When we first bought Kate in 2008 I had no expectations about what life onboard would be like. I hadn’t been dreaming of sailing the world since childhood, hadn’t furiously read any and all books related to sailing and I wasn’t an armchair sailor who leafed through a pile of sailing mags every month. I didn’t know anyone who’d tossed it all in and gone sailing, Facebook was in its infancy and if there were sailing blogs out there I didn’t know about them.
I wasn’t (too) worried.
I had enough experience sailing dinghies that I knew the pointy end was called the bow (thank goodness we didn’t buy a double ender!), the difference between a tack and a gybe and basic reefing techniques. I had been working on big boats (30-50M) for four years so I had done ocean passages, sat watches and tried to learn as much about navigation and radar as I could.
Besides I had Steve who had tonnes of sailing experience, who drove high speed catamaran passenger ferries for almost a decade, who had racked up more sea time and miles working on those big boats then I could count. I figured we’d make it through the 18 months we planned to take off work and find ourselves on solid ground in Aus ready for the next adventure.
But then things changed. We fell love; with our home, with our life, with sailing. 18 months floated by and we hadn’t even left Panama. It was obvious we needed to rethink the plan. And it was more obvious still that we would need money to fund our new plan. So when Steve got an unexpected offer of 8 weeks work we jumped, carefully, at the opportunity to fill the coffers. It meant I would be left taking care of the boat. A proposition I was a little nervous about but a challenge I agreed to face.
Things went well. I had some problems while Steve was away – an engine mount broke and the oil pan cracked – but I was able to deal with the issues and felt quite proud of how well I coped on my own. This seemed like the way we could make our sailing life work.
We’ve been fortunate enough that the unexpected job offers for Steve have kept popping up. Not always at convenient times or when we’re in ideal locations, but we’ve been able to make enough of them work that we’re still out here sailing. Each time there are new challenges to finding a safe haven both for the boat and for me; one that is close enough to some of the mod cons – markets, internet access, other people – and yet far enough away from traffic to be both safe and quiet. Steve has left me to hold the fort in Panama, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and recently the Solomon Islands.
People often comment that I must be lonely or bored when Steve is gone. Sorry to disappoint you all but overall I am neither. Although I much prefer when we’re together, and can’t imagine life any other way, I have no problem being on my own. I don’t need constant company, nor do I want it. Even when two people are together they still need a little time apart. Besides, loneliness is not a singular affliction; it can strike when you’re in the midst of a crowd.
As for bored, hardly. Besides the seemingly endless maintenance onboard and boat projects that I tackle while Steve is away, these breaks have afforded me the indulgence of writing. Over the years I have been able to take online classes, work with mentors and spend endless uninterrupted hours at my laptop. Because I have been able to dedicate so much of my time and attention to my craft I have not only gotten published but landed my own column. More importantly I discovered my vocation.
We are finally looking at the light at the end of the tunnel on this rotation. Come Saturday, after 11 weeks and 2 days (but who’s counting) Steve and I will be enjoying sunset drinks together in the comfort of the cockpit. This has been one of his longest stints away, and one of the most remote locations we’ve left the boat in. Both of these factors have presented their own problems, but once again we’ve struggled through no worse for wear. In fact, as always, we come out other side not only older but a little wiser.