The first time I ever pulled my own boat into the famous Bahia Mar Marina in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, FL was many years ago on my very first trip south to the Caribbean on my own boat. Being a life-long fan of Travis McGee, I was eager to spend some time in the setting of my favorite novel series. (If you have never read the John D. McDonald series following the adventures of Travis McGee, you have missed an important piece of American literature!)
As I pulled into Bahia Mar in my 44 foot, 20 year old trawler, I might as well have been reading 'Alice in Wonderland'. The 360+ slip marina was full to capacity, and I was, by 15-20 feet, the smallest boat in the whole place! I always remember it being a little dark because the giant yachts all around me blocked out the sun. A gentleman on the yacht next door woke me up several mornings when he launched his yacht's helicopter to go fishing in Bimini or the Keys.
One day a 'little old lady,' that is, an elderly woman who fit that description well, walked slowly down the finger pier next to my boat and exclaimed, 'You live on that cute little boat? How wonderful!' If not for respect for her age I might have mentioned something to her about calling a man's n boat n little, and I was, for a moment, almost offended, but then she proceeded to tell me how wonderful, romantic, adventurous, epic, inspiringOe..she found the idea of cruising on such a boat at my age to be! And she was completely serious. She was traveling aboard a boat that was about the size of my banks' office building. They had 6-8 crew aboard that appeared each morning to chamois down the entire yacht, every day. I don't even OWN a chamois. I had to look up how to spell it.
This woman was from a social circle; call it old money that was so different from mine, that it seemed to truly never occur to her that one could safely go to sea in my 'little' boat. Her complimentary tone was 100% genuine n she wanted to come aboard. She told wonderful stories of her travels without a hint of entitlement in her voice regarding her situation and nothing but enthusiasm and admiration for ours. If anyone on the aft deck of my boat that day was envious of the other, it was her. I sent her postcards for years of my cruising travels.
This past week, I pulled into Bahia Mar again. This time I was aboard Sam and Ann Pratt's beautiful Krogen 58' 'Clover.' I was still near the bottom of the LOA spectrum; this is Ft. Lauderdale after all, but no longer THE smallest boat. As we slid down the alley past the latest creations of smoked-glass, gleaming, mega-yachts, all seeming to me to be screaming 'look at me' louder than the other, 'Clover' felt like Katherine Hepburn strolling into the MTV Awards.
Several nice folks from surrounding boats came over, ostensibly to catch a line, but really to see the new girl. It was a bit striking. Other than a beautiful Hinkley ketch, we were the only boat in sight that was not bright white on bright white, accented with bright white, smoked windows and chrome. (We would also later turn out to be lacking underwater lights to fit in) I passed many boats with 10 feet more length but that our bow towered over. We stood out.
It was a strange juxtaposition of visits. People were still coming to look, but this time not in amazement that I had travelled so far in 'that little boat' but in awe of where I must be headed in this 'little ship.'
Several were familiar with the Kadey-Krogen line and were clearly pleased to be close enough to touch one and discuss what changes had taken place since the last time they read about them. Several had never heard of the name before, but none needed to be told what she had been built for. Phrases like 'ultimate freedom' and 'anywhere you want' drifted around as the marina traffic stopped to stare and chat over 'Clover.'
When several of the folks found out that I actually was a salesperson for Kadey-Krogen their eyes lit up even more as they assured me that someday they would have the time to stop feeding the speedy, thirsty look alikes tied all around me and 'end up on a trawler.' Everyone seemed to have a dream destination that they could describe in detail despite never having found the time to actually get there. It always gives me just a moment's pause to wonder which of them ever really will.
I'm not sure that I know how to describe the feeling without sounding, in some way, arrogant, but standing on the dock at the sunset cocktail hour that evening, (where 'Clover' really attracted a crowd on the dock) I felt rich. Not because I was on a beautiful boat worth a lot of money and not even because I was surrounded by many larger ones costing many millions more. It wasn't the collection of Lamborghini and Ferrari in the parking lot. (OK that was kinda cool) Suffice it to say that there were many folks present whose efforts have rewarded them financially with great success, but very few had ever experienced the pure freedom and adventure of cruising that I have. I will not go into another long explanation of the emotional nuances of cruising here. While I admire their investments in their business and professional lives, they admired the ways in which I have spent or invested my time.
I was standing on a dock in Florida, in the winter, in shorts and bare feet, next to a beautiful, world-offering Trawler. The people who own the boat are now my friends, and my chosen profession has been helpful to them to realize their cruising dreams. I will assist with the ones to come too. I have done what many only dream of and I spend my days making a living by helping others to chase rainbows too. And I felt rich.