Sunday, May 12, 2013

How to...

Hammock Break!

I've been trying to come up with a helpful metaphor for our trip.

It's not just like a move, though we are sorting and packing and leaving our house.

It's not like getting an advanced degree, though there are hints of the same kind of deep learning and sense of accomplishment I see in my friends who choose that route in mid-life.

It's not a permanent downsize, since we're coming back. But we do have to drastically reduce the amount of stuff we will be living with while on the boat and that process naturally prompts other purging. We know we're going to wonder about some of our choices as it is. (If we knew which ones, we would have made different ones!)

Maybe it's more like parenting, in the way that it upends all aspects of our lives and is a journey no one can take for us. Though many cruisers uproot even more completely and travel for years, we only plan to be gone for a year. But still, there's not a lot in our lives that will remain unaffected. We are reconsidering communications and wardrobe, sleeping arrangements and laundry, shopping and income and cooking and worship and banking and entertainment and plumbing.

We've followed several other people on the same journey through their writing, both in books and online. Some friends have recommended that we write a how-to book, though I feel like anything but an expert. Just like parenting, there are already a good number of books with vast amounts of wisdom and advice on this topic. And we have learned so much from the cruising community. But also like parenting, reading the books (and the internet forums...and the magazine articles) doesn't get the job done.

We still have to work through our own set of difficulties and find solutions to our own problems. That's true about it all, right? We have to live our own lives. This year, we have to figure out which methods, gear, etc will work for our boat and our family on our route. And then, we still have to do the work. After all the gear choices are made, we have to install it. We have to choose to pack or donate or trash everything. And when we move out, it will be our arms carrying the boxes. And when we say goodbye, no how-to manual will be absorbent enough.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Unmade Bed

I'm sitting on my bed as I write. It's the most comfortable piece of furniture I own. We've signed a lease and are only a few busy weeks away from moving out so I'm getting a bit nostalgic. People ask me if I'm going to miss my piano and I'm sure I will. But I may miss reading, relaxing, and sleeping (sleeping, people! This is a family blog.) in my square bed even more. At my writer's group last week, we were given the suggestion to write about an unmade bed and what emerged highlights some of the many differences between living in a house vs. living on a boat.

I don't have a good photo of our bed. Maybe this old picture of Meira huddled on the locker just aft of my pillow will give you a sense of the space.

He looks so weary tonight. I dip into my energy reserves and summon every last bit of my generosity and offer to make the bed. We're on the boat, so it's not as easy as it sounds.
Our bed is in the bow; only the anchor is forward of our feet. The sharp prow made for cutting through waves is not well-engineered for sleep. Our heads rest on either side of a chasm. It's called a V-berth for a reason. If you open the door of the head all the way, this tiny space converts into a dressing room, the only place to change your clothes in private.

We say goodnight across this gap, "The Grand Canyon," I call it. Or some nights "The Great Divide." Our bodies hug the walls, the changeable sea lapping or slapping just on the other side. The foot of the bed is the only meeting place and I often wake to a tangle of socks and ankles. The ceiling is low (don't try to sit up in the night or you will find out just how low!) and morning dew condenses on the glossy paint, converting our bed into a temperate rain forest. Our breath turns liquid and falls back on us at dawn.

Getting in and out is a pas de deux, a Cirque du Soleil audition for 2. I trace an arc with my legs, over his hands, past his face, horizontal until the last moment, then tip down, reaching to find the cold floor with my toes without whacking my head on the hatch above. The girls are still asleep in their quarterberths, heads and arms shooting out of the tube-like bunks like half-launched torpedoes. I start a kettle for coffee and tea, open the curtains on another picturesque anchorage and begin another morning afloat.

No one keeps score on who made the coffee yesterday or who volunteers to straighten the covers at night, turning them carefully on point, intentionally kitty-corner so they don't bunch up in the pointy end, tucking the excess back and piling the layers so we'll stay warm through the night.

We wouldn't last a week if it was about fairness.