When we first became interested in sailing in the 1980s, we subscribed to sailing and cruising magazines. There was no Internet then upon which to rely for research. These magazines concentrated on destinations and the “good parts” of sailing. All the places we could go and the things we could do; all the gadgets we could add to make life easier. When we moved aboard Nine of Cups in 2000 and became more acclimated to life aboard, we changed our tune and our subscriptions. We opted for Good Old Boat and Practical Sailor as opposed to the “glamour” mags. I could find all the info on destinations I needed, but finding good, practical do-it-yourself info and articles were sometimes hard to come by. Hence, the reason David began sharing info on boat projects and writing articles for Good Old Boat.
Now that we’re in the Blue upfitting mode, we’ve switched gears. Internet is proving to be very helpful in gathering thoughts about van conversions, layouts and space-saving ideas. While David is researching insulation, window installation and cabinetry, I’m more interested in the nitty-gritty day-to-day issues that I know will crop up. The van is small … What do people do with dirty laundry? Where do you store your zip-lock bags and paper products? What about cleaning products, laundry detergent? Spices and basic food ingredients like vinegar, oil, etc? David asks how many cupboards and drawers I’ll need and I’m really not sure. Less than I have on the boat, but how many less? What’s the absolute minimum I can work with and still have everything we need? If I decide 10 is the bare necessity and we only have room for 6, then what happens? What do we do without ... underwear?
I think having lived on a boat for 18 years will be a definite advantage for us. We’re used to conserving water, fuel, power and space. We’re used to “living off the grid” without many amenities. Still, the downsizing, or should I say micro-sizing, required when moving from Nine of Cups to Blue may take some getting used to. I always seemed to be able to find a little nook or cranny on Cups to stow something. Looking at Blue, I don’t see too many “nook and cranny” options. There’s only so much room available and we plan to use all of it as efficiently as possible, but some of it comes down to figuring out what we really need to make it all work.
We’ve seen some alternatives for extra space … towing a trailer or adding a roof-top carrier. Neither are reasonable options for us. I’ve seen some vans that manage to get everything aboard, but it’s at the cost of looking messy and cluttered. Sorry … this will be our living space and we’re both pretty much neat-niks. A cluttered, messy van would drive us both nuts in a short time and make van life less than acceptable. I think our approach will have to be a minimalist one. What do we need and what can we do without and still be comfortable and happy? A good cruising friend has cautioned that living in a van in such close quarters is different than a boat. No escape up to the cockpit nor onto the foredeck when you need your space. We’ll have to take into consideration, too.
I’m scouring RV, van conversion and tiny house articles and blogs. I’m not sure all of them are reasonable. Having to make up your bed with linens every night doesn’t sound like fun after a long day, nor does stowing all the linens away every morning. I know this is counter-intuitive to tiny house thinking. Call me lazy and crazy, but I know it would bother me to have an unmade bed and yet I don't want the hassle of making it up and taking it apart twice a day. A Murphy bed is high on the top of the list of possibilities, but what do we give up storage-wise to do this? Compromise is inevitable and seems to be the word the day.
One big difference between Blue and Cups is that we won’t have to carry as many spares, nor as many provisions. Unlike crossing an ocean, other than when we’re “boondocking” and totally off the grid, supplies and spares will probably be readily available. On Cups, I was used to provisioning for months at a time. On Blue, I can probably get by with a couple days of groceries and supplies at a time.
We did without lots of things on Nine of Cups and it really wasn’t a hardship. We never had a TV, nor ice, and on long passages, we did without refrigeration and hot water because of the power requirements. On the other hand, having enough power to run our laptops and iPads and having access to Internet is fairly important to us, so when we look at our budgets, these items will take priority. Ice and TV … not important. Hot water and refrigeration … I’m getting soft in my old age … yeah, both might be nice. Internet, wifi hot spots and enough power to run our personal electronics … for sure!
Thought-provoking conversations have ensued. “What about this? What about that? How about if we do it this way … or maybe we try it that way?” Much of it comes down to … we don’t know what we don’t know. We’ll figure it as we go along. We do agree on one thing, however. Let’s get this show on the road.