The Kindness of Strangers

“There’s a spot down here for you,” a woman shouts to us as we pull the sailboat into the little marina at Ford Cove on Hornby Island. It’s been a long day. I’m still feeling shaken from hitting the reef, and since then we’ve faced a couple of hours of stormy seas, and a much bigger worry: we’re taking on water. And so I feel enormous relief as this woman leaps nimbly across a series of boats to take the bowline from me and help Dan raft up to another sailboat.

Sailboats at Ford Cove“Thanks,” Dan says. “We hit ground out there today and we’re taking on water. We’re going to have to limp in to Comox tomorrow and find somewhere to get the boat fixed.”

“The fookin’ reefs around here eat boats,” the woman laughs, pushing long, dark hair out of her face. “You’re not the first. But you don’t need to go to Comox. We can get you patched up right here.” Her husband, she explains, repairs boats, and though they’re taking the summer off, he has all the tools and equipment on board their boat to do fiberglass repairs.  If we’re interested, she tells us, she can help get us tied up alongside the government wharf where there is a makeshift dry dock.

Ford Cove Wharf“It must nearly be high tide now,” she says. “We’ll have to move the boat in the next hour or so. Just come find me if you want some help. I’m Sarah.”

Dan inspects the boat and finds a crack in the hull, behind the engine. Water is gushing in. The boat definitely needs repairs. And the sooner the better.

He heads off to find Sarah, who is chasing her three year old son down the docks, and they head off to look at the dry dock. I see them, leaning over the wharf, conferring, Sarah’s little boy climbing the rails beside them. The sun has appeared from behind the clouds, just as it’s ready to set. We don’t have much light left.

AaronDan reappears and announces that we’re going to move the boat. Sarah helps us turn the boat around in what is a very tight space, and then shouts, “Give me a couple of minutes to round up some citizens. We’ll meet you over there.” And as we pull slowly alongside the wharf, five or six people run down the dock to meet us. “Throw me the bowline,” says one. “Take this rope and tie it off over there,” says another. “Watch out for those posts!” someone shouts. “Hold on! You’re nearly onto the hard.” And together, they pull the boat carefully forward and in, tying it snugly to the edge of the wharf. Once the boat is secure, a couple of men leap onto the railings and secure another line to the mast, which they tie to a huge rock on the other side of the wharf. By the time they’re finished, the boat is not going anywhere. “Drink some wine. Get some sleep,” Sarah yells cheerfully. “You’re safe now.” And off they all go, back to their boats.

Dry dockWe wake to find a little bit of water in the boat, but we know that in a few hours, the tide will be out far enough for Dan to inspect the damage, and for Sarah’s husband Aaron to come and do repairs. Throughout the morning, other boaters come by, every one of them sympathetic, and every one sharing his or her own misadventures. A number offer suggestions and advice, and one even arrives with a tube of boater’s cement. “This will patch up anything,” he assures us.

At one point, Sarah comes by to share her own stories of running aground. “There are two kind of sailors,” she tells us. “Those who run into things and those who lie.”

By early afternoon, the tide is out far enough for Dan and Aaron to inspect the damage, and decide on a course of action. After that, Aaron gets to work, spending three hours of a beautiful, sunny afternoon in a hot, cramped space behind the engine, breathing in toxic fumes from the fiberglass repairs.

All for a couple of people he’s never met before.

The work he does is meticulous, and he returns throughout the afternoon and early evening to check to make sure that everything is setting properly. Though we intend to pay him, it is clear that he has no such expectation, that he would do this for anyone who he encountered who was in trouble and needed help.

tideAfter waiting all morning for the tide to go out, we wait all evening for the tide to come back in again, to make sure, as Dan puts it, that we’re floating, not sinking. As the tide reaches the high mark, we can see that Aaron’s work is flawless.

Sarah gathers the citizens of Ford Cove once more, to help untie us.

As Dan steers our boat away from the wharf, I wave to everyone, feeling tears rising. “Goodbye,” I shout. “Thank you so much! You guys are amazing!”

But Sarah laughs, and leaning over the wharf, she yells, “We’d have to be real assholes not to help out!” Her salty humour breaks the spell, and I laugh and wave to these new friends.

It will be a long time before I forget the cheerful generosity of Sarah, Aaron, and the rest of the good citizens of Ford Cove. It’s not the adrenaline-pumping excitement of the accident, nor the stunning beauty of Hornby Island that will linger longest in my memory. The lasting impression of our experience last weekend will be of the kindness of strangers.

Where in your life have you experienced the kindness of strangers?

Related posts

Let Me Rephrase That

Honouring My Free Spirit

Hornby Island: A Little Piece of Paradise


About Sally

Poet, seeker, author, mom. Celebrating the beauty and mystery that surrounds us and learning to trust in the journey.
This entry was posted in Living Deliciously, On Adventure, The Alphabet of Dating, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to The Kindness of Strangers

  1. CC MacKenzie says:

    Wow. How amazing is this?

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost two years ago. The kindness of the specialist nurse who was there when my surgeon gave me the bad news (which had come out of the blue) was amazing. Her name was Helen and her words still resonate with me today. ‘Just remember in the wee dark hours of the morning that we have it in a jar, it’s gone from your body. Yes, you’ll need treatment to make sure it’s not spread. But it’s gone – remember that.’

    Those words anchored me to reality, rather than letting my vivid imagination run riot. I was very lucky and dodged a bullet and determined to live my life to the full.

    Sarah and Aaron and their friends are an example of how caring and supportive humans can be.

    Love this post!

  2. The Landy says:

    Great story..! We’ve travelled the Australian Outback extensively, and it came be a very remote place, but it never ceases to amaze the kindness of others that you come across. It is almost an unwritten creed that you assist those in need, it might be you.

  3. Paul Kinder says:

    Hi Sally, you really told that story well, so enjoyable. I know when I got my boat it was like getting the keys to a special club, all of a sudden you became a person that other boat owners stopped to talk with and share a story. Every season has had its drama and setbacks, and there is always, always a friendly face and ‘a bit of craic’, to remind you that…….worse things happen at sea…..oops wrong metaphor!

    • Thank you, Paul! One of the great delights of my sailing experience this summer has been seeing how friendly and helpful the boating community is. It’s reassuring to know that there will always be setbacks (and that generally these setbacks become fodder for great dinner party conversations – or blogs!)

  4. Marianne says:

    I´m not a very good sailor, though I love boats and being outdoors, so the thought of hitting a reef and taking on water is a very frightening one to me. You have written about your experiences so eloquently and calmly I found myself reassured that you would be OK.

    Where would we be sometimes without the kindness of strangers, huh? 🙂

  5. People can be so nice sometimes, it’s very cheering. You’ve given me an idea for a post!

  6. Those salt-of-the-earth type people are rare to find these days…Her words at the end put that in perspective! A lovely finale to your adventure 🙂

    • Yes, Sarah was definitely salty! At one point, her three year old son raced down the wharf, barefoot, and boots in hand. “Where are you going?” she shouted. He turned and shouted back, “I’m going to put my fookin’ boots on the boat!” Sarah turned to me and shrugged: “He swears. What can I do? On the bright side, though, he always says please and thank you.”

  7. Denise Hisey says:

    Sarah and Aaron were your guardian angels!

  8. gardenlilie says:

    Deliberately Delicious! What a nice story with someone so willing to help. Sometimes people go beyond any expectation and you remember it vividly and sometimes we really need it. My husband and I learned a bit of passing it forward when we were traveling in his vega station wagon(old) and just married. In fact my wedding bouquet was on the back floor. Our car was dying in the middle of the Smoky Mts. and we stopped at a gas station and she looked at us and decided to give us $25 bucks. I kid you not. The thing is we probably had more money than her(jobs n all) but we were just starting out. We tried not to take it and she insisted. Who knows maybe she was a millionaire, but the point was taken. She told us to pass it forward when we could and we never forgot that lesson. 🙂

  9. susielindau says:

    It has happened to me many times. I try to pay it forward when I can.
    I love your story. It amazes me how in a time when it seems so many are too busy to help, complete strangers will lend a hand!
    Great story for the party! Thanks for coming by!

  10. Great story, I’m glad I came over here from Susie’s party to read it. Paying it forward always feels good and I try and do it when I can.

  11. Sophie Moss says:

    Really wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it. 🙂 Found you through Susie Lindau’s blog party today. 🙂

  12. I’m so glad you posted this link on Susie’s site.

    Reminds me that we can all make a difference, and I loved the parting line. Only problem is that it reminds me of how many assholes we encounter in out daily routines. And, sadly, sometimes I think I’m too busy and become one myself.

    • Hello, Gloria, and thanks for dropping in! I suspect that our sense of being rushed often prevents us from stopping to help a person in need. And part of what was so neat about the crew at Ford’s Cove was that they were people who valued time and experience before money, and as a result, had the space in their day to assist us.

  13. charismaloy says:

    Glad to see you at Susie’s party! I enjoyed your story and can very much relate. I learned long ago to lend a hand without expectation of reward, (although I wouldn’t mind a buck or two for the gas). Living in a very rural area, you stop to check on stranded travellers. There simply is no safe time of year to be stranded thirty miles from anywhere in the high plains. Around here, you help out, and you never know when that help will come back and help you.

    • It warms my heart knowing that there are people like you out there! I was raised to extend a hand, and watched, all the time I was growing up, as my father help people in ways big and small. And yet, I’m still overcome with gratitude when somebody helps me out. Thanks for dropping in!

  14. I’m so glad you came to Susie’s party! I really enjoyed your post and, you are right, the things that stick with us the most are the people we meet. In a world full of negativity it is always great to hear about the good people in our world.

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