Is there is anything as conducive to making friends as being confined on a boat with a handful of like-minded people?

In 1957 I worked on the Victory Chimes, a cruise boat out of Rockland. Every Sunday night a couple of dozen young ladies from Boston boarded, anticipating meaningful weeklong conversations with Bowdoin men. Instead, they found me, so I speak with authority on the delightful adventure entailed in a sea voyage.

Did you know that five thousand or six thousand people can be herded aboard a cruise ship? That’s more than twice the population of St. George, Maine.

If your week on a cruise ship is unexpectedly extended and you have exhausted the touted amenities, before the month is out you might get to know some of your fellow vacationers rather well.

One of the questions you might eventually ask the nice couple who shared your dinner table is “Where did you two meet?”

This is a topic that interests me. We soon forget the “I was at my sister’s wedding …” stories. The grizzled octogenarian who says, “I was hobbling about in Walmart and she just had to reach out and fix my twisted L.L. Bean suspenders” is a bit more original.

But how about these folks who were visiting a mutual friend? The host, a card-carrying environmentalist, didn’t mow, but kept a sheep tied out on his lawn. The visitor’s dog chased the sheep. The sheep spun about, bolted and cut its leg on the tether. The visitor, an M.D. feeling responsible for his dog, got out his medical bag and sewed up the cut on the sheep’s leg while the other visitor – who is still lovely – held the animal. This simple act of engaging in a meaningful project together established a rock-solid foundation for a marriage that has lasted almost 40 years.

My father, a Swedish immigrant, married his landlady’s daughter. No romance there. Perhaps I’m here only because a frugal Swede got tired of paying rent.

I have often thought that my mother’s father might not have had much choice when he married one of his distant cousins. I think they were born and brought up within a few hundred feet of each other. His father also married a girl who lived almost as close, but she had the decency to be descended from one of the Germans brought in by General Waldo. Her father probably moved up to St. George around 1798 when Waldoboro got crowded.

Years ago it was not uncommon for St. George people to end up engaged to be married after a voyage. Lillius Gilchrest, the niece of my great-grandfather’s cousin, Captain Albion, met a nice young man while at sea. I think they got married in her father’s house in Tenants Harbor in 1859.

A little over 100 years later a small sailboat came up from Connecticut and anchored in Tenants Harbor within sight of that house. Four young people came ashore. I happened to be out and about in my Model T and gave them a ride in my funny old car. Only three of them went back to Connecticut in the boat. The fourth one stayed and married me – which her father added to his list of typhoons, shipwrecks and other naval disasters.

You wouldn’t have to bend my arm up between my shoulder blades to get me to tear up my cruise-ship ticket this week. But a cruise on a smaller boat on the rivers in Europe is something else.

A single person looking for companionship wouldn’t have to go on half a dozen of these cruises before he or she would have a passport to happiness.

Because I couldn’t survive living alone, if I were single and between 50 and 80 – well, 84 – with money in my pocket, I’d haunt the cruise boats on European rivers where swimming to safety is always an option.

You shouldn’t despair if you’re penniless and in your final anchorage. It is unusual to go a week without seeing two people in their 90s tying the knot in a nursing home.

I’ve only heard of one how-did-you-meet story that can compete with the folks who bonded over a sheep. It seems that shortly after losing his spouse, a man was sleepless in Seattle when his young son attracted a viable mate through a dial-in talk show.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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