Ah, it is that time of year again. We shed these stifling clothes, brandish that fake tan we perfected in chilly times and head for the water.
An eight-month stretch of wind and rain gives way to an era of heat and sun, skimpy biker shorts and ditched t-shirts… skin and muscle at last ready to breathe in the West Coast air, bodies clinging to each other… a sticky union of testosterone.
I had not realized my own sexual drive had been hibernating all winter. What had once been alive and kicking has now become ferocious in its demands.
Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places in the world — and the plethora of men is to blame.
What I love about summer is that it is a chance for the bold and the beautiful to come out and shine. What had been hidden in the colder seasons is now being served up with a side of toast.
There was a time when I could not even bring myself to wear a pair of shorts for fear of exposing my white, prickly legs to the world. During my stint as a hermit and my self-induced isolation from the gay community, I managed to get over it.
This is the first spring where I feel 100 percent love and acceptance for my physical appearance. Maybe 95. Okay, a generous 80 percent.
Last summer, my more inhibited self went on his first gay cruise. The cruise combined two of my greatest fears: water and the human race. Somehow though, I was able to enjoy myself as long as I remained aware of every possible preserver and lifeboat on board.
I think every gay man and woman should make this journey at least once in his or her life. There are only a few ingredients required to turn any ordinary boat ride into a gay one.
The first, and arguably the most notable, is a high ratio of men. I could count 50 men for every woman. In everyday life, that would be a nightmare scenario. However, for a few moments on the open water, it can be a beautiful thing.
Another ingredient is a never-ending barrage of dance beats blaring from a sound system. Nothing says gay cruise more than one ship passing another to the tune of Gloria Gaynor.
The third, but certainly not the least compelling ingredient, is the presence of a few drag queens. These showgirls know a thing or two about getting boys into the festive spirit. Imagine if we only had ourselves to entertain.
Take all these elements and sail the Queen Mary into tomorrow.
Living the life of a hermit coming out of hiding is rife with “firsts.” I have experienced the thrills and ills of internet dating, walked into my first — and to date only — bathhouse, strapped myself into some torture devices at a local gay gym and have made my first excursion into a public shower.
My big gay boat ride, like many a first, came with its own set of anxieties.
One way to make sure a shy boy doesn’t go running for the hills is to stick him on a floatation device several yards from land. If I felt uncomfortable or bored or overwhelmed, I could not very well make a hasty retreat. I would be at the mercy of the boat’s crew and a festive gaggle of passengers.
Fortunately, I have come a long way in the last year and a half and can now feel comfortable flanked by strange men.
For my first gay cruise, I brought along my best girlfriend to help anchor me. Left to my own devices, I might have ripped the bar wide open and come on to everyone in sight. Together, we set sail on a somewhat chilly day and left the city to the land dwellers.
There was this inexplicable feeling of unity that came when the boat was offshore. It was as though a little piece of the city broke off and drifted out into the ocean. The only thing to separate me from a couple hundred strangers was the choppy waters below.
We all kind of became this makeshift community bound together by a simple boat ride. I couldn’t help but imagine us as the last humans on earth. Just me, my girlfriend, a trio of queens and 200 sea-faring men.
Think of the village we could build if we became shipwrecked.
Our boat passed an elderly gentleman in a sailboat. As we roared by, he kindly turned his back, bent down and exposed his bare ass. I was unlucky enough to catch some of his junk dangling in the summer breeze. If that had happened on the road, I would have been less impressed. Somehow, being on the water, his antics seemed endearing. We cheered our approval.
Another highlight came as the Proud Mary kept rolling loud and proud. The music and the energy proved to be infectious. An enormous oil rig to our right could not help but take notice. The half dozen men visible began to dance to the disco flavour of early Madonna.
Where else could I see a group of burly, greasy men cutting loose as a couple hundred men cheered them on?
I only hope this year’s extensive cruise schedule can capture some of the glory from last year. I could not ignore the fact that everyone I met seemed to let down his or her guard when we set off to sea.
We became different people than we were on land. There came an overriding sense of freedom on our three-hour tour.