We’re not the nicest of species when you think about it. There are far too many lawyers, tax officers, parking cops, dodgy car salesmen and Collingwood supporters out there … not to mention your garden variety burglars, murderers and terrorists.
The majority of us will drive past a stricken motorist or hapless hitchhiker. We will step over a drunk lying ragged in the gutter. We curse the aged and disabled, and give cursory regard to fellow bus passengers if there’s a spare seat.
The only good Will is one left by a long-lost dead Aunt. Sympathy is something played by an orchestra.
But there’s one thing we never do in a pink fit – just as Tom Cruise wouldn't leave his wingman, just as the Marines pride themselves on leaving no man behind, no mariner worth his salt will ever abandon a fellow boatie.
It’s the first, unspoken rule of sea-mate-ship.
The Myall Lakes in NSW is a popular camping spot for boaties. - Mark Rothfield
This weekend past I was on the Myall Lakes, north of Newcastle, quietly bemoaning the fact that a picklefork skiboat with the Jimmy Barnes of 250hp outboards was disturbing the peace. Up and down the shoreline it roared endlessly, totally at odds with the solitude of this freshwater sanctuary.
But, hey, each to their own.
The engine was making even more noise when we got back to the boat ramp, as the overheating alarm cried for attention. The owner approached as I was tying down my boat and sheepishly explained that his trailer was at another ramp miles away down the lake … could we give him a lift in our car?
It was out of our way, his boat wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but he was doing the right thing to stop rather than risk cooking his motor. His kids were tired and sunburnt. 'Of course mate … hop in,' I said, as my own kids slid over to make room in the back.
He turned out to be a champion bloke as we chatted away during the 40-minute drive. You can always find things in common with another boatie. And I’ve never met anyone so genuinely grateful.
I remembered, as a kid, sitting becalmed in a sailing dinghy on nightfall when a friendly yacht recognised my predicament and towed me two miles back to the shore … again going out of their way.
There was an occasion when the water police came to our rescue when the gearbox on a mate’s Cuddles cruiser disintegrated. I’ve had people help me with flat trailer tyres in the middle of nowhere.
In return, I’ve towed a few people, even picked up a God-forsaken fisherman treading water in the middle of Port Stephens after his tinnie sank.
There’s a karma in all this – do a good deed and someone, some day, will do the same for you. Either way it’s a good feeling, one that leaves you with a skerrick of hope for humanity in this season of festivity.