Okay sure, we may have romantically sailed off into the sunset on our maiden voyage, but it didn’t take long before I realized there was a whole lot more to this sailing life than I could have imagined.
During our first days at sea, I immediately became aware that I had only managed to commit to memory roughly 30 of the 6,000+ associated nautical sailing terms. I had wholeheartedly agreed to the adventure of delving into this unfamiliar world. And, despite my best efforts, I was still having a hard time grasping how the air flow over the sails actually made the boat move forward.
It was slightly overwhelming at first, and every day I learned something new: like how to plot our coordinates on the marine charts in case our navigational systems failed, how to make sail changes, or how to read the daily wind predictions.
Some things were not exactly new, but they took on a whole new dimension at sea - like making coffee, for example.
Not only did we need to use white gas and a lighter to prime the elements of our kerosene stove—set on gimbals to move with the motion of the boat—but we also had to hand grind the beans and somehow manage to get the grounds into the press.
I remember getting them everywhere, trying to figure out how to hold the mugs, press, and grinder, as they slid away and then towards me again on the counter-top.
Once the kettle began to whistle, it was time to brace for the hard part: aiming boiling water at the small moving target of the coffee press. If we preferred, we could hold onto the press while trying to transfer the water, but that increased the risk of dousing ourselves with the scalding liquid.
When we did finally manage to get a full cup of coffee though, was it ever good!
Living on a sailboat has meant not only learning new skills and how to adapt to new circumstances quickly, but also about how to respond to the unexpected.
Just the other morning, we awoke at 4:00 a.m. to strong gusts of wind and waves rolling into the bay. The boat heeled sideways, and dishes crashed to the floor. When we went to sleep the night before, the marine forecast showed a NW wind of 10 to 20kts, except by 5:15 a.m., the wind was howling a steady 30kt, and the max gust at our masthead had registered 49kts (~90km/h).
Muoi—our dog—was panting and pacing, and I can’t say I felt very relaxed either. Oh, and we realized the wind must have cast our dinghy off into the night, as it was no longer secured to the boat where we left it.
Conlee grabbed the spotlight only to find the beam consumed by the darkness outside. There was not much we could do but wait. As another strong gust hit Akhlut, Conlee and I looked at each other holding our coffee mugs to prevent them from sliding off the table—silently affirming to one another that daybreak would be dedicated to a dinghy rescue mission.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the sky began to brighten. From the depths of the bow locker, Conlee hauled out our inflatable kayak and all its respective parts. Nearly a half hour later, our little family was loaded up and ready to go.
I cuddled Muoi while Conlee paddled us off toward a hopeful dinghy rescue.
It didn’t take long before we spotted her, beached ever so gracefully on the rocky shore, now high and dry with the receding tide.
What a relief to see her, pontoons unscathed, motor still up, waiting for us to collect her and bring her home. The only damage? Some knots shaken loose - meaning it’ll be all cleat use from now on.
Liveaboard life continues to be a learning experience and a fair share of it has been dedicated to finding ways to continually adapt to an ever-changing environment.
It’s still easy to get overwhelmed at times, living on a boat, but all it takes is a quick look around to remember why it’s so worth it.