Observations on Living Aboard
It’s 1:30 am and it’s been 2 weeks since we’ve moved full time on the sailboat. I can’t sleep for the first time in awhile. I’m usually exhausted by 9 pm from boat projects, sailing, running errands, or touring a town, but tonight I find myself completely awake. We’re currently in St Augustine (at least we were when I started writing this) having traveled from Charleston, SC in 2 weeks (about 4-5 days of actual sailing offshore). There is a lot to write but my tired, modern brain works best in lists, so I’ll list a click-bait type post of what I’ve learned so far.
10 things I’ve learned/noticed since moving to a sailboat:
1. My mind doesn’t stop thinking. We’re constantly concerning our attentions to tides, currents, wind speeds/directions, nautical miles, depths, sunset times, and many other metrics. Even when we’re anchored, moored, or tied to a dock we’re aware of if the boat will move, knock into something, run aground (high advisory against this), or any other possibility. It’s exhausting and we were spoiled by Lake Superior (no tides, no major currents usually, deep water everywhere, sandy anchorages, no need to lock up anything, etc, etc), but I hope we’ll get used to it and get better at feeling comfortable with coordinating the details of on the water survival. After all, there are apps for this. It's outright silly to think Lake Superior was easy (more specifically the Apostle Islands) and I'm hoping our friends who still have boats there will invite us this summer so we can experience it again to compare.
2. Anchorages and ports are best entered during daylight hours. It gets dark on the ocean, especially when the moon is small, and marker lights are sometimes hard to see, missing, moved, or blend in with the other lights on shore. Also, I'm terrible at judging distances. Seriously, estimation is not my forte outside of the kitchen. Entering in daylight seems obvious (although sometimes impossible) but I’m writing this mainly as a reminder to myself for the future.
3. I’ve grossly underestimated the amount of cheese, chips, and cheesy puffs one needs when battling seasickness, let alone living. (Are you beginning to notice I'm really bad at estimating!?) After my 4th or 5th trip to the store, I finally realized it's okay to buy 5 or 6 blocks of cheese as long as I sufficiently hide them (from myself) in the bottom of the fridge. I like cheese in general and I like cheesy puffs (the organic kind) when I’m seasick. Rev likes potato chips, and Kai will usually eat whatever is in front of him, even while seasick. To each their own. Don't be underprepared. After all, I've never met a cheese that didn't make my eyes twinkle.
4. Speaking of seasickness, sleep is the best remedy (assuming you have someone great like Kai who can single-hand the boat while you proceed to cocoon yourself into an upside down haze). Sure driving, looking at the horizon, and medications help (although they’re not helping that much anymore for me), but if you can, find a nice place and go to sleep. After 3-5 hours of letting your body adjust while you sleep, the seasickness/upside down will pass and you’ll have little recollection of the adjustment because you were sleeping! Note: sleeping might increase seasickness in which case we've found a way we're different! Diversity!
5. Dolphins are superior to humans. They don’t belong in zoos or aquariums and whoever thought that was a good idea should probably be forced to jump through hoops all day while eating old fish.
6. There are times while sailing that afford a lot of time for a little thinking. There are also times that afford very little time for a lot of thinking. I'm best at the former, and not so great at the latter. This will hopefully improve.
7. After a few weeks on a boat with your family, you start to talk and/or argue about weird things, like appropriate usage of microfiber rags, turning on the "poop blender" before flushing overboard (no arguments there, just lots of talk), or why the spinnaker sail is always on my bed when I want to sleep. It will probably get weirder. (Update: The Spinnaker now stows nicely in the lazarette!)
8. Saltwater is actually salt and water, and when the water evaporates, you're left with salt...everywhere on the boat, on my skin. If you're wearing anything darker than a shade of beige, it shows. I'm convinced this is the real reason sailors wear white; not for preppiness' sake.
9. I like traveling in our "home" in the water. I don't think I'll ever tire of waking up in a new place every few days. It's comforting to know that at the end of the day (or at 5 am when you finally arrive somewhere), you can crawl in the same salty-sheeted bed and feel at home. I also like the fact that I can do all the housework while in transit, at least if I'm or too seasick. I can make soup, organize the cockpit, and be baking a cake all while keeping watch, at least theoretically. There's something pretty magical about being miles offshore with only the sounds of wind, waves, a very talkative 5 year old, and a creaky boat while carrying 30,000 pounds of your boat and belongings. The travel is slow and it reminds me of pioneers and wagon travel, only with modern technology. Am I finally Laura Ingalls Wilder in the modern marine world?! That was a lot packed into number 9, but each aspect is related, except for maybe the Laura Ingalls Wilder part.
10. This is certainly the most important and significant thing I've noticed: Reverie is an incredibly understanding, patient, loving, and adaptable child. She treats every day as a new adventure and when we tell her it's going to be 6-8' seas and 30 knot winds she excitedly says "I love waves and leaning over!" with a huge smile on her face. She's been so grown up lately and is happy to do whatever we're doing. Seeing her eyes light up at the first sight of dolphins just about made my heart jump out onto the cockpit floor. Her endless curiosity and support of what we're doing makes the challenging moments worth it.
There are many more things I've noticed but those are the first 10. This lifestyle is challenging, but the rewards equal the level of challenge. Learning a new boat is like being in a foreign country; exhausting ourselves to figure out the culture and way of life, slowly progressing and even feeling completely comfortable at times. Now is one of the comfortable times. As I finish writing this, we're in transit to Fort Lauderdale and will hopefully arrive in about 12 more hours. The wind is calm and the seas rock us gently into a timeless splendor. I know we'll be bombarded with modern, fast-paced life once arriving in Fort Lauderdale, so enjoying this time at sea is of utmost importance.