Thursday, March 18, 2010

The complexity of simplicity

This is aimed at land based readers. Our fellow cruisers are in the same boat – so to speak. It was inspired by one of John D Cook's blog entries

We lead a very simple life. Or do we? Living on a sailboat, we’re off the grid. No car. No cable. In fact, we do not own a TV. We don’t own a land-based home. We’re free to travel the seas as we please. It sounds sort of like a simple life. Some people who do this truly do simplify their lives. The purists enjoy the challenge of leaving technology and convenience behind.

I thought it would be a simpler life, and in some ways it is; but we’re not as tough as the purists who get their fresh water by collecting rainwater, go to bed when the sun goes down, use the sun to heat water for showers and do laundry by hand. The true purists don’t even have marine toilets on board – they use a method called “bucket & chuck it".

Budgetary issues dictate that we must be very prudent about when we splurge by tying up at a marina slip. We anchor whenever possible or tie up at a mooring ball.

Rather than living the easy middle class existence we’d had on land, we now live a more complicated existence. We rely on laundromats – hauling laundry and supplies back and forth. We’re thrilled when we’re at a city that has good public transportation. The grocery shopping list is limited to what we can carry.

We make our own electricity. And we’re both electricity hogs. We use our computers to get news, stay in contact with friends and family, and for some entertainment. We stay up and read. We have solar panels that do a good job, a wind generator that needs repair just now, and a portable Honda generator for which we have to haul gasoline.

Our fresh water tanks hold 150 gallons. When we run out we can either head for a marina fuel dock where there’s water available, or haul our 6 gallon jugs in the dinghy to a water source. Four 6 gallon jugs at roughly 50 pounds each (because we overfill as much as possible) make a water run a bit of a workout. No we don’t fill the tanks to capacity – we just get 4 jugs of water at a time so we’re doing 1 water run each week when we’re at anchor or on a mooring for any length of time.

Our two 10 pound propane tanks (for cooking) last a long time but when they need refilling we can’t take them in either a bus or a taxi. Replenishing propane means either getting a ride from someone or renting a car.

Except when we’re at sea, the toilets drain into holding tanks. Some places have pump-out boats that will come to us, but when that’s not available it’s a trip to a marina dock that has pump-out.

And then there’s mail. We use an excellent mail forwarder so it’s not an issue but just one more thing that’s not as simple as on land.

Ah, the simple life. Last Fall when we were taking a vacation, my daughter said “But you’re always on vacation!’ Yeah, right.

But I’m just explaining, not complaining. Some day we’ll be ready to become CLODs (Cruisers Living On Dirt) but not just yet.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Accepting Reality

It is pretty clear that we'll stay in Vero Beach again this year until it's time to head north.  Bad colds and the lingering coughs took a good two weeks of feeling completely whipped.  But we're still in slug mode.  There are lots of things we need to do but neither of us has gotten our act together enough to do them.  If we're not careful, we won't be ready when we need to be.

I really wanted to go to the Bahamas again this year.  It's too late to go now.  I'd thought for a while that it would just be great to go someplace else.  But where?  Florida south of us hasn't had much warmer weather than we've had.  Not worth the effort. And we heard yesterday that the train of cold fronts we've had here have affected the Bahamas, too.

I guess the upside is that I've tried a few new recipes that turned out pretty well.  Always nice to add some variety to the menu.

At least with the full enclosure around the cockpit we can sit outside and read.  On a fully sunny day it gets like a sauna up there.

So how do we get ourselves motivated????  Maybe by beginning to plan where we'll stop when we leave here.  Time to get out the guide books.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Living aboard vs. cruising

Location: Vero Beach, FL

I love cruising. I'm not so sure about living aboard. The two concepts are separate in my mind. Yes, cruising means living aboard; but not vice-versa.

To me, cruising means traveling to different places. We stay a little while in each place and then move on. There's the adventure of the passage from one place to another. The sea is beautiful and ever changing. Conditions can be challenging. It is interesting and exciting and keeps us on our toes. When we're cruising, our boat is perfect. There's always something new to explore wherever we stop. It's great.

But when we spend a long time in one place, we're "living aboard" with all the attached inconveniences. We can't afford to stay in a slip for more than the occasional one or two nights, so we have limited electricity, we must haul our fresh water to the boat, and land transportation is often a problem. That's why I don't like to stay in one place too long. When we've arrived at someplace new, these are minor issues because there's exploring to be done. But after a few weeks, the galley is just a tiny kitchen. The top-loading refrigerator is a real pain in the butt because whatever I want is buried underneath something else,. The head is just a miniscule bathroom. If I'm going to stay in one place, I miss the conveniences of living on land. Suddenly becoming a dirt dweller again looks pretty good.

As I write this we've been In Vero Beach, FL too long. A nice little condo somewhere sounds very attractive. We still have some repairs to do before we can leave. I hope they get done soon. I wanna go sailing! GET ME OUTTA HERE!!!!!!

Sounding like a local

Wherever we travel, there's a always a certain level of acceptance that comes from sounding as though you're a local. Not necessarily a native, but someone who knows the local terminology. Even when you tell people that you're "not from around here" you're not treated as much like an outsider if you have at least some of the right lingo.

In Minnesota it may mean nodding knowingly when someone says "uff da". Sometimes it's food related like knowing what a grinder is.

In Massachusetts, part of it is in the pronunciation of some of the town names. We stay in Salem, get our annual physicals in Haverhill and do some of our shopping in Peabody. Salem isn't a problem but the other two will get snickers from locals if you pronounce them they way they're spelled.

Haverhill. No, it's not Haver-hill. It's Hay-vril with the emphasis on the first syllable. That's the easy one.<

Peabody is more difficult to master. It's not Pea-body. Its Peeb-dee - again with the emphasis on the first syllable. Takes some practice to avoid putting a vowel between the b and the d.

It's all just part of our ongoing education.

Dreams vs. Reality

Originally published October, 2008

We had big plans when we began this adventure. We were going to sail the South Pacific visiting all the wonderful islands. We'd circumnavigate Australia. We'd continue heading west going around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, cross the Atlantic and finally end up in the Caribbean and back in the US after as many years as necessary to see all we wanted to see. It sounded wonderful - it still does.
But we've come to realize that we won't do that. Perhaps if we'd started 10 or 15 years earlier it would have been achievable. But now we simply don't have the energy and stamina to undertake an expedition of that magnitude.

Well, one of the most important characteristics of our lifestyle is flexibility. Circumstances change as new information becomes available and new plans get developed. So the reality is that we'll stay in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean and that's not exactly hardship. There are a lot of islands to explore and we'll try to get to some different ones every year. Maybe not as ambitious as the original dream,
but there's plenty of adventure to be had in our own hemisphere.

Endless Summer – without A/C

Originally published June, 2008

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. How about “For every advantage there is an almost equal and opposite disadvantage”?

Don’t get me wrong; I still think that I’d rather be too warm than too cold. But living with constant heat does take some getting used to. Even when we lived in San Diego, we had a winter of a sort – cool enough to need jackets and a furnace in the house. Now that we’re following the sun I have a new perspetive on living in an endless summer. I sort of understand the way of life described in the deep south in the days before electricity but I still can’t imagine what it was like at 90 degrees with 85% humidity wearing the many layers of clothing they wore back then. Heat is debilitating.

Even wearing the scanty summer clothes of modern life, it can get very uncomfortable when there’s work to be done. We do our chores in spurts with rests in between to have a cool drink and let the sweat dry off a bit. There’s not the constant moving from one task to another that we were used to. And it is very easy to postpone those sweat producing tasks until they become big jobs instead of mere tasks.

So am I complaining? Maybe grumbling just a little when I’ve got sweat dripping off my nose; but not really. It’s mostly a matter of adjusting to it. We don’t have air conditioning. If we did have, we’d spend far too much time down below staying cool. We’d miss the passing parade of life and that would be a shame. As I write this, we’ve been in 80+ degree temps for as long as I can remember. We did wear sweatshirts one night while on passage but that was unusual. I think I’ll take my ginger ale out into the cockpit and see what’s going on.