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.  

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Am I committed or do I need committing?

Soooo, I bought a boat. To live on....... As you do. Not a nice sedate canal boat, or a sensible roomy river boat. A bloody great 30ft sail boat.

I have lived on the coast for nearly 2 years, before that I lived about as far inland as you could get. I have never sailed in my life! Which makes me wonder, "what the hell am I doing?"....... This is sort of intended to be a record, probably of how not to go about things. It was suggested by a colleague that I should write a blog, so here I am.

Basic facts first:
  • My boat is a 29'2" Snapdragon 890 named Maestro.
  • She was fairly cheap and does need some tidying.
  • I have not yet moved in, having only just had her surveyed it's a paperwork waiting game now.
  • I am currently renting a room. It's luxurious and I want for nothing - except my own space.
  • I am unwilling to rent and will never get a mortgage on my income alone.
  • Somehow along the way I decided buying a live aboard was the answer??

I am simultaneously scared witless, and unimaginabley excited.

And on the upside, yesterday I finally managed to remember which side is port, and which starboard - star light, star bright, starboard is on the right!