Monday, May 18, 2015

When your home is your boat

Rainbow coloured bottles of nail polish lie on their sides in the cabin, rolling around like bright felled soldiers in anguish.
Elsewhere in the front cabin, onion skins cover the surfaces like a vegetable confetti from a wild party. The onions themselves lie around the floor and bed like drunkards on the morning after. Plastic wine glasses line the hallway.
Across in the other hull the carnage is also evident.  In the tiny head (washroom), bottles of shampoo, hurled from their high shelf perch, lie bleeding sticky bubbly pink into the drain.
It’s been a rough day at sea. Everything has been tossed and slammed and kicked around by some grudge filled side-on waves. But Shiloh has survived. Despite the casualties around the cabins, Shiloh has excelled. Despite the all consuming groans of wood on fiberglass inside, she showed a brave face. She sailed today, all day, fast and furious. Like a dance with the wind, she came up to meet each wave, each gust of wind, and she pushed forward, she sailed. Beautifully.
Unlike her inhabitants, the awkward bulls in the china shop, grasping each surface as we passed, trying to keep our composure, our balance against the wishes of the forces around us.
It was our first sail after my trip to Canada, and it was a baptism by fire in many ways. It reacquainted me with all the good and the bad that is sailing life. Once we reached the lee of Great Abaco Island, nine long hours after leaving the shores of Nassau, the waves were tamed, the wind eased off and the conditions were much more pleasant for us ‘inhabitants’. Shiloh on the other hand, preferred the challenge of a big sea and a beam reach.
A day before our little journey, we’d played host to some ladies from Canada. A day on a boat. It was a detour for them, from a short holiday to Atlantis. For us it was a chance to imagine what it might be like to charter the boat. It was exhilarating, it was fun to be host. Champagne and OJ with snacks, a short trip to a pretty little island out of the hectic Nassau port for snorkeling and swimming. 

It was so different from the reality of our day to day life on the boat. I’ve got a lot of respect for our friends who charter for weeks at a time. Mike and Muffy on Extasea and Mike and Rebecca who did the same on One Love for two years. When your maritime home, with all it’s inherent problems (engine issues, limited water supply, incessant mold growth, limited power etc etc), becomes the hotel for 6 or 8 people for a week full time, that must be intense. Meals, snacks, drinks, towels, entertainment. Full time! Hats off to the charterers.
For us the sacrifices are far more abstract. When you’ve made the choice to ‘live the dream’ you make some other choices by default. When your first grand baby is born, you are thousands of miles away. Maybe without phone or internet. Maybe you are facing storms or just big waves. You are preoccupied. Your life is moving along on a very different path.
When your boy graduates from the relative security of college and his last faction of childhood, you can fly across a continent for only a short time to see him through, to watch him take off. But then you must return to the sea, because you know that he has his own life to live and you still have yours. Your sails are still full and they are blowing you once again, somewhere else.

But us cruisers are still parents. We still ache and worry for them. We still look at a photo of them with baby fat and glistening innocent eyes, and tears well in our salty eyes. We might be on a thousand mile journey to an uninhabited island in a vast ocean, or fighting a rusty washing machine in some city in the developing world, but we will never leave the first path we travelled. The path of never ending love for our children.
We are just different. We crave adventure to a fault. We don’t mind hand pumping our toilets. We conserve water so we can go for an extra week without visiting a city. And we get excited when our boat sails. No engines. All sails up. That feeling when the wind works with you and the power in the silence. Even if it means cleaning the aftermath in the cabins later.