The Saga of Pas de Deux, Chapter 23: Maldon Babylon

One obvious difference between this and other sailing blogs is that the people who write other blogs actually go sailing every once in a while. Friends, the process of setting up our life as full-time cruisers has been moving a lot more slowly than expected.

Man of War, Dorset

Loyal readers will remember that last summer we finally set off to sail the east coast of England. Pas de Deux was not entirely ready – and her crew even less so- but we left anyway and spent 4 glorious, anxious, liberating, terrifying months cruising the Stour, Orwell, and Blackwater Rivers, with a bit of the Walton Backwaters and the Colne thrown in for good measure. It was remarkably rewarding, but also remarkably difficult, so when we finally settled into Maldon for the winter, we were fully ready to embrace all of the comforts of life on land. It turned out, however, that we embraced them just a little too hard and, instead of taking the winter to relax, make money, and prepare for next year’s sailing season, we got distracted and nearly lost direction entirely.


Our number one mistake lay in trying to be sensible. We needed a bit of money to fund further travels, so finding work seemed like the responsible thing to do. After all, most of the longterm cruisers we knew or had read of prefaced their travels with at least a year or two of good ol’ conventional, mindless wage-earning. We both got jobs, and after a few months working in Maldon, I figured that I would be able to tolerate my job for at least another year (I was wrong about that, as it turned out). I worked out a budget and savings plan and we paid our berthing fees for one more year.

Lulworth Cove, Dorset

That meant giving up the following summer sailing season and committing ourselves to being in Maldon, but, as I told a very unconvinced Benn, it would also mean a good two years of hassle-free, financially-sustainable sailing afterwards. Sure, settling down with our noses to the grindstone for a year was a bit antithetical to the whole freewheeling ethos that led us to live on a boat in the first place, but it was only for one year. Surely anyone can endure any amount of soul-depleting misery, stress, exhaustion, anxiety, self-loathing, depression, doubt, and mind numbing boredom for one year!

Lulworth Cove

I suppose that it would have been easier had the money been rolling in.  Neither of our jobs were particularly well-paid, but our expenses were so low that it shouldn’t have mattered.  It turned out, however, that as our income increased, so did our taste for the finer things in life. When you’ve had a crap day dealing with crap people, sad boiled pasta and an old DVD are not going to go very far in making you feel better. No, to escape the misery of your daily life completely, you need far more indulgent pleasures: restaurants, cocktails, fancy cinemas, new clothes here and there, weekend vacations, and at least one good video streaming service. Forget sailing; finding a time when our erratic work schedules, the tides, and the weather magically coincided was next to impossible. Pas de Deux was also in need of a few repairs before we could take her back on the water, but we were both so exhausted from working that the very last thing we wanted to do in our free time was to rip apart our bulkhead or paint the foredeck.

Dana and I weigh in on Archie’s baptism for Australian TV. Poignant commentary.

This was not really the life we had envisioned when we decided to live on a boat. In fact, it was pretty much the exact lifestyle we were trying to avoid when we bought Pas de Deux. Basically, the entire reason we were living on a sailboat was so we didn’t have to do any of the things we were now doing in order to live on a sailboat. It made absolutely no sense.

The solution was obvious, although it took us a little while to see it. Quit the soul-sucking jobs, start working on the boat again, stop spending money on pointless things, and, as soon as we possibly can, get out on the water, even if only for a few months before winter comes.

Helm bench in progress

So, that’s what we did. Benn has designed and built an incredible helm bench and started renovating the head, which up to that point was clearly the least civilized area of the boat. I started preparing the boat for a new coat of paint and had plans to work on some of the leaky spots around the stateroom windows.

All was going well until SOME IDIOT stuck her finger in the blender to clean it and accidentally pressed the on button, slicing her finger to ribbons and fracturing the bone clean through.

Fuji, looking like a wet carpet

It looks like this summer’s sailing has been delayed once again. (It was totally my fault. I feel really guilty , really annoyed, and really, really stupid.) We will still go out for a little while, since Benn can singlehand the boat pretty easily, and I can still helm, even with a broken finger. We just won’t be spending the amount of time cruising that we’d hoped to.

Although we’re sometimes tempted to see the last year we’ve spent in Maldon not sailing, watching Nathan for You, drinking Lidl wine, and complaining about Essex as wasted time, we have learned two invaluable lessons, for which we are both grateful: 1) real life really does suck, avoid it at all costs; and, 2) never, ever stick your fingers near the dangerous parts of an appliance without unplugging it from the wall first.

Fuji triumphant


  1. Oh my dog, of course I know that sh*t happens but loosing your finger is so xtreme. Money is a problem and the reason we had to give up sailing after 16 years. Surely hope you can live the better life. Things are not the goal, experiences are. Bon voyage, goede vaart.


    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Ha! Luckily it wasn’t totally chopped off – just almost. Thanks for your well-wishes, and sorry to respond so late! We’ve let the blog go a little bit, as you can see, but we love getting people’s comments.


  2. There appears to be some suggestive content on your blog such as self-loathing, depression, life sucks, escape the misery of life. Please contact us if you feel you may harm yourself or others.


    1. Ha! That would have been a good idea. I’ve been trying to work on it myself with exercises the doctor showed me, but I’m lucky I’m right handed, because it still hasn’t totally recovered yet. (As you can see, we’re a little late on getting back to checking on our blog – sorry for the delay!)


  3. Love reading your blog, gives me hope that it’s not just us as we are running into a lot of the same roadblocks here in Canada. Anyways keep up the good work


  4. Found you from the cruising group. Love your pied a l’eau title! And a good read. You both write well with an engaging style.
    Battery piece also interesting and I’d have not bought AGM last year if I’d read this first!
    Stay safe


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