(or how to move onto a sailboat)
With the advent of our 50th birthdays came the usual sorts of life evaluations that one goes through. At what have I succeeded? What contributions have I made? What do I have left that I want to do before I die? Living on the water was high on both our lists.
For any who share the dream, and for our family members who might not understand, this is our story. We don't know where it will take us, but welcome along for the ride!
was water day, humping 50 gallons to the boat 10 gallons at a time.
Normally that would sound like “one of those days that comes with
living on a boat”. But not all days end up like they sound.
weather in these parts, while much more comfortable than it has been
in other parts, hasn't been all that good for these parts. Rain,
thunderstorms, tornadoes, then cold. Cold that is, for those of us
who live without central heat or, for that matter, any kind of heat
at all. Add the relentless wind ruffling up the water thus turning
every dink ride into a cold shower, and one is soon chilled to the
bone rather than chilling out. The norm for several days.
winds faded away yesterday and with them the clouds, but I had gotten
so used to being cold under a cloudy sky that I didn't really notice
it much at first. It was just a better day to hump water than the day
before had been. The first water trip didn't go so well, the common
hose splitting open and pretty much soaking everything within range,
including me. Par for the course lately, get on with it already.
bit of rescue tape let the second loading proceed without the shower.
At the boat, draining the water from the jug to the tank, the quality
of the day finally seeped through to my jaded brain. There was just
the gentlest of breezes wafting out of the north. Still cool, but
also dry and perfect for the task at hand. Light danced on the
wavelets in the way that only those who live near the water know.
There were no flying little critters gnawing on my hide.
mid-morning mooring field was quiet, just the soft putter of a dink
or two making way. Pelicans coasted by just inches off the water. A
manatee broached a few yards away, puffed a breath, then left the
customary circular wake behind as it dove away.
magic had slipped in for a few moments.
that evening we were in the lounge chatting with a few other
cruisers. As usual when I am around, the conversation torched American
politics, lit into the marine industry, and touched on the struggles
that come with living on a boat in a society that doesn't approve of
anything “different”. (I didn't start it, honest. There are a lot
of you out here.) Our new friends have just started out. They also
got burned at the boat purchase and, as a result, found a job in Vero
for the winter to offset the damage done to the cruising kitty. They
seemed encouraged to find that they were not alone, that we were also
headed for a job that will keep us in one place for many months. It
was good for them to know that thunderstorms really are scary for
those living at the base of a giant lightning rod, 30 knots of wind
cannot be ignored, and a bad day to be out in a dink for one, is a
bad day to be out in a dink for all.
one of them asked, “Why do you do it? Why do you stay on the boat?
was a good and honest question from someone finding the reality to be
much different than the promise. And I gave them an honest answer.
days I wonder why I live on a boat too. But I can (almost) afford to
live without taking orders. And it turns out that, no matter how good
a job one has taking orders from another, not taking orders from
another is much, much better. I like being mobile and living at the
edge of society, where it is harder for the lunatics to lay a hand on
me. I like being away from the propaganda, the violence, and the
relentless fear mongering. I like that we are leaving some resources
behind for grand kids to use, and living in a way that throws a
spotlight on the excess that is “America”. My deepest hope is
that my grand kids will see that there are options, different ways to
relate to the world, different ways to live one's life.
honest as my answers were, they were not the real ones.
real reason I live out here is the magic.
magic isn't exclusive to sailors of course. It exists deep in the
flight levels on a night full of stars. It can be felt it in the
deserts of Arizona and the deep forests of the central PA mountains.
It will even flash by, just for a moment, as a knee touches down at
the apex of a corner taken at the limits of speed. But out here, on
the boat, it will linger in a way unique.
don't know why that is, the magic never explains its ways. Maybe
being surrounded by water is the secret, the ocean long rumored to be
the well from which life sprung. Maybe we are better at listening
without schedules to interrupt, or after being away from the crush of
others for hours, days, or weeks.
maybe, “out here” is simply where the magic lives. Hard as it is
to live out here as well, I hope to stay awhile. Being touched by the
magic is worth it.