Jackie Parry – author

What do you do all day? / Living with yourself . . .

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Here’s a piece I wrote detailing a “normal” day – even if there is no such thing! . . . 

Pelagic People by Jackie Parry

It’s one of those questions that is hard to articulate an answer to. “What do you do all day?” It is tricky to know how respond because no two days are the same whether in port or at sea. Eventful, is the only recurring activity. We are never bored. In fact one boring day would be a little balm to our busy bodies. Those who are landlubbers or boat owners with vast vaults of money, so someone else can take care of the vessel, may well ask. But for the majority of us, simply living on a boat is a full time job.

Today I had no fixed plans; Noel was looking forward to working with the Aries wind vane. If I wake up in the mood I usually spend the first hour or two writing. I have non-nautical writing projects too. Related photos and paperwork takes time. I try to keep on top of the receipts, separating boat costs with writing costs for tax purposes. Preventing plagues of paperwork helps keep stress at bay and therefore a happy boat.

During the Aries/writing work, a fellow cruiser/neighbour rowed over to say “hi” and could he borrow a tool. He sat with us for thirty minutes while we put the sailing world to rights. He noticed the pretty birds we had perched on the pull pit. I noticed copious plops of poo. After a cuppa I dug out a bucket, tied it on, hauled up salty water and washed the offending material away. Ropes furled onto the stanchions had also been selected as a preferred toilet, so after washing with salty water, I then carefully rinsed the salt off with fresh. I have seen wire ties sticking up on top of stanchions to keep birds at bay, but you need a lot. I thought I’d try Vaseline. Smearing a thin layer on the top bar I caught more than the odd glance in my direction from others on anchor. Within half an hour a couple of my feathered friends slipped and slid on my trap, but still stayed and pooped. I added more Vaseline in little peaks. Two hours later not a feather or dropping has materialised. I must remember to wipe it off before we move tomorrow.

I had been contemplating a small job for a while and finally it was time enough to do, not think. The through deck mast has a small gap around it in the saloon floor, which is magnet for anything dropped. The deep cavern below the floor boards creates an interesting retrieval challenge. I found some old rope that was wide enough diameter. Rummaging through the f’ward storage took some time and effort. I found the ideal piece; messed around on my knees a while to achieve the right length, then cut the critter. I had whipped the rope at the desired length first. Our makeshift hot knife works well, just a small gas bottle and a reasonably sharp paint scraper. Next I sewed it in place which was far less demanding that I thought.

Throughout this morning, Noel has been merrily working on adapting our emergency steering to connect up the Aries. Between our jobs Noel and I call on each other to “hold that” “what do you think about this?” and “how about that?” type discussions. Noel’s job was particularly complex; there are stairs, hydraulic bypasses, hatches and life rafts to think about above and beyond the fixtures and fittings of the equipment itself. Today I came up with the idea of removing the pins from the hinges of the hatch to lift it over the emergency tiller arm, which simplified Noel’s original idea.  Noel had already helped me prior to this by saying it was better to make something to stop stuff falling down the hole next the mast in the first place, rather than catch them, which was my initial idea.

We are both lucky that we can listen to each other, take different ideas onboard, casting our own out or amending them without worrying. I think it’s called brainstorming, we are good at this, both not shy of outrageous ideas, often they are a bit quirky, but sometimes a real gem shines through. Either way we are often giggling.

After grappling with the sewing under a table on my knees, I needed an upright job. We have sacks of rice and powdered milk purchased in cardboard containers. I had been saving plastic milk cartons for better storage. I washed them for a second time and dried them in the sun. A few drops of vanilla essence rid any lingering smells. Using an enormous and clumsy funnel the dry ingredients were poured into the containers. At sea these foods are now easily accessible and free of moisture. Generally messy, playing with flour means the galley looks like it has a light dusting of snow. Sweeping the floor is an almost daily event. I am constantly astonished at the dust collected in the dust pan. Fear of little doodads surreptitiously installing themselves in the bilge pumps motivates frequent use of the broom.

Last job for me today is some amendments to the newly made dinghy cover. It requires some touch up stitching and relocation of Velcro. Taking it off and putting in back on takes longer than the job itself. Noel has called the Police Dock to give them 24hr notice of our intended move of location tomorrow. There are strict limits to length of stay at anchor in San Diego and rules of notification.

Throughout the day we’ve monitored power levels, turned off/ on equipment to keep our battery levels over 75%. It has been a sunny day, so there is plenty of power via the panels, just a small breeze not enough to turn wind generators. Among these tasks Noel and I take pictures for this article. In the evening I download some pictures, file them in appropriate files so they can be found easily. Noel is cooking dinner.

The day is stitched together with everyday chores, brekkie, lunch and dinner, washing up (shared by us both, whom ever feels the more inclined). Cleaning, dusting and putting things away (always ready to move in an emergency).

I didn’t get to cleaning the wheels of the trolley (used for carrying water jerry jugs), treating it with WD40 and stowing or fitting the metal grates in the bilges to stop debris falling into the very lowest and difficult to reach part of the bilge. The canvas shade need some work. That may be for tomorrow. However, the anchorage we are moving to tomorrow has internet access. So some time will be spent on catching up with friends and family. Noel is keen to start on the deck wash pump, the latest piece of equipment to install onboard. (“Tomorrow” became filled with a joint effort at an electrical job and laundry, maybe I’ll get in that bilge tomorrow!)

There is always something to fix, maintain, improve or add on. Once the boat is running smoothly, we try to do one main job a day, around the day to day chores. Then occasionally we can have a day off for sight-seeing or simply enjoying swinging on anchor.

Life onboard is like occupational therapy; as long as you accept it as such, it is mostly smooth sailing. You still have to live with your partner and more pertinent but often not considered – you still have to live with yourself. . . .

What’s your view of a “normal” day when living aboard?

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Author: jackieandnoel

Author and Traveller

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