Sitting out on the deck over the weekend, and looking across the bay at various watercraft, I asked Mike if he missed the boat. He said he didn’t as such, just certain aspects of life the boat gave us. My sentiments were similar. We then went on to discuss the fact that no matter where you are or how you live, you still have shit to deal with! Boat life means you have to deal with boat shit, land life means you have to deal with land shit. How you operate, what you’re into and your perspective at the time, means you might prefer one type of shit over another, but either way, life is still full of this stuff that takes our time and attention.
Now I’ve dropped the S bomb possibly more times than you care to read in a paragraph, I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone. It could also be argued that my choice of term, ie using the word shit to refer to a job list, conjures up a negative image of said things to do. Sometimes however, for the purposes of processing certain inevitabilities, in this case, the need to deal with whatever is thrown at you at the time, despite perhaps not wanting to, be it a broken engine, a leaking water hose, another case of worms, an ageing parent, where you are going to settle, are you going to settle, buying a car, putting the kids in school, deciding on a school… and the list goes on, giving it a blanket term helps to get your head around these tasks that just purely and simply have to be dealt with.
I should probably add, that it’s all ‘first world’ shit I’m referring to too!
There’s often immediacy on a boat that isn’t quite the same as on land. The decision to act is much easier, as said situation has to be dealt with then and there or the consequences could be dire! You don’t have the choices surrounding you that masquerade as our modern privilege, (but actually do little more than complicate your life) and you deal, methodically and with definite priority. In many ways, living on a boat, limits your choices and therefore facilitates and simplifies the decision making process. Somehow, despite and probably because of the limited choices (and the need to fulfill basic needs) the opportunities for growth on so many levels, are infinite!
Why the reflection right now? Well, it’s a year since we arrived into beautiful Opua and the Bay of Islands. The arrival of friends met almost two years ago in the Caribbean, who are still cruising and who plan to continue for at least another season, has afforded a chance to reminisce and reflect. We’ve been able to do all of this without the very real risk of boring other friends to tears. You know how it goes, “we’ve had this AMAZING experience, that we really want to share, but oh I can see people’s eyes glaze over if we talk about it for more than about 3 minutes and “Oh god, the photos are coming out!!!”
We’ve talked about the common time we shared- of which there wasn’t huge amounts, a birthday party, a cricket game in Antigua and the bus trip out and back, some glorious time on a beautiful beach together, other boat families we know, common places we experienced but at different times. Then of course there’s the present- “what’s it like being back on land? What’s it like still being on the boat? How’s homeschooling? How did the kids adapt to being back at school? The talking points are far from exhausted. Other boats are on their way, the process will continue.
I was curious to see how it would feel to meet up with people who are still doing it. Would I feel pangs of remorse, wishing we were still out there? Would I feel regret that we didn’t head out and do another season in Fiji or Vanuatu? Should I have tried harder? That one always crops up…
The simple answer, without any fluff is, no. Of course there are places I’d like to go back to, places I wish we’d gone to, and after another reunion with an arriving boat- hanging out with like-minded, people.
Do I however miss living on a boat- Ahhhh no actually, not right now! That’s not to say I’d never do it again. I know- I’ve said it out loud! I had to laugh talking to a friend, who’d just arrived and had an absolute hell passage the first two days out of Tonga. She described how she vowed never ever to do a passage again and yet on arrival into Opua she had a wonderful case of the ‘forgets’. She’d already thought ‘oh it really wasn’t that bad!’ Funny how that happens…
It’s fascinating to watch people go through what I call ‘Arrival High!” Initially there’s a degree of elation at reaching a milestone point, in this case New Zealand. Generally sleep deprived and possibly recovering from a ‘less than perferct’ passage, relief and gratitude at reaching land, wash over you like the hot shower you’re looking forward to once you’re all checked in! This lasts for a few days and then the realities of land life start to kick in. Previously, decisions have been based around what bay you will stay in, generally determined by the weather, what you’ll make for dinner with your dwindling provisions and other ‘basic’ requirements. All of a sudden, you’re trying to find where to buy a SIM, who you need to contact, the marina wanting to know how long you’ll stay, friends wanting to know your subsequent plans and you find yourself wanting to run back to your boat, batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to blow over!
A year has passed so unbelievable quickly. The kids are doing what kids should be doing, growing and learning and having new experiences. They probably miss boat life the most, but as I explained to them the other day- no one can ever take the experience we had, away from them, or from any of us, for that matter. They joined a gang of kids down at the marina a few weeks ago for a “Halloween dress up, trick or treating, run around like mad things” extravaganza. Lilly said she felt a little bit out of it for a moment as some of the teenagers got into a selfie-fest, but to the friends we met during our journey, we’ll always be “SOL” or “Slice of Life.” We’ll always be cruisers who have chosen to live on land for a while.
Speaking of living on land, I seem to have gone from making myself busy, to actually being busy. I started working as a Teacher Aide at the kids school a month or so ago. It’s a Monday to Friday thing and while it’s not full time, it’s enough hours to shake things up a bit- organization wise I mean. The work isn’t hard in any way, yet it provides a challenge and is interesting- working with children aged 5-9. I hardly see my own two during the 4.5 hours I’m there and neither of them seem bothered by my presence- I’m not trying to teach them so it’s all good! After our homeschooling stint I already had a healthy respect for good teachers. That’s been blown out of the water, when I see what these incredibly dedicated individuals do on a daily basis. The diversity of abilities in one classroom is huge and there are several kids integrated into these classes with a variety of conditions, making learning for them and teaching for the teachers quite a challenge.
I’m also teaching two very different fitness classes at the local community hall, twice a week. A dance based class and a basic circuit style class. So Mum’s not quite so on tap as she’s been for the past many years and lets just say, it’s an adjustment for us all!
Mike has been contract sailing and enjoying it, (what’s not to enjoy I hear some of you ask!!!). He managed to visit Prague a few months ago to see his Dad and sister before a European regatta and also caught up with special friends and family in the UK. He’s decided to take on a half marathon, tomorrow in fact! He’s never done a race like this before and is negotiating with his inner competitiveness about what’s a realistic and acceptable finish time.
Both Lilly and Seb are doing drama at the local community hall, sailing on a Sunday and have just started Tae Kwon Do and really seem to enjoy it. We’ve spent the last few terms not giving them lots of activities but this term is ‘give it a go and see what you really like’ time. They’ve made some lovely friends at school and have had a few ‘firsts’ these past few months- first ever school photos, first ever school disco, (organized by Lilly’s class), and coming up in a week or so- first ever school camp. Lilly also won her class ‘speech’ competition, talking about life on a boat and how it’s changed her. The other day I laughed out loud when she commented on the toilet paper- “Mum, this toilet paper is really thick, it’s so nice!” Clearly we’ve all gotten used to the 2-ply, so much so that our 11 year old notices the difference!
Seb is great, playing the piano, reading like there’s no tomorrow and making us all laugh and pull our hair out on a regular basis. He’s decided that Unique is a good word to describe himself, something that encompasses a whole list of other adjectives!
There’s a lot more going on but that’s essentially where we are at right now. We’re heading back to Australia for Christmas and it’ll be the first time for Lilly and Seb in 4 years. There’s much excitement about catching up with old friends and family while we are there.
So for now, that wonderful to do list beckons and I best be off to deal with a few items on it! May your day be a great one, no matter what S@#T you have to deal with!