My seven year old daughter sometimes accuses me of making her angry, and I understand the concept. But I always try in vain to explain to her that whatever I might do, she is the only person in the world who controls her reaction. So aside from exposing my poor parenting skills, what has this got to do with cruising?

Slow dissolve to another typical morning in Paradise....

There's a cruiser named John on a boat called Beluga who makes an announcement every morning on the SSB radio (typically before Chris Parker does the weather at 6:30 AM and then again before Cruizeheimers starts two hours later). This is what he says, in a measured and precise radio voice as if he were speaking in time with a metronome:

"Good morning all listeners. Good morning all listeners. This is John, with Monique, aboard the motorsailer Beluga. Home port: Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the Mississippi River. Present location: North Palm Beach, Florida. Motorsailer Beluga standing by."
Every morning he says this as if reading from a script. Someone (evidently not one of his fans) once asked him why he did this every morning, and he responded, "For the fun of it!" We met John briefly on the beach at Lake Worth and he seemed like a nice fellow. I suspect that most people, like me, find it curious that he makes his daily announcements but don't really mind. In fact, it's somewhat comforting in the early mornings, the sun not yet lighting the cabin, to know that John and Monique are still out there, safe and sound. Yet it is amazing how a few cruisers spend time grumbling about his morning greetings, which don't fit their ideas about how radio is supposed to work.

I'm thinking of all this because tonight I listened to a boat called Blown Away explain why he had initiated a conversation with John after the morning Beluga announcement. "You're encouraging him!" the disgusted long-time cruiser (who shall remain nameless) said. After Blown Away explained that John is a good guy who was relaying a message for him to someone in Palm Beach, Cruiser X evidently switched off in disgust, in effect hanging up on him.

John on Beluga isn't the only one doing slightly eccentric things on the radio. There's someone out there who whistles, every morning, just for a moment, every single morning. And there's someone who compulsively howls softly like a wolf once or twice each morning as well. It's possible they are adjusting their antenna tuners, but if so that's not the textbook (or legal) procedure for doing so. It's not as if most conversations on the SSB are life and death matters, either. Aside from the weather, the inevitable topics are (a) where are you and (b) how are you, not exactly earth-shattering communication. The only difference with Beluga is that he makes a pre-emptive announcement without waiting to be asked.

The situation reminds me of George Town. I often hear cruisers complain about all the rules and organization found in George Town, and I can see their point. George Town can be like a day camp for adults, with organized activities and radio chatter that never stop. This isn't why people go cruising, is it? Well, actually, for most of them, it is. There may be a few boats out there who always anchor alone in the most deserted spot possible and never, ever want to speak to another human being, but not many. Without the fun of meeting and learning from other people, cruising is just driving a boat from one postcard to another. You cannot fight human nature, the instinctive desire to belong. I think of a story I heard about my alma mater, Vanderbilt, from the days when fully 80 percent of the student body belonged to a fraternity or sorority. The other 20 percent who had been excluded became so anti-greek that they organized as independents in protest.

If George Town truly isn't your scene, anchor another mile or two down Elizabeth Harbor and you'll have the place to yourself. If you don't want to listen to chatter on the radio, turn it off or do something else for thirty seconds until it stops. But don't waste your energy trying to change the world, this carefree cruising world that human nature built, with your crusades. I'm as guilty of this sin as anyone, but as the wise man says, it's tough to make it down the path to inner peace if you keep stopping to pick fights along the way.

Why can't we all just chill out, simply be and (as the Beatles advised so long ago) let be? Wasn't that part of the plan? We think it's the world that's making us crazy, so we get on our boats and leave. We imagine we will escape to a better place out here, but of course we don't. The place was only part of the problem. We go cruising and change our scenery but it's not so easy to change ourselves.

Relax, Mon. Let Beluga and the whistler and all the people in G-town do their monologues and blow their conch horns and play bridge on the beach. Save your strength for something important, like a walk on the beach or mixing another rum drink. This ain't no party, after all. This ain't no disco. This is cruising.

Copyright © 2007 by Rodger Ling. All rights reserved.