Saturday, January 09, 2010

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

Mera Checks It Out
Mera Checks It Out
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
The hardest part is saying goodbye. It's a dirty secret in cruising that we say good bye all the time. Every time we leave an anchorage, there is a strong probability we will never see our fellow cruisers again. Every time we enter a new harbor, there's a chance we'll see long standing friends or go through the process of making new ones. It's a complete roulette wheel. We all either adapt to this constant flux of known and unknown, or cruising instead devolves into sequential trials of the heart as people we respect and admire disappear from our lives.

For some, this itinerant life poses no great challenge. Either their relationships with their boat family are so strong and sufficient as to require no supplemental entertainment, or they don't like people anyway. DrC falls into this category. It's not that he's asocial. Exactly. He's just very self-contained. Mera, too, finds very little trouble drifting from one set of people to another. Neither of them easily or quickly create strong bonds so we rarely spend enough time with any boat to build the kind of trust and closeness required to make our departure difficult for my husband and middle child. When they do place their trust in someone, the relationship is forever. DrC can still go on a rant because kids he knew in high school are not responding to his friends request on Facebook. He is an incredibly loyal and persistent friend for whom distance, time and absence mean exactly nothing. Noey, Uncle Glenn, Hbunny and Greg better keep this in mind. A similar pattern is evolving in Mera.

Other cruisers become social butterflies, making friends rapidly through exchanged confidences and culinary tidbits but easily trading one group of friends and boats for another. This is a highly adaptive approach which opens the decks of many boats to new conversations and ideas. Jaime and I fit this mold. While for the most part, we do not develop deep or lasting relationships, we sincerely appreciate and enjoy the people we meet. We regret saying good bye to friends, but we know that we'll either see them again... or we won't. It's not a problem. We delight in each other's company for the time that we have and when it's time to leave, we simply move on. This is not to say that either Jaime and I have not developed strong relationships with some of our fellow cruisers. However, these are actually the exception which prove the generally fickle rule. And most of those friends for whom we feel a lasting bond are those we can easily and readily access via the Internet. Jaime and I are truly digital natives.

Another group of cruisers find a compromise solution in the buddy boat. These cruisers identify like minded traveling souls with at least roughly similar interests and boat performance and travel together everywhere they go. You frequently see this pattern with kid boats who will move in groups of two, three or even more, but you see it in the older couples as well. The advantage is that the comfort and stability of your ongoing relationship with your buddy boat offsets the temporary sadness and loneliness engendered by leaving friends behind over and over again. I think that in the long run, even DrC would have to come to grips with this model if we were going to continue cruising, because on our boat we have one of the most challenging personality types.

Unfortunately, Aeron falls into another category of cruiser entirely. She loves deeply, immediately, and passionately. She is loyal and generous with her heart. Her charm and ready smile endear her to cruisers of all ages, and she rewards their time and attention with her trust and wit. However, each departure rips her apart. It's not just the kid boats, the little girls friends like Skylar (Ocean Blue) or Caroline (Windfall). She cried when we left Meerkat, Endless Summer, Victory Cat, and Profligate last spring. She was nearly hysterical leaving behind Beach Access and Precious Metal last week. These weeks leading up to leaving Don Quixote and Mexico behind – probably forever as a family – are chipping away at her soul leaving her a sad parody of her normal bubbly self. Each time we leave a port, I brace myself for the tears and the deep sadness. It wrenches the heart to see our baby so horribly off kilter.

Aeron and Uncle Glenn
Aeron and Uncle Glenn
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
This is part of cruising I welcome putting behind us. For at least a year, we will stop moving, stop saying good bye every few days. My little girl will grow a full year in the company of the same group of children and adults. I hope that if we do take up a gypsy hiking or biking lifestyle again after our year down south, Aeron will have grown and matured sufficiently that it doesn't hurt so much. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that we will not take up a nomadic lifestyle again until Aeron is emotionally ready to undertake the challenges, or she is off to college and her happiness in her own hands.


judith said...

Beautiful post, such fortunate children to have this HUGE network of friends/family. Aeron will probably be the type to remember all these people by name and boat well into her adulthood.

Positively Orphaned said...

I don't really know what to say, but I'm happy that you shared this. I hadn't consider it becoming an issue someday.

Rosebud said...

I have been reading your blog for a couple of years on and off now. (Thanks for sharing!) This is a lovely post! Reading of Aeron, was like reading of myself and I have to warn you, that aspect of one's personality never changes. I sadly speak from my own experience of 36 years (living in 5 countries and travelling a lot), it just doesn't get easier! The heartbreak is as bad each and everytime. The only thing you can do is be there each time and create some stability by building a very strong family unit that she knows is there for her whatever. (Which you are doing) All the best!