Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Sailor’s Code

How many times have you passed a stranded motorist on the highway?  Turned a blind eye to the neighbor who’s basement flooded?  Watched in stillness as the elevator door closed on a very winded, very pregnant woman at the airport as she ran to catch her connection and yelled "Pleeeease hooooolllld" (yes, over one year later this still irks me.  I mean, really people!?)  Most of us have done one or all of these things.  Life is a little different than it was in the days when Lassie roamed free; we don’t know our neighbors, kids bring guns to school with the intention of using them, and highways are the (real or imagined) prowling ground of serial killers and psychopaths.  Between all the crazies and our love of litigation, we’re all a little more guarded these days.

I’ve touched on it many times before, but life afloat is different in this regard.  Out here, it’s a cardinal sin to ignore a fellow boater in need.  No matter how inconvenient/risky/annoying it might be, when another cruiser is in trouble, it’s usually up to other cruisers to come together and help them out.  There are countless examples of this – and every single sailor you will ever meet will have their own stories to share.  There are so many inspiring tales of heroism at sea; one of the best – no doubt – is detailed in the incredible book Close to the Wind which is the harrowing account of a rescue at sea during the 1996 Vendee Globe Race in which one solo sailor, Pete Goss, risked his own life by turning his boat into hurricane-force headwinds to rescue fellow single hander Raphael Dinelli.  Of course not all instances of help on the high seas are of the life and death variety; sometimes it's just catching a line at the dock, a spare part gifted, a radio relay, or elbow grease.  Regardless, every single day there are examples, large and small, of boaters helping boaters – oftentimes strangers – because we all know that one day, it will be us that needs that hand.  And this, my friends, is the sailor's code:  if you can help, you do.

The other night as we came back dinner and we saw a boat in a bit of a pickle and seemingly tangled witha another boat.  There were a few dinghies around clearly trying to help, but whatever problem was occurring was not under control.  Scott dropped Isla and I off on the boat and headed over to see if he could lend a hand.  Turns out, the boat had gone aground and then drifted back on to another boat's mooring line which, in turn, tangled around the keel and prop putting these two boats in a Chinese fingercuffs type of situation.  Considering the wind was gusting up to 30 knots and these boats were making contact, this was not a good place to be.  Scott and some other boaters worked for the next hour to free the two boats and after a little leverage and some strategic fender placement - the boats were free and Scott was enjoying a nice bottle of Tuscan wine with the Italian couple on board.

Of course there are many examples of good samaritanship on land but, unfortunately, I believe it's the exception and not the rule these days.  People are a little bit lazy, a little bit leery and AAA exists for a reason.   On a boat, however, we all know we're a mere ring-ding away from disaster and it's nice to know that there is still a place in this world where a helping hand will almost always be extended when needed.  At sea it is most certainly prudent to be self-reliant but the fact remains that none of us would be afloat if not for a little help from our friends.


Anonymous said...

We aren't on a big ocean but on the lakes this rule applies as well. I can tell you of at least 3x my husband and I and various other family members has been helped by total strangers who when asked what can I do to thank you. The response every time is the same. Just help someone else when you can. In other words pay it forward. Would it not be awesome if this was one of the world's common sayings. Blessings on all.

Steve said...

It's a little hard to see in the photo, but there is someone in the water near the starboard quarter of the boat on the left. Any idea what they were trying to do?

Ben Eriksen said...

Nice post - it's one of those refreshing observations that makes cruising/sailing that much more appealing.

Petr said...

The sea makes people nice. One has to love the lifestyle

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