By Elizabeth Prata
I was a liveaboard sailor for a few years. We usually anchored out somewhere for free. If we had to get to shore for supplies, we’d take the dinghy and putt-putt in to land. We went to a dock rarely but sometimes you had to. You’d need to fill the water tank, or the fuel tank, or we were expecting a delivery of something from the marine store that the dinghy was too small to transport over the waves and marine traffic.
We enjoyed strolling the dock and seeing other boats. We liked observing the different tie-ups people employed, or learned different knots for our ropes. We liked the sway of the boats at dock or hearing the masts creak in the wind. Nautical sounds.
Then once in a while you’d come across a boat that had been at dock for a while. A long while.
There’s this phenomenon. You feel relief when you tie up and are safely docked. You can walk to a store without having to get into a dinghy and get wet with spray or dodge motor boats or even ferries. You can clean the boat easier, getting laundry to the laundromat was simpler. You think about leaving the dock for the next destination, and you scan the sky and see a norther coming, so you decide to wait it out and depart after the norther passes over. But wait, you’d ordered something from Boat USA and it’s not in yet. And you wait through another weather system.
There seems to be a point of no return. Inertia set in. The impetus to “go” dwindles. Comfort becomes king. Some people dock their boats and never leave again. We call those “Dock Queens.” They hadn’t intended to get stuck there, they just did. Inertia.
Their boat’s underside has barnacles and seaweed growing, and you can see from the sad state of affairs that that boat is never going out again. It’s a beautiful thing to see a yacht leaping in the waters, sails full and a happy mariner steering it into the bounding main. A boat is designed for that. A boat should be used. When a boat becomes a dock queen, it is just sad.
We walk by their dock slip and shake our heads sadly…knowing that ‘there but for the grace of God goes us.’ It is all too easy to become a dock queen.*
I wonder if that is how God looks at us, when we unintentionally slip from a necessary time-out from the hubbub of society, to a recluse avoiding all fellowship with brethren. There we are, sitting alone, not doing what we were made to do, (fellowship, encourage, support, evangelize- interpersonally).
We should be in perpetual motion like that sailboat, walking with the Lord, pursuing holiness, praying unceasingly. Moving, doing, working, striving, resisting.
There we see the seaweed and barnacles growing on our hearts and minds, becoming clogged and sad. Soon we’re ossified, just stuck in a habit that makes God sad for our missed opportunities to glorify him in the world and to encourage our fellows.
I like to be alone, I need to be, to recover from the sensory overload the world produces in my heart and mind. However, I offer myself a caveat: If I’m alone for a while I get entrenched and want to stay alone. It gets harder to break out of it. A certain inertia sets in, you know?
I’m a teacher’s aide, and I get summers off. Summer off means 9 weeks where I can stay by myself as much as I want. I read and I write, so my hobbies and pursuits are loner and inside anyway. I can go an entire week with no interpersonal communication with any live person. I go to church and that’s it. However, the more I stay by myself the harder it is to launch myself out of the house. So I know that it is not good to stay alone for long periods, and it’s one reason I recently committed to going into nature once per week for a walk at a state park when the weather ever stops raining.
I try not to stay entrenched in old patterns of comfort and alone time. I know I need it. I also know I don’t need as much of it as I want to consume.
*I’m not speaking of folks who buy a boat and intend to live in it at the slip. Often-times dock slips are less expensive than an apartment rent or a mortgage. This is an ingenious way to live, for people who need to or want to live in areas of the US where home prices are through the roof.