Thursday, 19 July 2012

Well, it has been a long time – far too long really…. I have tried to write entries but have had nothing worth posting so far…..

Originally, when writing a blog was suggested to me, it was intended to while away the long, lonely, cold evenings – although life never works out as planned (in this case happily so). Following my last entry, one of the people who helped me has become a much bigger part of my life. I had already committed to the possibility of running an attraction for the kiddies on the beach for him, but didn’t expect for him to become a romantic interest as well. But I am so glad he did. I think I have found my soul mate. Scrap that, I know. So I haven’t had so many long, cold, lonely evenings.

At last I have found someone who doesn’t just pay lip service to my talk of leaving this cold and wet country, someone who isn’t more concerned about the hows and whys of the present – someone who can share my dream, and even more than that, evolve it with me….. funny how life works sometimes. Which kinda brings me on topic – Sacrifices…… or rather standards – which I don’t have so much of either anymore.

Whilst my little boat is fine for me, when there are two people on here, it’s limitations are a little more obvious. Mainly in terms of space – she is very badly designed for living aboard, especially for more than one.

So what am I noticing? Well, thankfully, although my lover spends an awful lot of time here on Maestro with me, he hasn’t moved anything in. Which is good because there is hardly room for my belongings, never mind anyone else’s.

I am also noticing the things I ignored before, like the fact that the water tastes appalling. I let it go to be honest; I got a water filter and just put up with it. (It is bad because it spends so long in the lines in the marina; it tastes of plastic – unless I run the hose for 10 mins before filling my water bottle.) When serving it to someone else I notice it more though. Kind of like I notice serving food on plastic plates, and wine in plastic tumblers (although that is his fault for breaking one of the pair of glass glasses), but still, orange plastic plates are hardly serious cuisine – and I do like serving nice food for those I love. And that's before I describe the trials of cooking on what is essentially a glorified camping stove, never mind the lack of food storage / refridgeration / freezer.

Other compromises?….. Well, laundry for one…. Don’t think I realised I was born living in a house! Last week my lover drove me to the launderette. It was costing me £5 to do a wash on the marina, and given that I’m not meant to be living here I have to do it late in the evening, so we tried the launderette. The faulty machines there meant we came back with dripping clothes that needed extra money in the driers here – saving nada. Faulty machines aside, it would still have cost more, and the pub we waited in (while the wash was on) was extortionately expensive…… ahh well, guess every day’s a school day.

So, if it isn’t actually dirty (and the defining standard of dirty is something that has itself changed) then it don’t get washed. Same as I now don’t get to wash the dishes under running water (yeah, bad I know but I have issues with food and water coming together)….. Same as how running water itself is a luxury… and flushing toilets, and showering in my own bathroom not on the marina, and it not raining through the vents in the roof onto the cupboard which houses my clothes….. and never mind the composting toilet – there is more on that to come….. it need modification – serious modification.

But overall, my life is very much different, but do I regret it? Do I wish I had a house (and there is no way of typing the word “house” as I think it; ie a dirty word)….. hell no. I stayed in a house a while back for the night, the room was 10 times bigger than my v-berth and yet it felt claustrophobic – it wasn’t moving, I couldn’t sleep.  

So for all the sacrifices, the things I now do without, or have limited access to, for all the little niggles – I wouldn’t change it. The good ship Maestro is the best thing I have done in my life for a very long while.

I love her because of all these things, not despite them. This is my home - which is a word I haven't used with any meaning in a long time. Which makes me a very happy girl.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Life gets in the way

Ok, now I’m beginning to have second thoughts. Not so much about the boat but more so what I’ve been running from. The reason why I bought the boat…….

In the early hours of Saturday morning I got beat up. By someone I was seeing…… I look like I’ve been in a car crash – but then as one of my northern friends says “my life is a car crash”.

After all of this, all of the work, tears and effort. All of the trying, building and convincing myself than I can do it; all of a sudden I want to go home. To my friends, the people who love me and will look after me. I tired of trying, tired of pretending it’s going to work out. I do love it here, but I’m tired now.

I feel like I want to throw my arms up and admit defeat. My ribs hurt when I breathe and I just want to sit down and cry. I’ve had enough with here – not enough good has come of it to warrant how bad I feel. So many times I’ve though I’ve hit the bottom and that it could get no worse. Then it does……I just want to give up now.

In some ways I’m so very lucky to have good people around me, who’ve tried their best to make me feel better – but it’s not enough. Right now I just want to go home, cry with my friends, be held, and told it’ll all be ok.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Well, I’d rather take that out, but when I wrote it, it was how I felt. I’m an honest person and the blog is not just about the boat – it’s about my life on the boat. I want it to show the lows as well as the highs. And in all fairness if I had the 'ideal life', if I had a well paying job, a partner with an equally well paying job, and a lovely, warm, dry and fully plumbed house, I might not feel so hell bent on living aboard. Not that I don’t love the boat – I do – but for me it started as a means to an end. My own space, somewhere to have privacy and quiet; a home. And while it is a home (a rather lovely one to boot) it is not the easy option. It is probably the bloody hard option! But it’s all tied up – I have the boat because of my life. I’m not a sailor because I chose to sail, I’m a sailor because that’s just the way my life took me. Not that I regret it for a second!

As is apparent, after my beating I was rather despondent. I spent 2 nights at the house where I was previously living...
           (and for the record, those guys were ace. My ex (who’s sister I was living with) picked me up from my friends house, took me ‘home’, gave me a big hug, his sister hugged me, then his kid (I love that boy) hugged me. Then I drew the line! I am so not the touchy feely hugging sort! They then poured me a damned big glass of wine and we played pool all night ignoring the fact that my face would’ve scared small children. They may drive me nuts to live with, but as surrogate family I couldn’t have done better.)
           ...and after two nights I longed for my boat. I have now reached a slightly less emotional level and have realised that it’s not that I want to go home; I want to have a home. So that is what I am building.

And I think I am half way there. I think of her frequently through the day; is the gas off; when did I last pump the bilge, are the mooring lines ok; is she ok? This is as well as the more long term plans; when will I be able to afford new rigging; how will I modify the doors; what kit will I need to sail to the carribean? THAT is how a boat gets inside your head! But believe me, it gets worse at night. My neighbour in the boat yard told me, “you get the most use out of your boat at night”. Yeah, when you’re lying there worrying about it, thinking how you’re going to fix it and worst of all, dreaming she’s taking on water (many, many times). But still I love her.

I have been meaning to write about the daily trials of marina living, the things I never thought I’d use so much but now wouldn’t be without, the day to day issues I never even thought about, and other such boat stuff, but sometimes life just gets in the way of that…… apologies.

But as I keep saying… “down but not out”.

I will keep typing, I will post more pics, I will hopefully post something a little more interesting….. but in the mean time…..

Sail on the steel breeze – and shine on you crazy diamonds…..

Thursday, 16 February 2012

I know it has been way too long but, well, it’s been a damned long few months.

I will post the techie details at a later date, but following a phone call from an extremely good friend in the north of England (how’s the boat, why are you still waiting for that part – I’ll make it for you!) I emailed the drawing for my mast reinforcement bracket, then waited. When I drove up to visit my family at Christmas, I called in to see my friend on the way. I had forgotten all about the stainless plate work. It was a lovely surprise to see my bracket all welded up and looking beautiful! This surprise was only made greater by being cooked a wonderful evening meal of chilli burger and veg, with beer. . . . and also, a surprise “Captain Slinky” t shirt Christmas present! . . . . . . . And that was Christmas – I lounged around at the family home, drank an awful lot, put up with my little bro, dealt with a Capri steering rack and brake pad failure (assisted by my oldest and loveliest friends) then drove back home. Worked new year’s eve in the pub, dressed as a pirate (what else?!) then suffered total burn out for 3 or 4 days – only natural I suppose?

So, with Christmas out of the way, I set to on the lovely Maestro. Serious hard work now (as before, tech details will follow – for anyone who may be even slightly interested?), basically, having cut a bloody great hole in the boat roof with an angle grinder, and having already repaired the mast step in the garage at home, I glass-fibred it back into the boat. A professional rigger was paid lots of money to refit the mast……… Oh shit – boat now nearly ready to go back in water! This was when the stress and nerves cranked up to a whole new level! I panicked around on the boat, making sure everything was done and ready; antifoul – check, engine runs – check, spare fuel filters – check, upon the advice of a friend, I ran the diesel dry then bled the system (to check that I could) ………at this point I was ready to give up. I was dog tired, hadn’t slept properly in a long time, every waking (and most probably sleeping) hour was taken up with BOAT. I couldn’t see how it was all going to come together, how I was going to get everything done, how something major wasn’t going to go wrong on my 41 year old, unknown quantity of a boat. On Friday the boat yard lifted her into the water....... Somehow I didn’t cave in to the stress and half six on a crisp January Saturday morning I was getting dressed ready to go sailing (under motor). 
This was how she greeted me - still floating! Now I know she's a solid boat; the boat yard have known her for a while - but it's still the stuff of sailing newbie nightmares (and I do frequently dream that she's taking on water). What a relief to see her just sat there floating. Proper made me smile. :D

Ok, got the jump start pack, got a passenger ferry skipper to drive the boat for me (there’s some big rocks out there), borrowed all the kit (radios, life jackets, flares etc), got probably enough diesel to last a year, got tea, coffee and bacon….. oh, and the Moet…… we’re off!

Tom (the skipper) wanted an early start (for the tides), so we ran the boat engine up, checked the temp with the borrowed infra red sensor (very necessary as the gauge was telling some big lies) and were floating down the river by a little after nine. Beautiful, tranquil, all good! What a high, my boat, on the river Dart, on it’s way home! We hit the big bad sea not long after, it got a little more choppy but I was confident I was in good hands (and I was), so I just tried to enjoy the journey. An hour away from the marina I called and told them we’d be arriving in an hour, as the girl who took the deposit had said to. Then I just sat back and watched Torquay come into view. It was a beautiful day, sunny if a little cold, but beautiful all the same. Torquay looks it’s best in the sunshine, from the sea – all the white buildings sparkling on the headland, contrasting with the green wooded areas.It was surreal; my boat; Torquay marina; I couldn’t quite tie the two together…..
Anyways, we moored ok. Tom struggled to get her into neutral but eventually he expertly backed her into her allocated space. One of my closest friends was already waiting for us – bubbly in hand. Before we’d even got the bacon butties on,  some dude from the marina came a gave me a good telling off because that berth already belonged to someone else (think they got me confused with myself, as I’d selected that space about 2 weeks previously – and paid for it!?). I explained my innocence and never heard anything more.

We drank champagne on deck, out of plastic tumblers, and smoked cigars whilst watching the clouds glow as they skitted in front of the low winter sun. Pure bliss! We saw a sun dog (little patch of rainbow in the sky) which has significance for me - good omen...... Opening the champers at 14.00 was not clever though, really….. suffice to say, I shall not be holding any more boat parties. My poor little Maestro just doesn’t have enough room to hold 4 partying tipsy people – Lesson learnt!

I suspect that’s the first of many. Luckily the people here seem nice, I have some very good friends, without whom I wouldn’t have this boat, but I suspect that this is only the start of the journey…… to infinity and beyond!

(And I would like to thank all the lovely people I know; friends and family, but also total strangers, who have helped me with this. You have, supported me, listened to me when I was scared and miserable – then enthused and inspired me, you have fed me, leant me stuff, given your time, welded shiny things up for me, or have even just taken an interest and let me know I’m not alone in following this crazy dream. Also, thank you Mum for believing it was a suitable channel for my inheritance (and it’s the believing that matters), and thank you Dad, for leaving it for me – wish you could see her!)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

I've got buttons for my coat. . . .

. . . . and sails on my boat. So much more than I needed before. (Paolo Nutini - Pencil Full Of Lead)

(And thank you for the comments of support - it does make a difference to know I'm not the only one.)

Today has been a good day.

At last. After the heartache of the last few days; realising the insulation I'd bought wasn't really going to do the job unless I spent a whole load more money; realising I was almost out of money; accidentally punching the corner of the occasional table (more than "occasionally" hurt) whilst picking a stray sock up from the floor, and rendering my left hand useless for a day (my right arm is already on light duty due to the fractured collar bone); having several unproductive days on the boat; and then enduring hell on earth in the world's nastiest "retail leisure park". Nearly drove me to tears. So I decided to take a day out, drive down to Cornwall and purchase my new boat toilet. I'm glad I did!

Having carried out a fair bit of tinterweb research I came to the conclusion that composting toilets were the way forwards. There are several reasons for this:
  • I cannot dump shit into the sea - it is so many kinds of wrong. I have spent the past two summers having a professional interest in the water quality on the beach where I worked. Which is where I would be living. (South Devon's The Bay As sung about, and featured in the video by Metronomy - Awesome band)
  • It seems that the general opinion is, sea heads are not nice - they smell, leak, are overly complex to use, and there's the constant problem of how to dispose of the waste.
  • I don't fancy paying someone to suck it out.
  • Neither do I fancy lifting the container of a porta potty over the side of the boat and tottering down the pontoon with it - euwwwww.
  • A composter does not smell and emptying should not be unpleasant - every one's a winner.
After seeing one for sale on ebay, and exchanging a few emails, I drove to Padstow in Cornwall to have a proper look at these things. I can not speak highly enough of the folks at kernowrat. Incredibly knowledgable, friendly, helpful, and genuinely interested in the products they sell and lifestyle they promote. And their prices are good. Proper cheered me up it did!

However, whilst talking to the owner it occurred to me that my take on life is not like most people - you mention storing your waste in the bathroom while it composts to most people and they will think you're some kind of tree hugging hippy. And when you then tell them you want to live off grid rather than contribute to a corrupt daylight robbing economy - well, then they'll truly made their mind up about you.

I also figure that I should tell something about myself. I like to know about people, what drives them, why they do what they do, and who they are - so I should perhaps give some of that away?

Anyways, I'm a 31 year old dizzy blonde, I'm a university trained / 10 year time served mechanical engineer (yes, the two can go together), I also want to work as little as possible for a living (if I'm honest). I find that if I work a 40 hour week, I have no time or energy left to enjoy my free time. . . . I also remember from my first real love; when we were renting a room with no money to spare, we laughed, loved and were happy. Once we got the house, the more material things we had, sky tv and everything else, the less happy we were. We worked so bloody hard to pay for it all, we were so tired and stressed - it broke us. The lesson there seems pretty obvious?

So, I'm not wanting to live off grid because I have some particular political axe to grind. It's not an attempt to preach to others about how to live a martyr-like existence. It's purely because I want what I earn to pay for the things I want. My time should belong to me. The less I invest in our consumer driven society, the less I need to work. . . . and the more I can spend my time doing the things that make me happy. I also believe that we need to all take reponsibility for our actions. I don't eat meat very often because if it isn't RSPCA approved or above (no great shakes but better than nothing) then I will not perpetuate the inhumane treatment of those animals. Unfortunately, cheap meat is not happy meat. So I go without, it's not going to kill me?! And it does make a difference slowly; some supermarkets no longer sell battery eggs - because the public doesn't like them.

I believe that the more we all try and impact less upon the world around us, the better the world will be, the easier our lives will be and the happier we will be. Use less, waste less, reuse, recycle, mend, etc. Or at least that's how I want to live my life.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Me and my Monkey!

Well, I'm still on dry land - things aren't happening anywhere near as fast as I'd hoped......

First off - myth dispelling. I am not brave; I am not doing this, primarily, out of any desire for adventure, or because normal life is not exciting enough for me. I'm doing this because two failed relationships have left me 250 miles from home, with no home (and nowhere near enough funds to obtain a home), few friends in my new home town, and little other options.

I could pack up, leave the coast behind and move back inland - but I have no reason really to do so, especially not given that I've worked hard for the past two years to really make this place feel like home. I could house share - I don't think so, I am anti social and intolerant - not a good mix for house sharing! Or I could continue as is, renting a room from my ex's sister and her family - yeah, and I'd be walking into the water soon, the pressure of having no space for myself causes white noise in my head which I am having increasing difficulty in drowning out. And that's before dealing with my ex - joyous I tell thee!

Luckily, despite not actively seeking excitement, I am cut out to enjoy it and make the most of it. I can rough it quite happily.....

(The people I live with at the moment believe that I am odd and somehow dysfunctional because I don't own a TV and couldn't even tell you what X-Factor / Big Brother / Simply Ballroom on Ice / Blahblahblah is all about?! If I can live for 10 weeks in a very small tent, surely a floating caravan shouldn't be that difficult?)

So, the lovely Maestro is still on dry land but, after an agonising time waiting for paperwork to be completed, I have finally been able to start ripping out the insides and making her mine.

My major concerns at the moment are:
  • Are composting toilets all they've cracked up to be?
  • How does one begin to insulate a boat?
  • Where the hell do I find an owner's manual?
  • How do I plumb a shower in?
  • Oh yeah, nearly forgot...... what job will I find so that I can afford the astronomical marina fees?
I have also been thinking about mast reinforcement - she is suffering from mast compression so I will somehow need to brace the mast from underneath - not a big job really once the mast is off..... (she says nonchalantly)

Another task on the list is the fuel tank. It leaks. In a big way - so much so that the existing carpet, some of the seat cushions, and a host of other stuff has had to be thrown out to try and get rid of the all pervading diesel smell - it's getting there slowly... Given that her holey old tank is bonded in, I believe the best solution is leaving it there and (as there is plenty of room) just putting a new plastic one in next to it. Simples!

And the title? Well I'd love a dog but the sheer effort involved is rather off putting so I have found the perfect sailing companion....... Meet Monkey..

After having been orphaned on the beach I have offered him a new lease of life as first mate! He's quiet, well behaved, doesn't eat much and best of all - conversation is good!

Monday, 5 September 2011

The butterfly effect

Today's the day. The lovely Maestro becomes mine!

Last night I sent up a sky lantern - with help from a friend. We decorated it in messages of luck and drawings of my little boat, it was amazing to watch it float away. Best of all, we then saw a shooting star - a really bright one, dazzling white, falling to the horizon so fast I almost thought I'd imagined it, but for my companion saying "did you see that!". What better omen can there be? What better sign that the gods of the sea and the wind approve of my idea?

So, much as I am apprehensive about what I am doing, I feel distinctly positive, and last night's stellar sign only serves to reinforce the feeling of fatalism; a predefined course; a path that must be seen through to the end; a compelling "rightness".

The odds maybe tilted slightly away from my favour but for the first time in months I feel as though I have a purpose, something to aim for, and also a lifeline to pull me out of the stasis I have been enduring. I now have a reason, something to do for myself and no one else's benefit. I will have my own space and my own time, and if I'm truly honest, I will soon have the ability to put space between myself and the things that trouble me. A bit like running away only more considered, a conscious decision and knowledge that if I stop moving I will decay here, the situation around me driving me to the point of breakdown.

I thought I liked life black and white, ones and zeros, all organised in a neatist little pattern, but I believe I have now seen the light. I've realised that the randomness and chaos around us is in fact the pattern. Everything is flux, as they say...... Embrace that flux, love the unknown, dive off that cliff.

A lesson to be learned?

In order to while away the time, and to learn all I can about my new mode of living, I have been scouring amazon / kindle etc for free books on sailing. As it happens, most of the freebies are trials whereby you get to read the first chapter then have to buy the rest. Sailing Solo Alone by J. J. James was listed amongst the other books and as an information magpie I naturally had to have a look. The title was slightly intriguing; surely if you are solo then you are alone already?

"This short novel is written as a warning to those who would be foolish enough not to give the Sea the respect She deserves.
It's also meant to make you laugh a bit."

Well........ I read the free introductory part in about 15 minutes flat. And did I then need to know how our hero (to quote Amazon) went on with the 18ft Solo? Of course I did. What followed was the most entertainment I've had for under 3 quid in a very long time!

And the unfortunate side to this? Do I feel put off my quest following the adventures of somebody who is certainly no less qualified than myself (probably more so given that I come from inland, where we have no sea, and given that my seafaring experience is limited to rides on a couple of small passenger ferries)? I guess oops really isn't going to cut it? 

I suppose I'm certainly going to be giving the sea plenty of respect (I'm actually rather glad that sailors no longer need to sacrifice virginal maidens - I don't think there's many of those in Torquay), I'm more than aware of it's potential for destruction, but am I too harbouring secret dreams of circumnavigating the world? You bet! Did reading of another's very near death in a similar situation quell that desire? Erm, no would be the answer to that! On reflection, I do think sailing lessons may be a good idea though.