The Kindness of Strangers

It’s been so interesting to meet other cruisers and hear their stories. We’ve met young couples with small children who have sold everything and are living on their boat, home schooling their children and traveling and a boat full of young people from Brazil who chartered a catamaran. There are lots of retirees, some who have been doing this for years and other “first timers” like us. One thing they all have in common is a love of adventure and a willingness to help and support each other.

Traveling down the ICW, we met people who let us use their cars and even let us use their houses! We always strove to leave things better than we found them and are glad we’ve also had the opportunity to share our spaces and places with our traveling friends while we’re gone.

On Grand Bahama Island, we had friends of a friend offer to show us around the island to see the sights, enjoy a meal and provision. They spend the whole day with us, and it was terrific to get to know them and their insights into the culture of the Bahamas. We’ve had fellow boaters invite us to a bonfire and we’ve shared happy hours with others. People tend to approach and talk on the beach and in the marinas. Given we’ve all been tested twice, and the incidence is so low here, there’s a certain feeling of safety from C-19 and while we still wear masks indoors, it just feels safer to mingle outdoors.

We had an opportunity to see how fast other cruisers come to the aid of their fellow sailor when we grounded ourselves in Allan’s Cay. We’ve run aground before but typically, Robert is able to power us off. We thought the sand was soft so we weren’t too worried but it turned out to be hard packed. And, we were in the middle of turning when we hit the sand and got the keel and the starboard (right) side of the boat nice and nestled into the sand. We tried going forward and backward but what we really needed to do was go sideways and a sailboat isn’t designed to do that! There is no “tow boat” or “Boats US” to rescue sailors cruising in the Bahamas. If we were alone, we’d have probably just sat there until the next high tide or figured out how to kedge ourselves off.

As we were rocking ourselves back and forth, about 5 dinghies arrived on the scene. There was an urgency because the tide was still falling, and the situation was only going to get worse. The guy in front and to port of us suggested we give him a line from our bow, and he’d use his winch to crank it over. Two others got on our port side to push. Two others suggested we give them the main halyard and they’d pull us sideways. With all that was going on, we neglected to attach the end of the main halyard and it got pulled up the mast and through the sheave. We quickly secured the spinnaker halyard and tried again. On a count of three, everyone pushed and pulled with all their power. We were free! As quickly as they showed up the dinghy’s returned to their motherships…A job well done. AND, nothing damaged aboard Solveig that couldn’t be fixed, including the halyard and our egos.

It’s hard to believe it hasn’t even been a week yet but we reconnected with our buddy boat, Maryellen and Bill aboard SeaEscape and met new another couple, Lisa and Jack aboard Shore Nuff, who completes the triple S Cruising Team! They’ve quickly become like family and have friends, Teresa and Tedd, visiting for a couple of weeks to make the party even merrier.

I think we’ve all had experiences with the “bad apples” in the world. Sometimes when I pay too much attention to those who spew hate, who steal, harm others, molest children, tell lies, and take advantage of others for their own gain, I begin to fear for our world and the safety of those I love. I’m not a Pollyanna who blindly trusts everyone, everywhere. I get the need for caution, especially during times when people are desperate and might do things they wouldn’t normally do. Still, I believe that those people are a small minority. They’re the fringes of our society and don’t reflect who we are as a country or as a world. The wide majority of humans on this planet are kind, considerate people who respect others. When I approach people with kindness and respect, that’s what I will tend to get in return.

I appreciate the “givers” in the world, and I strive to find opportunities to be one myself. It’s important to me to always check to see where the giving is coming from though. If I’m giving because I expect to get something in return, it’s a barter, not a gift. If I’m giving to try to rescue someone from a situation they created, I may be robbing them of the ability to learn the lesson they need to learn from the experience. If I’m giving so that I can moan and complain about “all I do for other people”, then I’m being a martyr, not a giver. Giving comes from a pure place…A place with no strings attached and no expectations.

Just like what our dinghy rescue crew did for us. They showed up, did what needed to be done, and took off.…What a tremendous example and one we certainly intend to pay forward. While we’re being careful, the saying “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet” is how we’ll continue to approach new people, and we look forward to meeting LOTS of new friends in the cruising community.

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