Sunday, 13 May 2018
My counter cultural community
Todays view from my loo....
I joined a queue of seven boats this morning for my cruise up the Llangollen, (I was 5th). The lead boat was moving slightly slower than a crawl with plenty of stops at bridges, just in case. It gave me plenty of time for contemplation.
My boating community are a strange and diverse bunch but there are several attitudes of mind that most hold in common:
Going slowly is a virtue. In fact the slower you travel the more of a 'boater' you are held to be. Rushing or trying to be first or pushing to overtake is positively frowned on. If you are in a queue, as I was, then tail gating is definitely not approved of. Rather you should leave a respectable gap so as not to put any pressure on the boat in front. And never ever rush past a moored boat as you may disturb them.
Don't do too much. People who set goals to fit in as much as possible in a day are smiled on with pity. Doing the Four Counties Ring in a week might feel like an achievement, but in the boater's mind it's just doing too much, too quickly and you risk missing the best bits by having to keep going. In fact, probably best not to set any goals at all. That way you won't put yourself under any pressure.
Live in the present moment. It is easy to spot an anxious boater. They will use binoculars to see as far into the distance as possible. They will send their crew ahead with radio communication so that they can know what is happening around the next bend or at the next lock. It is easier for us with no crew. We have no choice but to live in the moment and trust the future to fate.
Cooperation not competition. There is no point in trying to race a narrow boat. They move at around 2 to 3 mph and are frequently held up by lift bridges, locks and the like. And the obstructions we meet are opportunities to help each other out and exchange gossip. We tend to smile and chat to complete strangers. We hurry to help; "No, let me wind that paddle for you". "You stay on, I'll close your gate". Only this morning, the boat in front of me opened the lift bridge and then ushered me through as I was on my own and he had crew!
I say these are common attitudes among boaters, but I am sure someone will point out that increasingly it's not and that it isn't how it used to be. They could be right, but among the people I mix with, in real life or virtually, this is the mindset.
So very different from common culture that holds that being first and fastest is best. That looking after yourself and your own is all that is required and that mixing with strangers is to be avoided at all costs. That setting goals is the only way to improve yourself and mooching about, having a laugh and being lazy should be restricted to permitted holiday time and is certainly no way to live your life!
I wonder which philosophy is healthier? I wonder which brings more happiness, more community, less stress? I wonder which, in the long run, achieves more of what really matters? I can only answer that for myself. That is why I am a boater.