Friday, September 16, 2011

A Sense of Community

Originally Posted in the Annapolis Capital: May 31, 3:35 pm | (permalink) | (0 comments)

“It takes a marina,” writes Cindy Wallach in her blog about raising a young family on a boat, in a post about how her whole marina community is involved with the kids. “The marina is our village. The village bobs and shifts and changes with the wind, but the bonds are rock solid.” So, so true.

I’ve written before about the social aspects of marina life, how easy it is to make friends because you have at least one thing in common with every one of your neighbors – you share an interest in boats and boating. I’m frequently late for appointments because in the short walk from boat to car I can get into three different dockside conversations with people along the way who happen to be out in their cockpits. How different than our last stint in suburbia, where although the neighbors were pleasant, you spent a few minutes in shallow chit-chat and then retreated into your separate homes. With some of my suburban neighbors, all I shared was a zip code.

The bonds that sustain our marina community are not just socializing and partying – although goodness knows we enjoy plenty of that here (!) - helping is even more central. There’s trading small favors and assistance with boat projects. At the marina, there always seems to be someone with the skills we lack and the urge to help, my friend and fellow cruiser Jane Gardner explains. Yesterday neighbor Dave German came aboard to assist us with a computer issue I’d been struggling with that was obviously way beyond my skill level. I gave up when I got the tech support catch-22: “Um, I’m calling you because my internet connection isn’t working, so don’t tell me to go online to get the update which will fix my problem, because if I could go online I wouldn’t be calling you in the first place…” I suspect that maybe the fact that we have air conditioning and Dave doesn’t, was an additional enticement to come aboard to assist in mid-afternoon and escape from the sticky heat, but we won’t diminish his contribution for that, okay? Later in the afternoon, after it cooled down a bit, we were able to return the favor and help him install the wiring for his nav lights. But it’s not just little exchanges. When we *really* needed big help, when Dan was rushed to the ER? Neither of us has any biological family local, but we have our marina family. Every single boat on the dock joined in: someone organized a schedule for people to pitch in and walk our dog 3x/day for the several days until they could arrange space for her into a kennel; take in our mail, visit in the hospital, run errands, watch our boat, all the things needed. At first glance this doesn’t seem so newsworthy. Of course, we read stories often about how remarkable (land-based) communities come together to support each other in tragedies like hurricanes and tornadoes. Okay, here’s what’s remarkable to me about the level of help and support here in the marina: that it’s not “remarkable” at all, it’s just expected; it’s business-as-usual in life afloat.

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