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The Boating Brotherhood

When traveling abroad, the love of boating becomes a universal language.

June 27, 2013
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2013 Palm Beach Boat Show

Forest Johnson

When I was an active general aviation pilot it seemed like everyone in the flying game became instant friends if involved with airplanes. It did not matter if you flew a 747 or a Piper Cub, there was an immediate bonding when two pilots met each other. You also see this phenomenon in certain military circles, motorcycle groups, and in fraternal organizations where there is a closeness if you are part of a unique following that is unlike most of the general population. Boating today is so diverse and so commonplace compared to years ago that it is rare to see folks wave to each other anymore as they go by unless it is in an area with few boats. In crowded waters near large cities it is sometimes more of a battle of tempers.

Recently while in Europe I was fortunate for having experienced the boating brotherhood in an out-of-the-way place. With some early morning free time to go exploring, I wandered the waterfront and came upon a number of pleasure boats on blocks and in the water along a small section of a commercial shipping pier. Of course I had to check it out and walked through to wander and take pictures of how recreation boating overseas compares to the USA. It is rare to see boat ramps and vehicles towing watercraft in some other countries.

I encountered a man working on a boat so I walked over to say hi. In broken English we conversed about boats, the price of fuel, repairs, and the joys of just being on the water. It seems that he had been around the world in all types of boats and we hit it off instantly. It was very educational to learn about pleasure boating in Greece compared to running the coasts and rivers of America. He was the equivalent of a harbor master for that part of the docks.

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It was like an instant friendship developed and after some conversation we decided to meet for lunch later where they served grilled octopus, one of my favorites. At the appointed time we arrived at the waterfront eatery and he brought along a friend who lived on a nearby boat. The friend only spoke Greek and French so our conversations were in broken English which he then translated for his friend. After a few more beers and some great seafood, conversing did not seem much of a problem anymore. The experience was as if we had all known each other for a lifetime.

It was a pleasant afternoon that resulted from my chance meeting with two other individuals who swapped stories, experiences, and life lessons because of our common bond of boats and of being on the water. That is what the boating lifestyle and the brotherhood is all about.

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