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People Boaters Meet in Heaven
By Barb Hansen
March 1, 2004

I liked Mitch Albom’s latest book. I have been speculating about the five people waiting for me to arrive at that big marina in the sky to tell me how my life affected theirs.

If you have read Albom’s book about the five people you will meet in heaven you know that your five could be people you knew well, people who were just acquaintances, or even people who were complete strangers removed only by a sliver of time or happenstance.

People have enriched our lives here on earth. Did we enrich theirs? When we cruise into the real “paradise,” or rather the “entrance channel,” I guess we’re going to find out.

For example, I wonder sometimes about the bridge tenders we’ve radioed over the years, faceless and patient, who know us only by the name of our vessel, the sound of our voices on the marine radio, the urgency of the horn. Will I meet a bridge tender in heaven? What will he say to me?  I’m not sure I want to know.

I think except for this or that happenstance we would have never met certain people who made our boating trips so interesting. What compelled us to pull into this marina and not that one? Why did we take the dinghy to this restaurant, and not that one? The boating life is particularly that way, like something out of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.

When you have operated a fleet of 20 private charter yachts, sail and power, for 20 years as Vic and I have you meet a lot of nice people. Dockmasters have scrambled to find slips for our vessels at the last minute. Young assistants have rushed over to help our charters tie up during a hard rain. People in the slips next to our yachts have offered help, supplies and friendship. We have had engine repair specialists come to our vessels  -- sometimes in remote locations -- and work late into the night to fix something. We’ve had workers rushing to finish a bottom paint job so a boat would be ready for its next charter. I dressed these heroes in imaginary wings on earth. I’m certain they’ll be issued real wings in heaven.

Albom’s book helped me gain a new appreciation for the people we meet on the water --  dockmasters, bridge-tenders, dockboys, and clerks, for sure, but also all the people who take a chance and open new waterfront restaurants, repair shops and so forth. If we don’t support them, I wonder sometimes, will those special places go away? If they do, so will some of the pleasure of boating.

And so, ask not what other boaters can do for you but what you can do for them. Consider the possibility that the boat you almost upset with your big wake will be the boat first on the scene when you run up on that sandbar ahead. Will they throw you a line?

Eddie, the hero of Albom’s book, did not have a glamorous job. He maintained the rides at an amusement park. This is the part that impressed me, the lesson of a life worth living: Eddie took his job seriously.

Vic and I are grateful for all of the people who take their jobs seriously and therefore make boating as great as it is. We boaters have to take care of one another. The authorities aren’t really geared to help us except in cases of real emergencies, and by then it may be too late.

So, my resolution is to look after others in our boating family as they have looked after us. I should get a rubber stamp and slap that resolution at the top of very page in our cruising log.

I think of it this way: the person we treat well today could save our lives or the lives of our boating customers tomorrow. Otherwise, when we arrive at the ultimate destination and ask The Dockmaster for a convenient slip, we may not like the answer.

Pass it on.
 

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