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I asked a question here about whether a city could exist out at sea.

As a more specific question about what type of people would live and grow up in such a city, I have the following questions about people who have lived out at sea for their entire life:

  1. Would people that have lived their entire lives out on the water have any particular skills that they could then use to make money from land-dwellers?

  2. What kinds of things would such sea-dwellers value? What would they pay good money to buy as a luxury?

  3. Is there anything that people could do other than fish whilst out at sea in order to be able to make money from people who live on land? (Other than shipping goods/transporting people).

  4. Would someone who has lived their entire life out at sea be able to adapt to land-living? What would they need to learn in order to be able to live on land?

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    $\begingroup$ Your question would be better with some parameters about size and technology level. I have lived near water and ports my whole life (Long Island, Pittsburgh, and now Portland, OR). I cannot fish, sail or make rope. I have no need to, someone else does all that for me. I can swim only because it's fun. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Apr 7 '15 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ You mean like 1900? $\endgroup$ – o0'. Aug 17 '15 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ Which part of the sea? Tropical, temperate, cold (maybe a location, if you can)? How big is the city, how long has it been there, etc. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Mar 3 '17 at 23:26
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The game Mass Effect has a space faring race that's in a similar situation...they've been kicked off their home world and now call a 'flotilla' home. It's basically a mass of all their ships strapped together and floating through space. One of their rituals as a coming of age process is to send their new adults on a pilgrimage where they leave the flotilla on their own and try to make a living somewhere in the galaxy, before eventually returning with what they've collected along the way (by choice, sometimes no return). It's a workable method of bringing new things back into the Flotilla. I would suspect your floating city could be in a similar situation...an unfortunate situation of a flotilla is there isn't much for 'new jobs' for your young folk to embrace and finding a life, or atleast exploring the world a bit, before returning to their flotilla is a method of bringing in wealth to the floating city. Kinda funny, but it makes exporting their young adults a method of gaining wealth.

To your more specific questions:

  1. Not overtly...swimming, fishing, and quick feet are likely your key traits of these people, perhaps some reed working, net-making or wood working skills...but nothing that would be commonly available for a job. Their biggest advantage is transience...their home is waiting for them when they get back to the floating city, until then they can go where they want and stay how they want. Makes them ideal for temporary jobs.

  2. Trinkets! In a floating city, your personal space and possessions are pretty limited...the few personal items you have are either found in the water, passed down by a relative, or made by your own hands. Rings, bracelets, bobbles, and any other item that they can invest a good deal of emotion and value into (this ring was obtained by your great great grandfather on his pilgrimage to dry land who gave it to his grand niece who gave it to her child who in turn gave it to you...keep it close and always remember where you came from).

  3. Not overtly, and this is why you get this pilgrimage scenario where the only method to make your own in this flotilla is to leave it and to return with your new items and wisdoms in some later future.

  4. The life at sea vs life at land isn't that hard to directly adapt...the first few days will feel exceedingly strange (ever spend 3 nights on a ship then get off? your legs expect the ground to move and your brain gets confused when it doesn't). The biggest adaption to make is a transition from one society to another...a floating city (in the way I see anyway) is a bit more communal. Less space and shared resources (and limited resources) force a communal nature and this will be a stark contrast to life on land. They'll likely be close talkers who get right into that personal space bubble that land-dwellers hold dear and they'll be very naive to the harshness of a world. I would imagine it'd be a similar adaptation as someone leaving an Amish community would need to do.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very thorough answer, I forgot about Quarians on Mass Effect, it's been a while since I played it. $\endgroup$ – Mike.C.Ford Apr 10 '15 at 8:37
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Would people that have lived their entire lives out on the water have any particular skills that they could then use to make money from land-dwellers?

Swimming and Boat repair

What kinds of things would such sea-dwellers value? What would they pay good money to buy as a luxury?

Probably fresh fruits and vegies. Nice fabrics for cloths.

Is there anything that people could do other than fish whilst out at sea in order to be able to make money from people who live on land? (Other than shipping goods/transporting people).

Salt! You said they could make fresh water from sea water with solar power, the by product is salt and it is valued by many

Would someone who has lived their entire life out at sea be able to adapt to land-living? What would they need to learn in order to be able to live on land?

I would guess personal space, generally you don't get a lot of privacy on a ship and everyone will be close. Might get in fights for appearing to nosy or seem rude and crude because some things just aren't done or said in polite company.

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  • $\begingroup$ You might find it hard to believe, but most 19th century British sailors could not swim. They were very good at repairing and building things. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Apr 7 '15 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Schwern actually I know that. It's rumored that many felt it was better to just drown right away instead of be stuck in the middle of the sea. However, a whole community living together on the water will most likely know how to swim, to many children would drown otherwise, that is likely how will take a bath as well. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Apr 7 '15 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner I don't agree with the bath logic....I would assume that the city might leave a trail of junk in its wake. $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Apr 8 '15 at 13:47
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Bajau sea nomads

For generations they have lived on the ocean, diving and fishing, and rarely setting foot on land. But now these marine nomads risk destroying the reefs that sustain them

Diana Botutihe was born at sea. Now in her 50s, she has spent her entire life on boats that are typically just 5m long and 1.5m wide. She visits land only to trade fish for staples such as rice and water, and her boat is filled with the accoutrements of everyday living – jerry cans, blackened stockpots, plastic utensils, a kerosene lamp and a pair of pot plants.

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A collection of traditional, handmade Bajau lepa lepa boats off the coast of Pulau Bangko. More and more Bajau are abandoning their traditional nomadic lifestyle to settle in permanent homes in stilt villages, but a dwindling few still choose to live the majority of their lives at sea. Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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