We’ve been on the hook in Port Townsend for a few days and already things are so much better. I’ve meet with the local theatre and there are many possibilities for work, roles, and most importantly, community. Gene has spent a day happily repairing a sail sewing machine at the Community Boat Project — lending his expertise from our former life on land (where he made medieval tents for historical reinactors).
I’ve attended a yoga class — something I’ve been missing sooooo much while cruising! And we’ve met some of our many neighbors — on land and sea — including a woman who built her own boat and sailed around the world!
We don’t feel like such freaks here. Gene observed that there is more active boat use here, than in all of the places we’ve seen around the PNW. Now, we haven’t been all over, for sure, but here people will take a boat out just to toodle around and look at other boats. Or sail off to a nearby island for the weekend and back. Kayaks and rowboats are everywhere on a sunny afternoon. There is always someone sailing by us. It feels more alive and lived in than so many anchorages we’ve experienced. Not just a boat parking lot. Even if we don’t get BRIO out much this winter, we hope to do some crewing and sailing with others.
So, as we catch our breath and settle in here, I decided to take a step back and list the skills I’ve learned during this year aboard.
Sailing: I would still consider myself a huge novice, but I understand so much better the forces at work (and what to do with that line and that winch) and I’m not jittery at my 27,000 pound home moving through the water (in the vicinity of solid rock objects, like islands) the way I was in the beginning.
Chart reading and Navigation: Most of the time I know what those little squiggles and tiny numbers mean. I can figure out where we are, where we’re going, and what might be in the way.
Rowing in a relatively straight line, in wind and choppy water: This is a huge sense of accomplishment for me. The freedom to go, with the kiddos even, under my own power, is wonderful. We left our car back in Seattle and I don’t ever want to own one again. There is an incredible connection to the world around that happens when you’re moving under your own power — be it walking, bicycle, rowing, whatever. It becomes about the journey not just the destination. And public transportation keeps that connection to the people around you, even if it has its challenges.
Processing fish, clams, and mussels: I’m not nearly as squeamish as a was in the beginning. I try to have a mindful appreciation for each animal. I am grateful to the sea for nourishing us in body and spirit. But Gene still does the crabs.
Baking in a pressure cooker: This has been essential to life for me. Not to mention getting vegetables into our son via carrot/zucchini bread and the like. Being able to bake, when we couldn’t use our woodburing stove in the marina. I first found bloggers from India touting their creations. Seems to be an important rite of passage for young women there. If you’re curious…you add a layer of rocksalt on the bottom of the pan and use it (lid on, but not under-pressure) to bake the contents of a smaller pan inside.
Living (mostly) off the grid, in 150 sq ft: The challenges of a tiny home still abound, but we are tripping over our stuff much less these days. With each new home improvement and each bag for the local thrift store, we are finding more space to live.
We have solar panels, water tanks, a woodburing stove, and a composting head, so we are mostly self-contained. I won’t say “self-sufficient” because being completely off the grid is, I think, a myth. We need each other and each other’s talents and energies. We can’t grow our own food aboard, obviously. And we need to fill those water tanks about every month. Which brings me to…
Using very little water: We have foot pumped, cold water. That’s it. No shower, no hot water on demand. And we use about 65 gallons a month. We are doing laundry and showering about once a week ashore, so that cuts considerably on water usage for sure. But when you pump every drop, not to mention carrying it often from shore in jerry cans in the dink, you appreciate every drop.
But what I’ve grokked more deeply than anything is how important community is to me. Shared work, shared interests, appreciating each other’s unique contributions. Coming from the collaborative world of theatre, you think I would have learned that by now. But, no. In the whirlwind of my life before — with a small child, many many jobs trying to make enough to get by, driving here and there around town — I was just moving too much to soak it in. My energies were for my work, not for the community encompassing the work. An important lesson for me.
I hope in a year I can write of all the new skills I’ve acquired: local farming and permaculture, cooking on a woodburing stove (some success so far, but need much more practice), knot work, more confidence at sailing, etc, etc. But moreso, I hope I can write of the human connections wrought of becoming involved in this magical community.