At the Helm

Who's Watching Your Dock?

January 2014 Feature Brady L. Kay Web Exclusive

"Can I help you?"

These were the words that seemed to have come out of nowhere and it was a deep raspy voice that could have just as easily come from the comedian Ron White. I slowly turned around and what I got was a good look at the stare this houseboater was giving me. He was obviously concerned that I had ignored in his eyes all the warning signs posted at the dock forbidding any non-slip renters to be walking his dock.

But I had talked with the marina manager and got permission so I had nothing to worry about, yet I was still getting that look that a father gives a boy when he comes around asking for his 16-year-old daughter. 

Like a Harley roadie who's only job is to protect the bikes, this man posed as Captain Morgan with one leg up as he looked down at me from the bow of his houseboat. I was trying to be quick on my feet because he was obviously demanding a response. So I attempted to buy some time by simply replying, "Huh?"

This wasn't my proudest moment, but at six-foot five I'm not used to looking up to a lot of people. It didn't help that he actually did look like Ron White, but this was no time to be amused by the situation. This guy was ready to beat me if he didn't get some answers and fast.

But once I introduced myself and explained I was just out walking the docks to talk with houseboaters, he quickly dropped the annoyed father routine and we ended up talking for at least 30 minutes.

Like a good liveaboard who spends many weeks alone on his dock, he was just doing his job by watching out for the interest of his fellow dock neighbors. It actually made me kind of proud to be apart of such a fraternity where you always watch out for each other.

The next day at the same marina as I had just come off the water after a very windy afternoon and was a few docks over I heard a loud bang. It was that kind of thud that makes a boater owner cringe and with the wind it wasn't hard to figure out what had caused it. A new houseboat owner that had less than three weeks experience under his captain's belt was attempting to back his houseboat into his slip under very tough conditions. But before I could get there to try and help, several houseboaters were already lining his slip, ready to lend a hand. And guess who one of those guys were? Yep, it was my buddy from the day before, Mr. Ron White look-a-like himself.

The newbie gave up trying to back it in and just pulled forward. With the help of six guys, the boat was safely guided in. I was helping too, but I was wishing I had grabbed my camera to capture this true houseboating spirit of unity. The reason I was walking the docks the day before was in search of something like this. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it wasn't that uncommon. Houseboaters are some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet, at least in my case it's true once they get to know you. They're willing to help in anyway they can and I was thankful for this reminder. 

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