dinghy on shore

I Lead an Unusual Life

Thursday April 3, 2014

dinghy on shore

A thought occurred to me the other day as I was showering in the head and subsequently scooping water from the base and dumping in the sink since our pump decided to poop out at the moment. This is normal. Normal for me to bend down in a space so tiny that there is no way to avoid my butt hitting the toilet on the way down and catching the handle on the way back up. When did this happen? I didn’t used to lead this kind of life. The kind of life where I took every convenience for granted, because I knew no other way.

The other thing I want to know is, when did this life become so normal? Where I don’t bat an eye at showering outdoors in front of dozens of people, or live a majority of my day in a space that is barely larger than my old bedroom? I guess if you’re put into any situation long enough, it becomes your new normal. But since all of this is apparently becoming so blasé to me, I’d like to take a moment and go through what an unusual life I actually do lead.

Here’s an example of a few things that we also did on land that have transferred to life on a boat, but aren’t quite the same.



I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself if I was able to pull back a shower curtain, step in a tub, and instantly turn on hot water. It’s been so long since I’ve had that convenience that I’ve stopped even dreaming about it. Those moments where you shower not even necessarily because you want to be clean, but because it helps you unwind at the end of a long day or warm up after a sharp rain outside. Those days are so far gone.

Instead, showering has now become a necessity. Not something I ever want to do anymore, but something I have to do, lest the people in town begin to look at me with disgust and murmur under their breath, ‘Does this chick not own a bar of soap?’. Without being in the heat of the tropics anymore where any kind of water was a source to cool down while losing more liquids than I could drink in sweat alone, I loathed showering up until just a few days ago. And that’s because our only ‘shower’ was a hose in our cockpit that led to our water tank, no heater in between. So showering meant sitting under a spray of the ambient temperature of water that the boat is sitting in. You try taking a 72 degree shower and tell me how fun it is.

Oh, but that’s not all. This shower had to be taken outdoors, every time. With neighbors watching, and any inkling of a breeze sending a chill down your spine and shipping you quickly to the shelter of the cabin for a pair of fuzzy pants and a hot cup of coffee as soon as you were finished. Then it finally dawned on us a few days ago (light bulb going on) that we should get a solar shower. A five gallon bag that heats the water inside by lying it in the sun and letting it soak up and hold on to the warmth. Hang the warm bag in our tiny little head and, ta da!, a hot shower without the cold breeze hitting you in the face. It’s been a huge step up for us in this world.




I think I’ve touched on the subject before of when we first started this trip, cooking a meal in our galley would drive me absolutely insane. It was the one thing I hadn’t mentally prepared for during our transition from land to water, and it came as quite a shock to me how different it actually was from our kitchen at home. I’ve become much more used to it now where it doesn’t even phase me, but let me go through the steps of what it takes to make a meal here on Serendipity.

  1. Think long and hard about the meal you want to eat. Then think about if you have all the ingredients. You don’t want to find out half way through that you don’t, because it’s a long trip back to the store. If there’s even one available.
  2. Most of our meals are usually cooked on the stove, which means pulling the necessary pans out of the oven since that’s the only space we have available to store them.  Heaven forbid you ever need both the stove and the oven, which leaves you searching for a space to keep all your extra pans for the next hour.
  3. Pull out all the ingredients you need to prepare your meal. They’re not quite as easy to reach once you’ve started cooking, so all things must be dug out of the intestines of the chill box, pulled out from under the settee (which takes the removal of at least three cushions), and any cooking utensils need to be excavated from being buried in a drawer in no particular order.
  4. Remembering where you put all of your non perishable ingredients. Those diced tomatoes you used to keep under the tv? They’ve now been moved next to the water tank since you’ve decided they’re less likely to rust there. The pasta that used to be kept easily stowed behind the settee back? You can’t really remember where you put it, but now it’s really important that you find it.
  5. Set everything out on your counter space, a.k.a., the top of the chill box. Begin cooking and realize that right when you need it, the ketchup or stir fry sauce or whatever missing ingredient is still sitting in the bottom of the chill box. Except, now all of your other ingredients are blocking your way into it. Which means taking them and moving them to the companionway steps since that’s the only other available space near you, putting everything else in the chill box on the steps as well while you try to find your way down to it, and then replacing everything back into the chill box. Which usually also accidentally means the ingredients that you need and had out in the first place, and now fishing them back out a second time.
  6. Finishing cooking your meal and transferring it to the plates which immediately need to be brought to the table so you can free up counter space to get the leftover ingredients back in the fridge and get your 2 liter of pop out. All the dishes are assigned to the sink where you hope that, while you’re eating your dinner and enjoying an episode of Modern Family, they somehow clean themselves because you just don’t have the energy to do them, by hand, after the elaborate mess you went through to cook the meal in the first place.



‘Our car’ a.ka. the dinghy: 

When you live on a boat, your car takes a little bit different of a shape than it had on land. Now instead of being fast or spacious, or even enclosed, it’s about 9 ft, inflatable, and completely exposed to all the elements. I’m not complaining really, there’s no job to get to, so no need to go out in the rain if you don’t want to. No schedules mean you go out when it’s convenient for you. But keeping an eye out for getting rained on isn’t the only thing you need to look out for.

First you have to determine how far you’re going, and if you have enough gas to get there. And now in our case, if our little 3.3 hp outboard is up for the journey. Here in Florida it hasn’t been hard getting from the lake to the marina, but once we’re in the Bahamas we won’t be zipping from one cay to the next like we did when we had our 9.9 hp. Even in George Town we’ll probably be anchoring much closer to town for a shorter dinghy ride.

Then you have to be very careful about what you bring, or even what you wear, because chances are you might still get wet. Ready to sit in a pair of wet cotton shorts all day because a rouge wave came over the side? I hope so. (And I still do, I can’t force myself into those quick drying fabrics. Fashion over comfort, isn’t that how the saying goes?) Then there’s the matter of keeping your belongings dry. Don’t even think of just sticking your camera or computer into a backpack and calling it good. They either need to go into waterproof cases or waterproof bags. And then maybe a second one just to be safe.



Putting away groceries:

Smaller trips to the market have become better because we’re usually only buying what will be used in the next few days and have just vacated spots in the cupboards or chill box that need to be filled again. Provisioning though? That’s a whole other story and one I cringe at the thought of, although I have to say, we did pretty well this last time around.

Imagine that you’re off to a place for the next six to eight weeks where you’re either not sure you’ll be able to find some of your favorites from back home (does anyone even know if they sell egg roll wraps in the Bahamas?), or the items that you do want come at an exorbanent price and you’d rather stock up on them back home. $8 for 8 oz of coffee? Thanks, but I think I’ll still with my 28 oz for $6.50 at Walmart.

The only question left is, where do you put everything once you’ve bought it? Suddenly any open space in the boat becomes fair game for storage. Cans upon cans are stacked on top of each other under the settee in that little space next to the water tank. Bags of cereal are ziplocked and placed in the bilge. Liters of UHT milk are placed in the belly of the boat at the entrance to the after cabin, and those extras we don’t need as much such as the replacement pounds of flour and sugar? Well, they get placed in the aft cabin under the storage boards that require us to first remove every item from the aft cabin that we own. And since we consider it our garage…that’s a lot of stuff. You don’t want to be anywhere near me when I realized I’ve just used my last cup of flour and need to tear apart the boat in the blazing tropic heat to dig out it’s successor.



Sleeping in a v-berth:

I still dream about our bed back in our old house. I do. I was completely in love with that thing. It was king size with a pillow top mattress, and I could sink into it while simultaniously sprawling out and not even coming close to kicking Matt. Now we sleep in an area that’s 70 inches wide at the head and 17 at the foot. We’ve basically become contortionist when it comes to sleeping. If you want to bring your leg up to the side, which is about the only way I can sleep, it needs to be tucked in so close to my body that my knee is basically resting under my chin. My butt is all the way up against the wall which means that any time I turn my butt and or hip, it gets caught on the shelf that sticks out 8 inches above me. One of the first things Matt did away with when we bought the boat was the shelf on his side because leaving it there meant he had to sleep flat on his back all night without the option to rotate.

Trying to make the bed is another pain in the butt, and I won’t lie, there have been times I’ve been fine to sleep without a fitted sheet because the hassle of getting it on is more trouble than it’s worth. Which is usually at 11 pm when I realized the sheets never went on after being washed that day and I’m way too tired to do it at that point. But on the times it does happen it’s a fight against physics to tuck the extra inches of fabric under an area that I’m currently putting all my weight on, which usually leaves me defeated, tufts of extra fabric peeking out of the edges and working their way to the center of the bed come morning. I know there’s ways to secure them around the strange angles better, or even sew them into the shape of your bed, but I’ve never gotten around to that.  I’m sure it will happen when we’re about six months away from getting rid of the boat.


So there you have it.  All the ‘normal’ things in my life that I no longer even bat an eye at.  I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when I have to be housebroken again, how much of my current life will transition over.  Sleeping on a couch because the bed feels just a little too big or buying a dorm size fridge because I could never imagine trying to fill out a regular one.  We’ll see how it all plays out.  Hopefully, years down the road.

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