For sometime now, I have been meaning to write some words about my experience as a full time live aboard cruiser. However, I wanted to wait until the weather was fair, so that my mind would be at ease and I could come up with s0me objective words to describe what it is like to live aboard a sailboat. While enjoying the beautiful scenery of Chicago’s downtown from Lake Michigan, I wrote these words.
Living aboard a sailboat has definitely called for some habit changing moments. It has involved a roller coaster of emotions, but overall it has been a pretty enriching experience. As the fiancé, best friend and coworker of my sailing mate, I will start by saying that, who you are sailing with is definitely one of the first things to consider when going cruising. A common scenario we’ve encountered since we started our journey has been something like the following:
“Are you guys married?” someone asks us.
“Good” the person looks at me, “sail with him before getting married”.
Then, a story of a failed relationship follows. If so many people know couples who have split up after sailing, I cannot even conceive of how many friendships must have fallen apart after the same kind of adventure. Being in a small cabin in the middle of the water with another person 24/7 is not always easy.
Jax and I have been crazy in love with each other for a long time and we chose to spend 24/7 of our time together in small spaces for a while before we moved aboard. So, the change of normal schedules apart to living aboard together, was non existent to us – hence not a big deal. However, before moving to our Ranger 28, we thought were pretty good at communicating, turns out we had a lot more to learn. Learning to communicate with your crew, I think, is the single most important thing of living aboard if you are sharing your cabin with another body. There is quite literary no space for silence, yelling, resentment, ego, guilt tripping or anything else that will make the other person sad, angry or upset.
Sleeping is the second aspect of living aboard I would like to touch on. You know how parents of newborn babies talk about having a very light sleep. Well, having and living in a sailboat is kind off like having a newborn baby at night, of course a little less intense. You sleep lightly, yet profoundly and with any sound you are up ready for action, especially if you are at anchor or tied to a mooring ball. In docks, nights are usually more restful because the drifting factor is not a concern. There are some sounds that accompany living aboard nightlife, such as halyards banging on the mast, which soon enough you’ll learn to tie off to minimize noise, mooring ball’s banging against the hull if there is a complete lack of current and wind.
Hygiene, is definitely something that one must consider when moving aboard a boat with a small fresh water holding tank and no on board water heater – other than the stove. Life aboard is an obvious dead end to long hot and daily showers. In our Ranger 28, we do not have running water yet, so most of our water pressure comes from solar shower bags, which make even washing dishes a chore. We usually take advantage of shower facilities at marinas or take stove-warmed water showers on board. If you are a woman, plan to be around marinas when you are on your period, if you like to take long shower during that time of the month. Of course, toilets are a whole other subject aboard. Land-style flushing is almost a foreign concept when cruising on a budget and in a small vessel. We have an Air Head composting toilet and are pretty happy with it. Solids, are dealt with every one to two months and liquids every night.
Refrigeration is another thing to keep in mind, especially if you are meat lovers. I have been a vegetarian for close to 6 years and Jax does not eat much meat. So, for us the idea of not having animal blubber around is not a problem. However, for those of you who do eat meat remember that unless you have a freezer or install a fridge, you will most likely have a cooler for keeping stuff cool. Ice blocks, which last longer, and bags of ice are the cold source. If you don’t want your food spoiling, you will have to get ice almost every three days, this can’t always be done, which is mostly fine for non-meat products but meat requires a whole other set of cooling requirements. We decided to eliminate refrigeration from our life. We store cheese in olive oil, butter in tight containers, eliminated yogurt from our life, to learn more about this follow the link. No refrigeration
After you have broken some of your land lubber habits, sailing becomes an addictive life style. The weather dictates your days and every port is a new adventure. As you sail into towns people will look up at you and with a certain jealousy admire that you are free from a societal pressing agenda. You will become very aware of the wind and start noticing how almost everything in life revolts around the weather – only that most people never think about it. Plans begin to gain a new meaning and a schedule is almost never kept. If you are like us and work from your boat, days become packed with things to do, because in a boat there is always a project and at work there is always something else that can be done. So, remember to take your Sundays off and enjoy that you are cruising, wear your sailor stereotype, make up a drink, sit back, grab a book and enjoy the scenery.
Living aboard is an ongoing learning experience that I assume will never end as long as we keep traveling to new places. However, the comfort of being in a new place every week while still sleeping in our own bed and cooking our own food is worth every nautical mile.