Sunday, September 5, 2021

Why are we here?

 The Wife and I were sitting on the back deck the other afternoon, talking about or adventures living aboard, talking about why we do it.  It was rather a revelatory conversation.

So why do we do it?  Why do we stay on the water?

Living on the river, of course, has some distinct drawbacks.  Wet is as much a state of mind as it is a lifstyle, and the weather can be a bother.  In cold weather the docks can get slippery and in hot weather, they can burn your feet.  Morons in go-fasts persist in ignoring the no wake rules around marinas and can create a "ride-em cowboy" moment at the worst times, ususally when you're doing something precarious with something droppable, fragile, or edible.  Every action involves multiple trips up the docks to the parking lot for tools, garbage, groceries or to deal with sanitation.  Boats can be stifling in summer.  They can be freezing and damp in winter.  With the internal humidity in cold weather, it can sometimes literally rain inside a fiberglass boat.  

So Why do we do it?

We started ennumerating the reasons.  It's cheaper of course, at least the way we do it.  Our lives are simpler, and that's a plus.  We both love the water--we grew up on it, though in different regions--and it feels like home.  We love watching wildlife and the parade of the seasons along the river banks.  We both love the ego boost and uniqueness of telling people:  "no, we live on our boat year round" and watching the often envious responses.  All that is true, all those are plusses.

But none of those are enough.  So why do we do it?

It's rather like sitting on your front porch in a small town.

A number of years ago a friend of ours--a sociologist and former colleague--was down visiting with his wife at the marina.  Everyone was laughing and eating and drinking and talking, but I noticed he was completely absorbed in watching the docks, looking at people coming and going.

"What are you watching?" I asked.  He smiled.  "I didn't expect this."  he said, "It's like a small town.  Each of the docks is a street, and each one has its own character, its own residents.  It's like a little town."

It was then that I got it:  It's the community that keeps us here.

Those of us who live on or have boats in the marina are constantly engaged with one another.  You're always helping someone come into dock or pull an engine, or someone is helping you mess with the rigging.  We've gifted people with dinghies and pumps and dock cables.  We've been gifted air conditioners and once even a sail boat that we lived aboard for several years.  In the evenings, we often gather on the dock, share drinks and stories and food.  It's a community.

Like any community, its not immune to conflict and controversy.  The 2020 election was hard on us here, friendships were lost, families were split, and we considered leaving.  We've got a pretty good group here on "S" dock right now, though.  We all get along, we help one another.  If I fell in the water there would be eight people trying to pull me out, and that's a comfort.  It's also a part of boating culture: the piching in, the familial feelings of friendship and responsibility and charity.

So it's the people that keep us here.  While other forces in society seem bent on driving folks apart, the livaboard life is an intentional community that the water draws together.  It's why we stay.

If you'll excuse me, now, I promised to check in on a slipmate's cat.