It’s a bit early to judge, but so far 2018 has been a pretty good year. The whole family’s together once again (Benn, myself, Fuji, and our jaunty little S/V Pas de Deux) and we’ve been settling into life at our new, fancy marina. Sure, it’s been chilly, but it could be worse, and, even though it’s not the most glamorous locale, Ipswich has its charms. The architecture, for one thing, is fabulous, and there are several lovely (and free!) museums with wonderful collections of Victorian taxidermy and art of regional significance dating back to the Tudor age. Although the populace is given to using excessive profanity on the streets, throwing empty beer cans in the river, and ANSWERING THEIR MOBILE PHONES IN THE LIBRARY, the people of Suffolk are still friendly and there’s lots to do on land and at sea. We’ve already taken a few walks to Pin Mill, had a pint or two at the Butt and Oyster, and have found time for me to get on with my painting and Benn to develop his newfound interest in antique watch restoration.
Which is not to say that coming back to the boat has not been somewhat of an adjustment. Living on a boat requires constant attention, and, although you get used to it eventually, worrying about battery chargers, fuseboards, water pumps, diesel consumption, and solar panels can be pretty tedious and anxiety-provoking. Winter condensation means that surfaces must be constantly wiped down to prevent rot, dishtowels and sweaters never dry, anything made of paper (books, cardboard boxes, notebooks) soon becomes soggy and wrinkled, and everything that is not assiduously dried and aired grows a thin layer of mold. It is cold. There are icicles hanging from the ceiling, and heating is always a problem. Even stepping on a boat, what with its lifelines and stanchions, can be intimidating, and I still feel stupid and clumsy when I have to board friends’ monohulls.
Liveaboard life in the winter is not the most glamorous affair, but when spring comes around, it will all seem worth it (probably). In the meantime, two things have helped:
1) Sailing. Sorry to say, Pas de Deux has no helm and a dismantled engine, so we haven’t been able to take her out. (Also, it’s really cold.) However, a few months ago, Benn bought a little lug rig sailing dinghy. While we’re still undecided on whether or not she’ll be a good replacement for our inflatable tender (she’s heavy and pretty much impossible to get off the davits and onto the deck), she’s been marvelously fun for zipping around the harbour, Swallows-and-Amazons style. Our little dinghy trips have also helped us remember lots of sailing basics and have given us a simplified, less potentially catastrophic way to test out our understanding of wind and sails. She also looks very pretty with her green hulls and red sails, although a bystander did once call out to us from the harbour walls that “It looks like you’re sailing a lunchbox!” so maybe we don’t look as snazzy was we thought.
2) Not sailing. We had thought that the next time we’d get to the Mediterranean was in our boat, but after stumbling upon a really, really affordable package deal for 3 nights in Rome, we decided to give ourselves a tiny break from the snow, hail, and relentless wind and fly to Italy. Rome is an incredible place, and, while wandering the twisting Medieval streets and eating copious amounts of cacio e gepe and carciofo alla giudia, we remembered why we chose the boating life in the first place: to escape our dreary, landlocked lives and see something of the world.
The ease of living at a marina, especially in a relatively affordable and convenient town like Ipswich, had distracted us some from our original goal. We started to shift our focus from learning to sail and traveling the world to finding part-time work, paying annual mooring fees, and obsessively counting every penny so that we can save money and maybe, hopefully, probably one day leave the harbor. Instead, we should be delighting in the freedom of this life we have chosen for ourselves. Sure, it’s a good idea to take things slowly right now. The UK is a wonderful place to learn to sail and we both have the legal right to work here, but there’s no reason to imagine that we have to stay moored in one town or even on one coast for more than a season. Cornwall, Devon, this lovely little town in Kent called Rye…these are also places our boat can take us, not to mention everything wonderful that lies across the Channel.
Refreshed and renwed, we are more than eager for the upcoming sailing season. These next few months are about getting Pas de Deux into shape, practicing our sailing skills, and making the interior of the boat into a place we can consider our home. I’ll also — probably — be upping my committment to the blog, which has waned of late, I know. In all fairness, there hasn’t been all that much to write about. UNTIL NOW. Stay tuned for the riveting play by play account of how we built our fireplace (A fireplace on a boat? That’s right!) and the long-waited true crime story I promised you 4 or 5 months ago and forgot about.
PREPARE TO COME ABOUT.