Life in a Fishbowl
13 March 2008 | Gulf of Aqaba
(Cartoon courtesy of the American boating association cartoon archive. http://www.americanboating.org/cartoons.asp )
It is Saturday and Manny and I have chosen to take it easy. Over our morning coffee we did toss about the idea of going sailing, but there's a good wind blowing out on the Gulf today and it all began to seem like a little too much work. Instead we chose to enjoy the mild weather and putter around the boat a bit. Puttering - now there's a job we both do well. Of course after a little puttering an afternoon siesta sounded like just the thing and who was to stop us?
Well no one should have, except no sooner did we drift off than I heard a passerby gently calling my name. At first I thought it was a coincidence, but by the fourth time when the voice raised a decibel or two, I couldn't ignore the truth. Someone wanted me to disengage myself from this lovely state of relaxation and go out and make small talk. By the sound of the voice, I assumed it was one of my students who was taking in a Saturday stroll in the marina. Oh I really didn't feel like getting up. Maybe they would go away. Only now they were clanging something against our bow pulpit and making an awful racket.
Only inches above my head this person who was quickly becoming quite annoying, was now clanging AND knocking on the deck. The noisy crescendo eventually brought a neighbour boater out to his cockpit and a discussion ensued. Well of course now I certainly couldn't get up. What would they think - that I'd been ignoring them? Instead I cowered under the blankets, determined not to surface until dark settled in.
Living aboard a boat is certainly an odd lifestyle. Just about everybody we know wonders when we are going to get over it and move into a house. Often people ask me "Are you STILL living on that boat?" If it is difficult for most people to understand why we live on a boat, then I can only expect them to be a little curious as to how life aboard actually is.
Living aboard a small sailboat in a marina that is surrounded by hotels, in a country that has a fairly short seafaring history, is definitely odd. Perhaps that explains why we frequently feel like we are living in a fish bowl. Within weeks of moving aboard we began to get used to people staring in our cabin ports and it is not unusual for a tourist to attempt to climb on deck for picture taking. A neighbour who lives aboard even had someone walk on board and right into her cabin while she was vacuuming. I'm not quite sure if they were looking for a picture opportunity or not, but she was quite upset.
Sometimes these visitors can be a good source of amusement. On any early summer morning our marina is full of walkers out for their daily exercise. Lying in our berth with the fore hatch open, we overhear the most entertaining conversations. One morning I awoke to the sound of two middle aged men discussing our boat. "Oh it's far too small to go anywhere. They just go fishing." one man explained. It was all I could do, not to pop my head out of the hatch and correct him.
Summer always brings the fishermen. Many mornings upon awakening we open our main hatch only to be greeted by a couple of fishermen seated directly dockside. Sitting comfortably on lawn chairs with a cooler at their side, they don't even acknowledge us. Deep at work with casting rods and bait buckets they sit smug in the knowledge that they've found the best fishing location in town. If I chance to politely inform them that we are sorry but they can't fish here, they look back dumfounded. "Who said YOU can live here?"
Late one night last summer, Manny lost his patience when in the wee hours of the morning a couple strolling back from the pub stopped right in front of our boat to have an argument. After five minutes of listening to their bicker, he climbed out of bed, pulled on some shorts, stomped out on deck and told them to take their argument just a little further along the dock so we could get some sleep. Their stunned silence had me snorting with laughter long after Manny crawled back into our berth.
While strangers can be entertaining, friends and relatives can sometimes be a little trying. Take the time some folks chose to visit us at midnight and caught Manny having a deck shower, or the couple who came to visit with six other friends on a cold winter night. Company is nice but trying to squeeze eight guests into a 30 foot boat cabin is only done when inebriated. Anyhow we don't have enough coffee mugs.
We are learning to accept that for most people our dockside lifestyle is as entertaining as any other tourist attraction. Then just as we are getting that figured out, we get a phone call from a disgruntled caller. "We came all the way down to Eilat and dropped by to visit you, but your boat wasn't there!"
Yes we were gone....sailing!