Cruiser’s Notebook: Buddy
By Cyndi Perkins
Teaming up is a safe and reassuring strategy when exploring
territory that is new to you or if you are simply new to cruising. Traveling "in
company" means there are more eyes for depth sounding, marker-spotting and
plotting an accurate course. There is also safety in numbers. If you encounter
trouble, a companion boat may have the tools, equipment or expertise needed to
help solve the problem.
Along with that comfort zone, however, comes the human factor. While traveling
"on the hip," tempers can slip if buddy boaters don't clearly understand
respective goals, including travel speed, miles per day, overnight
accommodations and budget. If you are traveling with a flotilla, the potential
Compatible intelligence and humor levels are very helpful in negotiating a
travel itinerary that allows for privacy as well as togetherness.
The bad buddy boaters in these tales shall remain nameless:
Two Midwest sailing couples who began America's Great Circle Loop together on
the Great Lakes made it all the way down to the west Florida coast before
finally admitting that their ideal resting places were dramatically different.
The first couple, we'll call them the "Sunsets," cherished remote anchorages,
dropping the hook up quiet creeks or in the shallows of secluded bays. Couple
number two - aka the "Sundowners" - reveled in the camaraderie of upscale
marinas, preferably those with lively Tiki bars. Because they assumed they'd be
making the entire Loop together, no one wanted to concede that it just wasn't
working out. Finally, simmering frustrations came to a boil and heated words
were exchanged. To their credit the Sunsets and the Sundowners managed an
amicable parting of the ways. The lesson for all boaters is to be up-front with
your expectations. Even the most compatible of couples may have differing
visions of the cruising lifestyle. There's no shame in pointing your boat in a
different direction if you find the situation isn't ideal for you.
|Buddy boats unintentionally violate the
anchoring-space rule in St. Augustine, Florida, where tidal switches and
robust currents near the Bridge of Lions brought Faith Afloat and Chip Ahoy
too close for comfort.
Yes, you are allowed to be selfish. We cruise to please ourselves, not
necessarily others. Buddy boating etiquette dictates that it is perfectly
acceptable to politely say no to anyone you do not feel comfortable traveling
with for any reason. Conversely, do not expect every boater you see to want to
team up with you. Some cruisers prefer traveling solo. Be sensitive about
imposing on their desire for privacy. This leads to two more cautionary examples
of buddy boating gone bad …
A cruiser did definitely not coin the adage, “neither a borrower nor lender be”.
Boaters are by and large a generous bunch. There are limits, however, to what
any boater can or should do. In one case, we reluctantly traveled in company on
the Florida East Coast Intracoastal Waterway with a couple rich in knowledge but
in a sadly underpowered sailboat that rocked and rolled violently in any waves
or wake over two feet. And whenever they experienced a wake - common and
unavoidable on the most discourteous portions of the eastern Florida
Intracoastal Waterway - they loudly complained on the marine radio. In one day
alone the lady sailor issued 25 "you are responsible for your wakes" to boaters.
She was even chastising boaters who waked Chip Ahoy!
|Cruisers travel in company on the narrow and lovely Dismal
Canal waterway leading from North Carolina to Virginia. (Photo courtesy Jay
Worse yet, their boat wasn't equipped with adequate jerry cans for fuel or
water. Their engine was giving them trouble, so they borrowed a spray we'd been
using on our dinghy outboard, as well as jerry cans from a 35-foot Catalina also
traveling with us. We eventually took off in two-to-four foot wave conditions
the cruising couple from hell did not want to travel in, leaving behind the
stuff we'd lent. We were afraid we'd never get rid of them otherwise. Chalking
up our small losses to experience, we breathed a sigh of relief at being able to
travel faster than five knots without running radio commentary.
|Mandatory rafting at Thompson Island, Ontario, involves
lots of traffic clambering over many boat decks. Tango of the sailboat
Sunntack, the third boat off the dock, is more agile than most humans when
making for shore.
In 2005, Chip Ahoy had to tactfully shake loose another traveling
partner, a small sailboat suffering from domestic squabbles and economic
problems, both of which were loudly broadcast for all and sundry at various
anchorages and marinas to hear. While we travel on an extremely modest budget,
we do reserve a few dollars to treat ourselves on special occasions. If you have
never had people sit and watch you eat in a restaurant when they cannot afford
to dine out asking after each bite how the food is, I can assure you it is not a
The boat captain's grandiose plans to sail around the world didn't jibe with his
buddy-boating style, which was to follow as closely behind us as possible,
jogging when we jogged, jigging when we jigged. We had to ask him to back off
and give Chip Ahoy some breathing room whenever we wanted to troll a
fishing line, maneuver in a tight marina basin or exit an anchorage. Though this
boat had a shallow draft, its captain never once led into an anchorage. In fact,
he never volunteered to lead anywhere or offered an opinion on course plotting
or destination planning. Rationally, we understood that we were not responsible
for the safety of this boat, but we felt burdened and depressed while traveling
in such needy company. The experience taught us to more closely evaluate the
folks who ask to travel with us, as well as the state of their vessels.
That's the down side of buddy boating. Fortunately for all of us, the experience
is most often positive. We have a long list of cruisers that we greatly enjoy
traveling with whenever and wherever our paths cross.
|The crew of Victoria Queen prepares for a morning dive on
the shipwreck America at Isle Royale National Park. Others in our group,
including the Chip Ahoy crew, went fishing instead.
World voyagers Rosi Allen and Jim Rust of Cornucopia, Wis. have seen the world
aboard their Contest 34 Libelle and shared numerous Lake Superior sailing
adventures with Chip Ahoy. Jay and Janet Haugen of Sleepy Eye, Minn., along with
children Kim, Katy and Christopher, were our partners in adventure all the way
up the east coast, through the Erie Canal and across Great Lakes Erie, Huron and
Superior on their 35-foot Catalina Faith Afloat as we completed our first
circumnavigation of the Great Circle Loop in 2003-2004. Bonnie Brennan and Jerry
Riedel, formerly of The Bear and now of the motor yacht Blackdog, are tops among
our many trawler brethren that can always be counted on to make a passage of any
duration fun and safe. Whenever we are in port together, it feels like a
Some boats you travel with carry true friends for life, others may only cross
your path once. In any instance, the buddy boat experience can be enriching on a
variety of levels. From our new friends come new anchoring and rafting
techniques, lessons in how to yank - or be yanked - off a sandbar, how to get a
lather out of salt water (Joy dishwashing liquid) and the proper way to mix a
spicy Canadian-style Caesar at cocktail hour. Then there are the long-time
boating buddies including Bill and Linda Reynolds of the sailboat Victoria Queen
and George Hite of the Nonsuch Peregrine, who expand every shared excursion into
a test on sail trim, racing tactics or navigational prowess.
These outstanding cruisers and the many others we've been so fortunate to share
some time with "on the road" can teach us all a thing or two about proper buddy
boating whether you're out on the water for a day or forever. See the
accompanying list for more tips on teaming up harmoniously.
Cyndi Perkins is a freelance writer and full-time cruiser traveling with
husband Scott aboard their 32-foot DownEast sailboat Chip Ahoy. After completing
a 6,000-mile circumnavigation of America's Great Circle Loop in 2003-2004, the
couple prepared for another extended cruise south while continuing to explore
Lake Superior destinations including the Canadian North Shore. In late August
2005 the couple set sail for another trip down Lake Michigan into America's
heartland rivers leading to Mobile, Alabama. Cyndi will continue to share top
northern and Midwest boating destinations with readers in her regular "Cruiser's
Comments, suggestions or questions (short text messages with
no attachments) may be directed to Cyndi at firstname.lastname@example.org