We have just come through about 10 days of bad weather – high winds and rain – which, for most of that time, has kept us at anchor and confined to the boat for days at a time. The confinement had me musing about the Live Aboard life and how it differs from land-based life. It is certainly a life of contrast.
Living space: I suppose the most obvious difference from life on land is that you and your partner are together 24/7 on a floating home that measures 12 by 3.5 metres. That is about 30 square metres of living space (boats being pointy at one end). The average house in the US or Australia is about 200 square metres.
Surprisingly I do not find this claustrophobic. There is plenty of wide open space to be had by just going out into the cockpit. But it does mean that storage is limited so our wardrobes are modest, we don’t collect things and cull what we do have fairly ruthlessly when it is no longer of use.
Power and Plumbing: Our boat has 12, 24 and 240 volt electrical systems. Our 240 volt equipment can only be used when we are plugged into power at a marina or run the generator. So just like someone living in an all solar house, we get our power from batteries which need to be constantly monitored and kept charged. Also being Australians on a British made boat sailing in the Med, we have power points for all three systems. Sometimes the place overflows with adapters and chargers.
Songster stores about 400 litres of freshwater. An average house uses about 200 litres per person per day. On Songster we use less than a tenth of that amount. There are no long showers and laundry is done on shore. To fill up the water tanks when at anchor we take jerry cans on shore, find a tap somewhere, full up the containers and lug them back to the dinghy then to the boat. Essentially every time we go ashore we take the water containers and get 30 litres of water to replenish the tanks. When every litre of water has to be carried, you quickly learn not to waste it.
Then of course there are the heads (toilets) with their holding tanks, pumping of waste and clogged pipes – enough said!
|A bit more complicated than in a suburban home|
Self-sufficiency, repairs and maintenance: This aspect of Live Aboard life is perhaps the hardest. Things on boats break and wear out much more so than things in a house. Those things that have broken are frequently essential and must be fixed or replaced immediately. Repair jobs can rarely wait for ‘the weekend’. Also finding someone nearby to repair what is broken is often impossible.
All this means one has to become quite self-sufficient. Fortunately Bob has always been very handy but the scope of boat repairs and maintenance is significantly broader than those needed for suburban living. The adage that ‘sailing is doing boat repairs in exotic locations’ is certainly true.
Maintenance is high intensity too. In a house you might paint the walls once every 5 to 10 years. Varnishing and anti-fouling on a boat is a yearly job. You might check the oil and water in your car every month or so but on a boat the engine is checked thoroughly every time it is used.
|Antifouling Songster's bottom|
Social Life: In our three years of sailing we have made more close friends than in the nearly 20 years living in Canberra. I constantly marvel at how quickly strong friendships are made. Living on a boat means we all go through the same trials and tribulations and joys and passion of sailing. We help each other whenever we can and share stories and advice. It is a strong community. The down side is that being a community of travellers, we may never meet up again with those kindred spirits we have just found. Fortunately in this electronic age we can keep in touch with Facebook, emails and HF radio.
|Meeting up with fellow sailors|
Then there are the times where you are the only boat in an anchorage and not a living soul around on shore. It is so empty and desolate, we have sometimes wondered if we missed some apocalypse that had happened.
Sailing and travelling: Well this is the point of it all – those moments of perfect sailing, being carried along by the power of the wind through the water with dolphins playing along your bow and to then arrive at an anchorage of crystal clear water, swim off the boat and be surrounded by ancient ruins, beautiful scenery, delicious tavernas and then discover that friends have anchored nearby and an evening of great companionship awaits.
Of course there are many times when the sailing is far from perfect. There are times when there is no wind and hours of boring motoring has to be endured. Or the times when there is too much wind and you have a terrifying passage ending up shaken, bruised and the heart racing. But truth be known, when the heart goes back to its normal rate and the shakes have worn off, there is a bit exhilaration of having survived a horrendous gale. Those moments are never sought but when they happen, despite best planning, there is a sense of satisfaction knowing you have come through it all.
So it is not all drinks in the cockpit and beautiful sunsets but this does happen just enough to make it all worthwhile.
|and moon rises|