The boat teaches many lessons in conservation. This is part of an ongoing series of posts about how we boaters do more with considerably less. The tips are valid for land based life as well, though, so hopefully folks can use some of these ideas.
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No matter how long I cruise and no matter how many times and in how many methods people ask this question, the answer to "How do you entertain yourself on a boat?" remains a helpless shrug. In the Real World™ we had so many distractions, even after we turned off the television and discontinued cable. We could go to the movies, a museum, the zoo, the beach. There were restaurants and cafes. Our friends were nearby, our shelves filled with books…. oh god the libraries. The libraries.
Let's pause for a moment to contemplate the duel wonders of the Internet and Libraries. You people who live with ubiquitous access to both resources should never ever EVER take them for granted.
After you cut the lines and head out into remote anchorages, foreign countries whose primary language is not your native tongue, places where going out for pizza really isn't an option, it is an interesting question just how to spend copious free time. However, despite the paucity of civilized amusements and the wealth of free time available, I have yet to meet a bored cruiser. Tired, frustrated, dirty, miserable, or unhappy, but never bored. I haven't even met a bored boat kid which -- given the nature of children -- seems somewhat miraculous. So just what are we doing?
Read Anything -- At this point, I think every member of this family is willing to read absolutely anything published in English, up to and including computer user guides. If you start your cruising life as a lover of science fiction or fantasy, you'll soon learn to enjoy mysteries, diesel mechanic manuals, and even… say it isn't so… romance novels. Alternatively, if you enjoy a good bodice ripper but haven't read great literature since English 101 in college, you'll start to find yourself reading H.G. Wells and Shakespeare. Reading taste for cruisers is largely determined by what you find at the many book exchanges along the way. Every marina, yacht club, restaurant, and laundry room patronized by the cruising community has at least one shelf… in some cases an entire wall… devoted to casual literature. It is crucial to your happiness that you become agnostic regarding genre and open to new literary experiences. Consequently, I can now list Two Years Before the Mast as one of my favorite books of all time. However, I never want to read another account of sailors lost at sea again. Ugh.
Get a Hobby -- We've seen cruisers that knit, quilt, cook, and bead. There is one that crochets handbags out of plastic grocery bags and another who specializes in shell earrings. Like DrC, many cruisers take up an instrument or revisit one they learned many years ago. Others write stories, poetry, or blogs, carve wood, work on their photography, make videos, or build elaborate web sites. It is a good idea to become invested in your hobby before you leave, particularly if the materials and tools are going to prove difficult to find in other countries. Also, be open to discovering new hobbies while you are out here.
Walk… A Lot -- Hiking is our passion. We walk everywhere. One of the limitations of cruising the Pacific Northwest is that it is far more challenging to walk around up there than it is down in Mexico. In the desert, the horizon is literally limitless. We walk in the wilderness and in towns, up ridge lines and over to remote anchorages. Walking is good for the health, kills hours of time, and enables you to dramatically expand your horizons. A pastime which we did not take up but which many of our fellow travelers endorse is kayaking. I think of this as walking on water providing similar benefits and pleasures.
Learn to Play -- I think adults outgrow games and play as we age. Forgive me for saying so, but I attribute this loss in no small part to the industrialization of education. Somewhere between 6th grade and graduation, we tell our children to stop screwing around, stop having fun and get to work. It's a shame. We should never stop playing. From play comes some of our best ideas and our happiest moments. DrC and I, and even to a lesser extent our daughters, have reacquainted ourselves with the pleasure of play. We play Scrabble and Sorry, Gin and Rummy. We enjoy video games on our computers and handhelds as well as solo logic puzzles such as Sudoku and Crosswords. Mera and Aeron have sustained The Game long after I think most children would have abandoned it. One of our favorite games is Mexican Train which we enjoy with our cruising buddies on warm evenings.
Do It Yourself -- Boat life requires constant work and maintenance. It forces you to think creatively about how to fix, create, repair, replace and build it yourself. Once you start down that path, it seems increasingly stupid to buy. Don Quixote sports shelves, curtains, lockers, hooks, and covers all made by a member of this family. We make our winter Solstice gifts each year, and we spend a lot of time sanding, painting, varnishing, cleaning, polishing, waxing, and lubing. You can either suffer through all this work (which I do) or you can try to enjoy it. I'm working on this. I enjoy some of it.
Hours go by, days vanish, entire weeks and months simply slip into the past and never do we hear or feel the plaint, "Are we there yet?" When the journey is the destination, it's easier to be entertained by the present.