Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How Does This Story End?

No, these aren't my new shoes.  But I live a rich fantasy life.

I’ve been in a major funk.  Major enough to make Dan ask, “Is it over?”  (“It” in this context referred to our time of living on the boat, not, thankfully, our marriage.) “Do you want to move ashore?”

Maybe the funk is contagious.  I’ve been thinking recently about the variety of reasons that the cruising/liveaboard dream ends.   Money runs out, health deteriorates, family needs help.  One couple we know ended the liveaboard phase of their lives when their boat proved unseaworthy and started twisting and flexing in a storm.  Another couple moved back to shore after they successfully completed their planned 4-year voyage around the Atlantic.  But for some other friends, nothing concrete, reportable, or dramatic marked the end -- they simply decided that cruising wasn’t being fun any more, and put their boat on the market.  “I miss long hot showers … and toast,” Ean explained in an email to me. "Turning live fish into dead fish makes me a little sick to my stomach. … I don’t even like nature.  You know what they say, ‘you can take the boy out of the city...’ You hear ‘secluded anchorage;’ I hear ‘solitary confinement.’ What WAS I thinking?” 

But I think the thing that put me into a funk was my BFF Karen’s cute new shoes.  We visited her a couple of weeks ago, and I complimented the shoes, and she suggested going to the store where she had just bought them – on sale! And she had a 30% off coupon! And they had them in my size!

The question was not in finding or affording them, but where to put them.  Every liveaboard we’ve ever known has had the issue of limited storage space aboard.  Our total indoor living space is, after all, less than 200 square feet.  Personal possessions are minimal in this lifestyle.  Generally that minimalism has felt freeing.  Sailnet poster “elspru” explains that “being on a travelling sailboat isn't so much about luxury of the body, unless very cozy simple living is your version of bodily luxury, it's more about luxury of the soul and mind, having many different experiences, seeing beautiful scenery, interacting with new people.”  So here were these cool bronze and black ballet flats -- that were right in front of me, that I had in my hand and could easily afford.  But I couldn’t have them -- unless I could find a storage space for them. The situation just awakened my inner girly-girl and she was pissed! Thus my obvious funk.

Remember the old Monty Python skit about “The Royal Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things?”  That’s what my storage life is like, all the time.  Our galley is a study in organization, nesting pots and pans and bowls, collapsible silicone colanders, and multi-use gadgets.  Two cubic feet holds what would have filled an entire cabinet in our kitchen on land – but it’s impossible to get any one item without moving four more items first.  And the shoe locker we share has room for about six pairs each, no more.  Compared to the space available, it sometimes feels like we have just a bit too much of everything, in every category – too many clothes, too many shoes, too many books, too many tools. (I know, I know, a very “first-world problem” to have, right?) So I either take my best estimate of the most useful item in each category and move the others off the boat – and then get frustrated when I later discover that the one that would meet my needs perfectly, is just the one I got rid of a few weeks ago – or I keep them all and cram them into an already-overstuffed locker and can’t access any of them easily.

Was this going to be the way our liveaboard lives ended?  Not with a bang, but with a whimper?  I always joked that our “exit plan” when we get too old and feeble to live on the boat, is to find or fund an assisted-living marina.  Was I really going to cut it short instead just for storage space for pretty new shoes?  Dan was super supportive through all of this angst (obviously, it was about more than the shoes).  Karen reminded me that every lifestyle, every situation, every decision, includes an element of compromise. (Wise girl, it’s not for nothing she’s my BFF). 

This story doesn’t have a happy ending, or a sad ending, or a funny ending, or really, any ending at all.  Because our life afloat didn't end over this mini-crisis after all. Karen’s right, it is all compromise.  This life afloat isn’t exactly perfect but it’s pretty darn good.  And it’s a balance, because even the best life has some bad days.  I don’t remember exactly what got me out of my funk and got me back on track; there was no specific event.  There’s still gonna be some great days, and some grumpy days.  My funk just began to lift, and then lift further.  We sorted through lockers and organized shelves and donated items to Goodwill and The Clothes Box.  We still store all our things on top of other things.  I can have anything I want; I just can’t have everything I want. (At least, not all at the same time). 
All our galley stuff: neatly stowed

The exact same stuff, no more, no less, spread out. (The nesting pot-and-pan set stows inside the pressure cooker, which is why you don't see it in the first photo.)

= = = = 


  1. "I can have anything I want; I just can't have everything." Well said. Glad your funk is lifting.

    s/v Honey Ryder Caliber 40 LRC

  2. If today becomes a vanishing shadow and tomorrow is the last today, we should not regret THIS moment.

  3. Great post! We haven't started cruising yet, but I'm trying to prepare myself for the lack of storage and the loss of other landlubber comforts. Like you said, I think the trade off will be worth it!