Thursday, May 23, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Far From Home

Tim wrote this post while he was in Pittsburgh helping his siblings with the transfer of his parents from their home to a nursing home. It was a very difficult time for all involved. He was there alone; I was working on the boat in Miami for that six weeks. The observations are very applicable to anyone looking to cruise.

Far from home

I am back in the "normal" world for a while; suburbia, cars, traffic jams, sirens, guns, noise, and news. I have put more miles in driving the last 4 days than I had in the last 7 months, and I'm having trouble remembering why I used to enjoy it as much as I did. On the other hand there is ice cream in the fridge, cold milk, (that doesn't cost $12 / gal) and pretty good and consistent Internet access. Not sure the balance comes out in favor of "normal," but it isn't all bad.

Being 1000 miles away from Deb and the ocean? That is pretty much all bad.

Being away is also giving me a chance to take a look at our new life from a little different perspective, an opportunity to think about where we were, where we are, and how it looks like we are doing.

One thing that stands out is that full time living aboard and cruising is a far, far different endeavor than sailing, chartering, or living on a boat as an alternate to having a house or an apartment. It is its own, completely unique, thing. Even more, it is different for every person who is "out there" doing it.

As much as I loved sailing on Carlyle and appreciate the things we did learn about handling and living on a boat there, it really wasn't much preparation for what we are doing now. Having a boat as our one and only home is a far cry from visiting the lake on weekends. Mostly those years allowed us to get a lot of work done on our soon-to-be ocean going house, and make some life long friends.

I'm not sure chartering is much like living aboard either. We did take three week-plus training / cruising trips that might be counted as charters. Truth to tell they were not much of a hint as to what living aboard full time is like. Provisioning, watering, finding pump outs, 24 / 7, 365-days-a-year weather watch, these are our constant companions now. For many of us full time cruising means going "all in." There is no alternative, no plan B, no place to fall back to if it all goes bad. Virtually everything we own floats with Kintala. Every weather decision, every day under way, every harbor entered or Current Cut attempted, is an all or nothing deal. Flub it badly and we are homeless . . . at best.

As valuable as those trips were for us choosing a boat, the fact is both Deb and I are pretty sure the Tartan 42 wasn't the best choice. It is too much the racing boat and not enough the living-on boat. Romping across the Gulf Stream was great. The total time required to go both ways was less than two full days of sailing. (Biscayne Bay to West End + Bimini to Biscayne Bay.)

Living on a Tartan 42 is often a trial, and we do that all the time. For us, a boat just has to be as stable as possible riding to its anchor or a mooring, has to have sufficient storage, and has to have a cockpit comfortable for near full-time occupancy. An island bed would be nice and, contrary to what I had been told, would not be a problem on a passage. Neither of us sleeps in a bed on passage; short handed crews don't often get that far apart.

Once upon a time I claimed a center cockpit boat was a better idea than an aft cockpit, low free board boat because, "I didn't want the ocean that close to my ass." Now I would take an open transom boat without a second thought, so long as the cockpit was big, roomy, and comfortable. It would also make getting on and off the boat from a dink a lot easier. Yet a center cockpit ketch rig would be an excellent basic platform for a live-a-board cruiser. Not because the ocean isn't that close to my ass, but because the sail plan is easy to manage, the aft cabin can be a great place to live, two heads are pretty standard, engine access is likely acceptable, and storage is better.

The cruising community is not much like America. These are people with different motivations, different ideas of what it means to be responsible, with a close and personal relationship with the natural world. Many are from Canada and Europe and are not nearly as impressed with Americans as Americans tend to be with themselves. Most know well their turn will come to need a little help, and so they offer the same with little hesitation.

It isn't that religion and politics are left on the beach, but even among American cruisers no one wears them on their sleeve. There are a few gun nuts, some religious fundamentalists, but none have been offensive or overbearing. Not once have I been told I am going to hell and no one has waved a gun around. Individual political leanings deemed important on land haven't disappeared. But they don't mean as much as they once did. Maybe it's because the ocean will drown Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Tea-partiers, Socialists, people who like their universal health care, and even Texans, with equal enthusiasm. Being capable on the water is the measure that matters once any nation and its politics fall below the horizon.

Even for us Americans who have only accomplished a single "ocean crossing" to the Islands and have managed to live there for just a couple of months, the world appears bigger and the center of the map isn't - automatically - the US-of-A. There are whole other societies doing things in a whole other way, with a history completely different from this country. There is a whole planet where people screw things up in new and unique ways, not just American ways. (The Democratic and Republican ways of screwing things up are getting repetitive. We need to come up with some new material.) Being arrogant about "being an American" works inside these borders, where boasting counts more than doing. Outside these borders it makes you look like a wanker.

As much work as living on the water might be, no matter that a different boat might make that life a lot easier, being back for a visit has made it clear that I really don't want to be living anything but a cruising life. Most mornings on Kintala I take a cup of coffee out to the cockpit, sit back, and start my day slow and easy. I actually look up to see if it looks like the forecasts are reasonable. The sky and the sea fill my senses. Sometimes we are in the middle of a city, sometimes surrounded by other boats . . . and sometimes not. Any way I look at it, it is a good way to start a day. Most days end in pretty much the same way except the drink is cold and has a bit more horsepower.

My new world feels far, far, away at the moment, and I long to be home.

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