Sunday, May 30, 2010

May or November?

You've gotta love May in the Northwest. :)  Despite a bit of rain today, we had a fantastic time helping our friends on Three Sheets rechristen their boat this weekend in Bremerton.  There was plenty of Champagne for Mr. Neptune and plenty of beer for the rest of us.  Congrats, guys! 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What's Living on a Sailboat Like?

When we meet someone new and the topic of where we live comes up, we are met, understandably, with lots of questions.  Even our nearest and dearest are sometimes (always?) perplexed by our life on the water.  To help set the record straight, here are the top questions and answers, in no particular order, about the mysterious world of living aboard a sailboat (from Nicole's perspective).

1.  How do you stay warm?
At the dock, the same way you many of you do. Electric heat.  Away from the dock (at anchor), we use our diesel heater, which is like a small fireplace that uses diesel instead of wood or gas.  It's super cozy.

2.  Do you move around a lot?

A little bit, but it’s a gentle motion. We are in a protected marina, so the amount of movement is minimal. During times of high winds or tide changes, we do experience some minor rocking and yawing, though. One thing I noticed the last time I traveled for work and slept in a hotel bed was the stillness!  I found myself missing the soothing motion of the boat. And that's a good thing.

3.  How do you cook/eat/drink?

We have a well-outfitted galley with a refrigerator, gas range, oven and a good deal of pantry storage. While cooking aboard at the dock presents more challenges than cooking on land (having a compact fridge with limited space, digging that key ingredient out from the bottom of a locker, dealing with an oven that is just under-sized enough to prevent a standard cookie sheet from fitting), I don’t have a problem cooking dinner just about every night and baking a batch of cookies or brownies when the mood strikes. We’ve chosen not to have a microwave, and to be honest, I don’t miss it.  Here I am on Taco Night.
We have two water tanks totaling about 115 gallons. We fill up our tanks as needed from the spigot at our slip. Drinking water passes through a filter first. We also have a watermaker, which will allow us to convert seawater to freshwater when a spigot is unavailable (or if the water is questionable). For the meantime, though, we’re satisfied with our City of Seattle water.

4.  Where do you shower?

We have a separate stall shower, as compared to some boats that either don’t have a shower at all or have a set-up where the entire head converts to a shower (and everything gets wet). I have no trouble standing up, but Aaron is tall and he has to sit. Hey, some people pay lots of money for sit-down showers. Sure, they are geriatric, but still.  If we feel like it, we occasionally shower in the big, spacious marina showers.  And we enjoy the luxury of unlimited hot water and fresh towels by showering at the gym.

5.  Where do you keep your clothes and shoes?

We’re fortunate in that I work from home and don’t need many business-y outfits and that Bella Star has a large hanging locker (closet) and plenty of drawer space. I’ve definitely pared down my wardrobe, but don’t you have things hanging in your closet or stuffed in the back of a drawer that you never wear and actually forget that you own? Those are the things that feel great to part with.  Aaron works in a business casual environment, so he has a selection of slacks and button-down shirts (which, yes, I do iron aboard) hanging in the locker.

Shoes get their own locker, but I did choose to purge some. You know the ones that always give you blisters but you keep around “just in case”? Off to Goodwill. And that 3rd pair of black heels? Toodle-oo.

We do have a storage unit where we keep our off-season clothing. Winter sweaters and scarves are boxed up during the summer; shorts and tank tops get a place on the shelf during the winter.

6.  You work from home. How does that work when your home is a boat?

Well, my office is bigger and better lit than most people’s cubes, so I think I have it pretty good. And you can’t beat the view. Each slip in the marina is wired for high-speed internet, VoIP telephone service and cable TV, so I work just like everyone else.

7.  Is it like camping?

For some people, sure. But we’ve chosen to make this our home, and that means making it comfortable.

8.  Do you have a washer and dryer?

Nope. But there is a laundry room at the head of the dock, and while it’s easier to trot down the hall and throw a load of laundry in whenever you feel like it, I’ve found that I can do all my laundry for the week in about 2 hours—that's three loads washed, dried, folded and put away. That’s the beauty of having multiple machines!  Another perk?  My dad is collecting all the new state quarters, and since we need quarters for the washers and dryers, I've been able to add to his collection quite substantially.  Who knew the Northern Mariana Islands had their own quarter?

9.  What did you do with all your stuff?

This was a very real question for me when we talked about moving aboard. What about my [insert really important thing you simply cannot live without but won’t fit on a boat here]? Guess what? You don’t really need it anyway. And if you do, then you make it work!

Parting with our “stuff” was one of the most liberating parts of moving aboard. When we put our condo on the market, we boxed up the knick-knacks and tchotchkes and tossed the years' worth of sediment that fills up drawers and closets. You can’t even imagine how many boxes and bags we took to Goodwill. And as I sit here writing this, I can’t even remember what any of it was. So did I even need it in the first place?  Certainly there are things I couldn’t bring that I miss. Namely, my dear Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. But, I’ve found that a lot of things turn out the same (or better) when mixed by hand.  Plus, it's a decent upper body workout, which negates the calories of the baked goods, right?

As for furniture, we donated some things, gave others to family members and stored some pieces that we really liked (our dining room table and chairs, for instance). We thought about storing it all, but when/if we decide to move back to a house or condo, will we really want the same old couch anyway?

Christmas is probably our favorite holiday. As anyone who knows us can tell you, we turn into crazy little Christmas elves hopped up on spiced cider and sugar cookies decorating every surface we can find with Santas and snowmen, nutcrackers galore, twinkling lights, mistletoe, garland and snow globes.  And I can’t forget to mention our most glorious tree. It’s 9’ of gorgeous, life-like branches, 2,000+ glittery lights and utter fabulousness. It cost as much as our car is probably worth. And we adore it.  Each year we wondered if the branches had reached full ornament capacity, but we always found room for 10 or 15 more treasures.

Bottom line? We have BOXES and BOXES of Christmas paraphernalia. Which most certainly won’t fit on the boat. Or in the boat. Or anywhere near the boat. Sad as it was, we were forced to pick out a few items (I was going to say “our favorites,” but they are all our favorites), buy a 2’ tree and send the rest of the boxes up into my parents’ attic (thanks, mom and dad!).

10.  What do you find challenging?

There are many challenges, to be sure, like keeping the lines and halyards from banging on the mast when it’s windy, being concerned about lightning and storms, walking from the car to the boat in a downpour, managing power consumption (not tripping breakers by turning on two heaters and the electric kettle), having to always move something to get at something else, trying to find pans that will fit in the oven, not being able to make more than 6 muffins at a time, playing Jenga with the contents of the refrigerator, waiting in line for the washers in the laundry room on a busy weekend, needing to drive to the mailbox, combating moisture/mildew, not having room for that 9’ Christmas tree, walking on tiptoes up the gangway to avoid catching my heels in the slats, ruining a pair of heels by forgetting to walk on tiptoes up the gangway and catching my heel in the slats, not having a physical address, experiencing the glory of the pump-out station and learning how to maintain everything ourselves (engine, plumbing, electrical, rigging...).

11.  What do you miss the most?

Aaron and I might have vastly different answers to this, but I think we both miss the convenience of a dishwasher.  I occasionally miss having a yard and a garden (but to be fair, we lived in a condo before this and didn't have more than a container garden on the deck).  And sometimes I'd like to splay out on the floor and just roll around.

12.  Why did you choose this lifestyle?

Because nothing beats smelling the salty air, seeing seals and jellyfish swimming around the boat, gazing at trails of phosphorescence on a dark night, meeting interesting people, enjoying the beautiful scenery, having less stuff, living a simpler lifestyle, traveling with ease, always being at home no matter where we go, spending more time together, being different, dining in the cockpit, snuggling on chilly evenings, watching the sunrise and sunset, drinking coffee on deck on quiet mornings, listening to the sound of the rain, reading on the foredeck in the sunshine, getting a step closer to self-sufficiency, learning new things, hearing the geese and sea lions and fog horns, watching a fleet of race boats with brightly colored spinnakers flying by the breakwater, staring up at starry nights and taking evening walks through the marina.
13.  How long will you keep this up?

Just as long as we keep having fun!