Monthly Archives: April 2009

Life in the Fish Bowl

Would you behave differently if you thought people were always watching you?  Would you get used to it after a while? I find that I do behave differently, but maybe that’s not always bad.  On the whole, self-consciousness is the enemy of spontaneity and delight. It breeds pretension and pride. But it also keeps you in line.

The fact is, people are always watching you, but you are probably not aware of it.  And if you are, it probably makes you intensely uncomfortable.  We are in a unique situation down on our dock. We have a pier-end because the boat is so wide (26’ beam), and our main cabin sits about four feet above the floating dock. We have 360˚ of windows, so we are at eye-level for neighbors and our lives are an open book. Sometimes we feel like pet fish.

On the one hand, we have the best view possible: we’re surrounded by sea and sky, we look out at all the boats and their occupants, we can see everything that goes on. The party is usually happening near our stern end, and all I have to do is look up from the dish I’m cooking and some friendly face has wandered by to smile and say hi. On the other hand, we have very little privacy in the main cabin. And I’m sure we are loud. Loud when happy, sad or angry. I try to keep it under control because we are in full view and in such close quarters with neighbors, but who knows what people hear and see, and how they interpret it?  Are we a lighthouse or an eyesore?

We have been living on the boat for exactly a year’s worth of weekends. I think we’ve integrated nicely. It’s like living in a very friendly neighborhood. The power-boaters and sailors all get along like family, with the occasional playful banter, but no real rivalry. Any time someone needs help, there’s a crew to come to the rescue. The folks are mostly older than Jay and me, but it doesn’t seem to matter. When we first arrived, we were uncertain how the kids would fit in. We got a few glances that seemed to say, “Oh, great, here comes a bunch of brats. Party’s over.” But with time, we have (hopefully) proven ourselves to be parents who do not let the children run the show, and at least make the children disappear if they are misbehaving. The kids have charmed and befriended those around them, and don’t seem to notice the age difference any more than we do. And the other boaters have proven that they can wait until bedtime to bring out the coarse jokes!

All told, we are happy at the marina. However, there is nothing like a quiet night in a familiar anchorage where you may have only one or two neighbors just out of earshot. It’s a relief to get away and have privacy. Sometimes even the pet fish dream of swimming in the sea.