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Thursday, February 16, 2012

9/9/2011 The Generosity of our Fellow Sailors

I have never met a more generous bunch of people in my life than our fellow boaters. I first experienced it when we moved aboard at Shilshole Bay Marina. A big group of live a-boards moved onto the newly rebuilt F dock one spring morning and it instantly felt like a real neighborhood to me. That neighborly feeling continued to grow around us all for the remainder of the four years we lived there. They happily gave both their time and expertise whenever it was needed. I was surprised the first time I walked into the ladies room and saw the giveaway books on the little wooden bookshelf and the counter that held gently used clothing for the taking. Then I started using the marina laundry and found a treasure trove of free stuff. Walking in you would see the big shelf over the machines full of a jumble of goods: boat parts and clothing, DVD’s, Christmas decorations, household items and books, books, books all for the taking My great finds have including a brand new sun shower, a very pretty sun dress, several pair of jeans, a sleeping bag, pillows, pots and pans and Tupperware, Christmas lights and piles of books, movies and music. Since then I have joined in the same practice in nearly every marina I have encountered.

Next to be discovered was the treasure trove at the dumpsters. If your timing is right you can find items worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Amazingly when the spring racing season ramps up it is not unusual to find piles of nearly new standing and running rigging that has been stripped off the big money boats to be replaced with new. It may be only a seasons old yet it is left at the dumpster! I don’t even want to think about the dollar amount represented in the piles of goodies we left on the ground next to the Shilshole F&G Dock dumpsters when we left Seattle to cruise. Even after giving away all we could to family and friends and taking loads of boat parts and pieces to the local second hand consignment store we still had mounds of stuff we left at the dumpsters. There were two fellows who lived on our docks who had become something of legend in their competition for the best finds. Some busy spring days you could watch them both running to a recently filled dumpster trying to stake their claim. It was a friendly rivalry that everyone joked about but you better believe -competition to the bone.

Now that we are cruising fulltime I am taken a-back again at the generosity surrounding me. It comes out in force of course with any kind of emergency: people offering up their experience along with their stored spares and supplies to help another boats distress. Luckily the emergencies are few but the sharing continues. The newest trend in sharing is I think a result of a cross between generosity, new technology and a wide spread interest in books and other forms of portable entertainment: downloaded electronic versions of books, movies, music, language programs, cruising guides and charts in electronic form. Now I realize we could simply be seen as the world’s biggest bootleggers and maybe I am rationalizing things in order to excuse the blatant abuse of copyright laws but frankly nothing I do or don’t do will stop the flow occurring all over the world and cruisers are a drop in the bucket compared to the pirating done in countries like Mexico and China. Here in Mexico first run movies that are just opening in US theaters are available on CD or over the internet within days.

Unknowingly we got a head start in things right before we left home though we thought we had simply received a very generous gift. We were at a party and a guy we hardly knew, a friend of friend, found out we were going off to sail the seas and offered us a bunch of music. We gave him an empty hard drive and he gave us back ¾ of a terabyte of recorded music: roughly enough music to listen to it 24/7 for an entire year! We thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Unknowingly we now had goods for trading.

Then in our first few months in Mexico we watched as a few boats sold electronic movie to help finance their cruising. Then a friend casually asked us if we had a Kindle saying if we did he had a thumb drive he would share with us that held almost 2000 books. We gratefully accepted his offer which we then passed on to other boaters who would appreciate them. All of this is facilitated by the new ridiculously small but tremendously capacious external hard drives available today. They are able to store literally thousands upon thousands of movies and audio books, TV series DVD’s and electronic books, they are larger and less expensive every year and they are readily available at Wal-Mart in Mexico. All you need is a friend, an ability to press a few buttons on your computer and enough free time to let the drives copy themselves over.

We left home with one Kindle with an array of free, legal out of copyright books and now have brought a second Kindle into the family and have more than fifteen thousand books, (when I wrote the first draft of this blog post we had two thousand books) nearly a hundred audio books and thousands of movies in our library.

Surprisingly until we left to cruise we had never even watched a movie aboard our boat. We gave up TV when we sold our home in 2007 and never put one aboard. So it is a big change now for us to have three hard drives full of blockbuster movies to fill our nights. We still both read voraciously but the movies are big hits with cruisers and we were swept up in the fad. We have yet to watch more than a handful or two of movies aboard though so only time will show if we become movie buffs in the South Pacific.

The books on the other hand we already treasure. Imagine preparing to set off in a small boat knowing your will be spending weeks and months at a time away from entertainment civilization and having a 15,000 book library and thousands of movies at your fingertips. Books are so prized by most cruisers that when we passed our library on to one friend who was preparing for her own two year cruise she was so overwhelmed that it brought tears to her eyes. Consider too another great friend who spends hours and days at a time downloading available libraries from the internet -and who has passed them on free of charge to us. We now pass on what we have too and the music we left home with is as we speak circling around the globe. Thanks Randy!

Happy reading. Kat.

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