19 January 2012

Small Is Beautiful

I love my little boat. She is not what I would have chosen, but I have put a lot into her and she has rewarded my efforts and now I think that maybe she chose me. But one of the things I like most about her is her size – or lack of it.

I remember, in my very early twenties, standing in the bedroom of the house I was then living in and thinking ‘all this space. For a bed?’ It seemed daft then (it seems daft now) and my next thought was, ‘it’s so much better living on a boat.’ Within a few months I was living aboard once more and in the intervening, heaven know how many years, I have spent less than 12 months between walls.

I live in a space of less than 11 sq metres – 120 sq ft – and that is at shoulder height. My feet, legs and hips manage in less. I have a wonderfully comfortable and cosy bed. It has its own space sacrosanct to lying and sleeping.  It does not have a room entirely to itself, but there is plenty of space under it to stow gear. And in summer, when I don’t want to be cosy, there is a large hatch over it that lets in the fresh air. It also lets in the light, to encourage me to get up and see what the new day has to bring. At the forward end is a clothes locker and on either side are book shelves, with my cherished friends therein.

There is a small toilet, so that I have a certain amount of convenience and outboard and above is a locker that contains my sewing machine and beer barrel. Opposite is a cabinet with storage for toiletries; beneath is a locker for sewing stuff, toilet rolls, laundry pegs, etc and under that is a shoe locker. Moving aft we come to the saloon and galley. I cook in my living room; or live in my kitchen, depending on how you look at it. The settee and table are comfortable and can fit 4 with ease, 5 in comfort (as long as no-one is fat), and 6 for a party. I have fridge (hmm – this came with the boat, can’t be removed without dismantling the galley, but is a bit of a mixed blessing to say the least), sink and cooker, and plenty of storage. Good lockers protect my locally-made crockery and cup hooks support the fine china mugs that I prefer for my tea. I have plenty of room for pressure cooker, pans, storage containers, etc. The saloon provides lockers for longer term food supplies.

If the party is getting on the large side, each quarter berth has a seat at its head and we can comfortably seat another couple of people there. The grog locker is here, too and my little heater.

Many houses have a deck or verandah, where one can enjoy lunch in the sunshine, or unwind with a sundowner at the end of the day. My cockpit provides the same amenity. Two people can sprawl luxuriously in the sun. Four can sit at ease. It’s a bit of a squeeze for eight. Around and abaft this space are more lockers for things like paint and rope.

Really, what more could anybody want? And yet I manage to pack all this comfort and convenience into a boat that is probably shorter than a lot of living rooms. And this wonderful home cost me less than many people would spend on a motor car.

All this is rather wonderful when I am tied up alongside a wharf, but what is even better is that after a day, a week, a month or maybe even a year, I can slip the warps and head off for somewhere quite different. Perhaps even somewhere I’ve never been before. But while I'm getting there, I have my lovely home with me. Then, I drop my anchor and there I am – in a completely new place that is still home. And this little, compact home is so easy to handle, to paint, to find room for, to manage. Why would I want anything bigger?

Small is definitely beautiful.

14 January 2012

Is it really so difficult?

I've been looking at the LowCostVoyaging group on Yahoo. I can’t say that I’d recommend it: like so many USAnian based sites, it’s been pretty much taken over by the paranoid and reactionary. I can’t imagine most of them happily voyaging outside USA and its satellites. They’d have to deal with people who don’t necessarily agree with them, who are competent where they are not; who don’t measure wealth in dollar terms. I feel sorry for most of them – they just do not have the empathy and imagination to look beyond what they've been told to believe.

There are two or three posters who are obviously off cruising, or have been, and several who have spent a lot of times in boats, but you just know only in USA. But what I find really rather sad, is how terribly difficult it seems to be for the would-be voyagers on the site, to cast off and go. They agonise over details: which cell phone server to use; how can they feed themselves beyond the supermarket; the ultimately best, safest and most rewarding (financially, of course) investment; health care insurance; etc, etc. All the while they ponder, worry and debate, their life is trickling away and Bureaucracy is insidiously making life more and more difficult for cruising sailors. They rail against socialism, but don’t have what it takes to go and spend time in a socialist country. They write tirades about Big Government, but don’t realise they have fallen for the Great Con: that you are a better and happier person, working 2000 hours a year, taking 2 weeks off for holidays and enjoying your Saturday night potluck in the church hall.

Private Enterprise is all and Capitalism second only to God; and yet this wonderful system has them so hog-tied that they can’t even cast off for a few months of freedom – let alone for the rest of their lives.

Live free or die? Sorry guys, you don’t know what freedom is.

05 January 2012

Life is full of little mysteries, this I know, but one that keeps me permanently bemused is: why don't people with sailing boats, sail them?

Now I can quite understand why you might not want to beat to windward for 4 miles when you can motor there more quickly and comfortably.  On the other hand, if you feel like that - why go to all the expense of a high-tech Bermudian rig?  Why not go for an honest motor sailer and put a junk rig on it that will be much better for the motoring bit as well as being perfect when you want to run downwind and save fuel.

I can understand human impatience which makes people reach for the starter button when the boat starts drifting sideways and doing the 'painted ship upon a painted sea bit', although I personally rather enjoy it.  But I am quite happy to make use of my engine to get in to an anchorage rather than sit for hours staring at it.

But what I truly cannot understand is those people who motor, with a nice F3 or 4 on the beam.  I've been yachting around over the Christmas period, and seen an amazing amount of this happening.  I mean, these people have roller furling jibs, for heaven's sake.  How much work is it to pull it out?  And why would you put up with the noise of an engine when you could be going just as quickly and a lot more quietly.  And that's before I get on my soap box and start ranting on about the profligate waste of finite resources and the sheer immorality of using diesel when the wind is free and infinite - and fair.

So why do they have sailing boats?  And why do these same people mock my junk rig and claim that it can't possibly sail to windward anywhere near as well as their boat?  How would they know?

One of life's little mysteries.