Last night, I had to pause for a moment to wonder if I had lost my mind. I was returning in the dark from the shower up at the top of our dock ramp, wearing flipflops, in — I kid you not — the snow. And I didn’t even feel cranky about it.
Maybe I haven’t gone crazy. Maybe I’ve just grown kind of fond of this life.
If you had asked me a year ago, when we first launched the idea of moving onboard Wondertime in anticipation for our departure the following year (this year), I would have told you that while living aboard in the Northwest again was not my least favorite thing, it was still right up there. When we moved off our boat Rivendell in 2006 I declared that I was never going to live aboard again, not unless we are actively cruising. Somewhere sunny, hot and dry.
Here in the Northwest, Summer is two months long. The rest of the year, you have to walk through the sleet and snow to take a shower (if, that is, your boat’s shower is full of laundry and coats and cat litter like ours is). There are pools of water on the insides of lockers that are exposed to the cold hull and the walls have been drip drip dripping for months. Our head (bathroom) sink drains into our head (toilet) and I have to pump the water out of the bowl while I brush my teeth. The cat paces the floor, yowls endlessly, pissed off that it’s too cold to go outside. Children bounce off the too-close walls and I hide in the tiny head (bathroom) sometimes just to get a few moments of quiet. Until they find me (it’s not hard) and start pounding on the door….
But recently I began thinking about the future, thinking about what we’re going to do after our cruising kitty runs out in about two years. Of course we’ll still live on the boat while we work a year or two (or better yet, work as we cruise). What about when the girls are teenagers and need more space?
The thought of moving off the boat one day made me panic a little. I realized: I don’t ever want to move off of our lovely, simple home. The cold and wet are temporary. But even with them, this winter has been a joy. The girls and I baked sun bread inside our tiny galley oven yesterday while snowflakes fell silently on deck. It was cozy and special. I realized that I like living with the true essentials, that every time I need to buy something new it just feels like adding clutter to my life. Having a simple wardrobe and a handful of pairs of really good shoes that I replace when one wears out is fine by me. I like living with the weather so close: we rock like a giant cradle when the wind blows and the blue sky is right there above our hatches when the sun does come peeking out. The girls’ art hangs everywhere around the cabin and I change our beautiful gallery constantly. There is no need for any other wall decorations. I love sleeping just feet away from my growing girls, so close that I can hear them breathing at night.
I am 35 years old. Every one of my post-toddler years I’ve had this feeling, this thought, that someday, my real life would start. Maybe once I had finished nursing school, or signed that book deal, or sailed across my 360th degree of longitude. I always had the sense that I was preparing for something, only I was never really quite sure what. Troubling, really, as years are passing quickly by.
Michael and I, our life has zigged and zagged around with boats and trips and houses, but the one common thread has been our love of the sea. We tried a comfortable “secure” life ashore but the longing was always there, no matter how hard we tried to bury it and tell ourselves that we loved land life. We realized we were living someone else’s dream, still beautiful, but all we truly wanted to do was get back on the water. So we did, and started planning the next Big Trip. But over the past seven months of living back onboard both of us came to realize that it wasn’t just the trip we loved, it was all of it. The planning, the getting ready, and just simply living on a boat. The trip, we look forward to sure, but it’s just part of the whole adventure of our life.
Recently, a few weeks ago, I had a moment. It truly was a moment of revelation, a defined piece of time with thoughts suddenly clear as ice, like you read about in books sometimes. I was standing in the center of our boat and realized that the unfinished feeling that has always haunted me was, completely, gone.
This is my life.
This is all I ever wanted.
It’s been years in coming but I can finally say that I’m content. Afloat.