Bonding over horror stories. It’s what’s cruisers do every time they get together.
But is it just complaining about hard times? Or does it serve a purpose?
When Cruisers Get Together
What do cruisers do when they get together?
Well, yes. They drink. Much of the time.
But it doesn’t take long for the stories to start coming out. And not stories about the sea turtle one spotted in the sound. Or the amazing green flash seen at sunset. Or even success stories about varnishing or docking.
Nope, the stories that cruisers tell when they get together are horrible. They involve marine holding tanks overflowing, near-misses with container ships, and engines that stop running within a few yards of not-yet-open bascule bridges.
And it’s not just cranky cruisers with a pessimistic view of life. Everyone does it.
Cruisers Bond Over Horror Stories
You might never walk up to a stranger on a city street and start a conversation with them. But when you travel like a nomad on a boat or RV, nearly everyone you see is a stranger to you.
You learn to talk to strangers or you don’t talk to anyone not already living on your boat.
But how do you build relationships with people you don’t work with? Or live with?
You do it by seeking “cognitive empathy” or understanding from people who have been through what you have.
Because other cruisers have had similar experiences, you know they’ll understand where you’re coming from. In fact, they may understand you better than family and friends not living the same life.
And sharing the horror stories that have happened to all of us creates a bond quickly where none existed before. And when you live the nomad life, those bonds are crucial.
Importance Of Bonding
Why is it important to bond over sundowners with other cruisers? Especially if you’re unlikely to run into each other again?
I’ve found several benefits to bonding over horror stories with fellow cruisers:
To Make Friends
Everyone needs friends. And working remotely or traveling makes it harder to meet new people. Luckily, the bonding you do over horror stories will form strong friendships even if you don’t see your friends very often.
To this day, I interact regularly on Facebook with people I’ve only met briefly while cruising. You can form strong bonds when you share your horror stories.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m being too cautious when I have the boat shut up tight while we’re motoring on the Intracoastal Waterway on a calm day. But then I remember a story one cruiser told me.
She wasn’t feeling well. So she went below to the aft cabin to lie down. She was joined by their little dog.
It was a hot day and very calm. So she opened the ports over her bed. The next thing she knew, she, the dog, and her bedding were soaking wet.
A fast powerboat made a huge wake–much of which ended up inside their aft cabin.
I haven’t yet had the chance to sail offshore on my boat at night. But when I do, I know I won’t forget the story of the cruiser who looked up in the middle of his watch to realize that he could no longer see the stars.
He recovers his wits in time to recognize that a massive tanker had pulled alongside him without his realizing it and had blocked his view of the sky.
He had come within a few feet of the other boat without realizing it.
Yeah, that’s a lesson I’d much rather learn from hearing someone else’s story.
To encourage inter-dependence
Everyone depends on everyone else. But there’s nothing like setting out on your tiny vessel to understand it for real.
Rehearsing horror stories around a cockpit while drinking wine reminds us that bad things happen all the time. We need to be alert to others around us and offer help when can.
We were walking our dog on the beach when we saw that a small, recreational powerboat had grounded hard with the tide going out. He wasn’t able to get his boat off the sand without help.
So every boater on the beach headed into the water to give him a push until he found deeper water.
As the boater pulled away, one of the helpers looked at everyone else and said, “And that’s why you always wave at fellow boaters underway.”
The bonds we form, whether by waving or by sharing tales, help us help each other. They help us connect.
Sharing Horror Stories
Don’t look back on your tough experiences with dread. Think of all the great stories you’ll have to share at your next cruiser happy hour.
Heck, if you’re really good, you might even be able to see them as great yarns while they’re actually happening.
Your torn sail or damaged rudder isn’t a disaster. It’s just one more horror story that will help you bond with fellow cruisers.
Your Turn: Have you bonded with strangers by sharing horror stories? Or by grousing, like during jury duty?