Sunday, February 28, 2016

Making friends

Being snug as a bug is kind of nice. Being a bug hanging onto the end of a horse's tail, while the horse runs at a full gallop while herding cows, is less nice. Which is what it feels like in the Dinner Key mooring field.

Not really sure why I like this place so much, though I suspect being out on ball number 148 means getting much less for my $25 per night than being in on ball, say, 48. Either way, we are here to see friends not seen in a while, pick up some provisions, and make ready to head to places south we haven't been before. (Note to the Dinner Key mooring field bosses – anyone out past ball 100 deserves a price break. After ball 125 you should be paying us.)

It is nearly a mile from Kintala's bow to the Dink Dock. The wind is out of the west, but we are so far from land that it makes little difference in the waves. Go-fast, small commercial fishing, and big Sport Fishing boats pass by generating a never ending parade of wake hits. For some reason, though the entire channel is a “NO WAKE” zone, most power boat drivers seem to get impatient about half way. Those going in get about half way before slowing down. Those coming out make it about half way before hitting the gas. It doesn't seem very considerate.

(This evening we took a hit so robust that it tossed my beer bottle out of its holder and onto the cockpit floor. Fortunately, I had finished that one off already, so no alcohol abuse was involved.) 
No Name Harbor on a calm day in the middle of the week in 2014

Which got me to thinking about some of the things going on in No Name Harbor. No Name has a rule prohibiting staying on the wall overnight which, in our experience, has been pretty well enforced. But this last time in we noticed a whole string of boats tied up over several nights in a row. Asked around, and the rumor is that there is a new Park Manager, and he doesn't have the budget or manpower to enforce that rule. Good deal, right? Tying to land in a protected place, with rest rooms, laundry, and a pump out. A cruising dream come true. But I got to wondering.

No Name is a party spot, with a nice restaurant right on the harbor. Big power boats come in for the weekend, meet with friends, and often have lunch or dinner. Cruising sailboats, for the most part, used to be anchored pretty much out of the way. The power boats don't often carry dinks, so tying to the wall is the only way they can meet with their friends. Now though, they will pull in and find the wall lined with boats, mostly sail, with some boats that were there the weekend before, and the weekend before that.

While cruising powerboats look pretty much like the non-cruising variety, cruising sailboats are usually easy to spot. The rails are lined with water, diesel, and fuel jugs. Many sport a collection of wind vanes, solar panels, and wind generators. The vast assembly of hardware that makes a sailboat a sailboat, corrodes and stains hulls and decks. Life lines often sport a collection of tightie whiteies and towels drying in the sun. And, let us be honest, a lot of our cruising boats look like they have been ridden hard and never put away at all because, well, that is exactly how we use them. They are things of beauty to us, but to someone looking from the flying bridge of a mega-buck power yacht?

Now I admit that I am a cruiser, and am of the opinion that the rest of the world should look upon us, see nothing but the vanguard of human kind's future, and thus grant us free reign over the waters we live on. We travel light on the planet, leaving little behind for our explorations. We point-produce most of our power and use it very carefully. We don't need thousands of miles of concrete poured over Mother Earth to get where we want to go. Generally we are friendly and helpful, not very full of ourselves because we have seen a bigger picture than many of our American compatriots know. We like other countries and cultures, are not afraid of people with skin tones different that ours, who worship gods we haven't met, and who speak languages we don't understand. (Nearly any collection of cruisers will include more bi, tri, and multi-lingual people than nearly any group of land dwellers.) We have married couples sailing together, un-married couples sailing together, solo sailors meeting and spending “quality” time on the other boat; “live and let live” could well be the official motto of our gypsy tribe of wanderers.

But, sometimes, I think we are our own worst enemy. Here in Florida the cruising news is full of the law being passed that will close down some popular anchorages. Closings prompted solely by rich people who think they own the view outside of their McMansion, and don't like cruising boats intruding on their space. It is ugly and offensive and pure corruption of a most blatant kind, politicians and police departments being bought and sold on the open market for all to see. And yet...

It seems likely that, with mega-boat owners finding No Name's wall blocked by cruising boats tied-to for days or weeks at a time, it will not be long before a law banning overnight stays there will soon be in the offering as well. No Name is a State Park, a common area, a place shared by everyone in the community, land dwellers and power boat party goers included. If we in the cruising tribe forget that, if we act with the same lack of consideration that the power boats show in the channel here in Dinner Key, I'm not sure we can complain if the rest of the community moves to force us out.

This is not to say Kintala will never be on the wall in No Name. There is a pump out that we use often. The store is a long walk away, and loading provisions is much easier if on the wall than it is hauling stuff in the dink. When the weather goes down the tubes using the wall to get as many boats into the harbor and safe is certainly a good idea, one that the old rule dismissed unnecessarily. (Though even with the old rule, the powers-that-be seemed willing to bend it for weather and to give broken boats a chance to get fixed.) But I think we would do ourselves a big favor to remember that No Name has lots of uses for many people, and we need to make sure they have access to a space that belongs to them as much as it does to us. One night on the wall and gone, off the wall on weekends, make room for people who don't live like we do; it might make us some friends in Florida.

We could use some.

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