What We Learned on Land This Winter
When I was in 11th grade advanced English in Minnesota, I had a teacher who was profound and intelligent, and probably the kind of hippy I’ve grown up to be. But as a 17 year old me, he was just a teacher teaching a class I had to pass with flying colors (like every other class) so that I would graduate at the top of my class, go to a good school, get a good job, marry a good person that I met at said school, and so on. You’ve heard it all before. (On a side note, I have been lucky to accomplish at least a few of those items).
I didn’t spend nearly enough time letting the themes and lessons of that class sink in. I skimmed the books to find an interesting passage which I could analyze the next day in class. It would appear I was doing all my reading diligently, although my actual reading was sparse and incomplete. I hid this fact nicely with my writing skills. I got an A that I didn’t deserve at the time. By April of that year, we had read enough supporting documentation, discussed at length, and agonized over the theme of the class: the human condition is inherently rooted in the desire to know what we KNOW we cannot know. I’ll give you a moment to read that sentence again.
I’m in my 30s, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve replayed the vision of this teacher slamming down books on our desks, saying the above sentence, and then smugly curling himself up on in his chair, his Birkenstocks with socks combination resting on his desk, letting us stew in the inevitability of knowing we cannot know what we inherently want to know for our entire lives. I’ve thought of this so much that I feel I deserve that A now.
Living aboard a boat requires planning and preparation. It also requires accepting you won’t know something until you do. You won’t know what it will be like until it happens. You won’t know all of what a place has in store for you until you get there. You don’t know who you’ll meet, what will break along the way...all the things of sailing. You won’t know what you don’t know…until you know it. As a side note, this is actually what’s most exciting in life for me: finding out what will happen! But, I’m weird and a terrible planner so finding out what will happen is something I’m mostly resigned to as my only option of being.
There’s been a lot of learning and thinking being done this winter as we’ve reassessed our lives, living spaces, finances, and general goals in life. It’s easy to throw around the words “we should have” but it was inevitable that, come this point in the winter, we would have a few things figured out that we should have figured out earlier. I’m not going to “should” on myself because that’s a slippery slope of expectations and standard setting that few can reach; and certainly not even I can reach the standards I could be shoulding on myself.
It was a risk to take the boat out of the water and rent a house that we had never seen in a town we had never been to (we had been to the island but not the exact part of it where the house is). It was a risk to put Rev in a school we had never toured mid-year, and push her into second grade instead of first. It was a risk to put the boat up for sale for the winter and potentially not have a home come spring. Most of those risks turned out to be okay, especially the school risk.
The biggest risk was choosing to live in a house as big as we found. It wasn’t our first choice of houses on the property but we thought it would be fine. Additionally, our dreamy little boat made my estimation of a “big house” skewed, as all houses in and of themselves seemed big to me. The combination of heating inefficiency, propane costs relative to the amount we felt we should spend on propane for the winter, and amount of heat my body needs to stay warm were incongruous, and we had a very cold winter inside the house despite a mild, coastal winter outside.
The best part of this winter was Rev going to school. She really blossomed intellectually and everyone at the school was endlessly helpful to us and her. We were really lucky and pleasantly surprised by this little school hiding in rural Maine.
The worst part of this winter was the cost. We really try to be efficient and straightforward with what we spend money on but this winter hardly fit that model. Costs incurred by a car, utilities, and travel to and from Maine added up quickly, not to mention the cost of storing the boat and the time it took to put it away and recommission it come spring. In short, we learned we will not store the boat and pay to live elsewhere. It’s just not economical and it does not bring us joy. I’d wake up numerous times feeling like we’d left our home in a parking lot, alone, in the cold; mostly because we did. On a side note, we live REALLY frugally: we don’t go out to eat often (easy to do when everything is closed down for the winter), we VERY rarely buy new clothes (think once every few years we might buy one new item, and the grandmas take care of ALL of Rev’s clothes in abundant gifts!), we make most of our food from scratch, we’re buy the super cheap insurance in all areas, I don’t drink, you get the picture. That said, what we do have, is what we like to have nice things of (boat, tools, technology, etc).
That is the summary of what we learned in general. If we own the boat, we’ll be living on the boat. Granted, while we needed a break, I’m not sure we’d do it this way again.
In specific, we each learned some key points this winter:
How to read
How to write
More math skills
Started formal violin lessons
How to eat school lunch and like it (seriously the food at her school is pretty good compared to most public schools)
Cars, like boats are scams. Boats are more enjoyable scams at least. In this case: scam refers to moneypit.
Lots of marine electronics knowledge. He’s a certified installer for a lot of systems now, including NMEA 2000, Airmar, and CZone! Check out the goods on Twig Marine
We can’t afford the boat AND a land house at the same time. This has already been said but it’s a BIG one.
Too hot is highly preferred to too cold. I’ve lived in 100 degrees F every day and <20 degrees F every day. Give me all the warmth!
Paying for utilities that aren’t renewable causes headaches, pain, depression, and confusion as to why anyone is okay with this.
Scheduled paychecks are a nice thing
I love living in the remote wilderness and have little capacity to live in a city ever again. I love to live where there are no neighbors, no city sounds, no traffic, no silly things like elevators and big buildings, no weird smells. Give me the woods, the ocean, the open sky with views for miles, clean air, and fresh salty, pine tree smells! I really hope we can continue living this remote, wilderness filled life!
Still not a fan of schedules. Routines, yes. Schedules, no, unless it’s paychecks (see above)
I really like tacos. I already knew that, but I learned that I like it when there are decent taco restaurant options nearby besides my own kitchen.
Big spaces with lots of room and surfaces to store things make me anxious and crabby and feel like I am totally going to lose it. I like small, manageable spaces, even if those spaces aren’t managed well all the time!!
If you’re following on Instagram, you’ll note that I still haven’t made croissants like I promised. A little thing like a full time (albeit amazingly flexible) job gets in the way. I actually didn’t bake as much as I thought I would. And now that we’re back aboard Twig, I realize that I really felt uncomfortable in the house’s kitchen and love baking in my tiny kitchen. Twig’s galley is so efficient and all the tools are my own, handpicked items that make sense to have! Every tool has a job! So maybe I’ll finally tackle croissants on board!
As for what’s next, we’ll be in Maine this summer and then have to decide where sail for winter. Any suggestions? We’d like a good school, good food, good people, a nice warm place to anchor or dock Twig (assuming it’s affordable to do so), and good internet! Bonus points for easy airports nearby, a walkable area, and a year round farmers market. Whatcha got??