“What do you do all day?”
It’s a question that surfaces when the conversation goes to what it’s like to live on a boat. And I get it. At the end of some days, I often ask myself the very same question. In my old life, a day was sized up by the commute, how many and how long were the meetings, if I managed to fit in a run, and whether dinner was take-out or quickly tossed together. Essentially, if I didn’t fall into bed exhausted and pre-occupied with the past, present, and future – well then, I hadn’t really done much of anything that was worth writing about. A salary was proof that my days were busy and that I was on the right track. Time aboard Seamore Odyssey has gathered up all of the evidence that once measured my contribution in society, filed it under the name – I’m hard at work, very busy, and therefore a valuable employee (person), and threw it overboard.
Today, thirty-seven feet of waterline is where I reside, find inspiration, and turn my attention. I’m no longer rushing to join a traffic jam, or planning the night before what I’m going to wear the next day. The time and energy that I once used to meet the outside world, now resides inward; creating my own spin on nautical domestication. Prioritizing nutritious and yummy eats; maintaining a supply of fresh and fragrantly pleasing towels; having sheets and pillows that are soft and inviting; barefoot-clean floors; and a décor that slows to island time…those are the non-negotiables that I demand, working numerous hours every day in order to achieve.
Yes, demand is a pretty harsh word, but so is the corrosive nature of salt water, wind, the sun, and sand. I’m a sea monster, willing to work overtime, to keep mildew, grime, and foul odors off the boat in order to have my floating sanctuary. For those familiar with boats, you know that every surface is fair game to the ill effects of trapped moisture. Trapped moisture leads to problems, some of which pose safety hazards. Prevention, detection, and intervention are at the forefront of most conversations we have on the boat. There are a number of ways water can intrude. Fifty miles off shore is not the place, in the dark of night is not the time, and rolling out of bed into seawater up to our ankles is certainly not how we want to discover a job that we missed.
Keeping our trawler, and lifestyle, in seaworthy state becomes the quintessential gift we live out each day. Negotiating, between the two of us, our time, skills, and talents in order to move a project forward has in the end been very rewarding. When two Yanmar engines and a diesel generator are stationed under the living room (salon) the job of changing oil filters, water impellers, fuel filters, and checking the engine mounts, belts, and hoses are tasks we plan and assist each other with…so that everything is cleaned up and put away before sunset. A hot luxurious shower inside the boat, versus a cold quick shower in the cockpit, and the ease of our Vaccuflush commodes are some of the creature comforts we both really, really value. But it means cleaning the slime out of the shower bilge on a regular basis….yuck. Listening for changes in the sound of the pumps doing their dirty work; keeping the holding tank system healthy and happy between pump-outs; and eyeing the Tank Tender daily for freshwater and black water levels falls under my jurisdiction as Director of Sanitation. Within this department, certain habits and routines are required, thus leading to my other title – Queen of Quality Control. I earned this position because I’m good at pointing out when something might be overlooked. Unfortunately for Captain Chameleon, it’s an area I over achieve in.
On most days, Captain Chameleon and I are actually very compatible co-workers, with a seasoned ability to balance out the other’s talent. Where one is a neat freak, the other is quick to clutch their pile and jump out of the way. If one is bossy with suggestions, the other will usually step forward with an impressive 180 degree eye roll – in perfect timing for the best overall effect. We argue, I sulk, we ignore, we praise, we laugh, and we high-five our way through every single project. Big or small, expensive or phenomenally expensive they are almost all the same. What we expect to be long projects become marathon projects and what should be short and simple projects; well they too become marathon projects.
One important thing we have gleaned from observing other boaters as they grunt through their projects is at a minimum, two and half dozen items will be needed. Which means at the end of the day, for the sake of sanity and sanctuary – every single, solitary item that is used for a job, must also be put back, in its proper place. And here lies, what I do all day. I move stuff. Or for the tiny ounce of professionalism still left in me; “I move product.”
I can assure you that behind every mountainous array of tools, hose clamps, and spare parts, is someone with a robust talent for packing. Although Capt. Chameleon is short on that skill, he is indeed very gifted with the ability to only need what is located in the very, very back and at the very, very bottom. Because I’m the packer, I’m also the fetcher.
Whether it’s to check out a system, tighten a fitting that the Captain can’t quite reach, or fetch an item …it’s always from the tightest of spaces. It starts with a muffled grumbling moment, and then I gather my composure, focus on my breath and climb down into the dark depths of the belly of the ship for a session of boat yoga. It helps when I remember to channel a vision of a soft pretzel. Eyes on the prize, I make mental notes of how to better organize the space, look about for signs of moisture intrusion, then, like a mermaid I surface with my oyster shell! Interestingly enough, it is quite gratifying.
So for the curious, that’s pretty much what I do all day. Unless we are underway; but that’s another story.
Captain Chameleon, the literary guy he is, sums it up in fewer words than I do. He recalls the quote, “Being retired, is waking up with nothing to do, and going to sleep with only getting half of it done.” Author unknown.
PS. I’d like to thank Captain Chameleon for all of the years he listened to me recount every bit of detail about my busy day at work. I’m assuming he was just as busy at his job, but unfortunately there weren’t enough hours in the day or energy left to hear about it.