeared without anyone having had to dive in after it. The hostess (an exceptionally great hostess) was commenting that the thing she hated about football was that they allowed overtime after the game was supposed to be over and that they shouldn’t do that for the Super Bowl because they should know that everyone had Super Bowl parties and that some of us went to bed around 9:00 or 9:30. A bunch of us agreed, including, with great vigor, me. Cruisers get into the habit of living by the light. When you’re making passage you have to stand watches day and night. But when you’re in harbor you tend to go with the flow of nature and you tend to wake up and go to sleep with the light and darkness. Nature has a great flow. And it had long been dark. I realized this was probably why I was feeling a little funny. I’d been on a super roll all day—doing cruising stuff. I’d spent a lot of the day in the ocean, I was tired, and my last quarter had long been over for the night. There’s no regulation time when you’re cruising. Time is time.
We’d enjoyed the game. We’d enjoyed our little party. We’d enjoyed the food. We even enjoyed a few of the commercials. But most of all, we enjoyed being on a boat—not a big party boat—but a friend’s cruising boat that was lived on and cared for and that made real voyages. And most of all even more than that, we’d enjoyed being together as cruisers, talking about the things we love and had in common. We parted as cruisers part—not talking about who intercepted a pass or made a touch down, but where we were heading off to next, when we’d be departing and when we’d be sharing a harbor again, and getting together again. It’s part of the flow of cruising.
Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale