Here one second. Gone the next.
More and more frequently I have found myself feeling somewhat lost. Well lost may be the wrong word as I know where I am, but feeling as though I am in the wrong place. The past several days I have been sailing from anchorage to anchorage hoping to find something. I’m not sure what I was hoping to find, but often times I’d pull up anchor on a whim under a starry sky and just sail. No idea where to, I just felt compelled to sail. Somewhere. Anywhere. Waking up in the morning I’d step on deck and be greeted by a new horizon, almost forgetting that I had sailed the night before. Those who I was socializing with the night before would wake up and wonder where the hell I went. Here one minute, gone the next. Then with a subtle feeling that I don’t belong here either, I’d find someplace new to go.
I have come to learn that the freedoms associated with the cruising life come at a cost. You’re playing a different game with different rules. On one hand you want the freedom to disappear and go explore a new horizon on a whim. On the other you want to find some sense of community, and to contribute to that community. I don’t want to just be sea gypsying bum, I want to be a contributing member of society and help when I can. At least a little bit.
The problem I am finding is that when you foster new relationships with people, as with most things in life, you can only be half in and half out for a so long. Eventually you’ve got to shit or get off the pot, so to speak. At first your gypsy ways may be a charming part of your identity. After a while though, those same traits that may have even been the reason for many an introduction can start to work against you. You get a reputation of being irresponsible, a flake. In a way it’s almost flattering. People care about you, they want you to join in on their barbecues, have you over for drinks, go for a sail with you. You want to reciprocate and be there as well. Only your life doesn’t make that easy and those who haven’t lived the same gypsy lifestyle (us sailors call them landlubbers) often don’t understand. In reality though, it sucks. No one wants to be a flake. When living a lifestyle which by its very nature is isolating, burning what bridges you do have to a social world can be even more devastating.
If could be something as simple as the winds are howling and the dinghy ride to shore sounds like hell. Or another example… More than once I’ll get a dinner invite in Oakland and I’m in Sausalito, or some variation of locations. I can get there trains, planes, and automobile style (make that dinghy, ferry, subway, bike) which would take a couple of hours, or I could sail there which would take four hours depending on the current. Either way, a simple dinner date will be between four and eight plus hours of round trip commuting time. I want to come. I really do. But seriously. The first few times people understand but after a while… “ahh Geoff’s just a flake.” They probably assume I’m off someplace else having fun not knowing that in reality I’m sitting alone on a boat eating beans from a can wishing I was there.
Another thing I have come to realize is that when you live on a mobile sailboat, by default you develop a presence in multiple communities. I lived in Berkeley marina for three years. In that time I knew people from that one community with a couple people being exceptions. In the one year I have been actively cruising San Francisco, I have become involved with probably close to a dozen different communities. Berkeley, Richmond, Galilee, Aquatic Park, The Anchorouts, Embarcadero Cove, 5th Ave, Jack London, the list goes on. Thats a lot of places to be and a lot of relationships to maintain… I can barely keep up with maintaing my boat or make it to the bean store before it closes.
I’m not complaining about this at all. It really is a privilege to be friends with so many rad people. What is tricky though is learning how to live this life in a balanced way. I have trouble saying no. When asked if I could be somewhere I have a tendency to say “That sounds awesome, I’d love to. Not sure if I can but I’ll try and see if I can be there.” This tends to be interpreted as “I’ll see you there!” When in fact, I intended to stress the “try” element. When I don’t make it, people are disappointed. Sometimes the winds just blowing the wrong direction, literally and figuratively. I really am trying. I just fail a lot more than I’d like.
Anyway, I won’t ramble on too long. The point of this rant is that I have noticed a pattern emerge ever since I promised myself that I would sail around the world when I was a teenager. I am really good at meeting new people and building new friendships but equally good at burning bridges and letting those relations sour. At this point in time, setting roots scares the hell out of me. Roots = death of a dream = lifelong regret. Not an option. As much as I would like to be a longterm part of something. It’s not in the cards for me, at least right now. How does one go about breaking this pattern? Do you just learn how long is too long and get out early? Do you just avoid getting involved in the first place? If you have answers, I’m all ears.
So apparently that’s where I am now. My reputation is becoming one of a flake. It sucks, as I try to do the best I can. Maybe the fact that I am operating in constant survival mode gets overlooked and viewed as if I am living in vacation land. I have come to terms with the fact that I am not the most accountable person. Someone once told me that it’s not irresponsible to avoid responsibility. Apparently I still have a little work to do in this department though I feel I’m getting closer.
Here one second, gone the next. I decided an hour ago that in a few hours I’ll hike up into the mountains with nothing but a camera and sleeping bag for a night. Maybe two. No one will know. I’ll probably piss someone off by not being someplace I said I may try to go. I won’t answer my phone, there won’t be any service. Apologies, but it’s the only way I know how.