Our membership ranges from "Humanity" as the largest encomapssing community to, for most people, "Neighborhood" at the lowest geographic level. We are also members of various interest-, religion-, or philosophy-based groups.
But these are not my primary focus here. Today, I want to talk about a community that folks living ashore have little or no knowledge of: the community of folks living aboard their boats on your dock.
This is a tightly-knit community. First of all, it is literally tight - our joint slip is 36' wide - that means that within the space of 50' (the size of many homes), you will find three boats. We are living in each other's pockets. While this might seem uncomfortable, it is not. It spawns a cultural conduct much like that found in crowded Japan - you ignore what you might see or hear on another boat if it is obviously private.
Cooperatively we are also tightly knit. When there is a problem (high wind, machinery failure, etc), we all pitch in to help our neighbors. When a boat is coming in to the dock to tie up, there are almost always more hands than docklines. And no one feels embarrassed to ask for help from their neighbors.
You will know everyone's first name, and their boat name, of course. But you may never, even after years of interactions, know their last names. When you introduce yourself, it goes something like this, "Hi, I'm Bob, from Eolian - the green and white ketch down at the end of the dock." If there is a new boat on the dock, you always welcome the folks aboard her into the community.
And speaking of that, this is a community of change. The membership is not static - new boats come and familiar ones leave. A week ago Brent and Jill aboard s/v Ambition, our slip-mates, left. Ambition is now berthed in Friday Harbor, which of course means we now have a destination for this summer's cruise. It is ever like this, the constant change. But there is a huge benefit: wherever you go, there will probably be a boat there that used to be on your dock, so there is almost always someone to visit, to catch up with, to share a sundowner with. So the circle widens geographically while it grows in membership.
It is a community that is honest with itself, by and large. While sharing those sundowners on the dock, or on the deck of another boat, the community members discuss harrowing incidents, what they did wrong, and how they recovered so that others can have the privilege of learning at their expense - an expense they gladly share. I confess that this is a part of the inspiration for the I learned about sailing from that series of posts on this site; I'm trying to spread the benefit widely. (Shameless plug: Read them, and if you are confident enough in yourself to share, please make a contribution of your own learning experiences.)
It is a community that I am proud to be a part of. If living aboard a boat has ever appealed to you, rest assured that if you do move aboard you will be welcomed. Just as Jane and I will welcome our new slip-mates when they arrive, as they surely will.