Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just the Hundredth and One Monkey Puttin' In Time on Planet Earth

Vero Beach FL
2010 11 10

Maybe you remember the Hundredth Monkey Hypothesis:  A group of scientists purportedly observed that some monkeys on an isolated island learned to wash sweet potatoes, and gradually this new behavior spread through the younger generation of monkeys—in the usual fashion, through observation and repetition. The researchers made an astounding observation: once a critical number of monkeys was reached—the so-called hundredth monkey—this previously learned behavior instantly spread across the water to monkeys on nearby islands.  Instantly all the monkeys everywhere knew to wash their sweet potatoes.  The observation was  bunkum.  Sadly the facts did not support the concept.  Much as the mind controlling skinnerian bureaucrats might drool at the prospect there is no way to instantly place an idea in the minds of an entire population.

Bunkum save for sailors.

Faced with unpleasant and even dangerous weather in Nova Scotia by the end of September and grown weary of freezing on our boat as we travelled the 1,000 miles or so of American territory which must be covered before one gets to interesting sailing grounds we decided this year to amend the schedule.  This year we would proceed south two or three weeks earlier than usual hoping to be met with more favourable conditions.

The strategy worked.  In spades, for those of you who play bridge.  Those of you who do not, play bridge that is, and would denigrate those of us who do should know that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet both play bridge, often on the same team.

Once at Vero we were met and have continued to meet an unending stream of sailing friends whom we have met over the past two years.  Without communicating everyone has chosen an earlier trek south this year. 

So much time has been devoted to lunching, shopping and bar hopping - well we do not "hop" we just dinghy over to the Riverside - that there has been little time for other activity, like boatwork.  Cambia from Maine just left after a week here, Fortnight from Hamilton area has been here for a fortnight, About Time from Guelph came in the day after we did and are still here, Mystic from New York a few days later and Searcher from Texas arrived yesterday.  We look forward to Kinvara within the week. 

New boats must be properly met.  Sailors are a bit doglike in their approach to other boats.  Whenever they meet sailors sniff each other out, sort out what kind of boater the other guys are.  If the initial cockpit drinks are a success you hope to meet the boat again, if not you still had some good conversation and a couple of drinks. 

Here is how we categorize sailors once we have met a new boat:

Misfits, Just Like Us: This comprises the bulk of the cruising public.  This lot perceives themselves to be independent and self reliant.  As well as bright, well informed and very capable.  Although friendly and generous of time and expertise they are not joiners except in the vague constellation of cruisers.  Sailing provides a means for these iconoclasts to live outside a society that has lost meaning or purpose and in which they have no place.  Think cowboy and you are not far off.  Boats in this category prefer the empty anchorage to the crowded, a quiet drink to a party.  These sailors come and go at will: one evening you share drinks with a boat and the next morning one or both of you is gone without a word. 

Suburban sailors: boats  that travel together in small fleets for safety or because they enjoy a tightly regulated social hierarchy.  Although genial and sometimes witty this group has a high a price of entry: you must participate in its rigid suburban social hierarchy.  No exceptions.  This bunch never sails anywhere exciting or new.  They like to talk about their second home just outside Annapolis, their investments or the new stuff they put on their boat.  Sometimes at the end of the season one or more higher ranking members may sail somewhere on their own, just to establish their superior position in the group.    Avoided by most sailors.

Gemini sailors: two or three boats travelling together in lockstep.  Like they are joined at the hip.  No one goes their own way or sets their own course.  No boat in the pack will even lift anchor and set off for the agreed upon destination until the alpha boat has done so.   Here the alpha boat will  usually be well travelled and interesting, the subsidiary boats less so.  Often one or more crew of the pack boats will be so reclusive as to avoid all group contact.  An exception are newbies: two boats of first timers who have found each other and cling together briefly until they sort things out.  Usually newbies become Misfits.

Trailer Park Boys: Sailors who take their boats to the Abacos every year and stay at the same marina as every other year for another 3 months.  Herds of them can be found in Marsh Harbour and the cays surrounding the Sea of Abaco. 

Single Handers: With some brilliant exceptions, like Capt. Dave and Steve on Searcher, this is a group of odd and grumpy old men.

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