Last time, I covered the best things about living aboard, regardless of where the boat is. I wouldn’t want too many of you to rush out cruising lest our favorite anchorages get overrun and you all find and decimate Crab Cake Cave (where the tasty crabs live). So here for your discouragement are the nine worst things I find about living aboard.
1. Rain. I know I said I liked Mother Nature and all, but rain is the bane of the sane (even on the plain in Spain). I am convinced that it only rains at 3 AM, and usually when you're having good dreams. No sooner do I get a young Johnny Depp into a compromising position than the heavens burst—and not in a good way. Our boat has 16 opening hatches, so every front that pushes through results in a fire drill to get everything buttoned down before computers, weasels, and my comfy bed are soaked. Without fail, it is difficult to get back to sleep after this activity, so even a five-minute shower can leave me a zombie the next day.
Add to the fire drill issue the fact that we currently have a few hatches that need to be re-bedded. Driving rains currently require the use of raincoats, duct tape, and towels. Hopefully we’ll get them fixed before we have to bring out the buckets.
2. Rolling anchorages. Dream Catcher's draft (under 3 feet) allows us to squeeze in tight in most locations, so we don't suffer too much from uncomfortable anchorages. But anywhere all-around protection is unavailable, you run the risk. Sometimes the weather will shift overnight and you simply have to choose whether to be uncomfortable when you go to bed or miserable when you wake up. And when the weather predictions are off, well, you can get hammered.
Nothing breeds discord faster than a sleepless crew, so a rolling anchorage is a gift that keeps on giving, kind of like fruitcake.
3. Marine heads. Boat toilets are not my favorite thing. Pumping them isn't awful, and I'm even over our decision not to put toilet paper in the head as a means to reduce clogs. But still, marine heads simply never smell as rosy as household toilets, and they are persnickety.
This problem could likely be reduced by some of the higher end heads available, but at last check, the shitty Jabsco (bad pun intended) is the only one that will fit in the space we have. We suffer for it. For several months, the stupid seals were once again failing and the thing was gurgling with gusto and returning our deposits—but we bided our time until Thomas finally did another Formula One-style head-swap because sewage sucks and head pumps are expensive.
4. No dirt (in a backyard). My biggest worry about cruising is probably not the storms or sinking or even fire. I worry that I am missing my calling because I don't have a garden. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about vegetables. What absolutely must be cooked today before it rots? When can we get back to the Long Island farmer's market for herbs and satanic watermelon (they grow a variety that is black)? What are the best recipes for yellow split peas? These things consume me. And then I consume them, ha!
I think of gardening as a keystone habit that, in Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral kind of way (that’s a book), would be literally grounding. Food, ecology, exercise, and writing topic all rolled into one. What more could you want?
Never having had a vegetable garden—and I mean never, my family planted decorative perennials, nothing as practical as cucumbers—I truly don’t know what I’m missing. I realize that I am picturing the creativity associated with using 300 zucchini that all ripen within two weeks, and completely ignoring the bugs, the watering, the plants that die, and the fact I can lose enthusiasm for sex, let alone dirt, when faced by a new Margaret Atwood book (ok Bozo, but make it quick…). But unless I soon execute on my guerilla gardening strategies, my potential for veggie greatness may remain unachieved.
5. Too much dirt (inside). A boat is small, so every bit of uncleanliness shows. If I run my fingers through my hair twice, it’s as if Dream Catcher has been overtaken by red dust bunnies that float on the wind. And let’s not even talk about the ferret fur, sewing detritus, and sand. Yes, we have central vac and no, I don’t run it enough. I am not a good housewife. I think they stopped making those.
Then there is pin mold. Does anyone in a house have to consistently wash their ceilings lest they turn black and induce asthma? And never, ever buy a boat with white nubbly cabinets in the galley. One spot of Bozo’s awesome marinara sauce on a finger when you grab for a spoon and then look in the fridge and then toss something in the trash and it looks like we’ve been slaughtering the weasels. I really hate to use bleach, yet I occasionally have to use bleach. Come and get me Eco-Ho!
6. Hurricanes. They are effing terrifying. Nuff said.
7. Ball and chain. Not that I'm big on non-boat travel, but sometimes it might be nice to get away easily to, you know, see the family or something. But you just don't leave a boat unattended overnight, let alone for long periods, in the same blasé manner you do a house. Add weasels and you basically don't leave the boat unattended overnight, period. Even when house-sitting, we drive by daily and Bozo is aboard almost as often. Ten days is as long as we have left Dream Catcher out of our sight without putting her on the hard, and we worried the entire time. At least she’s more demanding than I am.
8. No soundproofing. Bozo is all about action movies and video games, and I get to participate in every digital battle because there is nowhere to escape the noise. This is usually only a problem when I know the storyline of a movie so well that I can’t pay attention to my book, but I’m still listing it here. On my Xmas list if anyone’s buying: noise cancelling headphones and a playlist of music not in English.
9. Homelessness. We are in an actual mobile home and residents of nowhere (well, legally Florida because the IRS dictates that we have to live somewhere). We are always outlanders to some extent. Sometimes I feel the lack of roots, and not just for tomato plants—but not enough to live any other way.
And my bonus answer—wind! Wind is a love-to-hate-it thing on a sailboat. If you want to get somewhere, it is non-existent or headed straight from where you intend(ed) to go. If you are anchored and not a kite-surfer, Winds of Death blow for an entire winter (this year) and make trips to the grocery store full-body-drenching fun. And it howls—in the rigging, in the wind generator, in your ears—until you think you are losing your mind.
But when it stops, you whine because it’s too hot.
There’s just no winning on a boat. So like I said, stay home.