Two months ago, I was driving to New Jersey in our truck crammed full of clothing, sailing gear, and two little dogs, Henri and Oliver. We stayed with friends and my father along the way. I picked Erik up at Newark airport and worked in a visit to our daughter’s new apartment in Brooklyn before we set off to Maine to move onto Narnia. It’s now eight weeks later and I feel like I’ve been living on a boat for years. I finally accept the slower rhythm of living aboard a boat.
My father called the other day and after catching me up on his fly fishing expeditions, he asked, “What’s it like living on a boat?” I do not come from a nautical family, in fact we never owned a boat-not even a row boat. Lot’s of people seemed frightened for us when we explained our plans for the summer. “What if the boat sinks?” asked our family doctor who wrote prescriptions for anti-nausea medications and a few antibiotics we might need in pinch. I always smiled and laughed reassuringly but secretly wondered what we would do and how was life going to be lived day to day on a boat.
Looking back, I was wise to be cautious and join the Power Squadron and take a few classes on Seamanship and Navigation. There are so many skills and systems to develop and understand when sailing and living on a boat: Safety equipment/Man over board drills, Boat Handling at docks/mooring/anchoring, Communicating with WIFI/VHF(no SAT phone yet), Navigating with GPS/Radar/AIS, Cooking with a propane stove/oven/grill, Water and waste (meaning head) pumps, and finally stowing everything in a hundred different storage spaces.
The bottom line, nothing is easy or fast. Leave all thoughts of efficiency on shore when moving onto a sailboat with 250 square feet of living space. We have come a long way over the last eight weeks. We have a 12 page computerized inventory of all storage spaces and another for through hulls and electronic devices located in storage spaces. We have bound manuals for everything from the Garmin to the LAVAC head (toilet). We have trouble shot leaks, alarms, and with the help of our boat yard unstuck a jammed windlass, deciphered the WIFI extender code and discovered a water tank airlock as well as a leak in the feed tube.
One day, while waiting for water to boil to make instant coffee, I remembered what an old sailor once wrote, “You don’t go to sea to go fast, you go to sea to slow down.” The pace of modern life is fast and it’s not until you slow down that you realize the beauty that surrounds you, even in simple activities like making a cup of coffee. I had forgotten that the whole point of living aboard was to get away from the excesses of everyday life. I was trying to continue to live with all those excesses and expectations in a very small space designed for simplistic living. Slowing down applies to all activities and means that everything will take longer, may be more difficult, but can be enjoyed for what it is. Life is a gift and I am fortunate to finally see that living simply, though more work, can be fulfilling.