Meeting People

Written by Pieter Jan on Dec 1, 2019 — 3 min read

At: Cartagena, Spain

It takes a certain kind of person to voluntarily spend more than one week on a sailboat. Everyone in the cruising community is also completely social interaction deprived from living on said sailboat all the time. Result: It's very easy to meet new and like-minded cruisers.

We discovered that our neighbor in Cartagena was a fellow Belgian. Actually, he discovered it, hearing our kids talk — they tend to be a bit loud sometimes. Erik wanted to sail for an extended period of time. His wife wanted to live by the sea. The only logical conclusion for them was to buy a sailboat and cruise the Med with their two little daughters, for 10 months.

Then they discovered that Erik's wife gets inescapably seasick, even if the boat is lying still in the harbor. They abandoned the plan. Now Erik comes over every few weeks to single-hand around a bit, but his 43-foot Beneteau is proving a bit much to handle alone, especially the docking part. I recommended he start with a 28-footer and tried to sell him the Piece Of Cake.

I found out the marina organizes an informal barbecue every Sunday afternoon. Everyone gets together, brings their own food and drinks and has an allround good time. It sounded like the perfect Sunday afternoon pastime.

As we approached, 20 or 30 people were standing around the barbecues, talking to one another. “They all know each other!” Barbara whispered, her eyes darting furtively back to our safe place, Vite & Rêves. “It's gonna be fine,” I said with a big encouraging smile I normally reserve for the first school day of a kid. She let out a quivering sigh. Barbara's not very big on meeting new people.

My general strategy for meeting new people on this kind of occasion is just the same as in kindergarten: I stand around, not too far from the other kids, look approachable and smile a lot at everyone. When you're grown-up, you have the added mental support of a can of beer.

It worked. Within one minute we were happily exchanging stories with an Australian lady (“Yes, there's quite a few of us Aussies here in Cartagena”). She and her husband did a world tour 20 years ago with their then 2,5 year old boy.

Barbecue in the december sun
Barbecue in the december sun

Later on, when we were eating, an Irishman joined our table and regaled us with his stories and his backpack full of beers. He had bought his boat in South-Africa and sailed it to Greece, partly to discover whether his girlfriend was a sailor — she wasn't. The trip left them with a good many anecdotes though, one involving nude sunbathing on the foredeck and Libyan air force helicopters.

Meanwhile, the kids were busy building camps with other boat kids in the marina scrapyard. A good time was had by all.

Mira discovered a big pile of good ropes
Mira discovered a big pile of good ropes
They were not ropes of course, but a very large horse
They were not ropes of course, but a very large horse

As Barbara said when we returned to the boat, radiant with meat and alcohol: “That was fun! It's weird how people are hard-wired for meeting other people.” Truer words were not spoken for the rest of that day.