Whoo Hoo Let’s Celebrate – It’s Our Birthday!
Happy Birthday to the Captain and his Miss for one year living on Miss Catana!
Sailing Through The Alphabet
As I sailed last week I reflected on the lessons learnt and the emotions experienced over the past year, I decided to run through the list as dictated by the English Alphabet, which I might add seems much easier than the Greek Alphabet. (Currently sailing in Greece has put new meaning to the expression it’s all Greek to me.)
Starting at the top…..
Living full time on a boat on the other side of the world, just the two of us, means there is significant alone time, both in the emotional and the physical. Unlike alone in the busy life in Australia, alone seems to have a more physical presence on a boat, it’s like stepping into a different room that is part of my daily surroundings. To survive life on a boat you have to be comfortable living as you do, in the smaller spaces of a boat. Alone is a destination that must be travelled as we navigate toward new destinations. If you don’t like alone, in thoughts or space with one another I suggest you consider another bucket list item.
Bikes are our new alternate mode of transport when on land. The luxury of owning a car belongs to an old life now a bygone era 365 ago. Up hill, down dale, pothole, sinkhole, mud, rain, wind, hot and cold are all suitable conditions to ride if we need to get provisions, boat gear etc. or simply sight seeing. Public Transport or walking are second alternatives, taxi’s are an absolute last resort. Getting into a car is a thrill unless we think the driver has a death wish like our taxi driver in Tunisia. Some of our best times have been exploring new places on our collapsible marine bikes. Bikes on board are simply the best!
Our choice of boat was a big investment in the Euro at the time. Over the past year we have seen a multitude of boats, been aboard and talked to owners and renters on how their boats handle. For us we are happy. Our Catana is fast, feels safe and she is our home. Occasionally I look at the size of a Lagoon that cost the owners less and know they probably had less hassle than us, yet still I wouldn’t change brands. The quality of the boat, in design and product, translates on the water to speed and safety. We have a long way to go before we sail home, the good points remain with us always. Plus dagger boards were a non negotiable after the Captains agreed not to have a monohull. Now we have used daggerboards, I agree with the Captain’s wisdom, they are the best. As to Catana being the best, yes they make great boats but they are a sucky company for after sale service and trying to dodge warranty issues.
Boat dancing as we sail is almost as important as food and drink. Different songs or music speak a language or emotion that transports me to a wonderful place. I care not what others think, it no longer bothers me. No I don’t run out to the front of the boat giving a dancing exhibition, yet a groove while doing the dishes and housework is full of fun, good luck to the passers by who see in. Now I live on a boat I seem to care less what strangers passing by think. I dance as though no one can see me.
Some days sailing and living on a boat are tougher than others. Long, uncomfortable, cold, wet, hot, frustrated, challenged, seasick and scared are just a few adjectives of discomfort. On these days, I find myself gritting my teeth and imagine I am a long distance runner. When times are particularly uncomfortable, words run through my head like perseverance and persistence. As we sail I imagine being stationary as a luxury that I will never take for granted again. My greatest dream luxury is a hot steamy bath. This is a planned event for my 50th birthday at the end of next year. If you are being sold the notion of cruising via a brochure on the Greek Islands you need to know this is only one side of the story.
Fear is an emotion that lives in my world as I live closer to the edge and Mother Nature. We try and do our best to remove the unknown risks, though this is impossible 100% of the time. Learning how to sleep when my Captain is on watch, sailing in strong winds even if reefed right down, is a lesson that continues. On the two occasions of complete dry mouth terror when the wind was letting us know who was boss, I am thankful we live and laughed after these events.
“But for the grace of God go I.” Travelling the world you realise the privilege it is to be born in Australia. To have access to so much that we take for granted. The fact that we are sailing around the world on a catamaran, is a rich wonderous experience that few are able experience and we are doing it. At this point I need to share the truth that we are nothing special. Ordinary folk doing ordinary life. My Captain is a teacher, I worked in an office, we just made this long term plan and were ready to sacrifice and sell our beautiful house, leave those we loved to follow the dream. This life though is NEVER to be taken for granted, it is a very special time indeed.
Even though we are far away, home is a constant that I think about. My thoughts are of my children everyday. Truth is, the people whom we love have released us to live this life. I love it when my youngest said “don’t worry about us Mum not much is happening here compared to there”. To live the big hairy audacious dream you have to be prepared to sacrifice something. For us it was swapping our house for a boat, leaving loved ones as well as financial security, for others it’s just making the decision to leave. Most of all for me it meant leaving a large part of my heart at home in Tasmania.
I had to adjust to not being online 24/7/365. In this new life I miss immediate access to the world wide web and the news of the world. Intermittent access, slow data downloads, even slower uploads mean I appreciate any reasonable quality connection I can get. I now prioritise my usage, weather first, connecting to children, parents, friends and then the rest. Before I left home, I used to have a host of emails every day, now I just get advertising and links to things I subscribed to. My family and friends all communicate via different mediums like Facebook and Viber but I still miss my emails. My email address by the way is firstname.lastname@example.org
Living on sailing boats there are times of pure unfiltered joy. Does it ever get better than this is a thought that moves with me as I witness something simple yet spectacular, or a privilege to share with strangers, moments of generosity and love. There is also joy in sharing the moments with your partner and simple contentment in actually living in the moment.
Boats are not a place of democracy when it comes to sailing. The Captain is King. I have learnt this the hard way in particular when sailing, mooring the boat and laying the anchor. If we don’t agree on something as Captain, he has the final say. For those who don’t know me that is a biggy. Learning that only one can be in charge and deferring to he who must be obeyed has been a big transition for me. I take comfort in the fact that one day when one of the toilets break down, this is the sole domain of the Captain. Also the Captain knows if he takes the king bit too far I will eat his balls for breakfast.
The Captain is often told he is lucky he has a partner that is happy to sail with him. Others say he is unlucky that his wife is with him and somehow the journey for him is somehow diminished by my presence. The fact that so often there are conversations where my place on the journey is discussed, in terms of relationship to my husband not as my own person, is weird and whacky every time it happens. As to luck, the only luck we’ve had were the beds we were born it. The rest was hard work and commitment to the task, also sacrifice in leaving the safety of home. Luck I have found is more willingness to risk and just have a crack at something when it arises.
Money like wind makes the boat go round. Boats are more expensive than you anticipate, even though I thought we had guesstimated more, more was not enough. Money is also an emotional trigger, one that can press fear and doubt buttons if you allow it. Moving to live full time on a boat you have to adjust to the fact that identity is no longer around jobs, possessions or money. You know while you are swanning around, your friends and family are home making more money, whereas we are spending it whilst not making any. Your children don’t get the luxury of having parents close by, their hands in their pockets for them or providing a home at no expense. However I the Miss think guilt is one of the most useless emotions, I try to avoid it.
It’s bloody noisy. Motoring is noisy. Sailing is noisy. Living in port can be noisy. Wind can be loud and disturbing when it stays for days on end, whistling loud and long. Industrial zones are often close to port these can be very loud 24/ 7. Boat maintenance is noisy. I mention this as I thought sailing would be a quiet world, sometimes it is, that’s a perfect day. When the noise you hear is the water moving then it is bliss. So for those who are planning on following in our footsteps get ready for noise, it’s waiting.
You have to be organised on a boat. Everything is easier if you have a place for every thing. A level of tidiness is required also actions to keep things in order. The boat has maintenance and cleaning schedules, meal planning and provisioning and life in general has become a world of order and being prepared. Buying products and equipment for the boat means you need always be forward thinking for the next step or incident. No doubt you can do this life on the fly, put out fires as they come, but it seems to make a tough issue more complex.
Each nautical mile has to be earned. Having to navigate one nautical mile at a time teaches you patience. Life on a boat is slower, more frustrating and less productive if you measure via the cup of my former life. A day’s sailing varies to the need of the travel distance and the wind strength. Once you are on the forward boat path there is no turning back and you must keep going at the pace that is provided by the wind to get you where ever it is we are going. I remember thinking sailing Europe would be a piece of piss and now that I am here I am humbled by the real distances to be had in this place. The last 10 nautical miles are always the longest, for this I can testify.
Quick is bliss. As a non-sailing Miss I had to learn to trust the boat and the conditions around me. Once this process started to happen I soon realized that going at 5 knots or 10 makes a huge difference to the day and arrival time. Fast, but not too fast is better. Even a knot slower each hour makes a massive difference to where we want to go. Turning on the motor when underway gives a sense of failure as it means the wind had turned off. Then again if turning on the motor means not zig zagging to a destination I am happy to do this as well. Just in case you missed it, sailing is a complicated business at times.
Being able to fix and repair, overcome issues on board is the new black. Totally sexy and desirable. I appreciate my Captain when he fixes the motor alarm, changes the oil or makes peace with an unhappy device on the boat. So often if you can’t fix it, it won’t be fixed for quite a while so learning how to do things is a priority aboard and one we have put a great deal of energy into. Both of us have been embracing all aspects of how our boat works. It is amazing to me how interested I have become in all matters boat. Electrical work is a fail for both the Captain and I and previous times of small electrical shocks have taught me that some things need to be left to the experts.
Sailing seems to be a man’s world. So many boats are male crew, either one alone or a little tribe of men doing the MENS business without female company. Some men have sailed for years with partners and the female has now had enough, while other men had produced an ultimatum that be life on the boat or no life together. The outcome of the decision is evident. Maybe it is the places we have chosen to travel in but over the past year when we hit the shore, I have become a second. I hate the term Second Mate. Maybe it is because I place too much importance on words, yet I find the title uncomfortable. A truth for me on many a dock I have become invisible, ignored, or worse talked down to, or even told I am not speaking to you it is the Captain the speaker wishes to engage with. WTF it drives me nuts but as to a solution there is none as when it happens I am guest in someone else’s hometown.
Travel means different things to different people. Sailing and cruising for us is not about ticking off one city to city list it is about living the life of the locals whilst sharing and looking around. The pace and the journey is as important as the destination. Cruising allows you to travel to places often missed off the major tourist maps and to then experience the life as a local. Unlike a cruise ship in port you have time to visit and explore each place well. Instead of 2 or 6 hours you can have 12, 24 or 2 weeks if you wish to find the hidden treasures of a city or country.
Sailing the big blue, any sea where you can’t see the land is a humbling experience. You soon realise that the world is a big place and the ocean is old and eternal like the rocks and mountains. The sea doesn’t care if you are on her or not, it is not your friend nor your enemy. It just is. How we choose to deal with the conditions of the sea is the important aspect we must consider all the time. The life of a sailor gives you time and place to consider the big questions of life. I am not saying that I have any answers to the big questions, yet now I have a life that allows me to live true and with time to ponder and work out what is worthy.
For me seasickness is a fact of life. Not every day, not in the same sea conditions just every now and then when the motion affects me. At first I tried to cope with seasickness by using the solutions offered by the Captain who is never seasick. Stay in the fresh air, do something and keep relatively cool he tells me. What does he who is never seasick know? For me I now know that when the malaise overcomes I need to lay down, close my eyes and stay warm. If I can a little simple food is good yet this can be a challenge all on it’s own. I also know that sea sickness will pass and this is just another aspect of the journey to be endured. Take heart readers at least I still clean up my own vomit and at times regardless of how crap I feel, I still assist.
What is the name of the wind? You can be as sure as the pope is a catholic that in each country the wind has a name. This is because even for those who don’t live on the sea it is still all about the wind. The wind is a beautiful precious friend or a dick of a neighbour depending on the day, or moment. As a sailor you leave port or stay according to the whim of the wind. In Canet France we were ready, no, desperate to go for three weeks, instead we watched and waited for the wind to stop howling and making life miserable. 65 knot gusts meant we were happy to wait for the wind. Then there is wind perfection. The 15 to 20 knot breeze on the side/beam and the boat zings along. Hot days a small wind is welcome, cold days wind adds to the cold. Regardless of day and condition the wind is in charge and we are it’s humble servants.
The abundance of time and lack of life’s normal pressures means there is more time for sex. If this is an overshare I say sorry to my children now. Yet this is an unexpected pleasure that I hadn’t really considered before this journey begun. No more need be said except it is a sailing bonus.
Yours. Mine. Ours. Our boat is our home and we have a huge sense of pride and love towards her. As an Australian flagged vessel it is considered a little piece of Australia that moves around when visiting other countries. You must ask permission to board her. When we get off our boat and look back from some hill top it makes me glad of where I am and where I am going to. I love that my boat says my hometown name, Hobart. I the Miss belong to you our boat, we are yours and Hobart and I are coming home the long way round.
A boat is a perfect place for a zombie apocalypse. My dooms day planning means I have thought about how self-sufficient we are on a boat. We make our own power to move, our own water to drink and have a wonderful sewage and power system that keeps us comfortable. This means we can stay away from land for a very long time. What is a fail in our current planning is fish. Where are the fish in the Mediterranean? as we still haven’t managed to catch the elusive tuna? So if the zombies should ever come we will be in a fine place for survival.
Perhaps I have too much time to watch all episodes of The Walking Dead in one hit…..
In the A to Z of the Miss sailing, I admit I missed off many words like anchoring and yacht, but for every word chosen I could have chosen another 2, and on this day the words I picked were important. Still anchoring almost overtook alone, as anchoring has been a big part of the first year dramas as regulars will know.
PS if the Zombies should happen to swim, I presume like the rest, we will be stuffed.
PPS Prior to leaving, I was told by one who had gone before us and lived life on a boat, it’s not the first year that is hard but the second year that sorts the wannabes to the real sailors. So another year to watch this space, apparently it is the second birthday that counts. Regardless “Happy Birthday” to my Captain, this Miss our boat Miss Catana.