Funny thing about the Best Job in the World (this one, of course), I meet a lot of people for the first time onboard boats. That would be fairly obvious since we’re often making our introductions because of boats. But think for a moment of the people that you’ve met in your lifetime. I think you’ll agree that those you first encountered while afloat have shown better odds of being sound characters than their lubberly counterparts. That’s fortunate, and it makes the boat business all you’d hope it would be.
I noticed early on: The things we remember about the folks we’ve met onboard boats set them apart. I think it’s because when we meet on a boat, we’re both starting at a different place and therefore you end up further down the long road of real friendship. There’s even a corollary to my theory: The impressions of people we already know shift and change over time if we get to spend time on the water with them.
Know why? Me neither—not always and not exactly. Of course, if some specific event stands out in your mind, that’s a different story. (That storm was coming fast, but we pressed on and picked up the mooring just as the rain started.) There’s something about the enclosed nature of a pilothouse, the all-around view of flying bridge, the shared experience and synchronization that happens when one is tending a dockline and the other is at the helm, where it becomes just a glance of understanding.
Some of my earliest forays onto the water were on a sailboat, and I still like to get out any chance I get. Recently I filled in as crew on my brother-in-law’s Rhodes 19 in a race on Edgartown Harbor. What a great time I had, testing some long-dormant skills and punishing my (surprisingly) aging frame on a brisk day with sustained 15-knot winds. Ideally in these conditions we would have had a third crewman onboard (at least) to help balance the boat, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, my brother-in-law and I are both very busy with work, kids, lives lived far apart, and linked mostly by conversations via text and the occastional call about boats and football. So as we stepped onto the Rhodes at her mooring, we shared a sort of pact: the moment when we both put our respective iPhones into a Pelican case for the duration of our time onboard was a commitment to concentrating just on what happens on the boat. The action on that beautiful, blustery day distilled our time together.
Take the fine example of Contributing Editor Peter A. Janssen and intrepid correspondent George Sass Sr. The former served as publisher and editor-in-chief of Motorboating & Sailing while the latter founded and ran an Annapolis and Madison Avenue ad agency with a long list of clients, many in the marine industry. These old friends are taking a Cutwater 28 on the Down East Loop, a voyage encircling much of the Northeastern U.S. and Canada (see “Circling Through History,” for the story). And no doubt the experience of piloting a capable small boat up the Hudson River, through Lake Champlain, and on a circuitous route through locks and countryside canals (and even trailering over a portage!) is enhanced for each by his respective shipmate. It would be worth sleeping in the cockpit (though unnecessary), just to hear them one-up each other with tales as they made way through the legs of this voyage (follow their progress at here).
These days we are attending boat shows and meeting friends old and new on the docks, and it only gets better. Shaking hands with someone I haven’t seen in person in quite a while, making eye contact and seeing that shared experience come back—boat deliveries, fishing expeditions, and even those sea trials. That’s what it’s all about.
We all have a friend or two with whom we can fall back into conversation regardless of how well we’ve kept in touch. Why not get back together on a boat, and really make it count? I’ll see you on the water.