The Nature of Boat... Owners

I have a friend, a smart guy I really respect. Colby is a Naval Academy grad, commanded a destroyer off Vietnam, and he is a lifelong sailor on lots of traditional cruising and modern racing sailboats. I got to know him when he came to the Dark Side, buying a Downeast cruiser similar to Growler, our Zimmerman 36.

Colby once told me he figured there are two types of cruisers: Movers and Stayers. Talk with most any cruiser, and you can determine which of these types he or she is. One is not better than the other, just different. Those who prefer to keep moving, staying only so long at any island in a chain, or fishing village along SE Alaska. They are there for a short time, doing what needs to be done, seeing what needs to be seen, then it is off again, off to the next destination. Seen the Spit Rats in Homer. Check. Been to Barcelona. Check. Visited Gauguin's grave in Hiva Oa. Check. Over a period of time they cover lots of ground, moving along at a good pace. They do a circumnavigation in a year or two, not 8 to 10 years. They see all of New England during a summer, explore all of the Sea of Cortez over a winter.

The Stayers are a different breed. They prefer to arrive and put down roots, even if only temporary. These boat owners are the ones who winter in Marathon, or stay in Southwest Harbor for the summer. The boat becomes a home with connections, and the owners enjoy life aboard without any urge to untie lines to get under way again. It might be two weeks or two months. They get off the boat, play tennis, go on long walks, get to know some of the locals, enjoy hobbies, visit museums, even get involved with the community.

I pretty much buy into Colby's theory. And I know I am a stayer. I love to make passages, but then setup a routine once I arrive. I grow grass on my bottom, as I enjoy life aboard, living normally but on a boat. I hit the local coffee shop each morning, and watch the fishing boats come and go. I like to be somewhere long enough to understand it, something hard to do on quick stopover. But that's just me. Seasonal migration would indicate many other cruisers are stayers as well. Sure, we might move on but not nearly as quickly as the Movers.

But I believe this can be expanded into even more types. Some prefer, even insist, on being at the helm driving the boat. My friend Jim is this guy. He gets unsettled if he isn't driving whatever boat he is on. It just makes him comfortable, being in control. And I always let him drive when we cruise together, because I am a different type of boat owner, more of a ship's engineer. I like to fix things, inspect how things are working, feel the equipment operating. So when Jim is at the helm of my boat, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to walk around, look in lockers, spend time in the engine room under way, something I can't do when I am alone or with less experienced crew. Jim enjoys the boat while freeing me to do what I do, and that suits us just fine. He'd rather sit in a Stidd chair on the bridge than take temperature readings of the stuffing box, or track down a rattle that only occurs under way.

Some boat owners are laid back, carefree, Captain Rod types. Mentally prepared to deal anything, any weather, any sea, any mechanical or rigging problem. "If anything is going to happen, Kitty, it's going to happen out there!"

But that isn't me. I once spent several hours with Tony Fleming aboard his Fleming 65 at Burr Yachts. Tony stopped by the Maryland dealer on his way north. As we got to serious discussion he shared with me that he never relaxes on a boat, never. He is always conscious of what is going on, how the boat is running, what needs to be done, the safety of the boat and crew always on his mind. And when I told him I felt exactly the same, we felt a kinship of sorts. He knows very few people who understand this. They call this pleasure boating for a reason, so why be tense? On a boat, I remain alert at Condition Yellow. I can't help it. So in some ways, cruising is stressful for guys like Tony and me. We like everything about it, but can't relax either. Maybe that has to do with being a Stayer. I don't know.

Larry Polster of Kadey-Krogen once took me aside and asked me to explain why hourly engine room checks are so necessary. He just doesn't see the point. Check everything in the morning before shoving off and you are good to go. Larry feels it creates anxiety that isn't necessary. I have to admit, in 2017, Larry has a valid point. Back in the day, engines consumed oil, tolerances weren't so great so leaks were inevitable. Hoses and belts are now far superior. Plus, we have electronic alarms and sensors that keep us informed of everything.

But back to my discussion with Tony Fleming. At one point he admitted that for him it is never "fun." It is not simple enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure. Is that bizarre or what? This is a primary passion of so many boat owners, so how can it not be fun?

Truth is, I love sailing, running a trawler, and tooling around at high speed. All so similar yet equally different. However, no matter what vessel I am on, my nature while boating remains the same. In an anchorage, I'll be the one taking the winch apart, or troubleshooting the starter motor, not the one off paddleboarding.

Have you ever thought about it? What type are you?