to move onto a boat came over a period of about a year. My plan originally
was to work hard for the next 10 or so years, sock away as much money as
possible, then chuck it all and move to St. Martin in the French West Indies
(I have a lot of history there, which is a story for another day).
I figured I'd buy a house, rent it to tourists to help pay it off while
I was here working and then move to a mortgage free house, live off my
savings and work only at what I enjoyed.
So, I needed
to once again revamp my escape plan. A few months later I'm
down in the islands again, Antigua I think, at the airport waiting for
my flight. I read like crazy and was almost done with the last of
the books I had brought along, so I went into the shop looking for a new
one. This was a typical dinky airport, with a typical dinky shop,
filled with T-shirts and other souvenir junk. I couldn't find so
much as a newspaper. On my way out I spot a little pile of books
in the corner. Three copies of the same book, dusty and sad looking.
At this point I was willing to read the labels on my toiletries, so I grabbed
one and headed onto the plane. I opened it soon after take off.
It's called "Home Is Where The Boat Is" written by a woman some years earlier,
telling the story of her 12 years of travels around the world with her
boyfriend on a homemade catamaran. The picture she painted was amazing.
She went into all areas, from the places they visited and the people they
met to how to do laundry and catch rainwater at sea. My brain
was flying with ideas by the time we landed at JFK; I had
Enter Plan B, buy a boat and travel the islands, instead of staying in one place. I could buy it and leave it there, spend vacations on the boat cruising until it was time for the final escape and then sail off into the sunset. Before reading this book, I really wasn't aware that people traveled the world on small boats, thinking it was just something you did for a week's charter or for millionaires on a crewed yacht, bored and jaded, traveling the world in style. I started researching, devouring every bit of information about boats available, the how-tos, reading stories on the Internet of people actually living this lifestyle. Then one day, like a thunk on my sometimes-thick head, I came up with the ultimate plan revision.
Why not rent
the house I was living in, buy a boat and live on it here in New York,
until I could manage to finally escape? I began my search and after
a few months, I bought a boat, found dock space and offered my house for
rent to friends, 4 single guys who I had shared a summer beach house with.
Up until this point I was filled with nothing but excitement. Dreams of
a peaceful, simple life filled my head.
I began my new life aboard towards the end of the summer. The place I found is a small boatyard, about 40 slips, with a homey feel to it, unlike most of the fancier marinas. The owner (affectionately referred to as "the water lord") lives on site and takes care of us like family. There are 10 of us here in the yard living aboard year round, divided amongst 7 boats. Our little community is wonderful. Someone is always around to offer a hand when you need one. There's always a little get together going on, gathering at a picnic table in the summer, on someone's deck in the winter.
In the several years I have lived here, I have never locked the door to the boat (as a matter of fact I don't know where the key is) To me this is an incredible thing. In all the years on land, I couldn't go to sleep without checking the doors and windows and making sure the alarm was on.
The summers are filled with activity. The yard fills with seasonal boaters, friends we see only for those glorious months. Spending the weekends on the bay, or a trip to Fire Island instantly washes away the residue of the week's stress. Starting the day off with a cup of coffee on the deck, feeding the ducks and swans that gather noisily at the waterline makes all the difference in dealing with the upcoming day at work.
By fall, the rest of the boats come out of the water, leaving us to the peace and quiet that the winter brings. Those months have their own charm, a time of silence and serenity, cozy and warm in our cabins. The most beautiful time to me is during a snowfall. The only thing breaking the stark whiteness, interrupting the quiet, are the ducks that have stayed on, huddled in little groups, chattering on in strange tones.
Looking back, I am amazed how much this life aboard has changed me. The boat has become my little cocoon, sheltering me from both the weather and the stress of New York life. I have reduced my possessions again by half, discarding the things that no longer add value to my life. My wardrobe contains only the things I actually wear. I no longer have a desire, or the space, for the latest gadget, another seldom-used appliance or dust collecting knickknacks. Now you'll find displayed a small collection of items I've picked up in my travels, each one holding special meaning. Typical American consumerism is rapidly becoming a thing of the past for me.
My free time is spent differently too. Quiet has become something I crave. The TV no longer plays for background noise, the programs seem fake and dull compared to the nature that surrounds me. Evenings are more likely spent reading or listening to music. The silence offers me time to think, time to plan, to learn and to dream.
I have gained an incredible amount of self-sufficiency also. A boat requires a different type of upkeep than a house. I've never heard of a house sinking from neglect, but a boat needs frequent checking for wear and tear. Inevitably, things deteriorate faster in the salty environment, and with each new repair to tackle; I come out a little more accomplished from the experience. I have learned how to repair hoses, change engine oil, install new pumps, rewire electrical systems and a host of other skills.
I have learned a great deal of patience, accepting that things will go wrong, that I'll be able to handle the challenges that come my way and even being able to laugh at myself in the process. These new found abilities have spread to every area of my life.
All in all, this life is one I wouldn't trade for the world. For the next few years, until it's time to cast off the lines for different ports, I look forward to each day at the dock. When that day finally comes, I know it will be a lot less frightening, having this experience to look back on.