Learning a new place is exciting. Indeed, when living on a boat, it's an essential skill. But it's also a ton of fun. How do we learn a place? I think there are a few phases.
Phase I. Find Something. Anything.
You don't know where things are. You don't even know what you're looking at. You need to find something to cling to as a point of reference. It only takes one thing to act as a center of focus.
Is that the dinghy dock?
Is that the fuel dock?
Is that the mooring field?
It's important to have just one point of reference to avoid too much of "What's that?" and "What's over there?"
Once you have some point of reference, you can spread out.
Where are the GSL — Grocery? Showers? Laundry?
Where is the good coffee shop?
Depending on the scale of the place, this can pass in a few days, or it can last a few weeks. For a smallish and highly walkable city, like Annapolis, it doesn't last very long at all. For a large and less walkable city, it can talk a long time.
Phase II. Building A Routine.
We think that an improtant part of learning a place is building a routine. Same coffee shop. Same bar. Same GSL.
In one sense, it seems limiting — same coffee shop? — but what's important here is not that we're immediately making a lifetime committment to a particular routine. We're moving from place to place. It's important to use a routine to get a grip on the place.
Once a routine is built, it's easy to change.
Until a routine is built, the confusion (and stress) of tracking things down can be tiring.
Having a usual coffee shop is an anchor for the next wave of exploration. It's important to have a starting GSL before moving out to GSL's that have different features. Finding the cheap places that's further from the waterfront is far easier when you have a fallback place that you know.
Phase III. Digging In.
You've dug in when your coffee shop knows your order.
You've dug in when the other folks in the mooring field stop by for information or tools.
The neighborhood starts to shrink. The effort required to get to a place that's 8 blocks away can be daunting during Phase I. Since you don't know where anything is, getting from a place you don't know to another place you don't know is difficult.
Each twist and turn of the path — crossing this street — down that street — right at the light — left at the surf shop — across from the other place I can't remember — begins as a big burden on the brain.
Then the burden shrinks. "Oh, across from the bakery." The path reduces to an end-point. The brain burden reduces to something more manageable. You can walk further afield and know where you are and how you'll get back.
The first few trips on the 25¢ ciruclator to the 37th street station and the train to downtown or the airport were filled with details to get right. Then they were just trips. Then they were just waypoints in a larger trip.
Phase IV. Moving On.
And there's the wrench of moving on. It's a bitter-sweet thing. It's pleasant to dig in to a place and grow comfortable.
At some point, we realize that the algae and tbe barnacles are starting to grow. The seasons are catching up: the cold has moved down from the north, or the hurricanes are heading up from the south.
It's to to move on and start the cycle again.