It’s just after 5AM, and I’m sitting in the cockpit, bundled up in long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a quilt, sipping hot coffee. The many cockerels of Salinas (where cock fighting a bit of a thing, apparently) are singing their morning chorus, although the sun won’t be up for another two hours, and there’s a manatee snuffling about just outside the cockpit. I know everyone who knows me is shocked and horrified that I’m awake before dawn, given my legendary dislike of early mornings, but I feel great — largely because I collapsed into bed at 8 last night, utterly exhausted after working my ass off for days.
Since the beginning of the new year, I’ve sewn new cushion covers for all the inside cushions, replaced the galley faucet and begun painting the entire interior. Oh, and hosted a friend for a week’s visit.
It was fantastic to hang out with Kacy. The cushion covers look marvelous, even though we have to keep them covered with old sheets to protect them from spills/cat hair/cat claws, etc. The faucet is something I should have done two years ago (in my defense, I couldn’t find one that would fit two years ago…) and only took a day; it would have taken two hours but for the inevitable ONE corroded, stuck bolt that had me on my back under the sink doing sit ups for three hours trying to release it. The first coat of new paint on the interior has made a striking difference, again prompting us to ask why we didn’t do these jobs two years ago. (Oh, right, we were concentrating on CRITICAL system repairs..) But the bottom line is, I’ve been BUSY, and it’s exhausting.
Which is why, when I was talking to my friend Rachel the other day and asked with some trepidation how I felt about returning to work, you know, working all day, my immediate thought was, “Wow, that sounds nice right about now.” You know, sitting in a chair all day, interacting with smart people, using my brain for something other than trying to figure out how to remove a bolt for three hours, actually having weekends when you don’t feel guilty about not working … nice.
But it’s not just that. I had to laugh because the boat “work” is only the beginning of boat work, and the second part of my response to whether I’m worried about returning to work was that I am very willing at this point to work for 8 hours of my day in exchange for the conveniences of modern life (like, say, water that just comes from a tap without having to fetch it in jugs) and enough money not only to afford normal, small luxuries, but actually pay people to do things for me, like, say, eat a meal out to avoid the labor of making dinner. There’s a wonderful freedom of living on a boat, and lots of amazing things you get to see and do, but the perception that most people have that you’re on vacation, or not working, or living the dream, is just total crap.
In that spirit, let me list some of the things I won’t miss (and, yes, I’ll let you know what do miss later on):
- Waking up in the middle of the night worried about a storm (that wouldn’t even have woken me up an a house)
- Cooking in a tiny kitchen with a two burner stove
- Not having refrigeration/hauling ice to the boat daily if we want cold food
- Having to re-arrange the entire fridge (now a cooler) just to get one little thing out of the bottom of it
- Taking Army showers (get wet, turn off water, soap up, rinse)
- Taking showers only every other day or less
- Hauling 4 5-gallon water jugs, which weigh 40 lbs apiece, from the marina to the boat in a dinghy, every two days
- Running around covering all the cockpit cushions and closing every window every time it rains
- Vacuuming every other day to keep the filth at bay in a tiny space
- Just how dirty boat life is
- Making up my bed each night (not making it, actually taking cushions off the couch and putting sheets on, etc) and disassembling it every morning
- The pump toilet
- Calluses from pumping the toilet (I’m not kidding.)
- Stinky bilge water
- Having to remove the cat litter, laundry, washing machine and various towels from the shower before taking a shower — and put it all back afterwards
- Getting to shore and realizing I forgot my shoes
- Schlepping heavy groceries several miles on foot, loading them into a dinghy, then trying to find space for everything
- Running out of cooking fuel in the middle of a dinner, miles from anywhere with a propane refill station
- Dinghy rides to shore in the rain
- Dinghy rides to shore when it’s windy/choppy and you get sopped in salt water
- Scrubbing the bottom of the boat every month (ew!)
- Doing push-ups to get in cabinets located behind the kitchen table
- Not playing music because it gobbles computer battery, and thus energy
- Limited electricity
- Slow/limited internet access
- Constant injuries from the motion of the boat and/or physical labor
- Never-ending repairs
- Limited budget = no luxuries
- Rolly anchorages that lead to not only injuries as you slip and slide, but totally make it impossible to sleep well
- Washing clothes by hand (seriously, a week’s laundry takes most of a day)
- Fear. Fear that my house will sink, or a nearby lightening strike will take out all the electronics, or something we can’t afford to replace will break, or we’ll get injured in the middle of a passage, etc.
Of course, the sky has just turned apricot as I snuggle with my kitty, lounging in the cockpit and writing, listening to the manatees and eagle rays disturbing the pink water around me. There will be a lot I’ll miss, too.