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.
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?
Brightwork is a term that sends some sailors running for cover; it makes others jump up and down and leap for joy. Well, it makes me leap for joy, anyway. And no matter if you love the work or hate it, it’s hard to deny that the end result is beautiful.
So what exactly is “brightwork” on a boat? It doesn’t usually refer to the brass, although (if it’s polished regularly) that’s pretty bright and shiny too. Nope, it’s the wonderfully varnished woodwork that gleams like a jewel in the sun.
Let me tell you a little story to give you some background on my obsession with brightwork.
My first two or three months on the sailing vessel Hawaiian Chieftain were spent doing brightwork. She had sat boarded up for several months on Lake Michigan, getting absolutely no TLC, before she was brought to Westport, WA in 2006 for “100 Days of Summer.” This was code for “100 Days of Maintenance,” something many sailors are not very excited about.
Since at first I was only able to work on the boat in the mornings before slaving away at my day job, I did a whole lot of maintenance and not a lot of sailing. Those early morning hours spent scraping off the old, cracked varnish and then sanding the wood to a nice smooth condition, bleaching out the black spots and then sanding it again, were such meditative hours. Nobody on the crew could figure out why I loved it so much; but then, none of them were forced to spend the rest of the day standing in a stuffy, artificially-lit building in a button-down shirt, keeping track of several thousand dollars and trying not to get robbed. (Did I mention I used to be a bank teller?) Out there in the fresh air, with the boat gently swaying in the current, I felt as free as a bird, even though we were tied up at the dock. For most of the crew, maintenance was a necessary evil so that they could keep on sailing. For me, it was respite from the “real world.”
So there you have it. Some people do yoga. I did brightwork.
Now that I have a baby on the way, I try to avoid painting and varnishing. But I did marry the Bos’un after all, so when our family gifted us a brand new red wagon as a baby gift, he decided to varnish the wood before putting it all together. With a gale warning all along the central coast and plenty of sunshine to work in, it was almost like a day of boat maintenance… almost.
Instead of using varnish, we used Cetol Marine, which is a little more flexible and a little easier to apply. It has this deep golden color, as you can see in the photos, and it’s pretty durable too. Most of all, it reminds us of our days on the Chieftain!