Overdue Finances — June-August

With apologies to those who care about these things, here are our finances for the past few months.

June was a pretty hefty month because we bought a new camera (but it was a birthday present from my parents, Val and Hannah and Paddy, so really not an expense), paid for the repair of my Mac (OH, how I’d missed thee, dear sweet Mac…) and had the autopilot repaired in Grenada.  We also got a bunch of guidebooks and electronic charts for the Western Caribbean that we won’t be using this year after all, but plan to hang onto as we want to do the region next time out.

July was awesome considering that it includes over $700 on boat stuff (first installment on new chain, mostly) and we still come in right around budget, but August was another big month because of boat repairs (first installment on the new chain and the attempt to repair the outboard), Pip’s trip to DC, a new Kindle and Didi’s visit (extra food, alcohol, water and entertainment expenses).

RoadSchooner Ahoy!

APPARENTLY, peripateticism runs in my family.  Philip and I bought the boat from my California parents, Dad (Bill) and Stef, who sailed it in the Sea of Cortez for five years.  On the other side, my Maryland parents, Mom (Katie) and Tom, recently retired, sold their house and bought a 40’ RV.  For the past year, they’ve been traveling the U.S. between their winter home north of Tampa and their summer home in Grand Junction, CO, and documenting their own adventures over at the RoadSchooner blog (motto: “No wind? No problem!  We’ve got gas!)

A while back, Tom wrote a post contrasting how we are voyaging in our respective vessels, and I’ve finally gotten around to writing a response.

Tom says,

Our RV is a year old and their sailboat is almost their age.  It seems as though we have quite a lot of maintenance done on the RV while they do or have done lots more to their boat.  That makes sense with the age difference in venues.  Even with all their hard work, some systems like refrigeration don’t work well.  We had a bit of a refrigeration problem and prepared to stay at one stop until it was fixed.  I wonder if this need to fix things isn’t age related since we probably had easier access to coolers and ice than they usually do?  Creature comforts seem more important to me.

Oh, boy, have we had a lot of maintenance, so much so that we have gone from trying to fix everything to fixing what we can and doing without whatever isn’t absolutely necessary.  Some of this is because we already feel totally overwhelmed by the amount of work to do, but a lot of it simply comes down to money: we just can’t afford to replace the fridge, watermaker or other non-necessities.  I’d love to have a fridge, but don’t have an extra $800 for one right now!

We have made an effort to stop at campgrounds that have cable TV and have even talked about getting a satellite package.  There are 2 TVs in the RV, but we don’t use the one in the bedroom.  I don’t think Heather/Philip have a TV, but they’ve always been less addicted to it than I.  They seem to amuse themselves being more social than we generally do.

Oh, Tom, you give us FAR too much credit.  Yep, we’re social – but we are also totally addicted to TV and movies.  The difference is, we download them (or swap downloads with friends) and watch them on the computer (plugged into the stereo system, no less…).  We sometimes watch 3 hours a night if we don’t have good friends around.  I actually watched all of the second season of Downton Abbey in one day a couple of weeks ago.  Totally. Addicted.  Sometimes, though, I wish we had kept our TV – it would be fun to see what’s on local TV around the world.

We need access to good health care and pharmacies.  I think the kids are less inclined to set up access and feel like they can get the healthcare they need when they need it.

While we are blessedly healthy, the choice to go without health insurance isn’t much of a choice on our budget.  Even a high-deductible (tens of thousands of dollars of deductible) plan would cost a quarter or half of our monthly living budget.  It’s just not an option for us.  We do have the advantage of relatively inexpensive out-of-pocket costs for healthcare in the Caribbean (if we need it – neither one of us has had so much as a cold in the past year…) and the possibility of relocating to the UK if either one of us gets a dire disease, but I live in fear that we’ll break an arm or get appendicitis or something.

In fact, a lot of the choices we make have to do with living on a small budget.  It’s a trade-off we make willingly to be able to live this life, though a cold drink on a hot day has become a marvelous thing indeed.


One Year In: Finances

Having completed one year on the road, I thought it might be useful to take an overall look at our finances.  In general, we’ve done quite well while cruising, once you take out the cost of the boat refit and preparations for cruising – the new rig and complete overhaul of the engine.  In fact, without those costs, we’ve managed to spend an average of just over fourteen hundred dollars a month, which, with a savings of around four hundred a month, should pay for yearly maintenance costs and the occasional repair.  For example, we expect to spend money this summer/fall on a new anchor chain and a haul/bottom painting, which will probably eat up the entire “savings.”  Of course, we’re hoping that South and Central America will be cheaper than the Eastern Caribbean, at least for stuff like food, so maybe our costs will go down.

Item                                                     Monthly Avg      Total spent

alcohol                                                $154.89               $1,858.66
boat maintenance/supplies      
$132.64               $795.87
boat repair                                        
$1,382.15            $16,585.80
bureaucracy – port fees, etc       
$115.48               $808.34
$42.30                $507.59
charts and guidebooks                 
$27.98                $335.73
$17.32                $207.80
$26.69                $320.29
diesel and gasoline                         
$110.20             $1,322.36
eating and drinking out               
$109.73              $329.19
$144.23              $1,730.72
$490.60             $5,887.18
$46.28                $555.33
$13.33                $39.98
$55.84                $670.03
$28.33                $340.00
personal care                                    
$53.26                $639.09
$39.34                $472.13
$68.37                $820.38
utilities: boat                                    
$48.82                $292.91

subtotal: expenses                           $2,854.53         $32,866.52
minus boat refit                               
$1,418.08          $15,629.12
savings minus boat refit   

Just for clarification, here’s how I categorize things:

Alcohol:  Alcohol not bought in bars.
Boat maintenance and supplies:
The regular costs of running and maintaining the boat, e.g., oil, fuel filters, and general trips to the chandlery.
Boat repair:
Any major expenses repairing broken things.
Port fees, customs, etc – also includes use of “mandatory” moorings, like in Nevis.
Food, litter, vet visits.
Internet and phone calls; we do most of our calling on Skype so this is pretty much just internet.  I count the cost of the first beverage at a cafe with free internet here, but the second goes in eating and drinking out.
Eating and drinking out: 
A new category started a few months ago; previously was in “entertainment.”
Tours, concerts, museum fees, etc
Groceries and the occasional street food while out and about.
Toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, sponges, new dish towels, etc.
Actually, the cost of our renters’ insurance, which covers our possessions from theft.
Personal care:
Toiletries, laundry.
Things we buy that are tangible, like books, sunglasses, souvenirs, etc.
Flights, buses, etc.
Boat utilities:
Propane, water, trash disposal, pump-out.

Some notes on the past year:

Alcohol:  Ouf, we’re rather ashamed of this.  In our defense, we don’t spend a lot in bars – generally – and alcohol is wicked expensive in the Caribbean.  We really cut down on drinking in 2012, but you wouldn’t know it because the costs remained about the same.  Still, we’ve cut back even more and are planning to only drink for social occasions in Curacao – good for our livers and our pocketbook.

Bureaucracy: This includes the cost of Pip’s passport renewal, about $300, so the actual cost of port fees for the time we’ve been out of the U.S. is actually about $76 a month.

Diesel and gas: I would really like to have figured out the average cost per gallon, but our records on this suck.  I think it’s probably about six bucks a gallon average since we left the states.  If you’re planning a Caribbean cruise, try to avoid buying any petroleum products, including engine oil, in the French islands, as they have very high taxes.  I think diesel was eight bucks a gallon there.  The bargain spot was Portsmouth in Dominica, where it’s a duty-free $4.68 a gallon, cheaper than the states.  I think we’ve used about 140 gallons of diesel since we left the states, about 20 gallons a month.  This has actually decreased since we decided not to have a fridge (the solar can almost keep up with everything else, including charging electronics, our biggest draw these days) and no longer have to charge the batteries; we did a lot of motoring/motorsailing earlier on when we could have sailed simply because the trip was only an hour or two and we needed to charge the batteries anyway.  Now, we’re only having to charge once every week or two, so we’re sailing more.

Food: We’re spending about the same amount in the Caribbean as we did in the states – not a surprise as that’s what folks say happens, but we aren’t eating nearly as well.  We’re still eating very well – you know I’m a total foodie and will never live on rice and beans – but really buying only stuff that is reasonably priced.  We haven’t been able to catch a lot of fish to supplement, as some people expect to do, but I haven’t tried terribly hard.  Except coffee, which is non-negotiable and deadly expensive in places.  On average, this works out to about $8 per person per day, which is pretty damn good if you ask me.

Household: If you are coming to the Caribbean and have room, buy lots and lots of paper towels, toilet paper and any other paper products you use.  They are astoundingly expensive here.

Marina/Moorings: We haven’t stayed in a marina since we left the states, and actually only stayed one night in a marina while cruising in the U.S., that because our anchorage became untenable in high winds.  We spend a bit on moorings in the BVIs and USVIs, as many harbors don’t have any room for anchoring, so you have to pay to play: $25-30 per night in the BVIS, which is generally a total rip-off, and the national park in St. John charges $15 per night, which is totally worth it.  Apart from $120 for 10 days on a mooring in Pointe a Pitre when Philip went back to the states, we’ve spent very little on moorings since (we put the mandatory mooring in Nevis under bureaucracy, since we didn’t have a choice and would have anchored if permitted).  Pretty much everywhere, you can anchor for free.

Personal care:  In the states, we got haircuts.  Now, I cut our hair, so that’s a bit saved.  That said, we’ve found that there aren’t Laundromats like in the states when you get outside of the Virgins, and even if there are, it’s about the same cost as having your laundry done.  We are generally spending about $60 a month down here to have our laundry done, which is only about a third more than Laundromats in the states were costing us.  We do a small load from time to time on the boat to save money, but, if you’re thinking, “Oh, we’ll do all our laundry ourselves to save money,” be forewarned that it’s a heckuva lot of work and requires a lot of water, which isn’t free or easy to get.  I spent a week in Pointe a Pitre doing a month’s worth of laundry: two small (5 gallon) loads a day took about 2 hours each day to wash, rinse, dry and fold, and that doesn’t include the time fetching more water.  All in all, that month’s laundry took me about 15 hours of labor and 70 gallons of water, which is 4 trips to shore burning gas in the dinghy and $17 worth of water at $.25 a gallon.  So, we are doing small loads to keep up and just paying for our laundry to be done these days.

Stuff: We don’t buy much stuff.  Never have, but we’ve really cut down on the boat.  After all, you not only have to find a place for it, but really should get rid of something for each new thing you bring on board. That said, a surprising amount of this total is new sunglasses.  They go overboard or get broken A LOT.  I’ve gone through four pairs of sunglasses in the past year, losing two pairs while leaning overboard and having two just break because of the rough lifestyle.  Of course, I went through this many in the states, which is why I had one decent-ish pair for sailing ($20 ones with polarized lenses, instead of the $5 plastic crap ones I bought from street vendors for everyday wear), but even those went overboard, so now I get the cheapest I can find that still have UV protection, knowing they’re going to go bye-bye within a couple of months.  Philip has a good pair of prescription glasses that he ONLY wears while sailing during the day; these have survived well, but even he has lost several cheap pairs to the great blue.  And, no, I do not wear croakies.  Probably should, but Ugh, uncomfortable.  Anyway, the point here is that if you have the same tendency to kill your sunglasses, you might want to consider buying a half dozen or more from your favourite street vendor before leaving on a cruise.  Even if you’re good with glasses, it might be a good idea to have spares on board in case you do lose your good ones, because they’re not cheap down here

Transportation:  We used a credit card that accrued airline miles for everything – including our big re-haul —  for years before setting off, so we had over 100,000 miles accrued when we set off.  We used American, which works well in the Caribbean as they seem to fly everywhere here.  With a flight last fall to AZ to see my family and two flights home since, that’s gone, so this might be artificially low, though each flight was between $100-$200 in taxes and fees and taxis to the airport.  We haven’t rented cars at all, preferring to take local busses for around a dollar a ride, so other than the flights, we don’t spend much here at all.

Boat utilities:  We use a propane tank every six weeks, and they cost between 15-20 bucks to refill, consistently.  Water ranges from 10-25 cents a gallon, and our 110 gallon tanks last us about 2 weeks, sometimes more.  Trash usually costs a couple bucks to dispose of, and pumpout is a non-issue here, as there are no pumpout facilities, but averaged about ten bucks a week in the states.

April Expenses

April was a pretty good month – in terms of actual spending, we were well under budget.  That said, our actual monthly budget was totally wrecked by a tax bill from the District of Colombia of $1,300.  Ugh.

I’ve started separating out entertainment and eating and drinking out into two different categories.  This was the first month we really went to town on entertainment, because we really wanted to spend the money to see Dominica .  We did one tour that cost $130 and went to the PAYS beach party both weeks, and Philip attended the cricket test match in Roseau.   I’m psyched that we managed to have as much fun as we did without killing our monthly budget; of course, the absolute lack of any boat REPAIR costs for the past several months is allowing us to do what we set out to do: see the world, instead of just repairing our boat in exotic locations.


alcohol                                                 $     126.51

boat maintenance and supplies             $        20.58

bureaucracy – port fees, etc        $          3.75

cats                                                        $        11.57

communications                              $        48.60

diesel and gasoline                        $     167.77

eating and drinking out                $        52.14

entertainment                                 $     205.80

food                                                      $     445.10

insurance                                            $        13.09

marina/mooring                              $        11.11

other                                                    $          5.00

personal care                                    $        22.47

stuff                                                      $        67.80

utilities: boat                                    $        50.56

Total                                                     $  1251.84                                                  


subtotal: expenses                         $  1,251.84


March Expenses

MARCH was an expensive month because we re-provisioned on food and some boat supplies in Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe, and Philip’s trip home added a good $450 in mooring, transportation and food costs to the month that we wouldn’t otherwise have spent.   Also, any of the islands on the Euro are pretty pricey to begin with, and diesel is four times as much as elsewhere, because, basically, you’re in Europe.  (We actually bought half the diesel at twice the price this month.) So we were about $400 over budget this month.

A note about the categories because some blog readers have asked – bureaucracy is what I call all the port fees and mooring fees where anchoring is not permitted (e.g., Nevis).  If we pick up a mooring because we want to, that comes under marina.  The reason this was high this month was because St. Barth charges you $13 a day just to anchor there, and Nevis requires you to take a mooring (which, luckily, are really cheap – total port and mooring fees for a week in Nevis were $72).  I also split entertainment into actual entertainment (museums, tours, events, etc) and eating and drinking out; it should give a clearer idea of how much we spend on eating out.  Though often this is high not from food but from that beer or two we buy to get free wifi!



alcohol                                                           $  112.57

boat maintenance and supplies          $ 218.91

bureaucracy – port fees, etc                  $  154.84

cats                                                                  $ 20.18

clothes                                                           $ 46.56

communications                                        $  36.46

diesel and gasoline                                  $ 195.01

eating and drinking out                          $ 155.52

entertainment                                            $ 26.00

food                                                                $ 681.81

household                                                    $ 24.57

marina/mooring                                        $ 122.02

personal care                                              $ 56.61

transportation                                            $ 281.51

utilities: boat                                              $ 12.26

other                                                               $  46.56


TOTAL                                                             $ 2,191.39


February Expenses

NOT much to comment on here, ‘cept that the entertainment expenses are high because of one splurge of a dinner on Ash Wednesday, covered by the sale of my first article.  And food is pretty much $450-500 a month down here, because the Caribbean is muey espensivo.

Expenses Feb 2012

alcohol $ 164.06

bureaucracy $ 127.48

cats $ 17.24

communications $ 49.00

diesel and gasoline $ 103.00

entertainment $ 282.98

food $ 474.99

marina/mooring $ 60.00

stuff $ 8.51

utilities: boat $ 26.51

Total $ 1,323.77

November-December-January Finances

I have been negligent in posting our expenses for the past couple of months because my Mac died, and I only recently recovered the data.  As usual, you can see all our expenses under the Purser’s Ledger tag.  (Just in case you’re new to the blog and wondering why the hell someone would post their expenses on the internet, let me just point out that we spent 10 years wondering how much we had set aside for monthly bills and boat outfitting, and there were only 2-3 other blogs that really tracked their expenses, and only one of them was trying to do it on a small budget.  So this is for all the dreamers and planners out there.)

November and Dec ember’s expenses are a bit wonky because they include the additional cost of having Becca on board; starting in January I’ve adjusted for crew and guest costs that they reimburse.  I’m not even posting October because it was an orgy of spending on provisioning for the Caribbean and repairing the boat at Port Annapolis – haulout, storage, slip fees and work on the engine topped $10K.  Although we’re still smarting from that, the engine is in fine condition these days and our outfitting costs seem to have ended and transitioned to maintenance rather than repair.  Knock on wood.  The November expenses are pretty extraordinary because, if you subtract the $5,800 or so we spent on boat repair bills from October and Becca, we actually only spent $468.13 – in part because of the great Thanksgiving bonanza from Emmy Kate, but largely because we provisioned in November and spent most of the month on passage.

December, we went a little nuts on “entertainment,” mostly grabbing a beer almost every afternoon to use the internet at a nearby beach bar.  We could have just sat on the beach and not had a beer, though, so it definitely counts as entertainment and not communications!  Personal care, which includes things like laundry, shampoo, haircuts (though I cut our hair now…), etc, took a hit in December and January because we had our laundry done by someone else after passage and had visitors bring crate-loads of Coppertone Sport sunscreen from the States.  It’s the one must-have item for us that we can’t find down here.

The big bureaucracy expense in January is Philip’s passport renewal fee.  Ouch.

I combined propane, water, trash and pumpout expenses into a new category called “utilities;” of interest to those thinking of cruising this area is that water is $.15 to $.25 a gallon and it often costs a few bucks to dispose of trash.

Food is very expensive down here, but the costs are somewhat controllable if you’re careful what and where you buy.  Everything seems to be about 1.5 to 2 times the cost of what it would be in the States, although that’s partly because I never, ever bought anything full price at home, and here I haven’t found the same kind of discounted items.

Finally, the January alcohol expenses are high because we took advantage of Charlotte Amalie’s duty-free status and cheap Kmart to stock up on a few things for the next couple of months.  (Oh, and I have to point out, because my parents were giving me crap for the alcohol expenses, that at $10 per bottle of wine, and one glass a day per person, that’s $100 a month on alcohol right there.  So enough snarky comments, guys!)

All in all, we’re pretty pleased to have come in under our budget each month while actually cruising in the islands, and with random income from different sources, we’re actually managing to save a couple hundred dollars a month.  We know that there will be some more big boat expenses in the future – it’s inevitable, right? – so we want to start rebuilding our kitty for these inevitable expenses.


Expenses November December  January



boat maintenance


boat repair







charts and guidebooks







diesel and gasoline














other $10.00
personal care







utilities: boat


subtotal: expenses






September Expenses

September was a pretty good month, largely due to the lack of major boat expenses. In fact, we actually spent a lot more than budgeted on food, clothes, cats and household expenses because we’re provisioning for the trip to the Caribbean — and alcohol and food include having Becca on board quite a bit. This is all great, but given that we’re already at $5,000 in mid-October because of the new radar/GPS and haulout, the $181 under budget seems a bit irrelevant. But at least it tells us that we can live off our budget if we’re not outfitting/doing major repairs on the boat!!

alcohol                      $175.48

boat maintenance   $101.60

cigarettes                   $63.90

charts, etc                  $25.00

cats                             $85.52

clothes                       $98.54

communications      $39.95

diesel/boat fuel       $127.93

entertainment         $114.52

food                           $504.75

gas/transportation $65.26

household                $70.92

personal care            $27.22

stuff                            $32.91

Total spent               $1,533.50









August Expenses

All in all, August wasn’t too bad a month, considering that we spent a week in Liberty Landing having work done on the boat and had to get a marina in CT because there wasn’t a safe anchorage.  The entire boat maintenance expenditure is the engine work and haul out we had done there.  The only other things worth noting are that the food expenses are a bit high here — we did grocery shopping at the beginning and end of the month, and were feeding 3 for part of that time (Becca covered groceries last week so it’ll all even out) — and that the transportation costs include various expenses related to rescuing Pika from her adventure in Jersey City.  Also, I still haven’t stopped smoking. As much as I am truly horrified to admit this on the interwebs, I am forcing myself to do so in the hope that it will help me quit, if only out of public shame.  🙂

alcohol                        $174.50
boat maintenance     $789.52
cigarettes                    $66.75
bureaucracy               $10.00
cats                              $36.95
communications      $32.21
diesel/boat fuel        $100.00
entertainment           $129.91
food                            $532.24
gas/transportation    $116.74
household                  $31.13
marina/mooring    $189.00
personal care            $30.00
pumpout                    $11.00
stuff                            $18.29
TOTAL                           $2268.24

Voluntary Simplicity

LAST October, we moved out of our house, eschewing a storage unit and instead selling or giving away everything that wouldn’t fit on the 40-foot ketch we’d adopted as our new home.  In the months leading up to our move onto the boat, we threw a series of “Take our S**t” cocktail parties at which we foisted our cheap liquor and unneeded/unsell-able possessions on our friends.  Said friends often asked what they could bring, to which I replied, “Bring old paperbacks and DVDs you don’t want anymore.”

We watched all the DVDs this winter. It was a long, cold winter.  The books have lasted longer, especially as we swap them through marina book exchanges and trades with other cruisers.  We started the adventure with several bookcases stuffed to the gills with everything from suspense and sci-fi/fantasy to high literature and non-fiction, and have been slowly working our way through these treasures, discovering than neither one of us really like murder mysteries (at least the gratuitously violent ones) and that non-fiction is a lot more enjoyable when you aren’t reading it all day for work.

Recently, I picked up one woman’s memoir (Drinking the Rain by Alix Kates Shulman) about her transitional years after turning 50 and leaving her marriage, in which she recounts her summers spent alone on a remote Maine island in a cottage off the grid, without electricity, central plumbing or easy access to grocery stores.  Her voyage of self-discovery, which started simply as an attempt to find time in her hectic, Manhattan life of feminist activism and motherhood, simply to write, progressed quickly to a much deeper awareness of the connection and interdependence of all life.  The inaccessibility of the grocery store prompted her to explore the island for more local food, whereupon she discovered the bounty of the land around her, gathering mussels, clams and crabs and harvesting everything from dandelion greens to wild berries.  She writes eloquently about the pleasure of spending her days simply gathering the stuff of life, taking only what she needed for her daily meals, throwing the remains back into the ocean or the soil; using water gathered in a cistern from her roof and pumped by hand; and enjoying the self-sufficiency of doing more with less.

The book touched me deeply:  a large part of my attraction to the cruising life is precisely the simplicity of the life, the fact that, by nature of the limited space of a boat and the restrictions of a small budget, simplicity and self-sufficiency are a matter of course.  We have found that doing more with less is intrinsic to this life; instead of running out and buying a new stove when my old one crapped out, I ordered a few parts from the company, dissembled the stove, and fixed it.  We cannot afford, nor desire, nor have the space for new clothes or the latest fashions; indeed, how fashionable a piece of clothing is is far less important than its comfort and utility.  In fact, since November, we’ve bought three items of clothing: a pair of Vibram 5-Finger shoes for each of us, and a replacement wool hat for Philip (of course, finding the old one mistakenly put in the laundry the very day the new one arrived).  Most of our electrical needs are supplied by three solar panels; we live without hot water most of the time and use only 8.2 gallons of water a day – for both of us.  By contrast, most American families use 100 gallons of water daily — per person.  We literally have no room for stuff; indeed, we’re still in the process of giving as much of it away as we can to lighten the boat and free up cabinet space.

As much as possible, I cook from scratch, baking bread and making tortillas, using the pressure cooker to make beans instead of opening a can, and choosing the freshest, most local veggies because they last longer un-refrigerated.  While we have two fridges, we only use one to conserve energy, and its miniscule size and even smaller freezer severely limit the amount we can store, so our meat and dairy consumption has dropped radically.

Shulman writes about the pleasure of cooking without modern conveniences; like her, I left behind my food processor and Kitchen Aid:

The hand method of doing things is making me stronger every day.  Extensions of my hands, my tools are teaching me artistry I never knew myself capable of.  In my kitchen, equipped mainly from discards from an army of kitchen modernizers, I can perform every desired task; I am three generations behind and probably as many ahead as I cut my pastry with a wooden-handled wire pastry blender, beat batter with a wooden spoon, strain the peels from my applesauce or mash potatoes in a hand-powered food mill, grind seeds with a mortar and pestle, whip egg whites with a whisk, grate against a versatile hand-grater, juice on a ridged glass juicer, toast on a four-sided toaster set up over an open flame, sweep with a broom, and brew in a drip pot the coffee I grind by turning a handle and feeling each bean crumble as the gears bite down.

We haven’t yet found a hand-crank coffee grinder for less than a small fortune, so are still using our Krups, but in some ways, because of the space constraints in the galley, my methods are even simpler than hers: two knives work just as well as a pastry blender, and a simple sieve or fork stands in for a food mill.  I left behind my mortar and pestle and just use a chef’s knife for everything from ginger to making hummus from chickpeas.  The tactile pleasure of cooking this way is enormous; I feel more intimately the food I’m working with.

Like Shulman, the artistry of working with my hands all day, for cooking, raising sails, caulking the decks or doing laundry in a bucket has strengthened and roughened my hands: my callouses are visible reminders of the pleasure and strength of our growing self-sufficiency.

She also writes about a rule of balance discovered through the self-sufficient life: “effort saved in one direction is spent in another,” describing how the ease of gathering periwinkles (tiny sea snails you can snap up by the handful) is offset by the difficulty of removing them from their shells, whereas the harder-to-harvest mussels fall out of their shells with a simple steaming.  She says,

There’s always a reward to balance the cost, a trade-off among ease, size, quality, quantity — not to mention pleasure, that elusive factor whereby often what takes the most trouble and time yields the most satisfaction, like breads that take hours to bake but permeate the cabin with their comforting aromas all day long, or cozy wood fires that must be continuously tended, or the longest thoughts, or the sweetest love.

I laugh to see my efficient, urban self conducting time-motion studies of pleasure.  And for the pleasure of it I apply my rule to the urban world of glut.  Telephone-answering machines, intended to make phoning more efficient, double the number of phone calls made.  Computers, expected to conserve paper (and eventually replace books), spit out whole forests of extra printouts.  The so-called Green Revolution, by concentrating agricultural production and relying on chemicals, depletes the soil, pollutes the water, and diminishes the variety of available foods.  Highways, designed to ease traffic, multiply traffic by enticing more drivers out on the roads.  Airplanes, promoted to save travel time, increase it as people spend more time traveling than ever before.  As Bertrand Russel observed of all transportation technology, each improvement only increases the distance you must go to get your daily business done.  Sometimes speedy life whizzes you along so fast that nothing registers, like landscape from a speeding care or meaning in a speed-read text, so that every saving in time is paid for in lost experience.  Perhaps time saved and time lost cancel each other out analogously to the biological rule described by Stephen Jay Gould:  “Small and large mammals are essentially similar.  Their lifetimes are scaled to their life’s pace, and all endure for approximately the same amount of biological time.  Small mammals tick fast, burn rapidly, and live for a short time; large ones life long at a stately pace.  Measured by their own internal clocks, mammals of different sizes tend to live for the same amount of time . . . each living at the appropriate pace of its own biological clock . . All mammals, regardless of their size, tend to breathe about 200 million times during their lives.

There is a real pleasure to traveling by sail, at approximately walking speed.  Time changes, slows; I spent hours the other night just watching the phosphorescence stream out behind the boat like a rocket trail.  The amount of time you can watch the clouds and waves is limitless.  When you get somewhere, you feel like you’ve actually travelled to get there, instead of feeling buffeted by a crush of humanity for 3 hours crammed in a tiny seat, breathing recycled air, ears hammered by roaring engines, only to disembark in another city altogether, hundreds of miles away, albeit with identical airports and highways and cranky passengers.

All this conservation, simplicity and slowness, however, hasn’t led to a sense of deprivation, but instead to a sense of richness, of life and of spirit.  Shulman writes about her growing awareness of the interconnectedness of life, the “mortal danger in the illusion of separation.”   For me, it was this very burgeoning awareness that brought me to yoga over a decade ago and inspired me to become a yoga teacher; it is the very essence of my deepest beliefs.  But living with the tides and winds has only deepened my sense of interconnectedness and fervent hope that the rest of the world can learn to live more gently on the earth and slow down a bit and enjoy the show.