Living on Water (Mostly)

Posted by John

The plan for the first leg of our sailing journey is to leave Puget Sound mid-August, with the first stop in San Francisco. We expect to stay there about a month. Following the Bay Area Westsail rendezvous the weekend of October 1st, we plan to continue to San Diego and join the Baja Ha Ha cruiser’s rally to Cabo San Lucas. It leaves on Halloween. We’ll be doing the rally with s/v Slainte, crewed by Joe and Cathy from Kingston, WA. After that, we’ll probably spend some time exploring the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) before making detailed plans for the second leg.

We’ve spent every night on the boat since June 7th, mostly at anchor in Port Ludlow Bay. Our re-glued, formerly-leaking inflatable is kept in the water next to us. Almost every night after dark, a seal tries to climb into it. He attempted and failed for several nights, causing a commotion of splashing, and leaving us wondering what just happened. One night he finally made it up onto the thing. It’s not just ours he’s after, but any inflatable tied to any anchored boat in the area seems to be an obsession. So far he hasn’t caused any major problem, just an annoying curiosity.

Having retired in order to do this, and then being delayed a year, non-boat diversions gradually filled more and more of my newly-found free time. One of those diversions was the rediscovery of evening television, and the concept of having favorite shows. Slouched on a couch in a warm and comfortable house watching TV in the evening, thinking that I had worked my whole life to get to this point, including the several years of weekends it took to build the very house I was slouching in, I would wonder why we were working so hard on making this sailing trip happen just so we could leave the house we had just finished building.

Then the next morning I would realize, again, that it wasn’t so much the trip that mattered; it was the entire process of the journey. It was using all of the skills and resources of experience that we had acquired during our lifetimes, in all of our individual endeavors, and combining them to accomplish one, grand, complicated, adventure. What else do you do with everything you think you’ve learned?

At the start, our questions ranged from our ability to sail a boat hundreds, or even thousands, of miles in the open ocean, to our ability to leave our house, family, friends and lifestyle for an extended time, and then return in the future to pick up where we left off, if that is even possible. For our daughter, it meant questioning her decision to break from her friends and delay going to college so she could gamble on having an experience with her parents that she might not otherwise get the opportunity to have until much later in life. Even the one year delay changed that equation and added new factors to consider. These questions have not been easy to find answers to. The process has, at times, been difficult and frustrating.

It is clearer now, at least, as to how we will transition from a lifestyle of living on land to one of living on water. The change is not yet fully complete, but is mostly complete. By sharing a few details, perhaps our experiences so far will help to provide perspective to some of those who come after us, just as we’ve gained insight from those who have gone ahead of us.

The last day in our house was hectic and weird. After breakfast, the coffee maker was carried out and put in the garage. It was an odd feeling knowing that our normal morning routines would never be the same again. We disassembled our bed and carried it outside, too. The house sitters were moving in their own.

It was our last chance to empty what remained of our familiar life at home. Most things with no clear destination were temporarily put into the garage. Some were staged in the yard. We would need to figure them out in the following weeks. Most problematic were the things still in the house that would be going onto the boat, but for whatever reason had not been taken there yet. They kept getting mixed in with the things going elsewhere, and it was hard to visualize how much we were actually planning to take.

We realized, rather suddenly, that we had a staging area we could use in the form of a currently unoccupied nearby mobile home owned by a relative. Since this revelation had not been previously mentioned to anyone, I started thinking about it as a kind of secret safe house (I did watch a lot of TV over the winter, after all) where we could, without outside distraction, deal with boat stuff only. The safe house idea, borrowed from cop shows, completely fit with all the paper shredding and burning we’d been doing, and the whole sense of starting a new life. Having this space to store and sort was a real lifesaver. I’m not sure what we would’ve ended up doing without it.

Finally, we loaded the deflated dinghy into the car and drove down the hill to the beach near the boat, which had been out on its mooring since early April. A dinghy ride was between us and the start of our new life of living on water. But being exhausted from the hectic day, we could not raise the energy to haul, assemble and inflate the dinghy. We spent the night in a motel instead. Being in a ground floor room that looked out to the highway through motel curtains, the feeling of running and hiding from something was quite clear. This step in the process, transitioning from our house to our boat, was not at all like what any of us had imagined.

After resting for a few days on the boat, going back to the safe house and seeing everything we planned to take spread all over the floor produced another round of feeling overwhelmed. How would it all fit? But just as overwhelming was the logistics of getting it to the boat by dinghy trips. Although theoretically possible, a fully loaded, little, patched-up, flat-bottom inflatable like ours is not the easiest thing to launch at low tide when the beach is wide and the water is shallow for some distance out. For that matter, it’s not that easy to launch at any tide. We knew from experience that we couldn’t leave a dinghy, no matter how old and beat up, on that particular beach and expect to find it again after returning with another car load of gear. Deflating the dinghy and carrying it around in the back of the car meant that virtually nothing else would fit at the same time. It didn’t take long for all three of us to agree that the task was too difficult with the boat tied to the mooring. We decided to take Mysticeti back to the Port Ludlow marina and get a slip for a week.

At the end of the week, which seemed to pass exceptionally fast and did not result in everything being loaded onto the boat, we moved out into the bay and anchored. It turns out that it is remarkably pleasant to live on water this time of the year. The only downside is we still have more equipment to load, house (and boat) projects to finish and errands to run with the car. We’re sharing rental of a marina dinghy slip with Joe and Cathy from s/v Slainte, and keeping our car in the marina parking lot. The dinghy slip gives us a secure, dedicated space for the dinghy during the day, while we are off doing other things.

With daily trips to shore, we don’t feel fully detached from land yet. Maybe it’s kind of a trial arrangement for living on water; one more step of the process.

Our ride to and from shore -- so far the glue is holding
Our ride to and from shore — so far the glue is holding
Our home, anchored out in the bay
Our home, anchored out in the bay
Baja buddy boat s/v Slainte, anchored near us in Port Ludlow
Baja buddy boat s/v Slainte, anchored near us in Port Ludlow