It is warm in here. It is not as cold as it was last night (which was superfragilistic freezing) – it would have been good to try the Webasto out last night, however, it is on now and it is far better than the normal heater. It is keeping the lounge at a steady 20 degrees. Small DB is abed – having called me “stupid dumber mama” at least nine times today. I told her that if it happened tomorrow I would take twenty cents from her money box each time she said it. “Stupid dumber mama,” was her learned response. We are all so tired.
The past few days have been the stuff of ratracing, and thus the stuff of our nightmares. Dragging the Smalls out of bed at 7am, stuffing some kind of breakfast into them and then dragging them out of the ice-covered boat to the ice-covered car – having to pour water over the windscreen to melt the ice in order to be able to see through it. This morning the water tap we rely on was frozen solid and we had to find a container of water lying around to do the job.
There is fatigue here. And children that are still not 100% recovered from their descent into coughing and fevers a week or so ago. They are so rarely sick – Small Z has been sick the once this year, and Small DB twice. But it is usually when we hang out with other families with school or day-care kids that we pick up the bugs – it’s just the odds. We don’t come into contact with lots of kids five days a week like most families do, so we don’t get the sicknesses. Another plus to our no-school life. Quite a few people I know spend MOST of their time sick with bugs that their kids pick up at childcare and/or school. They recover, and then cop another one a few weeks later. It sounds diabolical. And very wearing.
I am reading ‘Bumfuzzle‘ at the moment – a book written by a couple who sailed around the world between 2003 and 2006 or so. At that time we followed their travels via their blog, that they went on to turn into a book. It’s interesting reading. They didn’t know how to sail when they started – they had literally had one lesson before they set out. Their mantra was ‘how hard can it be?’ I find this very comforting. Obviously I am going to be relying on M a huge amount at the beginning – he is the sailor. He has built two boats and has been sailing from a young age. He helped take a catamaran to Sydney this time last year (and I was very glad he did this! It really gave him the kick we needed to move us aboard).
I want to do a navigation course. I need to get my boat license. But other than that, I plan to learn by osmosis. There is no way I want to become one of those ‘boat-wives’ that, when their husband is winched from their boat with a suspected heart attack or punctured lung, has no idea how to sail the boat, dock the boat, anchor the boat, navigate the boat – I want to have my shit together and be confident enough to handle all those things – both for my own peace of mind, and to also model to the Smalls that such things are not only possible, but normal.
So this is the first night we have had our diesel heater running and M is having his second shower in 24 hours – it makes instantaneous hot water. His first shower, last night, was punctuated by his cries of delighted glee. He is in there right now, still making comments in tones of respectful wonder about the heat exchanger and the tempering valve – bot cruicial ingredients contributing to his hot water experience.
We need to get a shower curtain to try and limit the amount of post-shower clean-up required. The bathroom is wet-room. The toilet is able to get wet, as are the counters and walls – the toilet paper roll has a waterproof door that you close over the top of it. But if there was a shower curtain, it would restrict the amount of wall-drying required. I can hear the snip of scissors. He is murdering his beard – the one that he swore to keep until he could have a proper hot shower that did not involve using a bucket. The beard is trying to resist, but slowly succumbing. Soon M will no longer look like a Winter criminal, and more like…um…Small Z! Smooth of chin and chocolate of eye.
Slowly, slowly, things are coming together. It has been about six weeks of tenuous progress – tenuous because M has been working on the wiring and plumbing – both absolute necessities, but not (dare I say) exactly TANGIBLE to the rest of us. One of the hulls now has so many wires and circuits and god knows what else that is is:
a) quite impressive, and
b) rather daunting.
He does all this stuff, and then eventually one day we had LIGHT IN THE KITCHEN and LIGHT IN THE BATHROOM and LIGHT IN THE COCKPIT. And the nights spent cleaning the Smalls teeth by torchlight using a glass of water fade with eel-like alacrity and it’s as if they never happened.
I can see the heat-the-kettle put the pump-in-the-bucket showers will be a thing of the past from tonight. Quite honestly, I have showered about eight times on this boat since we moved aboard in February. I bathe at my mother’s once a week, and sometime get to the pool in between times. M’s mother, many moons ago, gave me details on how she used to ‘top-and-tail’ with a face washer in tougher times, and I have been doing that every morning (the unsung power of the baby-wipe).
It will be good to have everything working and together by the time this thing is actually afloat. I would much rather be getting this all solved and sorted now – even though it means wintering in a boatyard. This morning we had to go down the stairs from the boat very gingerly, because they were covered in ice. Not so nice, with a ten foot drop below. I have my heart set on the end of July – for floating this thing. M is sceptical, and of course, so am I.
The only thing slower than boat time is… well, probably glaciers. But even they are giving us a run for our money. With one person doing all the work required, it is hard. We are still cooking on our one burner camping stove (with the welcome addition of the Thermomix) – but this need to be solved. I continue to wrestle between settling for a (cheap) gas dual burner cooktop and a fancy (expensive) diesel cooktop. The main issue being (besides price) that gas is more flammable, and the less flammable things there are aboard, the happier I am. Diesel is not as flammable. And we already have a diesel heater…
If we knew we were going to be living aboard for a couple of years, the decision would be easier – but we don’t know. It will be a process of trial and error. In my head, we’ll give it six months to a year and then we will know whether we love it, hate it or are willing to tolerate it for the lifestyle that it gives us. In the secrecy of my own head, and the Interweb at large, I am keen to take a leave of absence from work and go sailing for at least six months. We have the money to do it, if we are frugal, and I think it would be the kind of adventure that would stay with the Smalls forever.
They are a great age to do it. My decision in this regard is also informed by the grand adventure my parents took me on when I was five (turning six in Kuala Lumpur) – big chunks of it remain very vivid for me. Far more so than the many years of schooling that came after it. We went to so many different countries, backpacked, travelled on two ships, explored India, Europe, Malaysia… It showed me that the world was bigger than Black Rock.
This is not to say that I am keen to sail Bellaluna around the world. I’m not. Not right now. If I get my choice, we will sail up the east coast and take our time exploring the waterways near Sydney and, depending on how long we noodle around, keep going north to southern Queensland, or head over to Lord Howe Island (one of my two top Australian cruising destinations) or turn around and head down to Tasmania as the weather warms up. M, I am sure, is only too aware that if I am happy (which generally means I am WARM) the sailing will last LONGER.
But who knows. It’s all a roll of the dice. One of the Smalls might be incurably seasick and render the whole idea null and void. If that happens, my plan B is to sell the catamaran and head to Europe, use the money to buy a narrowboat, and explore that way. Now THAT would be dreamy (although I haven’t figured out the Winter bit of that plan…yet). Whatever happens, I know that right now… this is the home run. The culmination of years of building, dreams, resentment, hope, and doing it pretty tough a lot of the time. The weird thing is, the people that we will meet as we sail won’t know any of the back story. They will just see us aboard this amazing looking boat, decked out with the leather upholstery (stolen from our eBay couches), the diesel heater (bought via German eBay) our mainsail (bought on eBay many years ago), our kitchen sink (bought for $10 at a garage sale nine years ago) and our other bits and pieces and probably assume we just both left our full time jobs and bought this thing brand new.
They won’t know that the build, from idea to afloat, took nine years. That we loaned money to fund it. That my dad, who believed in it, and helped me access the loan, is not around to see us launch it. This boat could float right now on the tide of emotion that surrounds it, that has brought it from an idea to a reality. It took too long. She is overly perfect. But we are living in something beautiful, extraordinary and we are all together. And that… is awesome.