Cruising life is rife with contradictions. One night, you’re the lone boat anchored in a bay, only the moon to keep you company. The next, you’re sandwiched between vessels in a marina like sardines on buttered rye bread, able to peer into your neighbor’s galley from your cockpit. While this latter setting could serve as the premise for a Rear Window reboot — called Stern Porthole, in which a spry deckhand inadvertently witnesses the murder of a yacht-owner millionaire — to an introvert this situation is already sufficiently terrifying. No Hitchcockian homicide necessary.
I’m undeniably blessed to travel the Great Lakes while living aboard a Nordhavn 40, a luxury ocean-trawler with a distinct “I’m beautiful and powerful, look at me” vibe. But, for a shy person like me, living aboard such a stunner has its downsides. When we pull into port, our boat draws attention. It’s never long before a small crowd forms, innocently inspecting our home up close, inundating my husband with friendly questions on beam size and fuel capacity. This is my cue to subtly slip away, before the interrogation turns personal. “Where are you from?” “How can you possibly afford this?” “What color is your underwear?” While I’m kidding on that last one, for an introvert, even benign inquiries can feel deeply probing when by strangers.
Many proclaim cruising is about the people you meet along the way. Life is about connection, after all — connection not just to fellow humans but also to nature, self, and spirit. Life on the water provides ample opportunity for reflection and observation, moments to quietly ponder and escape time watching ripples in the current. These are the parts of boating I live for, not dock small talk. Luckily, there’s hope. If you’re like me, you can survive encounters with social boating butterflies by applying a few tricks I’ve learned over the seasons. Always have an excuse handy to gracefully exit a conversation, whether its checking on your pets, taking the burning cookies out of your convection oven, or — a personal favorite of mine, and a crowd-pleaser to boot — offering, “Does anyone need a drink?” If you’re stuck, turn the interrogation on the interrogator. “What kind of boat do you have?” Outgoing people love to talk about themselves, and you’ll likely hear a good story or two, before you’re able to run away to your cabin and hide your nose in a book.
Article originally appeared in Great Lakes Scuttlebutt, Fall 2019