Saturday, March 12, 2011


Emerald Bay, Exumas 23º46.7N | 76º5.11W

Sea Gal at anchor.*
One of the great treasures of cruising is the friendships formed along the way. I've pondered why on water it appears so much easier to form lasting relationships, and I have a few theories, well, four actually.
  1. Strong Characters. Cruising couples have rock solid alliances between two strong, engaged, wise and, almost without fail, witty characters. The reality of living together in a tiny space and undergoing the discomforts, travails and elations of sailing are insupportable without the ability to weather anything thrown at you while sustaining rather than turning on each other, and the utter necessity of finding the humor in all of it. Weak, humorless relationships will eventually, inevitably break.
  2. Open Hearts. Cruising can be a lonely proposition. By design we have to leave behind family and friends, and no longer ensconced in our posse, like college freshmen, we are far from home and more open to embracing new friends.
  3. Time to Spare. When you move at a top speed of 6 mph, life passes at a beautiful protracted pace that to me seems more grounded in reality than the "real world" frenzy fabricated by flocking humans. Out here we have time to value each other, to listen, to laugh, to tell jokes, to lend a hand.
  4. Kindred Spirits. Cruisers are a tiny fraction of the human race. We have abandoned careers, cars, houses, bucked every system we can think of, hitched our wagons to bucking waves, and shaken up the very bones of life. Every day we face new challenges, push our own limits and, frankly, put our lives in our own, and our partner's, hands. It makes sense that the pool of commonality already runs deep. So does the likelihood of meeting strong characters.
That's why we rented a car today, on the strength of a two-day relationship with new friends.

Four months ago at Cruisers Thanksgiving in St. Mary's, Georgia, we fell under the spell of a British couple aboard Sea Gal. Barney and Di are just plain inspirational. They have set out a circumnavigation plan that is as quirky and imaginative as they are, a plan that might be considered fanciful if they weren't pulling it off. Not blessed with a pension, a trust fund or a huge bank account, they work for as long as it takes to build up a decent cruising kitty and then cruise on a thin penny, getting every possible ounce of distance from their stockpile. In fact, Barney and Di are the only people I ever saw actually sailing, not motorsailing, down the ICW to save on fuel.

The circumnavigation plan is to sell Sea Gal after sailing the Caribbean and then purchase another boat in the Pacific Northwest to continue their unorthodox, intermittent slog around the globe.

As Cara Mia and Jessie Marie have headed slowly south together, we have kept in touch with the even slower Sea Gal, trying to triangulate with them to the same spot at the same time, not an easy proposition.

When we arrived here at Emerald Bay Marina, we had email from Diana announcing that Sea Gal was anchored only five miles south of us waiting for the next weather window to head north again, a window looming in the next 48 hours.

We debated amongst ourselves, Karen and Dale on Jessie Marie, and us, not about whether we would see Barney and Di, but how. Five miles is such a pittance on land, but by sea, out one dangerous cut and into another one, it was not merely a jump-and-go proposition. Our solution? Rent a car.

It takes two: one to drive, one to remind the driver to stay on the left side of the road!
Communication between moving vessels is not simple when you're out of VHF range. Even our cell phones were from three different countries and apparently speaking three different languages. Instead we relied on the most modern of methods: Facebook.


We communicated back and forth fine until the most important missive: our concrete plan to drive to see them. Barney and Di were unable to get a web connection from their anchorage, so they were unaware that we were on our way.

No worries. They told us earlier where they were anchored.

Well, one worry. They were anchored. We were arriving by car. No dinghy. No radio.

After a few missteps, we spotted their boat too far offshore to call out to -- maybe. We stood on shore yelling, whistling, catcalling, waving, jumping, all four of us.

Yoo hoo! Sea Gal!!! I'm pretty sure that catamaran had us pegged as nutcases.
Finally, we saw movement onboard, Barney and Di throwing their dinghy in the water. They came bolting across the long stretch of water to the dock where we were dancing the gratitude dance.

Dancing the Gratitude Dance.

Gratitude indeed.

An open arms welcome.

*All photos in the entry were taken by Chip.

**My column about this day and cruiser friendships in Classic Yacht magazine in March 2013.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful blog to read!!! And I agree with you...Di and Barney are truely inspirantional! Good luck all of you with your future sailing.