Friday, September 12, 2014

Living on a Boat – The Way It Is

It was mid-April when Mark and I arrived in Tahiti with Irie, after many months of being in French Polynesia. Just like every cruising boat that stops in this developed island with the biggest city we had seen since Panama City more than a year prior, our list of boat projects was big and our online-to-do-agenda even bigger. Of course, our priority back then was getting Mark to a specialist with a long visit to the States – and break from the boat – as a result. But, before that decision was made and from the moment we arrived back on our floating home in Tahiti mid-August, life was super busy.

We checked in with customs and the harbor master, dealt with Mark’s “carte de séjour” (his residency card- usually Americans can only stay in the country for three months), bought  and installed new anchor chain, replaced some running rigging, fixed the raw water pump on one of the engines, acquired material to stuff our brand new cockpit cushion covers, re-attached a wood panel in one of the bunks, filtered bad fuel, and worked on personal projects. After a lot of walking and searching, we found and fixed the wooden board under the sliding door. We did an extensive “spring cleaning”, scrubbed the waterline every two weeks, and filled our boat back up with food and drinks. We ordered a new jib online (not an easy feat to get all the measurements right), bought miscellaneous parts in the local Ace hardware stores and chandleries, and made multiple trips to the hospital and several doctors.

In the meantime and since we have been back on Irie, the usual chores never end: laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, dishes, maintenance… Though tasks like this take up about an hour or so when you live ashore, on a boat, every single one of them can add up to half a day if not more. Sometimes you have to work around the weather (rain, heavy wind, choppy anchorage), so tasks you planned on doing are postponed once again… We were immediately sucked into the boat life with engine and outboard maintenance, a stove top replacement, the installation of a new toilet seat and solenoid, cleaning the decks and the waterline (yet again and ongoing – the Pacific is rich with nutrients), getting gasoline, diesel and water, filling our fridge and cupboards while spending a lot of money, hoisting our new jib on a windlass morning, helping our friends with their rigging project, and so on.

Having decent WiFi is a must for us, and Tahiti offers it at a high price. Almost everything is expensive in French Polynesia: a load of laundry costs $5, plus $15 to use the facilities (Tahiti Yacht Club), or $9 with a chance that your mooring breaks loose (Taina Marina), a gallon of gasoline is $8, canned products cost about $2 a piece, fresh meat and alcohol – other than beer - are unaffordable, so we stick to vegetables and subsidized foods, like baguettes, chicken, rice and pasta, and are very selective about what we buy. We rarely go out for dinner, but we do spend about $80 a month on internet, however. Yes, our priorities are a bit different from others out here. :-)

After a three month break from the boat life, we have re-established our habits and customs of 7 years of cruising aboard Irie. The saltwater bucket is introduced again for dishes, we shower in the ocean and rinse with fresh water from our sun shower, we lower the dinghy and drive ashore for errands and lift it back up at night, we are very careful using water and electricity, we keep an eye on the position of our solar panels, listen to the buzzing of the wind generator and collect rainwater, we have a hard time finding things in our fridge, we watch movies on our laptop and each time we need some item out of a cupboard or the fridge, we have to move several other things first. And, there is the fact that we are long not retired and have to be able to survive, of course.

The “tradition” of spending days on end on our computers was started when we arrived in the US in May (well, we actually started this habit, commitment and “need” about 5 years ago!), and continues back on the boat here in the Society Islands. I have been writing a lot and articles are being published in well-respected and prominent sailing magazines, while Mark is extremely busy with computer and Wirie work. Yes, he is still running, and working on, the business (The Wirie) we started in 2009, and some days – as you can imagine – this is harder than others.

With so much stuff going on – and our lives being so different from other cruisers – I sometimes wonder why we choose to live on a boat. Add to that weeks of crappy weather (a lot of wind and rain did fill our boat batteries and fresh water tank, thank you, but now we are ready for some sun!) – it will take a while to get our tan back – and an easier and more comfortable lifestyle comes to mind. But, then there will be some pleasant weather, the misty and impressive view we have been staring at turns into the scene of a hiking adventure, or a marine animal will cross our path. And, we smile in admiration and appreciation at the life we have chosen. It is the path less taken, less lived, and less convenient, but it can be pretty rewarding!

Birgit on Pitufa restitches part of our bimini

Crappy weather out there!

Clouds and mist are part of the scenery

Another boat project day

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