Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Party's Over...

I woke up this morning with the startling realization that we only have two weeks left, maybe three, before we leave Tonga. While there is more travel ahead and many weeks before we are settled and working in New Zealand, there is really on a very short window of time before the cruising part of our South Pacific voyage is complete.

Two weeks is not very much time.

I often have the sinking feeling that I am missing something. Time passes and I wake up with a start struck nearly breathless with the recognition that everything is passing far too fast, and I am failing to make the most of it. Do not, however, for one minute feel sorry for me, or consider that these deeply unhappy moments serve no purpose. It is this precise sensation that drove DrC and I out of our middle class, type A lives in Seattle, on to the boat, and out to sea in the first place. While unpleasant in the moment, the impetus to look more closely at our lives and periodic carpe diem adjustments is a healthy one for the long term.

Recently, I have failed to take advantage of our cruising lives primarily out of sheer exhaustion. I am tired... profoundly, bone deep tired. I am tired of how hard it is to provision and feed the family. I am tired of dirty clothes and the incredibly taxing process of trying to make those clothes marginally less dirty. I am tired of cat hair and human hair and toe clippings. I am tired of sticky sheets and constantly worrying about the batteries. I am super tired of salt water, and I want to pitch my oven overboard. I am tired of long passages during which I sleep poorly, eat little, and worry constantly about the rigging, other boats, and the basic stupidity of my cat. I think probably I am most tired of yelling at my children whose notions of cleanliness, safety, and diligence are vague, slippery and loose adaptations with very little of the precision I would apply to them myself. I am tired of my husband wanting to have sex even when we haven't bathed in days, and I am tired of listening to the refrigerator cycle endlessly in a vain attempt to make ice for my evening cocktail.

This is trip is so long. It is long physically... stretching over 5,000 nautical miles and 8 months. It is also long mentally. If you are considering this voyage, it is perhaps one of the hardest aspects to prepare for in advance. The puddle jump is a marathon not a sprint. Small irritations which are endurable while cruising the U.S. coastline and Mexico where marinas and docks are widely available and reasonably priced, become long term challenges as you go month after month on the hook. The last time we had access to a water hose was mid-April. The last time we connected to shore power was late March.

In addition to practical considerations of convenience to shore services, endless supplies of high pressure fresh water, and easy connectivity to the Internet, many sailors sleep sounder while docked. It's not a matter of comfort but rather one of vigilence. When you are on the hook -- and even when you are on a mooring line -- you must always be at least peripherally aware of your surroundings. Even were you presumptuous enough to believe that your ground tackle is perfectly adequate and perfectly set, you can never say the same for all your neighbors. A cruiser who sleeps deeply, soundly, and oblivious to the weather, her vessel, and neighboring craft is in the long run a boat that is going to come to harm. We have seen boats come to grief out here repeatedly; we have seen others saved from disaster only due to the light sleeping habits of her crew.

So I am tired and ready to be done while simultaneously regretting every failed opportunity, every missed moment. I already feel a thread of desperate nostalgia for the time spent with girls and for the many times I could have been with them but chose instead to read or to watch a movie or to simply nap. DrC and I have brainstormed ways to change our land-based lives to avoid the helpless rat race of our former suburban existence. And living on Don Quixote will no doubt force a different mind-set just as it forces many changes in life style and consumption patterns.

Yet it will never be the same. We knew coming out here that this was the last trip -- the last trip with all three girls on Don Quixote, probably the last extended trip as a family. Soon, we stop homeschooling the girls, a shifting of the educational burden to the public sector which I dread deeply but also welcome as a huge relief as the work is endless and often thankless. We will stop traveling, a change which today I look forward to eagerly but which I know I will wistfully regret in a mere five months as winter sets in and all our friends sail north for warmer waters. And after nearly six years, I will stop being a housewife, a job I have embraced fully and accomplished with some degree of grace and efficiency but which I also secretly loathe. Jaime will leave us soon, Mera and Aeron not long thereafter. Even if and when DrC and I come out here again, there will be a different boat, a different call sign, and all our patterns will change without the combined burden and pleasure which are the children.

So the Don Quixote party is nearly over. We very much enjoyed the festivities, the wonderful company, the conversation and the snacks. We're sleepy and we have to go to work tomorrow. It's time to put the kids to bed, kick the pets outside, turn out the lights and lock the doors. It's time to be responsible adults again. Is it any wonder we're sitting here lingering over the last of our drinks pretending the morning will never come?


Jonathan said...

That one ripped my heart out.

judith said...

Well said Jonathan! Don't look at it like that Toast. You have made not just an impression on us poor souls that are land locked in Texas, but your children. You have done more than 'right' by them. Don't give up on the Homeschooling. From me, who works in Administration in the public school system... don't do it. The stats show that more college full ride scholarships are given to Home Schooled children than private school or public school. Stick with it, your kids may not seem to appreciate it now but they will. I once attended a class that taught me that kid's are in their late 20's before they come around to saying "Mom and Dad, you were so right!"

Yes it all changes, the kids go their own way, but then comes the time when they ask you to join them in their adventures, and what great friends they become to you. And soon if you are lucky they return with babies of their own and I hear that's even more fun than the first go around (because you can send them back when they are dirty and stinky...)

I know it's got to be a hard and unappreciated job that you do. But we (the readers) appreciate everything you have taught us and some day, if and when we do a crossing, no matter how long or far, we won't take a cat. Thank you!

Jessie Ward - Travel Channel said...

Hello –

My name is Jessie Ward and I am a television producer for Powderhouse Productions, one of the country’s leading producers of nonfiction television (http://www.powderhouse.net/) in the United States. I’m working on a television special about the world’s most interesting houseboats in the US, scheduled to air in 2012 on the Travel Channel television network (http://www.travelchannel.com/).

This television special will be a celebration of floating homes and the fascinating people who love (or in your case love to hate) them.

Although I could feel your pain in your last entry, I also was happy to read a realistic point of view of how hard living on a boat can be.

Can we touch based in the next week - via phone or email? I think your family might be an amazing fit for our programming.

Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing back from you in the near future.

Very sincerely yours –

Jessie Ward
(M) 1.617.908.4899
(F) 1.617.284.2929

212 Elm Street 3rd Floor
Somerville, MA 02144 USA

Fiona Coleman said...

Hi Toast,
Our party IS over and I identify so utterly and completely with your last post that I had to comment. We are back enjoying the bittersweet bounty that life on shore has to offer, the salt free comforts of home and plentiful fresh produce tempered by the inevitable loss of intimacy as the family spreads out into larger quarters and the overwhelmingly packed schedule of work and children's activities. All the best for your new life in New Zealand.

Best wishes from Fiona on s/v Phambili

judith said...

OMG TOAST!!! This is what I've been saying now for a couple of years. You need your own show and that guy up there is just the guy to do it! DO IT!!!!!