Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our Anchorage Issue

I know I've mentioned Oriental's anchorage before. It's a smallish piece of water and accommodates five or six boats at best. For about a year, it was home to four boats. They have names, but we in town called them simply the red boat (or the French boat), the pink boat, the blue boat, and that other boat.
We now have three boats in the anchorage.
The red boat left at last, after much trial and controversy. It was towed away, and even the friendlier folks in town breathed a sigh of relief and were glad to see it go. I won't go into details. The "other boat" belonged to a local, and thankfully he moved it elsewhere, up a creek.
Then, last week, a shocking thing happened. The man who lived on the pink boat died suddenly one night. Rumor is that the family will come take the boat away.
You see, Oriental needs the anchorage for "cruisers," boating people who move along the coast and stay a few days, helping local businesses with their custom. Boaters who "squat," and overstay their welcome, often derelict, occupy valuable space and scare better cruisers away. Neither the red, pink, nor blue boats were able to go under sail; they were damaged in some way.
the solar boat
Remember the solar boat I mentioned recently? It did leave the town dock, which has a 48-hour limit. It had overstayed that by several days at least. Now it's lying in the anchorage, which is free and is not monitored by the town. The anchorage doesn't belong to the town. Apparently, it doesn't belong to anyone. The Coast Guard can monitor boats there for certain safety issues, but they cannot force them to move on. No one can.
the pink boat
And here's where it gets sticky. The anchorage is really monitored by the cruisers themselves, on a simple standard of kindness and consideration for others. And usually boaters are considerate of each other, and exceedingly helpful to each other. That's why a town full of boating people can get so put out by boaters who clearly aren't following this unspoken but important imperative -- don't impose on other boaters unnecessarily for your own greed.
the blue boat
Perhaps the solar boat will stay only a few more days; one can hope. I don't like to judge, and I've refrained from entering the heated discussions in town regarding the anchorage. I prefer to err on the side of forbearance and kindness. Is there a point at which a town cannot allow itself to be imposed upon more, for the sake of its economy? Its citizens? Its visitors? Is it one thing to turn-the-other-cheek as an individual, but quite another for a whole community to be asked to do it? At what point do such moochers cross a line ... when they break the law?
I've wrangled with these difficult questions in the past year. People in distress (as these boaters certainly were) need help, and sometimes lots of it for a long time. Should I help someone who is clearly damaging others? It's one thing to spout opinions and rhetoric to such questions hypothetically; it's another to live them out in a community when someone looks you in the face and needs your help. You help. It's the right thing to do. I'm afraid many conservative Christians talk as if they extend help only after a certain list of criteria are met by the recipient. We're rather high-and-mighty about it. I just don't find any such regulations on Jesus's lips.
One Sunday morning in the rain, I dashed back home from church to get something I'd forgotten. Along the way I saw Monique, the French woman from the red boat, walking along the road in a dress. It was a filmy, skimpy skirt, something you'd wear to a bar. She was unkempt, her legs and armpits hairy, her face haggard. I'd offered her rides before, but she refused. However, on a rainy Sunday morning, and me alone in the car, she succumbed and welcomed my offer. In broken English and my horrific French, I learned that she was walking to the Catholic church. She went there, she said, because there was always food afterward. She had no friends here, she said, and no money. They'd found her shoplifting in the grocery store, taking coffee and nutella. Was that hunger? Is it my place to decide?
Still, all I saw in the car with me was a lonely woman who needed her neighbors (temporary as we were) to help her. The walk to the Catholic church was at least two miles! In heels! I felt certain that, for her, she'd worn her best. My help was quite little, just a ride, but I also wanted her to know I cared, that I was friendly to her.
Was she needy? I don't know. I could have dredged up a dozen marks against her, reasons I need not offer even a kind word. Does she need my scowl to inform her that she's on the low end of the humans in the world? Of course not. She's living her hard life every day; she knows that already.
Wherever Monique is now, I hope she knows there's at least a bit of kindness in the world, and that others smile and offer help, whether she needs it or not.

3 comments:

  1. Well, you and I both have experienced (are experiencing) hardship, so while we've likely not had as hard times as Monique, we understand to a degree.

    You did good. Help is right sometimes when we don't understand or see what it actually accomplishes.

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  2. Mary Katherine, do I understand the problem is the boats in anchorage are tatty and an eyesore? If so, one man's trash...
    I know Oriental, although have never lived there, and, like most places, is a case of those who have and those who have not and those who have want to dictate their standards on those who have not...not terrible fair nor right as evidenced by those Inner Beltway People and folks all over.

    What does "don't impose on other boaters unnecessarily for your own greed" mean? What are those folks at anchorage doing that's got everyone so riled?

    Why did you use the label "conservative" when describing Christians?

    As to the French woman...bless you for giving her a ride; there but for the grace of God and entertaining angels unawares. Does Oriental not have food pantry's, churches, non-profits or otherwise, for hungry people?

    Was she needy? YES! for food, transportation, a kind word or touch. It sounds like the boat is keeping her from sleeping under a bridge; if so, thank God for the boat. You did what you could, when you could, how you could; you were Jesus to a hurting soul.

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  3. Sandra, to answer your questions. (Sorry the post wasn't as clear as it could have been. I could have said much more, but it would have been TOO long!) About imposing on other boaters -- most people felt that the squatting boats were damaging the town's economy and preventing many, many other cruisers from coming to Oriental, people who'd come for years. Because the boats were in poor repair, other cruisers also were hesitant to sit at anchor near them b/c they wondered if the squatting boats had insurance, if their lines broke in a storm or something like that, and they hit other boats. This is a real possibility there, as the space is tight, and that actually happened, esp. in fall hurricane season. So, the squatters were willing to damage or inconvenience others, simply because they wanted to stay there. The French boat had to be towed away in the end, although for the first several months it could easily have sailed away. The French couple took great advantage of people, and in the end stole $$$K from someone in town. It was ugly. They left b/c the law was after them.
    But you're right that really the town was "riled" at them b/c their boats were a bit ugly, the local boat was untended, and their presence there broke a known "rule" among boaters (and actual law in many anchorages) that you don't overstay your welcome. A few days, tops. A week or two if your boat needs work. But you simply DON'T drop anchor and live there for 18 months. On land, it's illegal. They took advantage of the loophole in the law that left the anchorage basically unregulated.
    I said "conservative Christians" because the liberal Christians I know are usually willing to help a person regardless. It doesn't matter your circumstances, your lifestyle, your pol. party, your church status, your employment status, your welfare status. However, I hear lots of my conservative Christian friends say quite clearly that if a person isn't working a job, he doesn't "deserve" help. Or if he's not a citizen, or he's a liberal, or he's not a church a member, or he's gay, or you can't track exactly how he'll spend the money given. I simply don't see that in Scripture, but I hear lots of people saying it.

    These boaters utilized the help of our local churches, and we have very active community groups to help the needy, everything from large food banks, meals, and a medical clinic. We have more than most b/c Oriental itself is wealthy, but the county is very poor, and after hurricanes the damage to the county homes is severe. Lots of disaster relief ongoing here all the time, it seems.

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