*The following personal and highly subjective observations are based on the local boat scene in Key West, Florida.
There are various groups of boating people. Each of the four groups I will outline here can be subdivided in others smaller and more specific ones.
The majority of boat owners actually don’t use their boats for sailing and cruising but to liveaboard at the dock or at anchor. It is much cheaper (and in some cases completely free) than owning a house or renting an apartment: there are not municipal, school, road, garbage or any other taxes to be paid when you live on a boat. These are usually single men above fifty, unemployed and unwilling to work, with long beards and bad teeth. Their derelict vessels are in desperate state of neglect and the chances of them ever sailing again are slim to none.
Only a fraction of all boat owners, about 5 %, actually sail. To do so the boat needs to be ship-shape and this requires tons of money and constant work. For this reason, sailing was until recent years, an activity privileged to the rich yachtsman and his wife, members of the yacht club. They would go out sailing (with a hired captain) not too far from port, participating in regattas and races once every year or two, dressed exclusively in white. For maintaining their boat sitting at the marina the rest of the time, they would pay others to do it.
The cruisers, mostly single men, often couples, and rarely families with children, who permanently liveaboard and travel by sea, are a sort of a romantic minority. These are generally very interesting, intelligent, and hardworking people whose stories of bravery and exotic adventures we read in magazines and books. They inspire us and challenge our limits.
Since a few years now, there is a distinctive fourth group of seafaring people. These are young kids in their twenties and thirties with left-wing progressive views, disenchanted with the capitalist system, and the middle class standards in the United States of America, seeking alternative ways of off-grid living, self sufficiency, and ultimate freedom.
Recently, owning and maintain a boat has become more affordable than ever thanks to the development of new cheaper technologies, the access to on-line information about how to build and repair a boat, and to the global economic collapse. Boat prices have dropped dramatically.
Thus, young rebellious kids can now get an older used boat for as little as a few hundred dollars and fix it up on a very low budget using all sorts of recycled materials, even junk, and go exploring the world.
What sets them apart from the rest of the boaters is their willingness to come and stick together in a tight community, almost a kinship, sharing knowledge and skills, helping each other, having fun, working together, facing common problems, and doing all sorts of unusual things.
In Key West we met and befriended an interesting crowd of artists, anarchists, environmentalists, animal rights activists, feminists, socialists, musicians, vegetarians, misfits, jacks-of-all-trades, and other non-mainstream enthusiasts, all suffering from incurable wanderlust: Tony and Chopper aboard Pisces, Ryan and Stacie aboard Liquid Courage, Becca aboard Dolphin, Miranda aboard Snoopy, and Cherrie and Tyler aboard Rocksteady who have baptised themselves Boat Punks, deriving from the streets and the Punk scene.
Punk is a lifestyle, a movement, and a political statement. Since its origins in the 1960s and 70s as an underground music genre, Punk has evolved into a complex ideology opposing the state system and established social structure, challenging the social orthodoxy, political and mainstream cultural establishment, and promoting individual freedom, an anarchic resistance, non-conformity and social revolt, DIY ethics and anti-consumerism.
Although our shiny 38 feet relatively new catamaran Fata Morgana doesn’t really belong, conceptually or visually (unless we spray some graffiti on her, which I have considered) in this fourth group, our family’s ideology, values, and way of life do. And so naturally we have joined their extravagant community here in Key West. Our experiences with the Boat Punks include:
- a foot operation without anaesthesia aboard Fata Morgana;
- sailing to a reef and snorkeling, fishing and jumping off the boat all day;
- scavenging an abandoned recently wrecked vessel;
- volunteering at the food bank;
- hosting a visit by a German journalist and a photographer who came to write a magazine article about Boat Punks;
- cooking and eating poisonous fish;
- and more. (I will write about all these with more details as soon as I have more time and some internet, so stick around.)
Moreover, we have decided to write a collage article on Boat Punk in collaboration, each person contributing his/her own individual story and reasons for doing what we are doing. I will publish it here soon.