Challenge versus sacrifice

Sometimes I must get carried away when I'm telling my boat stories. I mean I try to be accurate, but like Mark Twain, “I never let the truth get in the way of a good story” and for heaven's sake, let's never forget the fact that I'm a sailor. Sometimes life is tough aboard and sometimes we spin yarns. Fish are always bigger in our minds than on the hook. Storms are always worse than the weather bureau would have you believe. And for sure, boat work is always more difficult, takes longer and is more costly than you could possibly imagine. Actually, that last part is definitely true. The reason I bring this up is that I get lots of comments from folks who feel sorry for me … for us. “Oh, poor Marcie”, they say. “You have such a tough life. Oh, what sacrifices you make.” Let's not get carried away. We live on a pretty nice sailboat and we're sailing around the world...and have been for the last 13 years. We retired at age 50 and though we tend to work hard on the boat, we don't “work” in the traditional sense of the word. When we work, it's on our own timetable. There are ample cuppa breaks. We take lots of time for play as well. Yes, the boat is a tremendous amount of effort and upkeep, but then so is a house, a car, a yard, a garage, a patio, a summer camp or cabin. Think of the boat as a combination of all of those things wrapped up into one big package floating on the water.

As for sacrifice, I prefer to call it compromise or challenge. In order to have one thing, I give up another. No big closets full of clothes; no expensive cars. But then, we don't need them, do we? Sometimes the compromises are big ones. At the moment, we live on a boat in Australia and our family is in the US. It's expensive to fly there frequently, so we limit our trips home. We miss family events and dramas that perhaps we should be involved in. But this is our lifestyle choice and we can't be everywhere at once. We try to make the most of our time when we are together with family and then keep in close communication when we're not.

We're pretty frugal in order to extend our time traveling on the boat. We don't eat out a lot although I don't really see that as a compromise. We eat better for less on the boat and I really don't mind cooking and cleaning up. We'd rather spend our money traveling in the country we're visiting when we have the opportunity. We remember trips to museums and wildlife sanctuaries far more than we remember a lunch or dinner out somewhere. Sometimes we can't get what we want at the very moment we want it. Instant gratification on a boat is not common. There are no 24x7 convenience stores at sea. When the weather's bad and we're miserable, we can't just call a cab in the middle of the ocean and leave it all behind us.

We are not forced to live this life. For sure, it's definitely not for everyone. We choose not only to live on the boat, but we decide where we'll sail which means if we choose “off the beaten path” destinations, we have to be willing to handle “off the beaten path” problems on our own when they occur. We also get to choose what neighborhood we live in. Unlike land dwellers, we can change our neighborhood on a whim if we don't like the neighbors or the surroundings or maybe just because we're bored.

Are there times when I hate that we don't have heat aboard when we're away from a marina? For sure, when I'm freezing my butt off! Do I mind heating water in a tea kettle instead of having instant hot water from the tap all the time? Not really. We have no electric can opener, nor mixer nor a blender nor food processor. I do have an 8-year old microwave oven, but I can only use it when we're in a marina and have shore power. I usually forget it's there.

Is having no ice cubes a big sacrifice? Not in my book. In fact, I don't even think about it any more. Not having a freezer is a pain sometimes, especially when it comes to provisioning for long passages, but that's why I spend time in port canning (jarring) meat in advance of a big trip. It's part of what we need to do to accommodate what we want to do. Sometimes we choose to live without something or go slower in order to save power or fuel or cash outlay.

When we first moved aboard Cups, there was a lifting, exhilarating feeling of freedom...real freedom. The boat was paid for, we had no debt and no land anchors. Nothing in storage sheds (although my sister's cellar has quite a few bins stacked up), no furniture, no cars. No “stuff” other than what we have aboard with us which seems to be all we really need. Indeed, we're so space-conscious and constrained that many times something has to be taken off the boat in order for something new to move aboard. We make purchases with this in mind.

I mean really! Do I sound like the kind of girl who's been brow-beaten into this by her husband? Absolutely not! Does David appear to be a mamby-pamby kind of guy that does what he's told by an overbearing wife? Ask him … then duck. We've seen and done things that few people in the world will ever see and we feel absolutely blessed for the opportunities and experiences. Innumerable, astounding sunrises and sunsets. The moai of Easter Island from an anchorage at Anakena beach. A snowball fight on deck in Tierra del Fuego. Standing on the rim of an active volcano in Vanuatu. Sitting on a rock in Antarctica surrounded by Gentoo penguins. Swinging in a hammock in a thatch hut on stilts while having lunch with the Wounaan people in the Darien Jungle. Fishing for piranha in the Amazon River. Staring down at Cups anchored in Bounty Bay from atop a high cliff on Pitcairn Island. No, this isn't sacrifice. No need to feel sorry for us. This is what we live for.