This article is being published in honor of my mother, Peggy and my late father, Lyle, who raised me to be outgoing, giving, respectful, caring and open minded. Those traits and my positive attitude have allowed me to fit perfectly within the cruiser/liveaboard community. Their love of all people and the wonderful way they treated everyone they came into contact with is truly an inspiration. And since today would have been their 63rd wedding anniversary I can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate them than to talk about being good neighbors. Thanks Mom & Dad! I love you!
Just when you think there is no good in the world. You know, when you can’t turn on the TV or read a newspaper without hearing about all the violence that surrounds us? Honestly…. in just the past week alone we had Will Smith’s aggressive and violent behavior at the Academy Awards, a mass shooting in Sacramento that left six people dead and more in hospital and, of course, we certainly can’t forget the psychotic leader of Russia who is needlessly killing Ukranians in a bid for more power. And that’s just a handful of examples. It’s really easy to see how people are becoming so jaded and frustrated and downright angry but there’s one thing about the cruising community around the world that really should inspire others. You see here it’s all about being good neighbors.
If you are a cruiser then you already know what I mean but if you aren’t let me explain. First of all, the world of liveaboard cruisers is relatively tiny. Depending upon who you ask, they will tell that in the USA there is probably only a maximum of 100,000 liveaboard cruisers. That’s a mere .03% of the entire USA population. Extrapolate that out across the world and its 7.9 billion people and you’re left with just over 2.3 million people who live this lifestyle. It’s pretty easy to see just how small the cruising community is worldwide.
The thing is, what we lack in size we more than make up for in heart. This is where the being good neighbors part comes in. Because we are such a small group of people we all look after each other. True, you’re often known better by your boat’s name, i.e. “Here come the Dazzlers” than you are by your first names but that’s okay….at least people know you right?
Fitting Into The Cruiser Community
When I first moved onto Dazzler in 2017 I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the cruising community in Mexico. Unfortunately there was a small subsection of people in La Cruz who treated me as a stepchild and commented behind my back that I was merely a boat bimbo just looking to hook up with a man so I could travel. Yes, there are gals out there doing just that. Of course I certainly wasn’t one of them. But, aside from the jealous ones who couldn’t understand that we actually loved each other and I wasn’t just there for the perks, I found that the cruising community welcomed me with open arms.
One of the first really welcoming experiences came when we were in a little anchorage called Puerto Escondido. Dan needed to make a run back to the States for some parts and was going to be gone for five days. I’d only been living on Dazzler for about a month and here I was going to be alone on her, on the hook, in a country where I barely spoke the language. Of course the good thing was I did know how to order a beer and tacos so I wouldn’t starve to death. You might say it was a bit daunting but, it was my first real test and I wasn’t going to fail. So, even though I was terrified, I acted like it was no big deal.
The night before Dan left we were invited to MV Mystic Eyes for sundowners with the rest of the yachties in the anchorage. I had briefly met a couple of them prior to this evening but really didn’t know any of them. They all welcomed me with open arms and upon learning that I would be alone on Dazzler for a week they offered any assistance I needed.
The day Dan left, Mark, of MV Delta Swizzler came by on his tender to check on me and let me know they were just a radio call away. He even told me that he came by rather than called because he didn’t want just anyone to know I was there alone. And, before they left the anchorage he had arranged with another cruiser to check on me daily until Dan returned. Here were these people who barely knew me but who made it their job to look after me. Talk about being good neighbors. I’ll never forget Mark and Cindy for taking me under their wing and making me feel comfortable with the situation.
Terry and Diane of SV Harmony Anacortes were also champions of being good neighbors when they watched over me and even took me out for an afternoon of fun and cocktails after I’d spent five days cooking pre-made meals for our passage from Mexico to the Marquesas. Since Dan was back in the States Terry even offered to come over and take care of a “situation” I was having with a neighboring boat who was stealing our water. Apparently their idea of being a good neighbor meant we would pay for the water they used to wash down their boat. THAT’S taking it a just a bit too far.
It Just Doesn’t Seem To Happen On Land
The thing is, in the world of landlubber living this just doesn’t seem to happen as often as it should. You know what I mean. You have a new neighbor move in next door and you think, “I should really take over some muffins or something and welcome them to the neighborhood.” But then Billy needs a ride to baseball and Sally needs to be picked up from violin practice. You’ve got a doctor’s appointment, a hair appointment or pedicure screaming your name. Your spouse is out of town on business so you have to do it all and well, you really just don’t have time to pick up muffins and stop over to greet the newbies in the neighborhood. In a matter of seconds that wonderful thought becomes little more than a distant memory of a good intention never realized.
Along our travels we’ve found over and over again that the stranger next door can quickly become one of your best mates if you just take a few moments to introduce yourself. And you see, in the world of cruising that is something we all just seem to do naturally. Some might say it’s because we are often in marinas and are so close to our neighbor that it’s easy but we find this in anchorages as well.
Others will say, “Well of course you do. YOU have the time to do it. You don’t work.” But, the truth is that many liveaboards are still working full time and there’s a good percentage of them that have children that they are homeschooling in addition to earning a living. Even they seem to find the time to reach out and be neighborly.
And let me be very clear. Just because we don’t have to get up and go to a job does not mean we don’t have work to do. Daily there are chores and projects and other things that require our time and attention. And when you don’t have a car everything takes three times as long to accomplish. Time is precious to all of us. You just have to decide whether or not you will make the time to get to know your neighbors.
They Come When You Least Expect It
We were in the anchorage in Pago Pago, American Samoa a couple of years ago when we saw a tender approaching. We noted that they had come from an American flagged vessel and it’s not unusual for a stranger to come by to say hello when they spot another boat from their same country. Soon Helen and her husband, Mark of SV Charabia, were along side chatting with us. In our conversation we learned that they are from Jacksonville, Florida where I lived for several years. Imagine that….thousands of miles across the sea and you meet someone who lives just a few miles from where you did.
What’s interesting about them stopping by, aside from the fact that they are from Jacksonville, is that we didn’t actually get time to get together while we were there in Pago Pago although we each offered any assistance the other required while in the anchorage. We did become friends on Facebook and we’ve emailed back and forth a few times and these two lovely folks have even offered to let us stay at their home in Jacksonville if we come to visit the area. And they did that because that is just what cruisers do. We open our hearts to each other and great things come of it.
(Note: Helen has written two books about their travels. Click the image to the right to find out more about them.)
Just a month or so ago I was in the galley when I heard the roar of bow thrusters and I knew it likely meant a new vessel was soon to be occupying the slip beside us. The bow thrusters is a telltale sign that it would be a big boat and it would only serve to block my wonderful view of the newly finished Hundertwasser Museum across the marina from us. As I poked my head outside I found my instincts were dead on. In comes a very large power boat. You know, the overpowering bulky kind with the fly bridge that thunders overhead blocking the view of anything and everything? Well, needless to say I wasn’t overly thrilled about this but I did know that most who come into this particular berth are just transients so they wouldn’t likely be there for long. I guess a few days wouldn’t be such a big deal.
Despite my unhappiness with the new obstruction to my view I stepped out to ask if the Captain needed assistance with lines. He assured me he had it all under control so I went back below. A little while later I was on deck and he and I struck up a conversation. Turns out his name is Pieter and his craft is MV Hineawa. After chatting with him on an off over the course of a couple of days I found that I really enjoyed having him docked beside us. He didn’t know the area well so we made suggestions for restaurants and gave him a bit of the lay of the land. We even offered to pick up a pizza and bring it back to him when we headed out one evening. He and Dan hit if off like gangbusters and we entertained him on Dazzler a couple of times during his stay.
Pieter is a true Kiwi in spirit and at heart. Knowing that we don’t have a car and upon hearing that we needed to go to Auckland for a weekend, he told us he had an extra car we could borrow if we could get down there. Seriously….a man we knew for less than a week was offering to loan us his car. Sometimes being neighborly in the cruising community goes far beyond what you’d ever expect.
And then there’s our long time neighbors here in the marina, Tony & Nicky of SV Omarsea. We’ve been docked next to them ever since we arrived back in New Zealand in 2019. Of course we certainly didn’t expect to still be here two and a half years later but here we are here on the Charlie dock with Tony & Nicky right next door.
These are the neighbors every person wants to have whether you live on the water or on land. They watch out for you and your home to be sure nothing happens to either. They spend time sitting in their cockpit aka “back porch” each day and are always game for a bit of a chat up. If you need something and they have it they will gladly share it with you. Over the last six or eight months they have even loaned us their car on a regular basis. If they see we are walking with our cart to go to the store they simply won’t hear of it. They insist on us using their car.
With Tony & Nicky we’ve shared some truly wonderful and special times. We treated them to their first ever American Thanksgiving dinner, the were guests at our wedding and Tony is always out on the dock helping Dan with projects or just keeping him company. And, if we are leaving the dock or returning you can bet your bottom dollar that Tony will be there to help with the lines. They are some of the best neighbors we’ve ever had, on land or on the water.
Being Good Neighbors Pays Off
There’s our very best mates, Lutz & Gabi of SV SuAn, who we met in Mexico. We became friends because they needed to borrow a hookah (air compressor) to clean the bottom of their boat before they left for the Marquesas. They heard we had one and so they asked if we would loan it to them. Of course we would. Shortly after arriving in the Marquesas they emailed us to ask if we could bring them some zipper material. We picked it up and delivered it to them a month later in Hiva Oa a little over 3000 NM away.
When we arrived there after twenty-five days at sea, who was there to greet us? None other than the crew of SV SuAn. And not only did they greet us but they prepared sundowners and a fabulous dinner of fresh tuna steaks as their way of thanking us for being such good neighbors. Since then we travel across the South Pacific together and become so close we are more like family than friends.
The point is that a couple of neighborly gestures offered up to complete strangers can result in relationships that are so meaningful and full of love you wonder how you ever lived without them in your life.
I could go on an on about other neighbors we’ve had along the way. Max & Alex of SV Y2K and Chuck & Lauri of SV Free Spirit who have also assisted us with wheels when we needed to get somewhere out of comfortable walking distance. Johan and Francina of SV Ntoombi who took video of our wedding. Yes, along the way we’ve met so many incredible friends and neighbors.
And we try to do our part to be good neighbors as well. It seems Dan is always offering up his expertise to someone who needs to know how to do a particular thing like diagnosing engine issues or radio problems or even sewing some canvas for them. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times we’ve been in a tienda having a couple of beers when he heard over the handheld HF radio that some stranger was in trouble and we’d have to pack up and race out to the anchorage to assist them.
As for me, I’m not nearly as talented as Dan so I stick to creating videos for people and being the lady on the dock who always brings bags of Christmas goodies the week before Christmas. After all, someone has to do it and I can’t keep all those sweet treats on Dazzler. If I did we’d be so big we couldn’t get through the companionway doors.
The thing is that cruisers meet and form lifelong bonds because we are open to the idea of introducing ourselves and making new connections. No, not all of our neighbors are the people we want to hang out with all of the time but regardless, we all treat each other with kindness and respect and in doing so we find that our cruising community is a very happy place to be. Wouldn’t it be nice if this sort of thing would blossom out to the landlubbers? It can. All it takes is a couple of minutes to stop and introduce yourself to your neighbors. After all, who knows where it could lead?
Until next time,
P.S. Keep checking back as the Dazzler crew is gearing up to head back to the islands! We’ve finished our boat projects and are heading out of Whangarei this week. We will begin staging at Marsden Cove Marina as we await a good weather window. Then, we will check out of New Zealand, head to Minerva Reef for a few days and then on to Fiji.