08 July 2011 | Malolo, Fiji
Broken Compass headed out yesterday for Bali. They plan to head to South Africa by the end of the year and be back on the East Coast of the US sometime next year. It was sad to see our friends go knowing that we won't be running into them in another anchorage anytime soon and being that they are headed home and we are not who knows when (or if) we will see them again. The thought of having our friends leave got me to thinking about just how funny friendships are out here. I looked up the definition of a friend just for kicks and here is what I found:
friend - a person you know well and regard with affection and trust
At home it takes a long time to develop a friendship. Possibly because we are constantly surrounded by so many people and have our usual group that we hang-out with. It takes a while to make sure that a new person will fit in with the group. We are also so busy that we are careful not to expend energy on anyone or anything that we don't get an equal return from (although in a really well developed friendship I think this should and does go away with time).
Out here friendships are very different. First we do all have something in common, the pure fact that we are out here sailing. But that in and of itself isn't enough to truly develop a friendship it usually takes something more and the time to find that something. But friendships out here can come and go with the bat of an eye. Each anchorage comes with a new set of boats and if you are lucky you run into people you have met before. I think for Mark and I it can be particularly difficult sometimes because we are some of the younger people out here. Most sailors are retired, their families are grown, and are at least a few years older than us. Sometimes I wonder whether these sailors befriend us because they like us or because they feel the instinct to "parent" and take care of us, or maybe we just remind them of their kids back home. Mark and I are simply at a different stage in life to really have much in common. While Mark has done a lot career wise, I haven't and do hope to do something when we get home. We have to family to speak of but expect we will soon. And there is nothing we can do about the age gap. Would we be friends with them if we lived on land. I can honestly say that we probably wouldn't because we would have never had the opportunity to meet them. But that's probably the case with most people out here.
If you look back at the definition of a friend the real question is do we really have any friends out here. How well do we know people that we see here and there and spend a few days at a time with. Surprisingly I do feel that we have a few we can really call friends in spite of this. There are people that you do feel put up the effort to keep in touch with you and see what you are doing, those that read your blog so they can keep tabs on where you are, and many that will even sail a little out of the way to see you. But still these will never be like the friendships developed back home.
Probably one of the saddest/hardest things about being out is keeping up those friendships back home. I used to have an hour (+/-) commute everyday. In the morning I'd talk to my mom and on the way home I'd talk to whoever had given me a ring or I just hadn't talked to in awhile. I lived far from most of my good friends but was pretty good about talking to everyone every couple of months or less. I'm not so good out here. E-mail helps but it just isn't the same as a good old fashion phone call. When the internet is good I am happy to have skype! What a difference the internet makes. But I always liked talking on my way home because I felt I was wisely filling time that would otherwise be wasted. Now there are always other things I should be doing and while I know a phone call to a friend is never a waste it still can take up a chunk of the day that could be otherwise spent. My phone calls used to be at the end of the day they now have to be at odd hours because the time difference for many of my friends is pretty dramatic. I even have trouble remembering to call my mom early enough. And in some ways I do feel like the some friendships are now one way because I have to make the effort even though we do have a US phone number that rings through skype to our computers it seems most people just won't use it. One thing I do know for sure is that my true friends will be there whenever I call. I have friends I had for years and have had incredible gaps between conversations but those friendships still exist and I know they will be there whenever we return to land. But sometimes I can honestly say I'd love to just have a weekly night out with the girls and not be constantly trying to develop new friendships that may last a week, a month, or if we are lucky a whole sailing season.
At least I'm sailing with my favorite friend. On the high seas your spouse really does need to be your best friend. You spend all of your time together. Every activity, job, and meal are together. Every decision has to be thought through as a team. We have 53 feet of space to live in and sometimes can't get off the boat for days. It isn't always easy but no true friendship is (and even so a marriage).
In the end we have met some truly amazing people out here (Broken Compass included) and we do hope that these friendships, while they may be sporadic and fleeting in the developmental stages, do end up lasting a lifetime wherever we all end up in this world.