Dave and I agree that we have never felt that we had a “home” like we do aboard our boat, Skippopotamus. There are several factors that contribute to this deep feeling of home. One, of course, is the heart. After wasting too much of our lives suffering through relationships with the wrong partners, our hearts are finally home.
Out of our love for one another, comes our boat. We selected her together and have worked side-by-side on her since we bought her. She is ours and we are hers. She is home.
Finally, this community that we have found among the liveaboards feels like family…and home.
Someone once told me that if you ever see a boater in trouble, you ALWAYS help. As a human, you should help anyone that is in trouble, but when it comes to boating, you help even if it is small trouble. A dead car battery, in your driveway, in the summer, is much less grave than a dead battery, on your boat, in the middle of the barge traffic lane, on the Mississippi River. Add living on a large, frozen river, in Minnesota where the snowfall is significant and the temperatures dip well below zero to the equation, and the assist credo carries much more weight. At any given time, you could be in serious need of your neighbor’s assistance. That knowledge tends to foster a tighter bond with the neighbors than one might in a place like the suburbs. These folks in the marina have become our family and I would run outside in bare feet, in the middle of a cold winter night, to help any of them. Maybe this bond built by reliance is what we’re missing in modern society…but that is a post for a different blog. 🙂
Some members of our “family” gathered for our recent boat naming ceremony.
As you might imagine, all of this mushy bonding could easily lead to a lack of privacy. Boats are parked side by side in the marina with only a narrow dock (called a “finger”) in between. Fortunately, we have informal (and formal) rules that we follow to alleviate that issue.
Some boating rules, such as the assistance credo, apply across all boaters and do not apply only to liveaboards. Blogger Janice142 lays out one such rule in her post “Boat Etiquette 101: Permission to Board.”:
#1) Always ask “Permission to come aboard”
#2) Always wait for the response before boarding
A fellow liveaboard told me of her experience living in a marina populated primarily by seasonal, recreational boaters. This particular liveaboard, like many of us, is a very private person. She also loves to enjoy a good book out on her front deck. She found this activity difficult to accomplish in the marina. Whenever she set foot outside, other folks immediately engaged her in conversation. Seasonal, recreational boaters have a different approach to marina life than do liveaboards. Most, not all, enjoy the social aspect of being in a marina, with other folks that share a common interest. This is totally fine and completely natural, it just gets a bit intrusive, if not exhausting, when you live on your boat full-time.
In response to these types of situations, we liveaboards adopt some other informal rules.
An article about Mississippi liveaboards published in City Pages says “When Bruce Klaenhammer walks down the dock at the SPYC, he waits for his neighbors to wave first. That’s the informal rule about greetings in a neighborhood where boats float port-to-starboard with each other: To preserve some privacy, the person on the boat chooses whether to say hello.”
Other informal rules include:
Avoid showing up without first arranging a visit. This rule tends to be a little more loose with your closer pals in the marina. Don’t assume that others agree with the level of looseness. We all differ in our privacy requirements.
When you do show up for an expected visit, always remain on the dock or finger, knock on the side of the boat, and wait to be invited aboard.
Avoid gawking at the boats as you walk by and don’t stop to gawk at a boat. Especially avoid looking in the windows. Sometimes it’s hard, I know, but do your best. Frequently folks are in the boat but you can’t see them. I once had guests gathered in the living/kitchen area of the boat and some folks stopped on the dock in front of my boat. They were looking at the boat, talking, gesturing towards the boat. I don’t think they realized we were just on the other side of the glass. It felt very awkward. Imagine entertaining in the suburbs when some neighbors walk across your lawn and gather just outside the front windows, facing in.
When returning items to a neighbor, leave the items on the boat or dock in a place that will be seen by the owner, but do not step on the boat nor look in to see if anyone is around.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We liveaboards are a nosy bunch. We like to know what is going on in our neighborhood. Picture living in an intentional neighborhood, designed to house people with a common interest. Curiosity is completely natural. We don’t try to hide it. We talk among ourselves, about each other. We ask questions. We share information. But we always try to be respectful. The chit chat is usually about the boat, boat projects, marina business, etc. we try not to get too personal. Besides, if one gets gossipy, it will certainly come back to bite…usually in short order!
In summary, I love this community and a little bit of informal “fencing” goes a long way towards preserving the joy.
Here are some other quotes from “The Real Houseboats of the Mississippi” that resonated with me:
“You can live this close and still be left alone,” he (Bruce Klaenhammer) explains. “But I wouldn’t think that it would be anything less than appropriate for me to join a neighbor’s party.”
“The thing to me now is certainly not the boat ride,” (Virgil) Amsden says. “It’s the gathering of the community, and the friendships that we’ve developed over the years.”
“Jonathan (one of Watergate’s resident beavers) doesn’t know how close we are to 10 Bath and Body Works,” (Dawn) Brodey says. “At night, even though the airport is so close, I can lay up on the roof and hear nothing but birds and crickets. I don’t know how that’s possible. Maybe it’s magic.”
If it’s not magic, it is something very close. ~ me