I think we’ve all had this happen to us before at the most inopportune time. Let’s call it a Friday afternoon. You’re strolling down the dock towards your boat, carrying two bags and ready for another fun weekend.
But suddenly, about ten slips down the dock, you spot them. They’re not from around here; you can easily tell even from this distance. Visiting boaters are usually fun to interact with, be they motor boaters, good-natured fishermen or sailors from another sea. But this group is different.
They’re fun and good-natured, don’t get me wrong. But they rarely venture out alone, typically traveling together in a small fleet of two to four boats. (In my local cruising waters, these boats are typically newer express cruisers around 45 feet or so, each worth as much as a decent home in a D.C. suburb.) But instead of enjoying their boats, they’re all sitting around in cheap nylon folding camping chairs ON. THE. DOCK.
They’re dock blockers!
I understand each marina has its own social mores and taboos. On my dock, Pier 4, we have a mix of about fifty power and sailboats, cruising yachts and sportfishing battlewagons from 35 to 65 feet—different strokes for different folks. We chat over the cockpit coaming, or we invite one another aboard our boats to talk, drink, lie about fish and make fun of our friends’ cruising mishaps. But we don’t buy $19 chairs from Dick’s Sporting Goods and occupy them for hours in the middle of the damn dock! These interloping dock blockers operate under different social norms than we do here on Pier 4.
We all know what the purpose of the Middle of the Damn Dock is. When you really need to take care of business on your boat, you’ve gotta go back and forth over and over again until your task is completed. Some guys have further to go each way, depending on how long their dock is. It’s often a tight fit in the Middle of the Damn Dock, and it’s slippery when wet. We avoid having two guys in the Middle of the Damn Dock at the same time under any circumstances.
The Middle of the Damn Dock is also for perky co-ed marina staff to use when welcoming visiting cruisers, as I’m sure they did for a good half-hour when these yahoos showed up. Did it not occur to these dock blockers that other people might want to use the Middle of the Damn Dock tonight? After a long night of dock blocking, most of these guys have had so much to drink that they’re just wasted seamen anyway.
These dock blockers could save big bucks if they’d just buy the cheap chairs you unfold from the little pouch and put them on the Middle of their own Damn Dock without bothering to buy a boat at all. Just one night of fun is all they’re really after, anyway. They wouldn’t even have to learn how to use that joystick, either.
It makes me wonder if these nice but somewhat clueless guys are not specifically dock blockers, but just blockers in general. They might be just as happy sitting in those same camping chairs next to an RV in a Walmart parking lot, occupying four perfectly good spaces that other people might want to use. Maybe they stand up at their seat in the front row of the terrace level along the third base line, blocking the view for half the Cubs’ game for the people behind them.
Or maybe they like to block the narrow aisle in the local watering hole, smothering the best-looking woman in the place with inane small talk while the other guy who’s trying to buy her a drink can’t get a word in edgewise. Whatever the case, one thing is certain. No one likes a dock blocker.