"So, you're on the boat now! How do you like cruising?" As we talk to our friends, both new and old, this has to be the most popular set of questions. And the answer generally isn't an overwhelming yay or nay just yet, to be honest! We know we are really neophytes, and still have tons to learn! But there are so many aspects of daily life that are just different, and definitely take some getting used to; here are some of the biggies so far:
Biorhythms: Our daily sleep/wake cycles seem to have adjusted more to the sun, and we tend to be laying awake at first light, staring at the ceiling. "You awake?" I hear. "Yep," I respond. "Let's get going!" Yet after a day on the water, even though it's relaxing, we are both beat, and ready for bed by 9:30. I've heard 9PM referred to as "cruiser's midnight", and now I get it! I've always been a morning person, usually falling asleep on the couch by 10PM, so my clock didn't need too much adjustment, but Dennis has always been a night owl. Before now :)
Entertainment: We grew up in the sixties and seventies, so our childhoods were increasingly defined through the years by TV after dinner. And, like many adults our age, we regularly watched live TV on a schedule: Grey's on Thursday nights, The Good Wife on Sunday evenings, Castle on Mondays. Our evenings circled around the TV Guide. But now that we don't have a regular CATV connection (and also because it's really hard to stay up until 11!), we watch shows streamed from Hulu or Amazon Prime, usually seeing them weeks after they aired live, depending on our schedules. We spend our evenings continuing our Backgammon rivalry (I'm currently down by 1 game). This, I have to admit, has been freeing. Not having to be glued to the TV at a certain time/date, and catching up on five episodes of Grey's at one time is really much more convenient. There are times, however, like when Derek Shepherd's untimely death was plastered first on Facebook, when I feel as though I slept through New Year's and missed the ball dropping.
Hulu, Vudu, NetFlix, Sirius, Pandora, Amazon - the new "TV"
Breaking News: Gone also are the days of listening to the same old CNN stories for days on end, paraded as Breaking News, which I always felt lent every day an air of dire emergency. Now our breaking news tends to be that the anchor held all night, or that a weather front is passing through. We watch weather radar several times a day, and the "real news" comes mostly from MSN headlines on our home page. Our world has shrunk, yet also enlarged.
Provisions: Moving constantly from one place to the next means that I can't really run out to Publix if I'm out of a key ingredient; I just have to make do. It also means that when we do land somewhere, I have to settle for what I can find. I may not find the same brand of toilet paper or milk that we've bought for all 35 years of our married lives; I might need to use substitutes or go without for a while. Living on a (moving) boat also means that we try to shop in bulk when we have the chance. Grocery shopping can take the better part of an entire day, if I count going ashore in the dinghy with our bags, walking or finding transportation to the store, the actual shopping, reversing the trip, and then repackaging everything once back on the boat. One thing that has really struck me is the amount of unnecessary packaging that is used; we remove everything excess so more things will fit better in small spaces, and make less garbage while we're underway. And a side note: most marinas we've encountered do not offer much in the way of recycling, which truly took me by surprise. I've been accustomed to recycling almost everything in the last few apartment complexes we've lived in, and now feel really bad putting plastic right into the trash bins.
Water and Power Management: This may be the most challenging area for us so far. With the recent addition of almost a kilowatt of solar power, and our 30/gallon per hour watermaker, we can really stay "off the grid" until we run out of food or fuel. But even so, life now is a careful balance of when to run the generator, when to do the laundry, how much to use the air conditioning, and whether there's hot water. Just this morning, as we rolled out of bed, I heard an ominous "click" as the entire boat shut down, the batteries having hit their "minimum low" of 39%. We have a lot of options, and the consequences are by no means second nature to us yet.
Internet and Work: Running a GoToMeeting and suddenly losing cell reception has happened already more than a few times. Although we have cell phone boosters, hot spots and Wifi extenders through both AT&T and T-Mobile, we still find ourselves in sparse areas, or having to plan an offshore crossing during the business week. This has necessitated more juggling and planning of our travel plans, dependent on scheduled meetings and available signal. More than once I have been grateful for my covered webcam, as I stand in a heaving vessel, sweating profusely, while trying to conduct a demonstration and sound professional. As we head up the southeast US coast, I think we will have to add Verizon in to our mix as well, for the most overall coverage.
Maintenance: Coming from ten years of condo living, this has been a big change for us (mostly Dennis). Cruising has been laughingly referred to as "fixing your boat in exotic places", and I can see how that will be true. Even with a new boat, even with most things under warranty, there is an inordinate amount of cleaning and fixing, stowing and testing. The difference is that, on a boat, one lives constantly on a more precarious edge than in a house or condo. The elements wear constantly on our home, and we are at the mercy of the wind and weather at every moment. Not to mention the other boaters out there on the waterways! If our equipment isn't in top shape, if we forget to do a scheduled engine maintenance, if we don't tighten a loose line, the consequences are much more far reaching than forgetting to rotate the tires on the car!
There are NINE strainers on the boat to keep clean!
Mostly the biggest difference is that life now is never boring! We've been yanked from serene complacency and flung into the pot where every day is a new place, a new adventure. There are certainly moments when we wish for the predictability of the past years, but the joy of looking at a chart each morning, of plotting out our course, of figuring out each day afresh has been rejuvenating and invigorating. Being so close to the outdoors, the weather, sea, and sun has brought a spiritual side to our lives that we'd lost long ago - the recognition that we exist and succeed only by the grace of something larger than ourselves and that the trappings of our lives are self-inflicted.
Since March began, we made it back around Florida through the Keys, and spent April and May in the Sarasota area, while Mondo finished installing the last few final touches to the project that has consumed the last 3+ years.
Fixed the first cracked window and Mack promptly dropped a piece of furling gear and broke another...ouch!
We took a three-week hiatus and headed up to NYC for our grandson's birthday and a business conference, a welcome break from the impending FL summer.
Yesterday we set out from Marina Jack Marina for the last time for quite a while, and we will be heading again through the Keys, and then up the ICW for the summer. We plan to be back down in Annapolis for the Boat Show in mid-October, where we'll once again be on display, and then...who knows?
Our AIS is working so you can track us at www.MarineTraffic.com, just search for XYZZY. Yep, we're the only one! See you out there!
This is for the one who has found her way,
and the one who is still searching.
For the one who counts her blessings,
and who is a blessing to others.
This is for the dreamer, and the dancer,
and the music maker.
For the ones brave enough to jump,
and the ones still standing on the edge.
This is for the one who takes the path,
and the one who creates her own.
For the one who fights, believes,
This is for you.
Breathe in, Breathe Out, Move On.