43 13.101N 075 26.684 W
I was surprised and delighted to find a story about the cruising life on the front page of today's Washington Post. Reading the article however, I learned that their definition of cruising differed very much from ours. The article focused on those living aboard houseboats at The Gangplank Marina in Washington DC (we spend the whole month of June there in 2008, read about it here.). It also featured a couple living on a Hatteras 53 in Key West who were trying to decide whether to use built-in furniture on the boat, or to use furniture from the furniture store. It seems very different indeed, but there is still a sense of recognition and commonality of experience that we have with those people.
So where do we draw the line between who is a cruiser, and who isn't? We don't. As we have seen it, the term is loosely and liberally defined. Boaters, cruisers, liveaboards, it all kind of blends together.
The most egalitarian and relaxed culture we've seen is that in Marathon, in the Florida Keys. There sailing cruiser, motor cruisers, circumnavigators, and live aboards all mingle freely and happily as peers for the most part. There is a kind of pecking order of status, but the boundaries are not strict, nor do they matter as much as you think. Here it is:
- Full-time cruisers
- Part-time cruisers and first-time cruisers
- Live aboards
There are also former cruisers who now live on land, and yet-to-be cruisers or wannabes, and other categories I haven't thought of. We don't need to rank them all.
For practical reasons, motor cruisers and sailing cruisers are partially segregated. Motor yachts need to remain tethered to the short power cord almost always. Sailboats prefer to be out at anchor or on a mooring. Therefore the motor-motor and sail-sail bonds are stronger, but we love to socialize cross category whenever possible.
About the only ones we exclude from this society are fishermen and weekend day sailors who seldom sleep on board. Cruisers seldom mingle with those.
Unfortunately, there is a second group with whom we mingle only a little. I'm referring to those who succumb to what we call "Keys Disease" Those who pickle themselves with nonstop intake of alcohol and tobacco 24x7. But even that group we learn to know by first names, and once in a while we shoot the breeze with them. The State of Florida doesn't like these people and they keep trying to pass laws to get rid of them. We have all learned to never apply the term "live aboard" to ourselves, while in Florida because that is a targeted minority. In other parts of the country, you can use "cruiser" or "live aboard" as synonyms.
By contrast, we found very little community in the camp grounds this summer. We met only one couple that we would like to contact later. For the most part, we didn't even speak to neighboring campers more than "good morning." My friend Walt assures me that there is a community of full-time RV owners very similar to boating cruisers, but we didn't meet them.
What is the biggest flaw of cruising? Only one comes to mind. We tire of boating-cruising-destinations-sea stories being the only topics of conversation. We yearn for other topics; politics, religion, science. Not bad though, only one flaw. How about that?