Monday, July 29, 2019

Mind Your (Boat) Manners

Sunday, July 21. After a glorious 10 days in Ithaca, NY, we reluctantly loosed our lines from the Treman Marina dock on and headed north up Cayuga Lake. It was a bracing, sail-boat-y kind of day, with winds from the north throwing miniature white-capped waves in our path.

Rain . . . It's  Nature's Boat-Wash Function

Not too hot, not too cold, not tooooo rainy . . . can't complain!
We overnighted at Frontenac Marina in Union Springs. On Monday, we continued north to the head of the lake under a fine, misty drizzle. After the extreme heat of the previou few days, the rain seemed more refreshing than annoying--nature's free boat-wash feature. I scrambled around on the roof, getting the pollen squeegeed off the solar panels.

At one of the locks on the Cayuga-Seneca canal, the lock tender ambled over for the usual conversation.
“Is that one of them rental boats?
“You bought it? How about that!  So you put them solar panels on yourself?
“Bet it must be real comfortable inside.

  And then . . . 

“What’d that boat cost you, if you don’t mind my asking?”

Ummm, Actually, We DO Mind

If you’ve been reading this blog awhile, you know that back when we were newbies to the world of boating, we happened across a slim little blue book called “Chapman’s Boating Etiquette.” 

Written in the 1920s, it's meant for the owners of yachts—good-sized private sailing ships--not us ordinary folks traveling in workmanlike steel-hulled craft.

After the rain, a lovely day. This the section of the Erie Canal that threads through Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.
So we giggled over rules like “Ladies must stay below decks until 8 AM.” (Because find out why here). But we also embraced a lot of Chapman’s advice. “An oversized flag is a thing of beauty on a boat,” you'll hear us intone as we admire the generous Stars and Stripes floating from our stern.

ALERT! And Now, a Rant from Our Blogger

When we pull up to a dock and get swarmed by gongoozlers, we enjoy the attention, and the chance to spread the good word about solar boating. But lately, we kind of wish that more people were conversant with Chapman's little book.

Lucky for our goozlers, they generally ask the charming
Captain their rude questions, not your cranky blogger.
Now, I'm going to whine, just a little.
  • Please don’t casually prop your foot on our gunnel as you talk to us. 
  • Please don’t lean on our stern canopy. 
  • Please don't whack our steel hull. 
Chapman says! You never touch a boat unless the Captain invites you to.

This one's not in Chapman, but gosh, if I just met you this very second, I wish you wouldn't ask if you can come inside and look around? And take a few pictures? We live here! Would you march up to an interesting-looking house and make the same ask?

These are the most etiquette cluelessness behaviors. But on this year’s trip, I’ve been startled by how frequently someone asks what we paid for our boat. 

It seems a curiously rude question. The fact that we hear it so often suggests some kind of societal shift. 

Blame it on our hyper-unmannerly head of state? Blame it on the internet, where you can look of the price of anything you’re curious about? (Except solar canal boats.) Blame it on social media, where people boast about the deals they get?  But no one seems the slightest bit embarrassed when they ask the money question.

Here's the Answer 

I’ve been composing answers in my head.

Truthful answers like, “There are only two dozen canal boats in North America, and none of them are on the market. So there aren’t really any "comparables" such that you could even SET a price.”

Snotty answers, like, “Gee, it’s hard to say! A 41-foot liveaboard could cost you anywhere from 5K to 5 mil.” 

Or, “Why do you ask?”

But no one ever asks me what the boat asks. Hmmm. They always ask Cap. 

Why, if he had a dollar for every time this trip someone asked him what our boat cost, he could . . . well, OK, he couldn’t buy a new boat. But he could maybe take me out for a nice dinner—where he’d probably tell me to relax and appreciate that people are curious about our boat.

When Cap gets the money question, he always gives the perfect answer. 

He says, gently, “I’d rather not say.”

Then he makes eye contact, smiles in a pleasant and genuine way, and asks the person something about him/herself, to show he appreciates the interest, and that he’s interested back.

“How’s your summer been?” he asked the lock tender. “Have you been busy?”

But if you are still really, really wondering, What DID that boat cost?  I’m going to rear back and TELL you.  

Those Visa commercials said it first. Priceless!

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