Well, it has been almost two weeks since we stepped off Never for Ever for the last time after living aboard for just shy of a year. Since then we have packed up, driven from Nanaimo to Edmonton, unpacked, then moved our son from his apartment to our basement and done some truly prodigious shopping. In short, it’s been busy. But mostly it’s nice to be home again.
But I have been noticing that, common sense to the contrary, there are a lot of things I enjoy about living on a (relatively) tiny boat and there are a lot of things not-so-hot about life ashore. So here’s my top 10 list of things that make me wish I was still living aboard.
One: traffic jams
The other day we had the “pleasure” of running into an accident that meant we had to detour down the Yellowhead Freeway at rush hour. One-and-a-half miserable hours later Leslie and I were more tense and terse than we’d been in years.
A traffic jam on a boat consists of circling a gas dock waiting for your turn. Occasionally you wait for another boat to dock or undock. As our first sailing instructor John Fairweather often said, “It’s all good…” The maddening frustration and road-rage inducing tension of dealing with thousands of other equally frustrated commuters just doesn’t exist.
Two: social engagements
It’s not the idea of social engagements per se I am finding frustrating, but not once, in all the time I have spent on the water, has a date, meeting, drink, or coffee involved daytimers and/or multiple exchanged emails with alternatives, backups or reschedules anticipated, demanded or negotiated.
Maybe it’s the more relaxed lifestyle or just the mere fact that if you can’t make it happen then one or more of the potential participants is likely to just move on, but crusing is so much more relaxed. Like a lot of cruising related activities, socialization s much more of a binary system; decisions are often reduced to “yes” or “no.” While that may mean you miss opportunities to connect with people, I have to say I really prefer the simplicity of the cruising lifestyle.
Three: separate rooms
Our boat has three cabins — four if you include the head — and another space in the cockpit usable on most days. And the v-berth quickly became too cluttered to be used as a reading space as I originally intended. That left the salon, aft cabin or cockpit as places you could “be.” 90% of the time Leslie was within easy conversation distance.
It worked for us. We had our own spaces but rarely did we feel alone or left out.
Our condo is four floors including the basement and generally we often have no idea where anyone else is, or even if anyone is actually home. And this quickly results in all sorts of pre-programmed anti-social habits. Once we are back to work and busy with our own thoughts and concerns, it is going to be a struggle to avoid falling back into the trap of living together separately. But at least after our year of living small we are more aware and can actually make an effort to avoid the worst of it and just make time to “be” in the same space.
Four: the tyranny of choice
The phrase “tyranny of choice” is often tossed off as a trite witticism, but it takes a year of living with limited choice to really realize that the world does offer us too much choice. On board we had a reduced wardrobes, minimal crockery, just the food left in the lockers, limited choices for entertainment, and our “toys” were few and basic… But back on land we have access to pretty much anything we can imagine and therein lies the issue. I am starting to think that we as a culture spend too much time imagining and not enough time thinking. Simple choices are no longer simple if you can’t readily eliminate 90% of your imagined choices. This leads to a lot of wasted time, worry and brainpower. In a lot of ways, I miss the simplicity of boat life the most.
Five: too much room
Hand-in-hand with too much choice is too much room. There are no piles on a boat. Discipline is enforced because there simply isn’t enough room. A day of maintenance that involves moving gear from its normal place will turn the boat into chaos for everyone — and everyone is always equally eager to get it all back to a semblance of order. Our condo has 1900 plus sq. ft; if you put something new down in an out-of-the-way corner, for us, it’s 60-40 that it will ever make its way to a permanent new home. And the next thing you know you’ve got a pile that grows to such proportion that simply dealing with it becomes something you actively avoid.
Six: indoor life
This one is purely psychological. On board I spent a minimum of a couple of hours outdoors every day. At home, not infrequently, days will pass before I step outdoors. I have no idea why coffee on deck on a cool morning is so appealing when on the water and so distasteful when in the city. But it is. I need to get over it.
Seven: locked doors
We live in the city. We, prudently, lock our doors at every opportunity. I never realized how disheartening that is. And what an annoyance it is to take your keys with you every time you leave for 5 minutes. We locked the boat if we were going to be away for any extended period of time but rarely if someone was aboard. There is just something “wrong” with walking up to your own door and being locked out.
Eight: travelling in general
Say it’s eight in the morning and we have to go to Calgary; that’s a three hour drive away. Cue tension. The older I get, the more any long trip out of the city leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Traffic, boring scenery, the necessity of focussing your attention on all the other yahoos on the road — all of this makes travelling a big negative in my view. On the other hand, if we have a 5-hour motor or sail ahead of us, it’s just another adventure. You can switch off duties, enjoy the trip, eat, stretch and not feel tied down to a schedule, and, for me, finally make the journey just as interesting as the destination.
Nine: feeling the necessity to get out of the rain
Kids, at least when I was a kid, will play in the rain, sit in the mud and generally disdain common sense. But I haven’t spent more than 5 minutes out in the rain for years if I wasn’t camping or sailing. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out when “wet” became such a bad thing.
And for number Ten, I have saved the worst for last. I have come to the conclusion that socks are the devil’s creation. They are hot, uncomfortable and are always trying to strangle my feet. For the last year aboard I wore socks, if I was lucky, once a week. Now it seems I am expected to wear them a minimum of 10 hours a day. I am so tempted to go buy a pair of Birkenstocks and embrace my inner hippy.