I never thought I would end up living on a boat. It wasn’t something that had ever crossed my mind to be honest. But now I find myself not only living on a boat but also running a sailing company. Before me and Luke started our adventure together, I lived in a small cottage in the country side, with a wood burner and allotments out the back. I worked for my family’s business, along with my brother and the most time I had spent on anything that floated was the occasional ferry ride from Corfu and a day out on the tourist trip boats. So, if I was to say, back then if you had told me within 4years I would have already spent a year working on a 24m yacht in Scotland, sailed it to Tenerife and then started my own charter company, I wouldn’t have believed you.
But here I am, sat on our floating caravan of paradise, in the beautiful Ionian and I couldn’t imagine my life any where else.
The Ups and Downs
It isn’t always plain sailing when living a board. Things are just a little less straight forward then when living on land. For example, half way through cooking dinner the gas bottle will run out and ruin a perfectly good soufflé, you’ll find the water tank isn’t quite as full as you thought when you hopped in the shower and with a head full of shampoo and a towel covering your modesty you’ll find yourself running down the pontoon with a hose in hand before you can continue your daily cleaning ritual. There are times you’ll spend twenty minutes removing the saloon cushions to get to a locker beneath to find that what you were searching for is in a completely different hiding place in the boat and proceed to curse whilst spending the following twenty minutes putting your living room back together. And at the end of the day you’ll fall asleep with the constant fear that your home will float away from its mooring at some point in the night and you’ll awake to find yourself somewhere out in the middle of nowhere.
But I must admit life on the water can be far more interesting and an altogether more enjoyable experience than living on land.
During the summer it is possible to see a turn around of yachts at such a rate you’ll have new neighbours within a few hours. This can be both a good thing and a not so good thing. We have been lucky enough to make some lifelong friends from the people who just happen to moor up beside us. And we’ve learnt that the world is in fact a very small place indeed.
On our return journey form the Canary Islands last year we called into Garrucha on south east coast of Spain for a rest and restock. We had stopped here on the trip out so new it was a good point of call. After a night or two, we were heading back from dinner and drinks with friends of ours in Almeria and were chatting away minding our own business when a voice from a yacht that had snuck in whilst we were out and about said
“That’s a great Suffolk accent if ever I heard one!”
Now if you’re old school born and raised in Suffolk then you can definitely hear it. Try having a conversation with the old boys in the pub after they’ve had a few, and you’ve got more chance understanding the ancient language of tongue clicks from the Hadzabe tribe! But, as a member of the younger Suffolk generation we don’t really have an accent that’s overly distinguishable to others. So, for someone to make this comment whilst in a marina in Spain, we were a little surprised.
It turned out that the voice belonged to a fellow Suffolk dweller and they lived just 5 minutes down the road! The family was made up of Mum, Dad and their two young daughters. These guys are the absolute legends of live a-boards! They gave up their life in Suffolk, bought a boat and set off. The yacht they bought was actually used for arctic expeditions and they showed us some amazing photos of polar bears on deck that the skipper had taken whilst he was up the mast. I’m pretty sure he stayed there for a while! The girls spend 6 months being home schooled on the yacht and during the winter months when they’re not travelling around so much, they go to school on land in whichever country they happen to be in!
We spent the next few days hanging out, swapping sailing stories and becoming firm friends. The girls are amazing. They are masters on the helm, pro cooks and super outgoing, we clicked straight away! The first night we met them we ended up dancing on the pontoon playing Bob Marley way too loudly whilst Olivia played along on her ukulele. For us, meeting this family was awesome. We’re yet to have children and with the life style and career path we have chosen it hasn’t seemed like something that will be very straightforward, not that having children ever is. But kids adapt and after meeting this wonderful family you can see that as long as there is love and encouragement being brought up on a boat and sailing the world can be an amazing way to spend your childhood. I think we can get so fixated on the conventional ways to live that we forget that there are other options available. I’m not saying it’s a better way of doing it, it’s just a different way.
So new neighbours can be inspirational, a joy, life changing even but on occasion they can also be terrible.
Everyone has that house next door or on their street that when they see the occupants putting their bins out proceeds to hide behind their fence or dive behind a bush to avoid any kind of encounter with them. When living on a boat, it’s a little trickier.
On a yacht there is limited privacy. You get used to the fact that at least once a day someone will probably see you naked, unless you’re vigilant at closing all your tiny curtains and blinds but really who has the time and they shouldn’t be looking anyway, and if an unwelcome caller comes to say hi it’s a lot harder to pretend you’re not home and wait until they go away. They can see you. So, avoiding bad neighbours is not always easy.
There is also the added concern when a new neighbour moves in that they might crash into your home whilst manoeuvring theirs into the vacant parking spot beside you. This I’ve found can only be avoided by standing on deck with a fender at the ready and a very serious look on your face. A conciliation however, if a new neighbour does happen to reverse into the side of your home is that they will usually make a hasty get a way in search of a new and unsuspecting pontoon.
There are times on board when you just want to sit in your back garden (cockpit) with a glass of wine and a book and be at peace. Unfortunately, there are times on board when this is not possible. The Talker has moved in next door. Don’t get me wrong, I love a chat as much as the next yachtie but honestly sometimes, it’s unnecessary for me to hear about Susan and her unusual bond with her cat or about their nephew I’ve never met that is apparently throwing his life away in pursuit of the perfect pie, or quiche, maybe, I forget which. Worst still has to be first thing in the morning, bleary eyed and pre first cup of tea, still in pyjamas, you poke your head out of the gangway and there they are! All you want to do is turn the gas on but no, you now have to endure an in-depth conversation on the weather or some other trivial subject that before caffeine you really couldn’t care less about.
But then there’s the other times, when your new neighbours enrich your day, fill your evenings with laughter and become family for the time they’re there. It’s always sad when these neighbours sail away but it’s always exciting to see who will move in next. I hope it’s not Susan…
I was recently catching up with a good friend of mine and we got to talking about minimalism. It’s a simple concept, I’m sure you’ve heard of it, that refers to the removal of unnecessary things in our lives. The idea being that we are distracted by material items that hold no real value, but we still give them emotional meaning and therefore are controlled by them. I thought about this for a while and realised, I live a similar life to that of a minimalist.
Living on a boat, everything has a purpose, a function, a reason for being. There’s no room for knick-knacks and if there is, they must be stuck down for fear of whizzing off the side when sailing. There’s also limited space, I’ve been dying to get a food processor but even in a two-bedroom house there’s never enough room for one, so I have no chance on a boat!
When we decided it was time to except the inevitable and move out of our cosy cottage in the country side, we had barely been there for 2 years and it seemed mad to be paying rent on a place we only saw 3 weeks of the year! I was sad though, and if I’m honest a little nervous, what about all my stuff? I liked my stuff. It was nice stuff. As moving day grew ever closer, I started selling off a lot of the household items, mirrors, tables and bookshelves and at first, I felt a pang as each thing left with its new owner but as the house slower cleared, so did my mind. I’ve moved a lot since I was 18 and left the family home that I grew up in and I realised, I’ve been carting all of this stuff, and it is just stuff, around with me for a decade! Sometimes it would sit in my Dads garage for years at a time, driving him mad and me subconsciously feeling concerned for it, when really, I didn’t need it at all and was surviving quite well without it. I have of course still got the odd box of personal things in my parents loft that I’ve kept over the years, gifts from friends, old boyfriends (not the actual boyfriends themselves, that would be weird) and family. But honestly, everything I need is right here with me. I still probably have too many clothes and a rather large cookery book collection but hey! I’m only human.
So I guess living on a boat has taught me a lot about what’s important in my life, what I should cherish and what I really need to live day to day. And what I took for granted when living on land. It’s not for everybody, but maybe we should be spring cleaning our lives a little more often, free them up for the new and exciting things that will then be able to fit if only we made some room. It’s something to think about at least.
Home is Where the Anchor Drops
There’s so much more I could say about living on a boat. Like when you go out for the evening and it suddenly starts to rain and mid dinner you have to leg it home to close all of the windows that you left open! Or the fact that a bird once pooped on my pillow through the open hatch above my bed and that I have a permanent bruise on my leg from hitting it daily on the steps. But for all of these weird, frustrating and unpredictable reasons, I love living aboard. Every day is slightly different. I wake up to the sound of the waves gently lapping against the hull, I watch the sunset over the mountains that surround this beautiful bay reflecting its light onto the ever-changing sea and I have the freedom to move and call anywhere my home. I rather like being a sea gypsy.