Is that…normal?

As of the end of June I have been a high school graduate for 20 years, and in keeping with tradition there was supposed to be a reunion. Somehow the powers that be failed to organize anything in time so in lieu of an actually gathering someone started a Facebook group and graduates were invited to post about their lives.

I am not sure which I found more frightening; the idea of spending an evening with a bunch of almost 40 year olds who want to relive their teen years or trying to sum up my life thus far in a paragraph for a social media site.

I have to admit it was interesting seeing what people decided to say but I couldn’t figure out what to write. I didn’t fit the template; university/job/spouse/children/house. All of which seems normal to most people and (now) completely foreign to me.

I got to thinking about our life onboard, and what our normal is. I got to thinking how many people – family/friends/readers – probably don’t really know what life onboard is like. So here is my attempt to give you a glimpse.

We live on a 41’ or 12.4M, sailboat. Living on a yacht is an amazing way to travel, we are not constrained by roads, or even blocks of land. We can escape to some of the most beautiful places in the world but sleep in our own bed. And, if we don’t like our neighbours we can just pull up anchor and move. We’ve been onboard for 8 years and Kate is definitely home. In fact she is EVERYTHING. There is no storage unit full of furniture, no car on loan to a relative and no house to return to. So, while I am enjoying those beautiful vistas the idea that something could go wrong and we could lose absolutely everything we own and hold dear constantly looms in the back of my mind.

Kate (the original name and I won’t go into the superstitions of changing a name of a boat) was built in 1973. She can hold her own in a race around the cans and has proven her worth during blue water passages. She is sea-kindly and strong. If she were a car she would be a Volvo; well-built and practical, elegant but not exactly luxurious. But back then they made boats with more of a mind for sail performance and practical living quarters than spaciousness.

The main cabin is 11’ X 11’. That’s smaller than most single car garages, and nowadays that’s smaller than most SUV’s. When I put down my yoga mat it takes up almost all the floor space in the cabin. We have 6’ head space in the centre of the cabin, works for us (except when doing yoga poses with hands above head) but if any of the men in my family ever get a chance to visit they won’t be able stand up straight inside.

Galaxy Dump May 2016 2165

View from the companionway (door) with yoga mat on the floor. Galley on left, nav station on right and bunk all the way forward

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TOP TEN PROS AND CONS OF LIVING ON A SAILBOAT

1. PRO– We travel the world and get to sleep in our own bed every night.
CON- I have spent many a stormy night lying awake in my own bed worried we’ll drag anchor and end up on the reef, losing everything.

2. PRO- The living space is limited but you should see the pool!
CON- At any given time we share the ‘pool’ with stinging jellies, sharks and, in the Solomon Islands, crocodiles.

3. PRO- We can fish for our supper.
CON- There is a reason they call it fishing not catching.

4. PRO- As people always like to remind us, the wind is “free”.
CON- It might be free but it ain’t easy when you don’t control which direction it blows or how hard.

5. PRO- There is a great tradition in the sailing community of sharing information and helping during a crisis.
CON- It is often assumed that since we share one common interest (we both own a boat) that we share many, and therefore automatically must be best friends.

6. PRO- In the beginning it felt like we were sailing new waters, discovering new things and finally getting off the beaten track.
CON- I soon discovered that everyone has already been here, done it and screwed up the natives along the way.

7. PRO- There is no daily grind, no boss or no schedule.
CON- We are completely and fully responsible for everything that we do and do not get accomplished in a day.

8. PRO- We get to see remote, beautiful and sometimes uninhabited parts of the world.
CON- Every beach we’ve ever visited has plastic on it. I often am completely disgusted and totally discouraged about how much we have polluted the earth.

9. PRO- Living outside the parameters of what most people consider normal is exhilarating.
CON- With each passing year it becomes more difficult to live inside the parameters of what most people consider “normal”.

10. PRO- It is bikini season all the time! (in the tropics)
CON- It is bikini season ALL the time!