Have you heard? The Bosun has been sailing on the tallship Hawaiian Chieftain since early August, and we’re here keeping the home fires burning. Actually, we’ve been able to visit him quite a few times, and we haven’t had a single fire since he’s been away. Moving on.
A few days ago the Chieftain hauled out at Boat Haven in Port Townsend, Washington, so I’m considering her to be landlocked for the moment. Also, the annual Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival is going on this weekend! So, in honor of those two things, we’re having a photo contest.
Why always keep your camera with you? Because if you don’t, you’ll have only cell phone snap shots to commemorate the day when a huge fishing boat crashes into your dock and you suddenly have no place to live.
Fishing Vessel Southeast crashes into Fowler’s Docks in Morro Bay.
I read a lot of things by Everett Bogue,Leo Babauta, and Tammy Strobel. I wanted to get rid of the Stuff that was clogging up my life. I shifted my thinking about what was valuable (time and experiences vs. possessions and passive entertainment), and eventually we got rid of almost everything and moved into a 250 square foot apartment at the beach.
Apart from some unbelievably inconsiderate neighbors, life was good. Things were simple.
And then we had a baby.
Partly due to the tiny-ness of our apartment (but mostly due to the horrible neighbors), we moved into a two bedroom house a couple of blocks away. It had a laundry room. And a yard. It was huge.
Somehow, after only a few months, our huge house began to shrink. Suddenly there was Stuff everywhere and no room for more. But new Stuff continued to appear, only a small bit of it in the form of baby gear.
One day, as I was moving a heap of junk out of the way to get to another heap of junk which contained something I needed, I realized what had happened. It had nothing to do with the baby.
Old habits had crept back in because I had allowed myself to blame my sweet, simple baby. My expectations had shifted. I bought into the idea that babies need a lot of gear, and so I unconsciously gave up on the idea that we could live as a family without a lot of Stuff. Even though our baby didn’t have half the Stuff other babies in the neighborhood do, he still had more than he needed. But again, it wasn’t his Stuff that was clogging up my life and sucking the energy out of my home. It was mine. I had completely lost sight of the freedom that simple living had afforded. I guess I was too busy paying attention to the baby to notice the mess I had made of my environment.
So, it’s time for thinking to be readjusted again. It’s time for an extreme shift in our environment.
I’m a big fan of the tiny house movement, but I’m also a fan of living on the water. So, the 49.5′ canoe-hulled ketch Baltia is our version of a tiny house. It’s not really tiny by boat standards, and the amount of restoration and maintenance it needs makes it less than simple. But, it is a lifestyle less full of Stuff.
This boat is a stepping stone for us. It gets us back to living aboard, and to being able to throw our possessions into a backpack (or 3) and just go. If we can maintain a simple and more self-sufficient lifestyle, then we’ll be ready to move on when it’s time to let Baltia go. We’ll be used to living in small spaces, with furniture built in, spending more time outdoors, and not having lots of Stuff.
Right now there are a thousand things I can think of that I expect would make me happy.
Someday I’m going to do or have or make those things. Someday we’re going to live on a boat again and life is going to be wonderful.
But not today.
We had the best time, living on a boat. Two boats, actually: one on the West Coast and one on the East. We had the best time. We really did.
The only reason I don’t lust after boats every day now is because I want a big vegetable garden, and some chickens. I want my boy to experiences seasons– snow in the winter, that first spring blossom, fireflies in the summer, and mountains of autumn leaves. I want to work from a loft upstairs while my children play all day in the sunshine. To do all of that on a boat, well… that would be one heck of a boat.
But lately I’ve been thinking, “What can I do now, today, that would fulfill some of these wants from my ideal living situation?” One thing is gardening. I need to just start. We have some room here. I could at the very least do some container gardening. I don’t have to wait for the ideal home in the ideal location with the ideal plot of land… I want to garden, and I’m going to garden. Right now. Today.
Now that we’ve got a little bit of the Midwestern farm life under control, what is it specifically that we miss so much about living on boats? There are several things I can think of off the top of my head:
1. We worked from home. Crewing the boat was our job. Ok, it was more like living at work than working from home, but it was good. The different aspects of our lives were integrated by living and working in the same space. Also, we worked very well together, and we enjoyed being together and working side by side every day.
2. Everything was neat and tidy. Ok, if you’ve ever sailed with me, you’re laughing really hard right now because my bunk was always so messy & so full of junk that I had to sleep elsewhere, but on the whole… the first thing every day (after breakfast) was cleaning the boat, top to bottom. Morning chores are a great way to start the day, and it helps keep the rest of the day’s activities running smoothly.
3. We were out of doors every day. Even on days we didn’t put to sea, there was no lack of fresh air and interaction with the world around us.
4. We were strong. The first time I went sailing, I went for two weeks. When I came back to my favorite landlubber job at Starbucks, I could carry six gallons of milk at once. That’s about 25 pounds per arm. It’s not easy to carry that much weight any distance at all, and there is no way I could do it today. (Ok, my son weighs around 20 lbs, but I carry him differently and now my back hurts!)
So, what can I do today, this week, this month to recreate some of what I loved about boat life?
1. Work from home (more). I already work from home, but not in a very organized way. I need to streamline my work day and grow the business so that John can eventually join me here instead of commuting to his tech job every day.
2. Clean the house! I love a clean kitchen in the morning. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. Housekeeping has always been a challenge for me, but the more ritualistic it is, the easier and more enjoyable it becomes. I’m going to post a chore bill. I think I’ll make it out of chalkboard paint. Actually, for now I’ll just make one out of notebook paper so I don’t get caught up in that “as soon as I make that really cool chore bill, we can start cleaning the house” fallacy. We’ll create a ritual of housecleaning, first thing after breakfast.
3. Get back into the routine of taking Keani Kai out for walks every day. We used to do 3-5 miles per day, at least 5 days a week! We can also do a lot of our work out of doors, and then there’s the gardening.
4. Working out of doors and gardening should help us get some of our physical strength back, but I’d also like to start strength training again. I’ll have to see where I can fit that in.
This seems like a good start. For now, the snow, the fireflies, the autumn leaves, and the chickens (and the boat!) will just have to wait.
Homework: Think back to the time in your life you were the happiest, the most productive, or otherwise the best that you could be. Aside from going back in time, what can you do right now, today, to recreate some of the best aspects of that time and place?
Imagine that you’re on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. You feel the sun beating down, and the gentle sway of the vessel in the water. You turn your face to try to feel the direction of the wind, but there is no wind. Not even a breeze. You hear the creaking of the masts and the gentle lapping of the water on the hull, but you are dead in the water.
There’s no telling when the wind will pick up again; it could be several days. In the meantime, what will you do? The year is 1854, and you are a topman aboard a merchant vessel bound for some Pacific Island. You can’t pass the time by reading, because you don’t know how to read; you don’t feel like singing at the moment, and you can’t whistle because you are superstitiously worried about whistling up an ill wind.
What’s a sailor to do?
There’s always plenty to be done to keep the ship in top condition. There are sails to be mended, lines and rigging to be repaired, old rope to be turned into baggywrinkle, decks to scrub and tar… the list goes on and on. However, when that “Sailor-Do” list is completed, what’s next?
Have you ever seen a particularly handsome bell rope and wondered, “How on earth did they make that?” Or how about a boat’s ladder (stairsteps) all decked out with ornamental ropework? It’s not strictly ornamental, after all. On the ladder, for example, it serves as a nonskid surface for climbing around in your wet boat shoes. There’s a name for this combination of form and function: it’s called Marlinspike Seamanship, and it’s not exactly a lost art. (The work below, coxcombing on tillers, was done by Frayed Knot Arts.)
The next time you have an opportunity to get up close and personal with a sailboat (or even see one in a movie), look for examples of Marlinspike fancy work. It’s all done by hand, and it’s a tradition worth carrying on.
If you’re in the Morro Bay/San Luis Obispo/Central Coast area of California and you’d like to participate in a Marlinspike workshop, leave a note in the comments below. We’ll let you know when we have one coming up!
Also, check out these books (click the covers to see them on Amazon):
So today, in lieu of Wordless Wednesday, I am FINALLY posting a few photos from our awesome family photo shoot aboard the Tall Ship Lady Washington. Thanks to the lovely Ginger of Sandprints Photos in Morro Bay for her amazing photography and cheery personality. Also a big thanks to Captain Miah and the Lady crew!
Although it’s November, it was about 60 degrees in town, and I didn’t expect it to be SO COLD out at the point! The wind was bitter, but I would have loved it if I had dressed for the occasion. As it was, I was in jeans, a cotton tank top, and a light corduroy blazer. I was freezing!
We ventured out in a pack, but as people found scenes they wanted to sketch, the wandering group got smaller and smaller. We walked on the path, through mud puddles and brush, onto the salt marsh (which I was very excited about– I’ve always wondered how people got out there!), and I did find a magnificent view of Morro Rock but I had to keep going to find shelter from the wind. Finally there was a pretty good view of Hollister Peak, but it was just not inspiring me. I’m really not a landscape person. I needed a little more drama, so I found a huge conifer that was drooping down and almost forming a cave, a little secret spot with a view of the Peak peeking through the branches.
“This is cool,” I thought. So I sat down to sketch. I pulled out my 6B pencil and my drawing pad and I made some lines. Ugly lines. Lines that represented the tree branches and the peak, but ugly lines no less. That’s when I remembered why I don’t do landscapes: I don’t like them. Still, it was a pretty cool view, so I decided to take a photo of it. Unfortunately, I had left my camera in the car, but I hey, I had my cell phone camera! I took two photos and the memory card was full. Just not my day.
I decided to use the time to make a texture study, and drew some bark. I was not really excited about that either, so I drew a plant that was poking up through the pine needles. Then I blacked out the background, and the less realistic it looked, the more I liked it.
I started back toward the marina and a beautiful little ketch with dark green sail covers caught my eye, but the sun was so bright and the wind was so cold and my eyes kept stinging and burning, so I took some quick notes and headed back to the car.
Overall I was pretty disappointed in how the day turned out, mostly due to my own lack of preparation! Next time I will remember to bring: