We were all out for pizza, four boat families, eight kids, the conversation ranging from mini vans, to home decor, to the oil spill—when it hit me—we are utterly ordinary.
This may not seem like that much of an insight. After all, every cruising family we’ve ever met, including ourselves, has gone to great lengths to convince friends and family that moving aboard a boat, yanking kids out of their lives, leaving secure jobs and a loving community, just so we could cut the dock lines and go off in search of adventure, is a perfectly sane thing to do. In fact--we’ve probably all pointed out--there are lots and lots of rational, ordinary people out cruising. Families who are just as normal and average as the ones we went to play groups and birthday parties with.
The thing is--none of us really believes this.
Sailing lore is filled with stories of larger than life characters: People from the fringes of society who do outrageous things and have exceptional adventures. The stereotypical image of a cruiser more closely resembles a character who might populate a Carl Hiaasen novel, than a mini-van driving soccer mom.
But the reality of the modern cruising family is that there is often a mini-van (or some other sensible four-door sedan with an excellent safety rating) lurking not too far in the past. And that living and travelling on a boat is pretty much as crazy as it gets.
I’ve got to admit, I was a bit disappointed with my epiphany. The last time we were out cruising, the anchorages seemed to be filled with those slightly offbeat characters--ones who were busy dancing to their own sound tracks. And while out shopping the other day, I was thinking about how much I miss those people; the ones whose thoughts aren’t contained by boxes and whose dreams aren’t limited by common sense. I was thinking that I missed them because without a few of them floating nearby, life seems sort of boring.
Then I ran into the father from a boat we’d met earlier on our trip in front of the dairy section. We were both thrilled that the Tillamook butter was not only in stock, but on sale. While we each grabbed a few packages I asked if they had recently changed their boat name. I explained we’d heard their voices on the radio, but not recognized the new boat name they were using.
“We’re on the run,” he told me. And as we rolled our carts through the aisles, debating Chilean versus Argentine wines and exchanging recipe ideas for our favourite Mexican brands, he cheerfully told a story of misunderstandings and miscommunications that had put his family of four on the lamb. “It’ll be fine though,” he said, “we’ll sort things out.” But until they do, they’re laying low and using fake names.
Concern for their well-being aside, his story made me strangely happy. And it made me decide to listen more carefully to the other boat parents when they tell their stories. Maybe all those mini vans are simply camouflage. And maybe each and every one of them is a little bit extraordinary and slightly odd...