the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

four months aboard

Today marks four months living aboard my boat, a 1976 37' Gulfstar coastal cruising sailboat. As I write this I am, perhaps crazily, sitting where I spent most of my time during my first several weeks aboard: outside in the cockpit. Although the temperature hovering around freezing means I have traded flip flops for Uggs, I have a nice cold beer to help keep me warm. As I look back on this brief period that feels so long, I am filled with one overarching regret: that I did not embark on this journey twenty years ago.

But that I followed a path that was never right for me is a decision that cannot be undone. What I can do now is live my life to the fullest, be as free as I possibly can, plot a course away from the grid, toward freedom, independence, and adventure. I still hold hope that along the way I will drag anchor into a like-minded soul who wants to raft-up together for this journey. Love is very rare to me, but I would rather hold out for it than ever settle again.

Skeptics were in no short supply when I announced in early August that I was going to buy a boat and move aboard. Within two months I closed on my boat and moved in. I joke to other liveaboards that the dreamers in online forums with their five, ten, or twenty year plans to move aboard and cast off the lines are really on a forty-year-plus plan and the closest they'll get to living aboard and cruising is a Viking funeral. No boat will ever be perfect, or ready, or have enough equipment or supplies. I wanted to be the master of my domain and of my destiny, and so I jumped in. I knew that life aboard had long been meant for me; in that, I have never doubted myself for even a moment. I never even planned to be a cruiser any time soon, do not yet know how to sail, yet now it pains me to be tied to a dock. I cannot wait to cast off the lines and let my real life begin.

Hunter wide-eyed peeking into the galley as I cook
Me and pup dog
That is not to say it has been smooth sailing these past months. We live in constant financial strain and I have shed many tears over frustrations with the pets, the boat, and the heartbreak of the floppy-haired sailor guy. My holding tank is full and all the pump outs are winterized. I struggle to get on and off the boat safely when the tides leave my boat stranded, aground, my deck three feet below the finger pier. My new marina offers me more privacy and peace, but lacks any wireless internet access...I used up my phone's high-speed data and have not been able to get online (and update this blog) when I want during the past two weeks. I am still trying to solve the internet challenge. I have to schlepp to a laundromat or use the laundry at my office across town. Living aboard with snow and ice on the decks and docks is no treat and presents many dangers. I seize any day where it hits 50 degrees to fill my water tank and several gallon jugs with water. I check my NOAA Weather Here Free, Tide Prediction, and BlueFin Marine Weather apps obsessively, often planning sleep schedules, errands, and showers around when the tides will facilitate getting on and off the boat. Today I bought canned beer only because it fits more easily in the icebox-turned-fridge. Yes, I sacrifice to "live the dream."

Living the dream?
Where's my fruity rum drink!
Yesterday I kept sensing that I was walking downhill aboard. I set a battery on the galley counter, but it stayed. A few hours later I still sensed it and tried the battery test quickly rolled toward the bow. It was a very disconcerting feeling. I was worried about damage to the keel and the safety of the boat. I reached out to an experienced liveaboard friend who offered another set of eyes and assured me it was simply a result of being aground in my slip. The depth sounder read 3.6 feet; my draft is 5. Some five or six inches of rudder stuck out above the mud, but at the bow the water was just kissing the boot stripe. I dislike being worried about the boat because I need more experience, but at the same time, I am pleased that I am so attuned to the boat's balance that I sensed the bow tipping forward long before any loose items did. My boat and I, we are going to know each other well and be together a very long time.

My view from the hatch door yesterday morning
Snow-covered decks
Gonna have to bail the dinghy out when the snow melts
Living aboard is not easy. It is not something to do on a whim; it requires compromises, creativity, and flexibility. I have much to learn both about my boat's systems and about sailing, but I know far more than most people anticipate and absorbed more than I thought during a decade tossing lines and drinking rum runners on Miami power boats. As much as some old salts act as though only they were blessed with the celestial knowledge of sailing, it really is not rocket science and where there is a will there is a way. But I entered this process in a trial by one-month anniversary aboard I got to ride out the edges of Hurricane Sandy and at four months aboard I face more snow and ice. Luckily, and from what I have seen unlike many of the dreamers, I went into this adventure focused on systems, hull soundness, winter survival, and a boat that serves my near-term purposes of coastal cruising and life aboard (not distant whisperings of circumnavigation). If one is focused on palm trees, sandy beaches, and fruity rum drinks, I think he or she may be ill-prepared for the realities of life aboard. That is not to say I do not see those tropical delights in my not-too-distant future, but they will be a happy side-effect of going into life aboard with my eyes wide open to the many challenges--and the opportunity to surmount them--so that I may be rocked to sleep by the sea.

Although the floppy-haired sailor guy (ab)used this song to seduce me, it rings true to my heart and I can finally listen to it without tears. My real life will begin out on the water, with the waves crashing over the bow. Waiting For My Real Life to Begin


  1. Nice Read , Good Luck on this new life its a wonderful way to live !Sail South& keep warm next winter !

  2. Interesting to read & compare with myself running away to a boat on a whim three years & change ago . I went on mental health vacation , saw a wood cutter moored in a harbor in Mass , found out by chance that she was for sale , & over the course of a weekend & a whim , bought her & never returned . Two weeks later , in the last week of November , I was sailing her South with hardly a clue about what I was doing . Last year I added a second boat & with the cutter on the hard moved onto the new boat . "The life " is an ongoing process . Three years later I am no longer the owner on a small surveying firm , but instead the happily impoverished dock master of a small marina , first mate on a re-stored Chesapeake Bay Skipjack , & live aboard with two boats . hahahaha What was I thinking ???? as alway , Kjango on Sailnet


Thanks for reading! Have you had a similar experience you'd like to share? Have a link to an interesting blog fellow readers and I might enjoy? Just want to say hello? Post your comments below. I'm a smart, resourceful girl doing things her own way, so I just ask that folks keep the unsolicited advice to themselves.