There is no rhyme or reason to this post except to make a few observations about life aboard. First, life aboard a sailboat is MUCH harder in some ways than shore life. That isn’t a jab at land-lubbers, just humble observations from someone who has lived both. Life aboard a small sailboat teaches you to be very deliberate in your actions. Not only must you be deliberate, you must be deliberate each and every time. One hand for the boat, one for yourself is an absolute RULE, at all times, even in calm water. Where you place your feet can be the difference between falling overboard or moving safely about decks.
Planning And Diligence
Stepping ashore from the dinghy on uneven, loose ground and you risk falling into polluted water or injury. Once ashore, you battle heat and mosquitoes. Before exiting the car, we routinely plan our next moves.
“You grab these two bags of provisions,” says Shannon. “I’ll get the pups.”
We sit for a few moments to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything. Meanwhile, the pups are in the back of the car looking at us with anticipation, waiting for direction. Then we move, deliberately, to execute our plan. Get everyone safely from shore into the dink. Power the dink safely across the water and tied alongside Banjo. Try not to bump the throttle too quickly and scare the pups. Hoist the pups, and ourselves, onto Banjo. Fasten the lifelines to prevent any of us from falling overboard.
Aboard, you are constantly aware of electric consumption. Gone are the days of leaving a computer or television playing while someone isn’t actively watching. Each amp-hour consumed must be replaced. We strive to keep our battery bank topped off with wind and solar power. Tomorrow might be raining or overcast, and on those days, you simply limit your usage to those things absolutely necessary. We rely, as much as possible, on the winds and the sun. But most systems aboard require some power; even turning on the kitchen sink faucet.
Also, we are constantly aware of our water consumption. Although Banjo holds 200 gallons of fresh water, with each drop consumed we list a little more to starboard. It’s not much of a list mind you, but it is there. Yes, we have the ability to make fresh water. But that ability must be balanced with the consumption of power.
Of course we can always elect to run our engine or our external generator, but even those actions consume fuel that must be purchased. There seems to always be a compromise, or trade-off. Each debt to the universe and to the boat must be paid in full. We weigh out our desires versus our needs.
This morning, Shannon and I were both awakened at 03:00 by flashes of lightening and claps of thunder. Last night, we had forgotten to check the weather and hurried to decks in order to close hatches during a downpour. Imagine, if you will, my naked butt illuminated by flashes of lightning, drenched and cold. Lesson learned.
These past couple weeks at anchor have taught us more about the sailing life than any time before. And we love it.
Although we no longer really track which day of the week it is, we are aware of hours of the day. Not because of an obligation to an employer, but because we know, intrinsically, that our dogs need to visit shore. At least until we can figure out a way to make them comfortable to relieve themselves aboard.
It is a struggle. There are never enough hours or energy in a single day. Projects abound. There is always something that requires attention. Checklists and constant attention is critical. We have lists of checklists. Daily, weekly, monthly… all must be satisfied. Our lives depend on these systems.
Each day we awake to the glow of the sky and get to work. We check and recheck systems to ensure they are functioning properly. We dedicate our energies to making Banjo a safer, more capable vessel. With Focus and determination, we are slowly learning to rely on Banjo, and letting her rely on us for life aboard. We are her caretakers. And she is our lifeline.
What do we gain for all of the effort? Well, each day we sample simple pleasure of life aboard. For example, coffee, shared together, in the cool morning air is a daily habit. Sitting in the cockpit, together, we watch the sky grow ever brighter.
In the evenings, even when the air is motionless and stale, we watch the sun dip over the western horizon. Each sky a unique masterpiece unto itself. We sometimes wonder, amidst all of the chaos, if anyone else is even looking. There, against the setting sun, is the skyline so many of our ancestors watched intently. We are sure they were as amazed at the beauty as we are. This retrospective, apart from the chaos of modern life, is part of the essence of life aboard.
There are nights, when the moon is full and radiant, that we brave the bugs and the heat to capture a brief moment of the night sky. We count the stars. We marvel at the heavens. The waters below are glassy reflections of the universe above. There is calm, and peace here. Shadows are cast and light captures the very essence of nature. There is life everywhere. Each life given over to it’s respective portion of the day, or night. How have we, as a human species, forgotten this? How have we lost respect for it?
We retire to our cabin and dream deep, as the waters rock us gently to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day and, that too, will be deliberate. The new day may bring challenges, but we will face those moments. There will be disappointments, and innovations, but each moment of our life aboard will be exalted with gratitude. Although there may only be few of us, who feel nature in this way, it gives me happiness that you sailors are out there. Meanwhile, thank you for allowing us to share our thoughts with you.