Monday, July 20, 2015

On the Nature of Community

June 2015 was a kind of milestone for us.  As of the 14th of that month, we had lived exclusively on the water for a full year:  A full four seasons on the water.  Amazing.

In celebration we invited a few old friends out to join us, colleagues from a college at which we both taught.  One, a sociologist, seemed fascinated by the cultural dynamic of the Marina.  "It's like a small town."  He said, "With each dock being a different street, each with it's own character."  It was a great observation, and it got us thinking about the nature of Marina communities and the Marina life.

One of the things we have loved the most about this place is the sense of community, and to a very great extent well run marinas are like small towns, with all the strengths and foibles you'd associate with that.  Every small town stereotype you can think of:  community meals, the town drunk, the sense of place and pride, kids playing in the town square, the local busybody, the ritzy house and the unkept one, all exist in some sense in the marina setting as well.  The truly great ones are like enduring small villages, with remarkably stable populations, a profound sense of place, and a loyal cast of characters.  It isn't an accident.  
Common spaces are crucial.  The firepit wasn't even DONE before folks began using it as a gathering space.

Many Marinas fall down in the community department.  Lacking comfortable common spaces where slipholders can meet and driven in a push for as much income generating footage as possible, they become little more than storage places for vessels.  Worse, some become mere stages for the competitive showing of wealth and prestige, with little sense of friendliness or belonging.  A talented Marina operator can create community, both through the inclusion of pleasant common spaces in which folks might gather and through some rather careful selection of who goes where in terms of slip assignments (as well as a practiced intolerance for those who prove destructive to the tone and tenor of the place). It is an attention to the care and maintenance of community, just as any city manager or small town mayor might take into accord.  

One of the things we have loved the most about this place is that the Marina has, indeed, proven close as a small town; convivial, helpful, and, in general, a delight.  We tolerate one another and take care of one another, looking after vessels and alerting the owners to potential problems if we notice them.  There's always a helping hand or some decent advice to keep us afloat.
Public spaces are the soul of community.  If you build it, they will come.
And, of course. . .they do.

And the "community" isn't limited to just boats and the environs.  We've also become known to the merchants that are in an easy walk from the boat, and they've become great sources not only of goods and services, but of good information. (As an aside, it amazes me how few people actually bother to talk to the people with whom they do business day to day.  We've become the friends to a number of merchants just by dent of treating them like human beings.) The shops and stores then become a part of the Marina community, aware of it, and happy to have and support it.

We have met such good friends here, folks that we might never, ever had stumbled across in our former lives, and we are far the better for it.  We meet virtually every day, sharing stories, food, drink, and our lives.  We both grew up this way, Gail and I, in our respective small towns, and it's good to have it back; this closeness.  

Looking back on the year, our lives are ever so much richer, happier, healthier, and more fulfilling.  If you are anticipating a move aboard, don't wait, make it happen.  We should have done this years ago.

If you're interested, and we invite you to visit our other blogs of life afloat, and

Enjoy the life, folks.  We certainly do!


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