Cruising is great because you get to explore new islands, lounge on pristine beaches, watch endless sunsets and enjoy beautiful waters. For our family, it has been great to slow down and spend so much time together. But what makes cruising so wonderful is the people you meet along the way. Often they are fleeting friendships and you don’t even realize the strength of the relationship until you have gone your separate ways. It is tough for the kids to make friends and have to say goodbye that same week. It is difficult for the adults too, to deal with the comings and goings of new friends. Thankfully cruising friendships are made quickly. All it takes is a chance encounter at a dingy dock, a fellow Canadian flag or (if you have kids on board), the sighting of kids on a boat. Sometimes it is knowing a boat in common, being anchored near each other many times or just being from the hub of St. Augustine. Usually this leads to the exchange of boat cards (like business cards) and nowadays adding friends to Facebook and checking out their blogs. We find ourselves socializing with a much more diverse group of people while cruising than we would at home. Cruising forces you to forge friendships that you might not make at home and to spend time with people that may be totally different from yourself. I like things that are comfortable and familiar and cruising forces me to move outside that bubble.
As we are approaching the last few weeks of our time cruising, I have been reflecting on the wonderful friendships we have developed and the great people we have shared anchorages with. We have met and traveled with some amazing family boats, which both the kids and adults on board have loved. The kids realize quickly that when cruising age and gender aren’t nearly as important. When we started this trip, Ella was really worried she wouldn’t meet any other 7 year old girls. Now, she still tends to gravitate to other girls, but it isn’t uncommon to see her playing with a 10 year old or 4 year old. I love hearing each family’s story about cruising and traveling and it is great to share challenges and successes when it comes to kids on board and home schooling. We have also enjoyed time with many other cruisers from retirees to couples. Often these boats will spoil the kids and it is neat to see the kids interacting with other adults. It is great when you stumble upon a boat you know, from randomly meeting at a bar, to anchoring beside boats we met months ago. Aside from cruisers, we have also met wonderful people who have been so generous with us. From cottagers who offered us coconuts and to take our garbage to strangers that offer us a ride. Technology allows us to keep in touch more easily and I know that somehow many of our paths will cross again. I know that because two of my closest friends to this day are friends that I met while I was cruising as a teenager twenty years ago. Even without technology so many of us cruising kids managed to keep in touch and the world truly is a small place.
I may not have realized at the time how lucky I was to meet so many great friends these past few months. Like so many things in life, it is only once something is gone that we truly realize what we had. What I will remember more than anything from this trip, is the people and friendships we have made. With words I cannot do justice to these relationships or the camaraderie of cruising, but I want to thank all of you who have reached out to us, touched us and left your mark on us. You have inspired us, supported us, laughed with us, and encouraged us.