September 20, 2009

How to Recognize a Cruising Boat

One of the best parts of cruising last time were the sailing friends we made. 
Unlike the way you make friends on land - cruising friends are usually made over some shared mishap, or a series of shared mishaps...
There is an unwritten code of the sea – if someone needs a hand, you give it freely. This can mean the big stuff; like rescues, or the smaller things; such as taking someone’s lines when they arrive at the dock, or the inconvenient things; like standing out in the pouring rain helping your neighbour re-tune his rig (thanks Mike!)

When we first headed out, we wondered if the cruising code would have changed after 14-years. After all, the world has changed a bit and there are a lot more boats out now, so we thought the easy warmth and generosity we felt last time may have faded a bit. But if our first few harbours are any indication, cruisers are still friendly and as willing as ever to point the way to hot showers and cold beer.

While some cruisers belong to clubs and find each other by noting burgees, or keeping track of each other on radio nets, we're not joiners. So we look for other signs that a boat is a cruising boat. There are a few obvious signs that a boat might be out for an extended cruise – the exotic flag they fly, or a faraway home port on the stern. But those clues are less reliable than you might think.

The real way we recognize each other are the more subtle signs:

 A big one is how and when a boat arrives in harbour. Not everyone comes in with assistance, but we do tend to arrive looking a bit dazed and uncertain and dressed for a gale, no matter how lovely it is out. And we smell.

 The jerry cans stored on deck - sailboats never have enough diesel or water tankage for longer passages.

 The self-steering gear – hand steering for more than a day sail is mind numbing and we tend to avoid it.

 Jacklines – These are strong lins the we clip our harnesses to for offshore travel so we’re not washed overboard.

 Power sources - Most boats sport either a wind generator or a a bunch of solar panels or a combo of the two. The goal is to be self-sufficient so you only need to head back into harbour when you run out of beer or vegetables.

And assorted junk - because we all need our junk...

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