Monday, February 20, 2012

The Herd Mentality

  We all wonder about ourselves some times, but who doesn't wonder about other people more than they wonder about themselves? What I wonder about is my capabilities to be able to accomplish what I set out to do. The other thing I wonder about more is how other people ever accomplish anything, and certainly there are others that wonder that same thing about us.
  Since starting this blog, I've had countless people remark that they had no idea that we were capable of some of the things we've done. I guess that question is legitimate. Most of our friends only see us lounging on the boat or at a party with a Bud Light in our mitts. We tend to keep our work time and play time separated by a large degree.
  Which brings us to our preparation and past experience in regard to our present endeavor.    Experience is the best teacher, but you have to start somewhere. A friend and I embarked on a canoe trip on the Meramec River back in 1972. My dad drove us out to Meramec State Park, 105 miles or so up river from our destination of Fenton, MO. Our canoe was loaded to the gills with enough camping gear and Vienna sausages to last us for a week or so; we had little idea how long the trip was going to take. We had no phone, or any other form of communication, but we did have a map, so identifying nearby towns and roads was possible. I was positioned in the stern of the canoe and my buddy sat at the bow as my dad shoved us off the bank into the swift spring waters of the upper Meramec River. I'll never forget the look on my dad's face as the canoe spun in circles in the swift current as we were engaged in our first lesson in piloting a double ended canoe.
  Three long days later we arrived at our destination with some experience under our belts. Some lessons I learned on that trip was: most importantly, how to steer a canoe; don't pitch a tent in a low lying area when it's raining; keep an eye on your travel partner that they don't eat all the sausages when you aren't looking; don't man the front of the canoe, as this person is always paddling and can't see the person behind them, (see previous item); wear gloves when paddling for long periods; and don't pick an idiot for a travel companion, (not sure even now which one of us this lesson applied to).
  Two of the books I've read in preparation for cruising full time aboard Swing Set involved people with little, or no experience for the mission that had chosen. One couple embarked on the Great Loop with little more than some basic instruction from the broker they had purchased their vessel from. They learned fast and were also lucky, but they accomplished the trip and were able to keep their marriage in tact.
  Another couple, with only some inland lake sailing experience, bought a sail boat and circumnavigated the globe, a remarkable accomplishment for even the most experienced sailor.
  There is a term for what these types of people who have done what they did with little experience and some might say they were foolhardy. One trait I think they possessed was the trait of self-confidence, and the ability to think on their feet under less than perfect circumstances. As Rosie and I meet people along our way, it's these self-confident, independent types that we will most value advice from.

  I read the forum from the America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association every morning, as I get the feed automatically sent to our email. There are some contributors to the forum who are obviously experienced and I read their comments with some hope of retaining the information. If not, I can search a subject later to obtain the information that I'm in need of.
  Some of the people who write, ask some things so basic, it makes me wonder how they are even considering the undertaking before them. Having said this, I'm reminded again as how everyone has to start somewhere. Yesterday a guy was remarking as to how he was planning on traveling upriver from the Gulf to Milwaukee, and was wondering if the trip would prove more difficult than traveling downriver, as "all the rivers flowed into one another", so coming to a "Y" in the river wouldn't be an issue with down river travelers, but may pose a problem for up river ones. I couldn't resist a reply, that in either case, river travel does not consist of laying back and letting the current take you happenstance to your destination, going with the current or not.
  A lot of the people cruising and living aboard full time tend to be "older", as most have to wait until their work life is over before they can live their dream. I read a lot of questions regarding the conveyance of a large pet from around a boat with multiple levels. So considering a 60+ year old guy and a 75+ pound dog will encounter some difficulty on a vessel outfitted with a 6' ladder to the flybridge, I wonder why someone like that doesn't just take on a Shetland pony too, as the degree of difficulty doesn't increase much once trucking around a 75 pound dog is accomplished.
  I'll get a lot of grief from that last statement, but some things are hard enough without adding another layer of complications to them.
  The couple who circumnavigated the globe in that sailboat had some disdain for some of the other cruisers they had encountered along the way, particularly the ones with a "herd mentality". It should come to no surprise to the people that know us, that the writer of that book was someone we could identify with.
  I read a lot about people looking for a "buddy boat" to travel with, especially for the trip across the Gulf of Mexico. It seems that many skippers will choose to travel with companions just for the sake of the "safety in numbers" mentality. I wonder though, about people who will travel with others without much knowledge about the other person's capabilities. I've heard from others who say not to travel with a "buddy boat". For one thing, except for towing, where a line only need be tossed to another vessel, boarding each other in any kind of sea to offer mechanical assistance would be risky and dangerous. A similar pace must also be maintained between two or more vessels, adding just one more element to the equation.
  I think perhaps agreeing to meet at an agreed upon destination within a certain time period might be acceptable, but anything more structured than that would required spending some time with another crew to determine if they were up to the task or not. Years ago, we met a couple that had their own jet which they piloted themselves. We were asked to travel with them once and we declined. When asked why, I said that we didn't know them well enough to determine if they were responsible or not. After spending some time with them during our vacation, (we drove, they flew) we were asked again if we thought they were responsible enough to have us as passengers on their plane. After learning of their commitment to safe flying, we agreed, and wound up traveling with them to several destinations across the U.S.
  An anchorage may be a place where it might be a place to congregate with other vessels, mainly for the societal factor, but also because there is less chance of thieves doing their work if witnesses are present. But there will invariably be those that fail to anchor properly and put others at risk. Most people have committed that sin, the key is to not commit it too often.
  I guess my point is that we will be reluctant to travel in groups, for the same reason we will be wary of anyone willing to tag along with us if they don't take the time to figure out if we are nuts or not. Of course, that puzzle has yet to be solved; both Rosie and I having been working on it for years.

1 comment:

  1. I find your approach most interesting and educational the safety in numbers mentaility specifically. Excellent blog.
    aka KORA