Thursday, January 21, 2016


Yesterday 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.

The 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.

The 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.

A 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.

The 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. 

The magic had slipped in for a few moments.

Later 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.

Then one of them asked, “Why do you do it? Why do you stay on the boat?

It 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.

Some 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.

But, honest as my answers were, they were not the real ones.

The real reason I live out here is the magic.

The 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.

I 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.

Or 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.

1 comment:

Robert Salnick said...

Ah, the magic. You are so right!