Lessons Learnt as a Fulltime Live Aboard:
I had one of those Facebook “memories” from 2 years ago pop up recently and it was all about my trials and tribulations as a new live aboard.
Yikes, I bitched about it a lot! I have found a way around most of the things that totally blew my tiny mind 2 short years ago but I do wish I had read more and not had the (yes, I know, we all have it) vision in my head of eternal sunsets and champagne cruises while I swan around in a sarong and a large sunhat.
It. Doesn’t. Happen. Like. That.
When I look back, I am really proud of how far I have come given that I literally cried for the first 6 months. I couldn’t get on and off the bow of the boat in the marina at high tide unless I could do impressive trapeze artist moves (I couldn’t), my arms ached from all the carrying of food and water, never mind the wine…. nobody warns you about that. If you want: water, food, clean laundry, boat equipment and most importantly wine on board, you’ve got to carry it! Far. (And then do said trapeze movements to get on this Mount Kilimanjaro looming up in front of you). So, after a while you learn to plan better, shop in smaller quantities (always remember, wine first) so you don’t dislocate a shoulder carrying a heavy load. Got a washing machine on board now too , helps with the laundry day blues! Only place we could fit it was in the lazarette, looks weird, do you think I care??
The lack of personal space.…it seems obvious but why didn’t I realise that 43 foot shared amongst 2 people is NOTHING. Firstly, the lack of cupboard space, then, if you find a home for everything you have to unpack the whole damn boat to find a snorkel or a flipper. Until you get organised, which I did, now everything has its place and my skipper can ask me for anything from the spare battery water (he did this last week) to my eyebrow tweezers and I know where it is. Why? Well, I took a deep breath and realised if I did not want to be infuriated with stuff left lying around I would put it away where I could find it. Every single time. Save yourself the frustration, if something is not working or bothering you – fix it. Makes everyone happy. I can bitch about the wet towels on the floor or I can hang them up in 13 seconds. All about choices.
I thought my world had ended when I realised I could not have a 15 minute, blazing hot, soapy shower with bubbles and foam everywhere every day. Now, if at sea, I hit a hot shower every 3 days, it’s a bonus and usually means the engine has had to be running for a while. Small things in life that now make me SO happy! I don’t miss the pedicures anymore, I have broken 3 toes in 2 years, and they are all pretty scarred and battered anyway. I have learnt that if I take my faithful orange plastic basin and fill it with warm(ish) water, I can give my partner a good foot bath and massage. Don’t worry about the hairdresser, that’s what sunhats are for, not big floppy sunhats, proper boat caps that stay on tight and make your hair look like a mushroom when you take them off at the end of the day. Loads of conditioner and you will always have soft, silky, lovely smelling hair. It is VERY important to do some “girly” routines, manicure, pedicure, paint your nails, pluck your eyebrows (or those damn chin hairs), you feel better when you are a bit groomed.
I don’t worry about cute stripy sailor shirts and matching shorts, if it’s waterproof/ luminous, /doesn’t crinkle / can be worn a few times before it walks to the laundry basket by itself and dries in a flash, I’m wearing it. Yes, I still fall overboard occasionally (and it is not ALL wine induced) but I don’t care, I will jump on to that moving jetty with a howling wind at my back and choppy waves smashing all around me with a rope in my mouth (ok, I’m getting carried away now) to tie up my boat. I do not care anymore who is watching and judging, I can do this.
I think one of the biggest things I have learnt is patience, resilience and being able to adapt. The day NEVER turns out as you expect it to. Factor in the weather and its sudden changes and that something is almost ALWAYS needing some attention on the boat or has just randomly broken, you need to learn to let go and handle it. I have woken up happy and 5 minutes later feel like I want to cry but slowly , slowly, very slowly, I have taught myself to take a deep breath and say ” you got this.” Once you ask yourself if you would rather face hours in traffic and a shitty boss or a blocked eds problem, I promise you, you will pick the heads!
Used to moan about the “noisy” wind too, can you believe it? Once again, I just didn’t put 2 and 2 together. I mean logically I know that wind + sea + 3 sails all up = a damn good sail. Nobody told me the boat leans over at a ridiculous angle while you are doing this. That you cannot cook at this angle, you cannot pee and you cannot pour wine! Yet, now I can! That reminds me, used to feel like a baby elephant trying to squeeze in to the galley space, wanted all the cupboards ripped out to make it “spacious”. Hah! Now I can wedge myself in there, one leg out straight, balancing me against the opposite side of the galley, glass of wine in hand, casually cooking a meal, all while practically standing on my head
Used to hate it but now I love , love , love that exhilarating rush as the boat leans right over and the water is so close you feel the spray hitting your face and you are positive you will slide right off the boat in to the glorious ocean. Of course you don’t and the adrenaline, partly terrified, rush is so good that a sail with no wind is just not a sail anymore!
As for “all that rolling” I used to moan about when trying to sleep…..I battle now whenever I am on land, I can’t sleep if I am lying still. I miss the gentle rocking; it makes my world feel at peace when I close my eyes. I miss the water gurgling past just the other side of the cosy (yes, its cosy now, used to be called “that bloody, tiny, cramped space”) cabin , the gentle creaking of the ropes as they tighten and slack and keep us safe, the call of the birds and that fresh, pure smell of clean, salty air.
Its a lifestyle few are lucky or brave enough to experience. It is hard. It is challenging. It can be terrifying. We have been in a terrifying storm, dismasted in the Atlantic, but we have had heart stoppingly beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the ocean too. It is a calling, a yearning for adventure, the love of the sea, the ache for adventure and living life as best we can that sends us on theses ocean journeys to the far flung corners of the world, way out of our comfort zones. Brave , brave, strong people that we are.
Good lord, what’s happened, think they might make a sailor out me yet!