by Rolynn Anderson
When I was a high school principal in a suburban, predominately white neighborhood, my teachers would come to me with a concern: Why do the African-American students always group up? I’d usually come back to them with another question: Why do white students group up?
Grouping is an interesting phenomena, something I’ve observed in education and in my summer lifestyle, boating. As some of you know, Steve and I live on our trawler, INTREPID, for the four summer months. We’re alone in anchorages often, but we also enjoy meeting up with other boaters.
Steve and I usually make fast friendships with people who own boats the same make as ours-a Kady-Krogen. Even tighter is our tie to owners of 42 foot Krogens, the size of INTREPID. Boaters with single diesel engines have more to say to others with the same power plan. INTREPID has a Ford-Lehman engine…you guessed, it: we have deeper chats with F-L owners than boats powered by some other engine.
Advance that concept: we get along well with vessels cruising a similar speed to ours. When we owned a twin-screw, gas-powered Tollycraft, sailboaters gave us the finger as we raced by them at 13 knots, our wake causing havoc to any boaters going the same direction as we traveled. Today, in our round-bottomed trawler, sailors send us friendly waves as we chug past at 7.5 knots to their 6.5 knot speed.
Of course, this affinity pattern is common in any social structure, a matter of not so much keeping-up-with-the-Joneses as sticking-with-the-Joneses. All in all, it’s a comfortable place to be. When boaters have so much in common, friendships gain a head start, and in no time at all, you’ve made friends with owners of a boat similar to yours, and because you cruise at the same speed, and have a similar draft/beam, you end exploring a new bay together. More fun. Safer.
As I think of it, maybe this ‘grouping together,’ is more of a preservation technique than a ‘I hang with boaters like me,’ thing. Perhaps, down deep we’re keeping up same-boat relationships, because one day, when INTREPID is in trouble, it would behoove us to have a similar boat around to borrow a much-needed part. Will they help? Absolutely. Because another day, when their boat founders, we’ll have a part they need.
Now, back to my grouping-up scenes in my high school cafeteria or during a dance. Are humans smart to group up? Absolutely. We writers group up for all kinds of good reasons!
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