THE REAL FREEDOM OF BOATING
By Barb Hansen
When Vic and I leave the dock a thought always comes to my mind, along with a feeling of exhilaration. I think, Wow, free at last. I’m free at last from the office and all the minute-by-minute commotion of the office.
Don’t get me wrong. Vic and I love our work, and we work hard and long. We don’t get out on the boat as much as you might imagine. So when we get to cruise, it feels like freedom to me.
We Americans have been living out our destiny of freedom ever since our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence. And while, after all the centuries and decades we still debate what freedom means, we know it is a word and a concept we hold dear. We celebrate Memorial Day and the 4th of July with flags waving and patriotism at a fever pitch. It just feels good. And that’s where boating comes in.
We’ll leave the ideological debate over the meaning of freedom for another time. As boaters, we care about the physical freedom of getting in our vessels, untying the lines, and sailing or powering away from the dock. For us the American “spirit” is synonymous with the freedom of boating. Boating lets us escape from our daily routine and lifts us up to a place we long to be, close to that which we hold dear – family, friends, and the beauty of the world around us.
As boaters in America, and especially in Florida, we are the envy of many boaters around the globe. In our business, our charter customers and boating students come from countries around the world. We have the freedom to buy the boat we want to buy, or the boat we can afford to buy with the resources we have. We have the freedom to cruise where we want to cruise, to return home each night, or stay away for weeks or months at a time. In fact, unlike driving or flying, as adults we have the freedom to pilot a boat with no federal license requirement, whether we are qualified or not! Sure, there are rules to follow and matters of nautical etiquette to consider, but for the most part we boaters police ourselves.
I read an editorial recently in which the writer made this point: “America is great, not simply because we are free. America is great because with that freedom, we choose to do good.” We have the freedom to choose what type of nautical society we want as well. And we choose to be good boaters, and good citizens, because that’s the kind of society we want on the water. That’s the meaning of freedom that boating teaches to novice boaters and old salts alike, every time we are on the water.
As far as recreation goes, boating offers freedom of another kind. When was the last time you waited in line to go boating? Think about it. There are no serpentine lines, ticket-taking lines, hand-stamping lines, conveyor-belt boat moving lines, “is your vessel this tall” lines, boat “fast-food” lines (or is it “fast-boat” food lines? Whatever), or “please take a number” lines! We leave the dock, we cruise, we relax and re-charge, and then we return to port on our own schedule. That’s the freedom of boating. And we love it.
So, let freedom ring. Welcome Aboard.