I didn’t talk to my husband for two days when his peculiar answers to my naïve nautical questions reached my bewildered ears. Back then, as a mere fledgling to sailing, my raw researching met brutal honesty. Seeking a sailboat and home, to travel the planet, I tried to grasp the financials and what, exactly, was I letting myself in for.
“How much does it cost to buy and then maintain a boat?” Coming from the corporate world I was gearing up to write in-depth project and budget plans, but abruptly shook those thoughts from my organised head when Noel replied.
“It’ll take every penny we have.”
“Oh right, well, what’s so great about sailing?” Expecting to be assailed with vivid pictures of slicing, splendidly through clear, flat water, with handsome palm trees and white sandy beaches supplying a dreamlike backdrop, the image shattered as Noel’s ruthless reply tore through my reverie,
“Getting to port,” he said, “and the local bar”.
Seven years later and over 40,000 miles clocked, I can see the wisdom in his answers.
Enduring the Escapade
Long term cruising is an incredible adventure and hard work. Arriving in a new country or town, our thoughts steer to, how do we check in? Where do we get fuel and potable water? How much is it?
The men talk amps and engines the girls talk laundry and supermarkets. Noel, Mariah and I are on our last leg in the superb south Pacific Ocean. Aside from reflecting on our magnificent voyage so far, a few ludicrous “learning’s” deserve a mention.
First, let’s be positive. Our escapade divorces and insulates us from the world’s day-to-day problems. We are not ashamed to bury our heads in the sand and enjoy the “ignorance is bliss” scenario, while we can. News never changes; it is sad and depressing today and tomorrow.
Frequently we meet like-minded people, of all nationalities, where age is no friendship barrier. Hooking up with similar sized boats and sharing the ocean brings the comfort of companionship and the joy in sharing the dolphins that play on our bow during those perfect sailing days.
Mostly, for us, it is the freedom of living simply. We have no letterbox where small bits of paper with large numbers intrude into our sanctuary, sucking dry the bank account to allow landlubber luxuries. And yes, there is the odd G & T (Vodka for me please) while watching spectacular sunsets, doing an anchor pirouette, savouring the sedate, shifting views as we would fine wine.
Secrets of the initiated
Over the year’s advice, hints and tips have deluged our salt saturated minds until our armpits are all but overflowing. We thought we’d heard it all, but here are some unmentionables that we learned along the way:
(1) Constipation – the most fluid of us struggle on long trips. On watch, the comfy cockpit seat will become well acquainted with your behind, causing, what we refer to as – the cork effect.
(2) Seasickness – the toughest of us will become seasick. After corkscrewing for 48 hours solid, your tummy will give up all hope of hanging onto to anything. Most of us unwillingly feed the fish at some point. It is like puberty, you just have to get through it. Despite suicidal thoughts during the worst bouts of seasickness, once you have reached your haven and spent a few days in flat water, going back out into lumpy seas suddenly becomes a good idea again. On the plus side it is a great diet!
(3) Toilet tantrums – at some point most marine toilets will block. If you have not been allocated the repair task, leave the boat while it is being fixed. Build up of pressure while trying to pump it clear will create the most spectacular explosion. Becoming AWOL at this time will help avoid a good dose of (5).
(4) Landlubbers – your farewell from home will be tearful, exciting and filled with unfulfilled promises from friends and family, who assure you that they will keep you up to date on home happenings. After two years you will be grateful for an email once every six months from your bestest buddies, all of which think you spend your entire life sitting on the aft deck sipping G & T.
(5) Arguments – the closest relationship will suffer at times. Falling out with your spouse is inevitable especially when you are woken three and a half minutes before you are due on watch at 3 am. Learn to talk about it and laugh, it can get damn lonely otherwise and create a yearning for (4).
(6) Moon-fright – the moon is crafty bugger. You know it is due to rise, but as you scan the horizon there is a luminous light that assumes the shape of an approaching aircraft carrier. This will be the moon, strategically cloaked with black cloud to form heart-stopping shapes. However, the moon will become your buddy, especially if dealing with number (5).
(7) Cravings – two days out of a long haul sail you will desperately desire all those things you haven’t got. Roast chicken, ice cream…
(8) Spiders – having abhorrence to the skittering critters my husband assured me that life on board meant no spiders. This seems reasonable, after all we are away from land a lot of the time. Reality is that I am sure we have had a hand inter breeding crawly critters from different countries, probably creating a whole new weird and wonderful breed.
(9) Time – boat maintenance is a full time job in addition to washing, cleaning and sourcing supplies. If you are fortunate enough to momentarily catch up, items (1) or (2) – or both if you are unlucky, will fill the gaps. At the end of each day you’ll just have time to read a page or two of that book you’ve always wanted to read, before sparking out.
(10) Fishing – you will fish once per trip. After you have heaved the huge dolphin fish on board and it has thrashed itself to death, splattering blood over the clean, white cockpit and your battle weary body, the fishing gear will gather salt in the Lazorette for the rest of the journey. By the next trip, you will have forgotten the sticky mess and break out the lines.
(11) Sinking – on your watch, typically in the graveyard hours, you’ll check the bilge for the last time before the welcome warmth of bed and the bilge will be full of water. Instantaneously you are wide-awake and have no problem in screeching at your partner who is obviously having their best ever sleep. Turning the mains off is not an option and two hours later you will find the solution to the problem is something as simple as greasing the stern gland. Finally, you’ll crawl into bed and the stampeding adrenaline will keep you awake until twenty minutes before you are due back on watch.
(12) Plip-plop – you will loose something overboard, deal with it, it is gone.
(13) Fitness – you will not become fit sailing. Although you do become trim, see (2).
(14) Turning back – face facts that the storm you can no longer punch into has beaten you. It is not failure to turn back, it is common sense and above all the boat’s and your safety – also helps relieve item (2).
(15) On a long passage – when the fresh food has all gone (and if you are like us, without fridge) after a week tinned food will taste all the same. It will have that unmistakable metallic flavour (tinny flavouring assists number (2)).
(16) Dust – dust will collect with intensity, especially in those tiny, boat shape, awkward places. Adds to (9).
(17) Company – your partner is only ten feet away sleeping below, at that time you are single-handing. It can be lonely, maybe a good thing if dealing with (1), (2) or (5)!
(18) Plunging – on moonless nights you plunge into thick darkness, with peripheral vision coming to a shocking end at the bow. It’s best not to dwell on this too much.
(19) Meteorites – the dark nights are abundant with “shooting stars”, but watch for the big ones. Out of nowhere, a spot light will beam down on you while you sit quietly in the cockpit minding your own business. A huge, bright meteorite will give you occasion to create a few more grey hairs.
(20) Advice – some will be good and some, well, let’s just say, some will be totally fictitious. You will meet some gold medal winning “know it alls”, for example this article, is it fact or fiction? – best way is to get out there and find out for yourself.
For lots more great tips, tricks, ideas and advice on living on board, see our book Cruisers’ AA.