Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Just add Water: Eleven Ways Cruising Friendships are Different Than Others

One of my fundamental beliefs in life is that people need people. We are, by nature, social creatures and making real and deep connections with other human beings goes down as one of the most rewarding gifts of life. I have been very fortunate in my life to have always been surrounded by amazing friends. I have high school friends, college friends, sailing friends, mama friends, blogging friends, older friends, younger friends and Scott and I even have what we call "couple friends". My best friend and I go all the way back to first grade (she knows me better than I know myself and I literally thank the Universe for her daily.) Friends are friends and, to me, each "type" of friendship is purposeful and meaningful, with every person bringing value, experience and perspective to an individual.

Since leaving on our boat we've even added a new category of friendship to our repertoire: the one which we call "cruising" friends

These friendships are very, very different from any other type I've experienced. Scott always says, "There's something special about friendships formed on water" and it's true. Don't get me wrong, not every cruiser is an immediate friend - just like on land we "click" with some people and not with others...but when you *do* make that 'real and deep' connection with someone on the water, a little bit of magic happens. In an effort to explain what a cruising friendship looks like, here are eleven ways in which I find they are different than others:

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1) They are formed fast and furious. Friendships blossom fast on the water, one minute you are helping someone rescue their dinghy from floating away, the next you are sharing cocktails in the cockpit like old friends. There is an instant familiarity between cruisers and, even if you only spend one evening together, you usually cut right through the small talk and get to the meat of the matter. It takes almost no time for cruisers to start acting like old friends, despite only spending a few days together. Just as marriage in a boat is amplified and condensed (1 year on a boat = 4 years on land) so is friendship. When you click, you click and that is that.
Jost Van Dyke, BVI 2015. The McGuire Family are blog-follwers turned friends who we were lucky enough to cruise with for a bit during their epic 5 month charter. We love them like crazy and there is not a doubt in my mind that we will be friends with these people FOREVER and because they live in the midwest, we know we'll be seeing them again.
2) Time spent together is intensified. Because most cruisers are retired and/or semi retired, we don't have the rigorous work and social schedules that are common on land. As as result, when you do find those people that you connect with, you spend a lot of time together. When we cruised with our best buddies, the Soeter's family ,we spent no fewer than three hours a day together for months and months. That's a LOT of quality time! To this day they are still some of our very best friends and we consider them more like family. Stay tuned for our epic reunion in a few weeks! (They are moving to Tortola on their boat where we will be living too!!! GAHHHH!!!)
Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas 2013. These two have a very special place in my heart. Genevieve, one of my very best girlfriends, of s/v Necesse (currently in the USVI) and Karina of s/v Kazaio (currently in the South Pacific)
3) You help each other out. I think I've driven the point home pretty well on this blog, but in case it hasn't gotten through: boats break a lot. Ninety percent of the time you will be trying to fix and/or diagnose your boat woes with your cruising buddies. We pool our supplies, tools and spares and do whatever we can to help a fellow cruiser out because a) you never know when it will be your turn to need help and b) the cocktails afterward are that much nicer! Out on the water we can only rely on ourselves and our friends - and the cruising community is unrivaled in it's ability to rally for one another.
Tortola, BVI 2015. Eben of s/v Necesse helping Scott install our new battery bank.
4) You are "like minded." It takes a certain type of person to live on a sailboat. While we cruisers are all different, there are definitely some core values that almost all of us share: a love of travel, an appreciation for the "tiny house" movement, a love of simple living, an eco-friendly mentality, a desire to ditch the 'rat race' and a hefty dose of self-reliance to name a few. We're a tough bunch and when we get together, connections are not hard to make and the conversation is often easy and interesting. We're all members of the same tribe and proud of it.
Georgetown, Bahamas 2010. In this bunch are our very first cruising friends and what an epic group it was. Brian and Lara of Forest and Fin, George and Kelly of Earthling Sailor, Sarah and Miguel and Jay and Nicole.
5) You probably "know" them before you meet them. This is a new one since the world of 'cruising blogs' has literally exploded in the last couple years. When we started blogging I would say there were maybe one tenth of the blogs that are out there now. Today it's rare if someone doesn't have a blog or website. This is an interesting phenomenon because it's made the cruising community that much smaller. I'd say there's no more than two degrees of separation between cruisers and chances are, you 'know' fellow cruisers through their websites and/or niche Facebook groups before you ever meet in person. This has been a really neat development over the last few years and adds some depth and ease to making new cruising friends because we already know so much about each other by the time we meet.
Tortola, 2015. Carly of the fantastic blog, Salty Kisses (they just competed the Northwest Passage!!! INSANE.) We only hung out together a short time but have spoken via email and chat a BUNCH of times. Her little boy, Crew, is only a week apart from the twins so we have a lot in common dealing with our little ones on board. 
6) You get unusually comfortable together. Our closest cruising buds have seen us at our best...and at our worst. They've witnessed the tense and stressful moments where we are most raw and celebrated our victories with us. They've been privy to our domestic disputes, wiped our tears when we're overwhelmed with our kids, hugged us when our boat's give us another doozy of an issue and, more likely than not, have seen our nekkid bottoms when showering off the back of our boats. My girl Darcy (of the Sunkissed Soerters) has undressed me, put me in bed and held my hair back as I puked after consuming one too many Killer Bee's on the island of Nevis - not my proudest moment, but boy was I glad to have a friend like her. You go through a lot with your cruising buddies and, as a result, become more like family than friends.
Our very best family friends, the Sunkissed Soeters. We have spent so much time with this family and get along with them so well that's it's almost bizarre. We love them like family and we'll be reuniting with them in a few weeks!! GAH!!!
7) You will have incredible photos together. Palm trees, epic sunsets, island tableaus, and crystal clear water are the usually the backdrops of our photos. The scenery make the memories that much sweeter.
Gerogetown, Bahamas 2013. This is where Genevieve and I first met and formed our awesome bond. We reunited three years later in the Virgin Island after a LOT of trying to convince her to head that way on my part. Those of you that love her blog can thank me, I helped convince her to write one - probably not long after this photo was taken ;)
8) Everyone has a story. They are often very interesting. We've met so many incredible people since we left, and I mean really, really cool people doing some really incredible things. They are writers, photographers, single-handers, mountaineers, activists, botanists, researchers, fisherman, surfers, kite boarders, extreme minimalists, chefs, and philosophers. We've met people who've been held at gunpoint in Columbia and others who have been shipwrecked on the Indian Ocean. This lifestyle tends to bring a certain personality type out of the woodwork and it's often very adventurous, well-traveled people who do things on their own terms. We also tend to imbibe quite often which is always great for story-telling.
Tortola, BVI 2015. Maggie and Wiley were just making the transition from live-aboards to full-time RV'ers (Harmony on Land). I still laugh at Wiley's stories and we love this couple a LOT. So much fun and we wish they were still floating!
9) They cross social, cultural and economic boundaries. Our cruising friends run the gamut and while we do tend to stick with fellow kid boats for obvious reasons, we have made friends from all over the world that cover every social class and represent every age group. The only other time in my life when I felt like friendships crossed these barriers was when I was an expatriate living in Tanzania. There, we were all "outsiders" and that fact alone was enough to bind us together. My core group of friends and I would most likely never have met in the 'real world' but there, in that little cowboy town that was Arusha, we bonded. The same holds true with cruising. A cruiser's get together will host a whole slew of nationalities, and our friends are French, Iranian, Canadian, Argentinian, Australian, Dutch and British (to name a few). We have a virtual United Nations of friendships and this really expands our worldview more so than almost anything else I think.
This is our beautiful French-Canadian friend Karin. We first met her and her husband Mario in Ft. Lauderdale, and now they live in the BVI and run a luxury charter boat. We've run into them on and off over the years and now we all live in the BVI's. They are some of our best friends and even though English is their second language, we understand each other completely.
10) They get "it."And by "it" I mean everything. Fellow cruisers just get it. The ups and the downs and everything in-between. You don't need to explain to a fellow cruiser how shitty it is to lose your engine/blow a mainsail/kill a dinghy motor/drag anchor...etc...because they can empathize. They understand what it's like to be stuck somewhere waiting for a part, they feel the pain of trying to diagnose a mystery problem and they know the hell that is a rolly anchorage. Adversity brings you closer. Cruising is a wonderful lifestyle, but it can come at a price. Complaining about these things can seem unappreciative to our land-based friends, but cruisers know and understand that the downsides of cruising are all too real. They also know how amazing it is to have a 'perfect' passage, finally fix that mystery leak, discover a great new "galley hack" and capture that incredible sunset. No matter how hard you try to explain your life to land-lubbing friends, they just won't get it. Just as parenthood cannot be fully understood until you yourself are a parent, the same holds true with cruising.
St. John, USVI 2015. Jody of the awesome blog, Where the Coconuts Grow, and Genevieve again. Three peas in a pod!
11) Goodbyes are inevitable and hard. This is, by far, one of the hardest aspects of the lifestyle. Because of it's transient nature, your friends will come and go and parting is such sweet sorrow. I'm emotional and wear my heart on my sleeve, so when I say 'bye' to our very best cruising friends, there are ALWAYS tears. Always. Luckily, with Facebook and blogs it's really easy to keep in touch with one another, watch each other's children grow, follow awesome adventures and plan those epic reunions. It's never "goodbye", but "see you later!" the world is round, after all.
Scott with Mike and Melanie (blog followers turned friends), me and my super girls, Lisa and Nicole (an arial acrobat!)


I could not possibly capture ALL our cruising friends in this one post, so to all of you who we love dearly who are not pictured, sorry!! I was going bug-eyed looking through photos and it was SO hard to just chose these few!

8 comments:

Sailing LunaSea said...

What a great post! I love seeing this side while I am swamped in boat projects, and hope to make lots of new fabulous friends when we get out there :)

ourtiesthatbind.net said...

I'm now 90 minutes in to a two-hour night meeting which made this particular post that much sweeter and also that much more painful. I'm so looking forward to transitioning to this lifestyle, but its realization is soooo far away. We will get there... Persistent baby steps, supplemented with occasional forays to the BVI. Thanks for keeping the dream alive for the rest of us.

Boyink said...

Loved this post. We're a fulltime RVing family and have often said similar things about friendships made on the road. The biggest unexpected blessing of this lifestyle is that we have more and deeper friends than before we lived this way.

Jane Stephen said...

Love this Brit!!! I was just posting about our new found friends too, only you describe it so much better!! Love you sweet girl!

Hermits Hut said...

love to see all you folks having so much FUN . Sitting here at my desk in the back of my funky lil climbing shop wishing I was out in the bluewater somewhere I cant tell you how much I look forward to your posts

Carly Zaniboni said...

We miss all our Caribbean cruising buddies. It hasn't stopped raining in Alaska and we're wishing for some sunshine and cocktails! Thanks for the mention, fun to look back on old pics. Carly

Anonymous said...

Just a short note from a family cruiser. I think you blog page is fabulous. the tone and colors are so inviting. I hope the creative genius of the blog came from the collaboration of your family.
I will again be in a position to take Peapod out on the waters. This is what we look forward to before too old to move. Keep up the posting Even when on the hook. Bruce

horizonstar said...

And might I add that all the women are Gorgeous?

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