Friday, May 31, 2013

The drama of daily life - Glad we're home!

This is not a post about suburbia. It’s not about months of overeating and staring at CNN, frying brain cells while waiting the inevitable weeks and months for a back injury to heal.  
It’s not about visits with family, everything-you-could-ever-want availability shopping, barbeques in the backyard or long hot showers and in-house laundry…
How quickly it all falls back into place. The sweating. The water conservation, the mold. The rain in the hatches, the portable generator grunting and chugging away, the forests that have grown under the boat, making it more an ecosystem than a moving vessel...
What our propellers looked like on our arrival

We’ve only been back onboard a few days but the usual routine proves itself to have stood the test of time.
Sundowners every second night with new friends that last until way past ‘cruisers midnight’ have proved the social side of our lifestyle hasn’t waned either (as is discernible from the evidence, I mean photos below). We’ve been invited over to yet another boat tonight to meet some more cruising friends and try a new island rum…

A rum squall evening, full swing
However just when you think life on a boat is all about predictability, your dinghy about throws you and your crew overboard.
Well not exactly.
As the laundry pile did not disappear during our absence, we had to face the monster a couple days in. We headed to shore in the dinghy, weighted down with garbage bags and an overflowing laundry bag, in between the rain squalls.
DJW, our new ‘captain in training’, JW’s son, was at the ‘helm’. As soon as we got started, the wind and waves decided to give us a seawater shower and we were getting soaked. JW suggested that DJW move to the other side of the dingy, so as ‘not to get so wet’. Ha!
He also suggested DJW let go of the throttle, which resulted in the dinghy swinging us wildly in circles in the choppy waters. The balance was gone; water came flooding in from the front of the boat where I was perched, holding on for dear life. Ah, to have had an aerial view. It would have been quite a sight. Me with bulging eyes, crouched in disbelief, DJW flailing from side to side, barely balancing, and our captain laughing so hard he was red in the face.
The dinghy wanted us all overboard, spinning in increasingly tighter and wobblier circles, but DJW jumped back into place and managed to get us under control again. We resumed our forward motion, the boat steadied, the water stopped flowing by the bucketful. However, our laundry bag was now a 100lb salt water weight, sloshing around between our feet. 
Our captain in training was sopping head to toe, and had to change into some of his dirty but less soaking clothes right there at the dinghy dock by the laundry. I heaved the sopping back to the Laundromat, leaving my salt water trail. I ignored the disapproving look from the proprietress as she chomped a pile of fried rice, watching our laundry bag leak water all over the floor, and simply dumped that problem onto them. 
Lighter yet still salty and wet, we started the dinghy again and headed to the garbage drop off area, and to do some shopping. But the dinghy spluttered and farted and then the motor just died. That’s when JW lifted the fuel tank and exclaimed,
“There’s no fuel in here!”.
Well what do you know. We’d run out of gas. We started paddling. Luckily we were not far from the fuel dock. We made it but then had to buy 2 stroke oil right there and mix it into the tank directly. It was a bit messy, adding blue grease to the salt water we were covered in. But then the dinghy worked! And so it was that we survived that harrowing adventure to do laundry and dump garbage. But just barely.
Since then things have gone quite smoothly, except yesterday morning when our dinghy refused to budge as we tried to lower her into the water. The ropes on the pulley system were twisted and completely jammed.
I ended up balanced precariously out on the hanging dinghy while my men used a block and tackle set up, hanging from the boom to maneuver me. And we did get it all sorted out.
Predictable? Well you can count on the sea to be blue but beyond that, as soon as you think things are too routine, too comfortable, the cruising life throws you a dinghy drama or something far worse. It’s nothing like the suburbs here, but we call it home! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Holli's random number of signs you've been away from your boat for too long:

Those telltale signs you’ve been away too long:

1.   1. You’re pale

2.     Your feet are actually getting used to close-toed shoes

3.     You plan your trips around road traffic instead of wind patterns

4.     You are starting to take running water for granted - hot water for dishes, tap running during teeth brushing, longer and longer showers – shame!

5.     You start thinking it’s normal to blow dry your hair

6.     You find yourself shopping and thinking of buying plug-in appliances!

7.     You’re actually noticing fashion trends – that don’t involve Crocs.

8.     You’re actually getting used to TV – with commercials!

9.     You haven’t seen a hand tool in months

10. You forget what it feels like to sweat

11. You’ve migrated from rum punch to red wine as your drink of choice

12. The regal sunset, hidden behind the highrises of the city, has faded away and no longer plays a role in happy hour, or indeed your lives. 

13. Sundowners? What?
13.5 You (I) really miss that connection with the sunset…. sigh

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The silence

Life can change in an instant. Flip like a dinghy. Take for instance a 200lb dinghy, dragged ashore single handedly by your captain, and flipped for washing. Your less than ‘totally fit’ (but still a 10!) captain gets a shooting pain in his back during this maneuver and he spends the next few weeks ignoring an increasing pain down his left leg.
Life can seem normal still - one moment you can be sailing along, turquoise seas cradling your boat, en route to beautiful Antigua, looking forward to more of the same - 10 months into your open ended dream life.
But then in trying to remove a reef in the mainsail, your captain pulls at the lines and twists his injured back…
And the next morning he can’t walk. At all.
Fast forward a few days and some awkward dinghy trips to shore, and you find yourself in a third world hospital waiting room, paying cash for a $2.5k MRI, your captain still unable to walk. The tests reveal herniated discs. Those spongy bits between one’s spinal vertebrae, pushed out of place, just far enough to ruin our lives…
And weeks later still, you find yourself behind the drizzly windshield wipers, stuck in traffic in the dreary rain soaked streets of suburban Canada. It starts to dawn on you that your dream life is over, your captain possibly a year or more away from walking normally, let alone sailing. The possibilities that lie ahead no longer include rum punches on new beaches. Surgery, bills, a ‘safe land-locked-life’ are coming into view. You start wondering which country to look for jobs. The vision of Shiloh our boat, anchored far away in dreamy Antigua, fading further and further into oblivion.
The thought of blogging about all this brought only tears, dripping into the keypad, the bleak white empty word document staring back. So, silence.
Silence in the blogosphere as we fought with the uncaring, overloaded, inept Canadian medical system. Silence, through one prescribed narcotic drug after another for my captain, broken and bed ridden.
Silent uninspired, our days filled with painful and discouraging physiotherapy and chiropractor sessions followed by bedrest and discussions about the gloomy prospects that lie ahead. And the overwhelming frustration of not being able to make it all go away, make it better, go backward in time. On March 31st we spent our 1 year 'boat-life' anniversary in zero degree weather, fully grounded in suburbia.
But fast forward now, two months of tests and trials and healing time. And life has thrown us a chance. It can change in an instant. The headlines:
Surgeon says no surgery needed. Pain begins to subside, physio starts working! Grown son becomes available to assist on the boat for a few months.
The captain - feeling much better, but still not strutting!
This is where I do cartwheels across the screen and jump for joy – my pale, drawn face lit from within, smile from ear to ear. Shiloh, we’re coming home baby!!!!!!

This experience has taught us a few good lessons, and a few we’d rather not have learned. But if I hadn’t appreciated the life we’d found before, I can say with resounding confidence now, that I will never take it for granted. 
We have made some friends out on the sea who will be forever in our hearts. Exceptional people. Since we've been away, our dear amazing friends on Khaya Moya have stayed put, boatsitting Shiloh instead of sailing on, as we all yearn to do. Who could take friends like these for granted. I am reserving some special hugs for our return!
Life aboard isn’t always easy. It is not glamorous, despite what vacation brochures insist, but it is a freedom that I will forever cherish. For us it is not A life, but THE life. And we’re going to soak it up for every salt encrusted moment and gorgeous sunset it brings.