I am not an island.

Paul Simon sings ‘I am a rock, I am an island . . . I have no need for friendship, friendship causes pain, its laughter and its loving I disdain . . .’ What a way to live! It is a natural human reaction to seek out community. In Western society it is the norm to be connected to some form of community – the workplace, family, friends, neighbors, church, the local watering hole – because being an island is not only lonely but cuts us off from helpful, beneficial human interactions. Alone you can accomplish the work of one, but working with one, two, or three other people, your impact is multiplied.

The sailing community is a great group to belong to. As we sailed down the eastern seaboard, through the Bahamas and island-hopped from Puerto Rico to Trinidad, the sailing community was with us every step of the way. Harbors with a large number of cruisers had a morning radio net relaying weather, news and announcements. Dinghies buzz around harbors an hour before sunset as friends visit other boats for sundowners. Ideas, suggestions and advice are exchanged, as are cotter pins, light bulbs and a crimping tool. Friends are made quickly as people often stay in a harbor for only a day or two. Help and spare parts are offered without reserve because everyone believes in boating karma. s/v Whisper was our little island in the Caribbean, but it was an island we encouraged others to visit. We knew we couldn’t sail the Caribbean alone and the sailing community jumped in to help with a generosity and hospitality that is unrivaled.

Our countless positive experiences with the sailing community encouraged us to continue living aboard when we moved to Philadelphia a year ago. Why wouldn’t we? Our other option was to move into an apartment building where neighbors often don’t know each other and the only community activity is passing in the hall or riding the elevator together. During our first week tied up at Pier 3 Marina we were invited over to another boat for dinner, someone brought us flowers, another boater dropped a big bag of fresh veggies in the cockpit and someone else loaned us their car for a week. Yet again, boaters coming together to help each other out, be welcoming and generous. Marina residents got together for a Christmas party and over the past few weeks a group has organized a spring clean-up of the marina. A small, but telling, anecdote: the soap dispenser in the bathroom ran out of soap over the weekend, by Sunday evening someone had placed a bar of soap by the sink.

It is natural to gravitate to communities: the group helps the individual through tough times and encourages each member along in good times. As smart as we think we are, someone else always has a different perspective that will shed new insight on an issue, problem or question. I embrace the boating community as an invaluable part of my life.

What community do you belong to that you can’t live without?

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