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I’m Ready to Talk Now

Okay, I’m going to come clean. While cruising, I’m not usually an enthusiastic social animal, skipping down the dock in my flip-flops like the pied piper and asking anyone within sight a bunch of questions. “Where are you from?” “Where are you going?” “How long have you had your boat?” Sure, I’ll help you with your lines when you pull into the dock, and will certainly offer a good morning. Just don’t expect me to drop by your cockpit with homemade muffins for a morning chat.

Perhaps this reluctance is a symptom of engaging with people all day at work. Dinner meetings often follow, beginning way after my preferred bedtime. Then there are boat shows that require working the room. That’s the job and I enjoy it immensely. Yet boating has now become my monastery.

I believe this need to withdraw from the world while on the water is a result of having one of the greatest jobs in the world. Yes, I’ve combined my passion with my profession. The problem is, well, I’ve combined my passion with my profession. It’s far tougher to get away from work and decompress when you’re surrounded by all the elements that make up your job. Imagine being a chef that also cooks massive meals nearly every weekend and every day of every vacation.

I’ll see a boat go by in the harbor, and think, Darn it; I need to call that guy back. Or, That boat would make a nice featurelet me get that going. And the pressure is not solely self-inflicted. A few years back, I was heckled by a guy for failing to post a daily blog onto our Web site about my passage from Newport to the BVIs. Really? I was on vacation and we were getting the crap beat out of us for nearly two weeks.

I’m fairly certain I received this social reserve from my father. He once leapt across our small living room in Annapolis—right over us kids—swiping off the light switch in mid-air as Christmas carolers gathered in front of our house. While we stared up at him, bewildered by the sudden darkness, afraid to breathe, he instructed us to stay perfectly still and quiet. His reasoning for hiding was that he didn’t want to fake politeness on the steps of his own house. He also observed, “They can’t sing worth shit.” So why give them faint praise? There’s an element of honesty within this truly antisocial reaction.

However, during a cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Charleston, South Carolina, in April with my wife Lindsay, I discovered that my self-imposed barrier began to crumble. Part of the reason is she doesn’t share my same reluctance to engage with the general public. She gives me a lot of “What’s wrong with you?” as I dive into the engine room to hide. This is usually followed by a sympathetic pat on the hand, much like the gesture you would give to an insane person as they’re being tied down in restraints.

I’ve realized that boating is a great equalizer. No matter age, political affiliation, wealth, or other demographic, sharing tales with a fellow boater is often simply fulfilling. In fact, nine times out of ten, I’d say I end up genuinely enjoying my conversations with other boaters.

While in St. Simons Island, Georgia, Lindsay and I shared a glass of champagne with a couple docked next to us—they were celebrating their 60th anniversary while cruising from Florida to Halifax, Nova Scotia. We talked sailboats, powerboats, cruising, and life’s milestones. They were completely charming and that little moment became a special element of our cruise. And after talking to them, I’ve placed Nova Scotia on our cruising bucket list. (Although after listening to their harrowing tale about cruising across the Bay of Fundy, we’ll certainly pick our weather.)

Our trip included several of these spontaneous social interactions. I think one reason I decided to engage more willingly was because I was completely relaxed. We took our time, deciding not to rush the trip and instead simply enjoy each moment. So maybe I’m really not antisocial — I just needed a few weeks off. See you on the water. And stop by, I want to chat.