Yesterday the Calusa Yacht Club docks were swarmed by a group of powerboats from a Fort Meyers yacht club out for their annual week-long booze cruise down the coast. This is their opportunity to get out on the water so that they can say that they do actually use their boats.
A large, fast Fountain docked next to my boat. The couple onboard immediately kicked back in the shade with cold drinks and began poking at their smart phones. The woman asked if there was a Whole Foods market nearby because I was provisioning my boat and throwing out a few old paper bags, which she had obviously spied in my cockpit. I told her that the nearest one was in Naples, and that the nearest supermarket to the marina was the Publix about four miles away. She was disappointed because they hadn’t brought their bicycles with them and weren’t willing to walk that distance. Seizing the opportunity to be helpful, I looked up local taxis in an area guide that my neighbor had laying around and discovered that there aren’t really any taxi services on Marco Island. There are limos that make airport runs, but that is about it. I let her know what I had found, and that segued into a polite introductory conversation.
This is when my opinion of them took a nosedive. It was one question in particular that really rankled me–after being asked where I am from (born in Australia, lived here for a long time though), and where I am going (sailing up the east coast from here), the next thing out of her mouth was, “What are you–some kind of spoiled rich brat out playing with your parent’s money?” Standing on my tiny boat looking up at them on their huge, fuel-guzzling speedboat I was incredulous!
I responded politely, telling them that I had saved for a long time to be able to make this trip; that I watched my pennies and that lived on a small amount of money. I was a bit upset by the thoughtless phrasing of the Fountain lady’s question, but certainly didn’t let on. I ended the conversation there. That lady had no idea whether there may have been something else that I may have done to have made her life better, like arranging a ride to the store, or not, but she removed any possibility of that happening by uttering a few callous words.
That lady shares what seems to be a common outside view of what it takes to live on a small sailboat and go cruising. However, I am here because it is one of the least expensive ways that I can think of to live–my boat cost about the same as a good used car, and my expenses are bare-bones. I usually cook onboard and do all of my own maintenance. On a good month, that keeps my expenses to around only two hundred dollars. The Fountain in the next slip over could burn more than that in fuel in an hour of running.
I have become much more sensitive to how others feel in the past few years. This has really taken the edge off of what I will let out of my mouth when around others that I don’t think that I will ever see again. Now I treat everyone like I might be their neighbor again someday. In this boating life, that may indeed be the case. I treat this as one more reminder to always be mindful of what I say and how I treat strangers, and also as a strong reminder of how others perceive my current lifestyle.