Stepping Down from the Curb
4 September 2000
Being tied to the dock at Rodney Bay Marina has given Linda and I our first real break since retiring from the Army and sailing away. Cruising is intended to be a period of your life where you intentionally slow down and enjoy life at a more relaxed pace but, to be honest, the first four months of our voyage had not really been at a relaxed pace. April in the Chesapeake Bay was cold and rainy and the anticipation of an offshore passage hung over us. In May we steeled ourselves to the task and made the passage to St. Martin. After that, the commencement of hurricane season prompted us not to linger too long in any single place and make progress to the south. It was our intention to go further south but there were too many things about Rodney Bay that beckoned us to stay and we had become malleable to sybaritic persuasions. By far the greatest persuasion was that we had made friends and were making more friends every day. Since the day we left Shady Side we had only intermittent contact with other people such as visits by old friends from the Army Band and an occasional sundowner with other cruisers. But these were fleeting events. We hardly think of ourselves as social butterflies and we do well with just each otherís company but weíve always valued friendship and it took the last four months to show us how valuable friends really are. It was prophetic that in Rodney Bay the first couple that we started socializing with was Bob and Peggy off a boat named "Friendship."
Soon enough we were joining most of the other cruisers at the marina in the daily ritual of soaking in the pool in the late afternoon; Brian & Alexis on "The Legend," Dave & Terry on the catamaran "Sylvester," Jim & Debby on the 1957 fifty-two foot wooden Cheoy Lee yawl "Mah Jong," and quite a few others. Recently "Wandering Dolphin" with Marcel & Kathy and their two sons, Tristan & Roland took the slip next to us and Iím very thankful that theyíre tolerant of my Tuba Playing.
In this life everyone is associated with the name of his or her yacht. With this in mind I should mention that care should be exercised when naming a yacht intended for voyaging. This is especially true with cute or joke names. You might not want to be known throughout the cruising community as Joe Chicken Ship.
Quite a lot of support comes from fellow cruisers both physical and psychological. Splashing around in the pool, comparing experiences, and sharing knowledge has been very beneficial to both Linda and I. Being out at sea can be lonely and itís good to know that there are others who have shared this experience and that there are friendly faces waiting for us when we make it to the anchorage. We draw strength from human interaction.
Cruisers are for the most part just like people you meet anywhere. I cannot say that there is anything that makes them stand out in a crowd other than they always seem to have a better tan than everyone else. The one trait that is universally shared by cruisers, however, is the ability to face anxiety and master it. Just the thought of watching the land disappear astern. Knowing that many days will pass before land is once again in sight will cause a shudder in all of us no matter how many times weíve done it before. I still get butterflies at the commencement of a day passage to the next island and others have confessed to me the same feelings. "Just do it," we say to ourselves and let the practiced drills of readying a yacht and getting underway temper our anxiety. There are many who dream about sailing away and go to great expense preparing a yacht for long-distance voyaging yet can never master their anxiety enough to set out. A good friend, Steve Permenter, who is the master of an ocean towboat once said to me when we were discussing this phenomena, "sometimes you just have to step down from the curb."
So, as I soak in the swimming pool next to the "Three Amigos" at Rodney Bay Marina, sipping a Piton Lager while watching the sun get lower in the sky, I look around me and see a group of people that all had the courage to "step down from the curb. Itís good to have friends.