Why cruisers should just be nice
We live in a nice village by a fine (if pebbly) seashore. Just over half the houses are full-time residents like us. Many are muchloved holiday or weekend homes either passed down through generations or ‘discovered’ by rapturous and affluent Londoners. When the warm weather comes – bank holidays, half terms, high summer – obviously the village fills up far beyond its housing: day trips, tourists, a few campers and mobile homes.
It was ever thus, a resort since before the First World War. And that’s fine – keeps the pubs flourishing and the shop open. When I was a child at the village school, we used to look enviously and admiringly at the holidaymakers who had rather better cars than our boxy old Ford, smarter shorts by far, and beach equipment like windbreaks and refrigerated hampers. That felt glamorous, though actually we were used to the bitter east wind and could take a picnic down the lane anytime in a carrier bag without the ginger beer losing its chill.
But sometimes, nipping to and fro in ordinary working or household lives, we do jib a bit at the carefree sense of entitlement. Huge four-wheel-drive vehicles parked across half the street or on corners with tight lanes because they’re too mean or lazy to go to the car park whose takings support our commonlands charity. Moaning in the shop because there’s no Parmesan. Late-night yelling, sometimes criminally stupid barbecues on tinder-dry grassland. And the litter! Wrappings and leftovers dumped on the shore, broken plastic beach toys, fag ends ankle deep outside the pub. Then there’s the dog mess. Out of season, you hardly ever see it on the paths or beach. There are plenty of dedicated bins and we all know one another’s dogs and tend to have – um – a proper sense of shame. But one sunny bank holiday (we had two in May, scorchers) and hey presto! You’d have thought piles of turd had been breeding of their own accord.
Why say this in YM? Ah, because for all our sense of seaborne heroic freedom, we cruising people are just holidaymakers, tourists, day trippers into the myriad glorious coastal towns and villages round our coast (and France’s, and Spain’s, Portugal’s and Ireland’s). We leave our marks, for good and bad. We help keep the waterfront bars and cafés and restaurants open – especially those who do breakfasts after a long wet beat overnight. We give the chandleries good custom, having broken assorted bits of kit and lost deck shoes over the side. So far so good.
But it befits us to leave only a delicate, careful bootprint. People actually live in these gorgeous places, and not all of them work in the tourist trade or want to. Some resent the marina very much, if it hasn’t been tactfully placed. They all need useful shops – food, ironmongery, down-to-earth supermarkets – not just delis and branches of swanky clothes shops. It befits visiting yachtsmen to remember that, and enthusiastically use the local small shops (without moaning about the prices, or having crammed the boat with a month’s worth of biscuits and tins from the Lidl on the trading estate back home).
It befits us to be polite to the locals, queue civilly in the pub, never complain aloud and pick up after the ship’s dog. And indeed children. If there is no marina or port skip, it is not good manners to stuff three days’ worth of four people’s rubbish into a series of tiny high street bins. Seal it up for God’s sake, lash it down on the sterndeck, keep it for a harbour with facilities. Remember that trawlermen are working, not playing. Answer local children’s questions. Put money in the lifeboat box. Moor where the harbourmaster tells you to. Just be nice: be welcome.
We cruising people leave our marks, for good and bad