Wednesday, August 08, 2007

When Your Basement is Like Your Boat

A good friend of ours recently posted to one of our many cruising lists a copy of a cruising favorite -- The Liveaboard Simulator. I wish I'd written that. The green gremlin of professional jealousy springs up whenever I read that article. However, I think I would make it funnier, because as it's written, it's not very funny. It's totally depressingly True. If you do not yet live on a boat and would like to empathize more closely with our life style, I encourage you to set up your own simulator. Merely reading the instructions is for wimps.

We actually did this, by the way. Live in our basement. All five of us. In fact, at least on the books we still do. It happened like this: Our marina does not allow full time, liveaboard families. The waiting list for marinas that accept liveaboards in the Pacific Northwest is roughly as long as the waiting list for a Toyota Prius, which is somewhere north of three million last time I looked. So after a long discussion with our fine harbor master, we moved on to our boat part time. The other half of the time, we live in our basement.

The basement is bigger than the boat but smaller than a breadbox. We never actually got around to finishing the finishing work to make it habitable. So it has a clammy, faint whiff of cat smell vaguely reminiscent of a boat head on a warm day. Dr C and I are wedged into a double in one room while the three girls pile like kittens on a king in the other room. We purchased a European refrigerator. I can assure you that does not mean it's full of fine cheeses and fine chocolates. The German idea of cold things is a small box which can hold approxrimately one liter of sparkling water, a package of Wheat Thins, and a sausage. The unit sits on the ground in such a way as to ensure that your plus-six-foot husband has to contort himself into a Bavarian pretzel shape in order to retrieve his beer.

The basement is always dirty. The entrance is from the backyard, so it appears that the children are incapable of entering the rooms without tracking in a metric buttload of woodchips and pea gravel.

Also. I believe that dust settles downward. Thus, every particle of grit generated by our upstairs tenants floats gently down into our living space like Seattle pollution drifting in black sooty waves onto the deck of our boat. As with Don Quixote, there is no dishwasher, the sinks are impossibly annoying to use for that purpose, and we share the laundry appliances with people whose constitutional makeup includes a gene for keeping panties in the washing machine at every possible moment we might choose to wash our own underthings.

Again, shades of living on Don Quixote, we find our expulsive tendencies result in a spillage of miscellaneous crap out of the living quarters and into the surrounding environment. On the boat, we leave our lines draped in towels, wet suits and blue cloths, tools are scattered in the cockpit, and bags of garbage line the helm like dishonorably discharged soldiers awaiting transport to shore. In the basement, we spew construction materials, gardening tools, and endless boxes of Stuff awaiting freecycle pickup across the lawn and down the street. And the result is so similar: Our slip neighbor pointedly told us we couldn't possibly be good boaters as we didn't keep our boat up to sparkling snuff while our land neighbor asked our tenants, “Don't you have any house pride?” To which I really just have to snort, “Oh yeah. Just wait until I move in the dead truck and the broken tractor.”

And the girls are irrepressible, unstoppable, energetic heathens no matter where you put them. Like three whirling Tasmanian devils, they explode out of the confines of the basement or boat and spin off into incredibly loud, semi-destructive forces of little girl goodness. Sure they break things, lose things, and hurt themselves in every conceivable way. They also loop into their sphere of influence every other child within a radius of one mile, suck into their Charm Maw many of the stray adults, and identify with the instincts of blood hounds every dog, cat, hamster and gecko available for play, care and cuddling. They locate dead things, find hiding places, and introduce themselves to store owners, marina staff, neighbors and fellow boat owners. They routinely drag these reluctant adults back to boat or basement for introductions and fellowship, wine or chips or vanilla wafers. And while our both our basement and boat worlds are messy, gritty and essentially microscopic, our reputation for hospitality grows with each passing month.

Originally uploaded by rolling2hills
So The Liveaboard Simulator works. You get all the dirt, the confined quarters, and the inconvenience. You also get a similar sense of family squishedness, members banding together in the face of extreme adversity. However, I must say the view on the boat is better and the backyard is larger.

No comments: