Lately, I’ve heard lots of boats asking for buddy-boats from here in Marathon to head to the Bahamas, the Dry Tortugas or Mexico. And we’ve had more than a few boats ask if we’d buddy-boat with them.
Not to be rude, but we just don’t buddy-boat in the sense of making joint decisions about where to go, when to go and, in some cases, even always staying in sight of each other.
We simply don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s experience. We know what types of places sound interesting to us, we know what our budget is, and we know what conditions are acceptable to us.
Early in our cruising life, we had one of the worst nights of our 13-1/2 years aboard when we got sucked into group think. We were in a fairly wide-open anchorage and could see thunderstorms across the Sea of Cortez. There was a very protected anchorage less than five miles away.
We had been buddy-boating with two other boats and talked with them about whether to stay or scoot to the safer anchorage. Somehow we all convinced each other that the storm would fizzle out before it got to us. I guess it was a form of peer pressure – they’re not leaving so why should we?
The storm did not fizzle out. It was hellacious and put us on a rocky lee shore. Luckily, our anchor and snubbers held. Another cruiser in the next cove over lost his boat when it dragged, went on the rocks, and was pounded to pieces. He had known that the three of us were all in the same area and hadn’t bugged out to the safer anchorage; he thought we knew more and followed our lead.
That night really opened our eyes to the dangers of group think and group decision-making. We absolutely should have gone with our gut reaction and moved to the safer anchorage. With a group, it’s easy to get carried away and wonder if you are needlessly worried about something. To think, “well, they’re not worried, so I shouldn’t be.”
We vowed to make our own decisions. That doesn’t mean we don’t talk to friends about where we might go next or what the weather might be doing. It’s a subtle difference but we make a real effort not to do things that don’t make sense to us. And we certainly don’t want anyone blindly following us!
It’s tempting – particularly if you’re a new cruiser – to be part of a group as you feel that others almost certainly know more than you do. Buddy-boating seems like a way for a new captain to share responsibility. But really, you are still responsible for your own boat; if you buddy-boat, you have made a decision to trust your buddies more than yourself. Come to your own conclusions, then see what others are doing. If you’re the most conservative one, great. If they’re doing something more conservative, think about why . . . and then decide if that should affect your decision.
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