Monday, September 18, 2017

Landlubbing v. boat life

writing outside while the kids play inside. Oh the space!

We’ve been landlubbers now for one month; one month as landlubbers after 11 years as  liveaboards. Time for a few reflections on the transition. Which do I like better? Boat life or land life? Which is easier? There isn’t an obvious answer, just lots of pros and cons, and a lot of the pros lead to cons.

In general, I’m enjoying the luxury and ease of living in a condo - the unlimited water and electricity, the space, the air conditioning. But we’re missing the boat too. The girls were very excited to move into a house, but they’ve also said goodbye to the only home they’ve had and they’re finding that they missing it, especially Freja. Maybe it’s a case of the grass is always greener but they’re (literally) dreaming about the boat and miss specific aspects. I feel it too. The change is easy, but I also loved our life on m/v Rhumb Line, and I’m missing it.

Yet, the house. It’s so easy. Here’s my current list of pros and cons of living in a house, in no particular order.

Pro: the space. This is the obvious one. There is so much space, and the sheer amount of space is amazing! I can hide from the kids and they don’t find me until they’ve found another activity to do. (Yes, I hide from my kids. All parents will get this.) We have a third bedroom which we call Hans’s work bedroom. All his scrubs are in there and he sleeps there when he’s working nights or other weird shifts. He can sleep undisturbed and I no longer have to shush the kids (Quiet! Pappa’s sleeping!).

There is an expression that used to run through my head on the boat, everything has a place and everything in its place. I was never good at this, especially because if we had one extra magazine out or if Hans left his shoes out, the magazine would be in the way of an art activity and we’d trip over the shoes. We had no extra space. It always looked like a tornado had just blown through and I was constantly purging and making runs to Goodwill with stuff to get rid of. Now I can shove the mail and the papers in an out of the way corner and no one notices. We have empty drawers and cupboards. I want to keep them empty; it’s the key (I think) to keeping a place tidy. Wow, it’s nice to live in a tidy place.

I have so much space to store food and cook, even though we have a relatively small kitchen compared to other houses. I’ve got my sourdough starter going, I’ve made baguettes, I’m trying out new recipes, I’m making yogurt. It is awesome to have so much space to cook.

Pro: the toilets. Boat toilets are stinky, they break, the flushing mechanism (a macerator pump) is loud, you have to find a place to pump-out the holding tank which contains all your, ahem, solid waste. There’s basically nothing good about a boat toilet, except, maybe, that it’s one step better than a bucket. But I’m not entirely convinced on that front. Diapers ain’t got nothing on a boat toilet. House toilets, on the other hand...big, clean, with a quiet, simple flush, relatively trouble free.

Pro: the fridge. I love the fridge in our condo. It is HUGE! It’s cold, the freezer makes ice and keeps ice cream works! I hate the fridge on our boat. We bought it brand new in 2014, but boat fridges, at least this one, isn’t designed for daily use by a family of four. We overworked that poor thing. The constant opening and closing and filling and emptying it of food every third day made it work harder than it was designed for. The freezer constantly  needed defrosting and dairy went bad within one week. Plus it was small. I only could cook enough for one meal because we didn’t have room for leftovers. Thus, Hans ate a lot of meals at the hospital cafeteria when he could have been bringing leftovers. 

Pro: insulation. It’s really nice to live in a condo that is well-insulated and climate controlled. Our boat is like a greenhouse - which is great in the winter in Philadelphia and equally not-great in the summers. Older boats just weren’t designed for full-time liveaboards and they weren’t properly insulated. We added insulation, but we still found that we had to run the a/c and heat a lot (all the time).

Con: climate control. While it’s great to live in a place that is well-insulated and is 74 degrees at the touch of a button, I feel so disconnected from the natural world. I have no idea what phase the moon is in; no idea when high tide is; sunrise? Sunset? Is it raining out? I used to spend the majority of my waking time outdoors or at least with all the windows open and a breeze blowing through. Now I’m enjoying the ease of living in climate control, but I feel like I’m indoors all the time and I feel very removed from nature. 

Con: space. A lot of space means a lot of cleaning. We have three bathrooms. Three! That means three toilets to clean. All the space and rooms means a lot of square footage which means a lot of floors. There is a vast expanse of floors - all of which need to be swept and mopped. The space is great, but it’s not free. Much to their dismay, the kids now have chores they have to complete three times a week. (Except they do love vacuuming!)

Con: lack of community. I’m a big talker. I’m sure I’m one of those marina neighbors who people see coming and they quickly duck back into their boats. I try to reign it in when I see someone actively involved in a boat project, but, otherwise, sorry in advance and sorry retroactively, I talk a lot. I LOVE the boating community. Because I always have someone to talk to. Because I always have someone to lend a hand. Because I know we’re all looking out for each other. And, generally, most boaters are pretty chill people. At least when they’re at the marina or swinging at anchor, just hanging out on their boat. It is a fun environment. People really do listen to Jimmy Buffet, a lot. My kids have surrogate aunts and uncles in Philadelphia and Jacksonville - people who have known them and cared for them as babies and watched them grow into kids. 

I prepared myself when we moved off the boat that I’d be moving to an island. (Literally and figuratively.) I don’t know any of my neighbors. Not because I haven’t tried, but because it’s actually hard to meet them. People drive up to their garages, enter, and disappear. There are some common outdoor spaces, but they’re not frequented. Or if we do meet people, they’re here on a short-term rental. And now the pool is closed because the pH is off from Hurricane Harvey. So I’m finding my own community in other places, but it’s hard not to have that built-in community I so valued at the marinas and in the cruising community.

So which is better, boat life or land life? When I look over my pro and con list, it is clearly not black and white. A pro begets a con and I start missing the boat life again. Then I remember the toilets and...yeah I’m happy on land. On the other hand, not all things are equal. I’ll happily trade in some sweaty evenings without a/c for watching the full moon rise over water. I’ll happily trade in schlepping my laundry to a marina or laundromat for the conversation I have with other boaters while I’m doing that laundry.

After taking a minute to think about the differences between boat life and land life, I recognize two aspects of boat life that are vital to my happiness: nature and community. I get both of those on a boat, yet I have to work for those on land. 

I know that we’ll be back on a boat at some point in the future. The world is too big, there is too much to explore, I love sailing and boating too much to not get back out there. But I know when we do go again, while I won’t be trying to replicate land life on a sailboat, I will have a decent fridge and freezer and the toilet will smell like fresh flowers!

The trump card: high speed internet. Landlubbing means high speed internet ALL THE TIME. Boat living v. landlubbing can basically be boiled down to: nature and community v. internet. Will internet win in the end?!

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