22 January 2012

Ship's Scorecard

  • Pilings (2) out
  • Genoa: repaired and installed
  • Battery charger: fried
  • Water heater: rebusted again
  • Refrigeration system: smoking
  • Boat hook: broken
Later today, we sail, wind permitting, to Marsh Harbour where we'll anchor.  There's a boatyard there.  We'll call on Monday in the hopes that they can take us right away.  If we're extremely lucky, we'll be able to get a new battery charger (unlikely, they'll probably have to order one from The States), a new refrigeration system (ditto), and have the water heater repaired once and for all.  Although, the more I think about it, the more I'm ready to rip out both of the latter and just eat beef jerky and take cold showers.  Sure would free up a lot of space for storage (less the space required for a year or more's supply of beef jerky).  Although, Jane probably does not share my mounting animosity toward all things mechanical and electrical, nor my growing fondness for beef jerky.
There are sailors, increasingly rare though they are, who eschew any and all equipment that they cannot fix themselves anytime, anyplace.  This means life aboard ship as it was well more than a hundred ago: steering is by tiller, not wheel; navigation is done by coastal or celestial features and recorded on paper charts; food is fresh, canned, or dried; laundry is done with a bucket and toilet plunger; showers are solar; locomotion is by sail alone, etc.  You get the idea.  We who opt for a more "civilized" mode of existence, with our complex and balanced electrical systems, multiple and redundant communications equipment, and as many of the comforts of home as space and money permit: washer/dryers, ice makers, dishwashers, wine coolers, big screen TVs, bathtubs, to name a few, look toward those "simply sailing" types with the same shade of envy as average people view multiple language speakers and the perpetually fit: we'd love to have the results, but not at the expense of the work required.  We do take our device dependence with a grain of cynicism: "Sure, it's great now, but just wait till it breaks."  Then quickly reaffirm our choice by denigrating the alternative: "But at least we'll have it until it does and which way would you rather live? We are supposed to be livin' the dream, after all, and I don't know about you, but nowhere in my dreams am I manually pumping a head."

And then it does break, but only if we're lucky.  Chances are, they break.  Any two or more related or unrelated pieces of equipment.  And when they do, they'll have no manual status to which to revert.  They simply won't work, and we'll be temporarily reduced to a more primitive state than even our luddite brethren. How temporarily always dependent on a combination of skill, finances, location and luck.  Can we fix it ourselves?  Can we afford to get it fixed or replaced somewhere else?  Are we somewhere, or within a thousand miles of somewhere we can get it fixed or replaced?  How plausibly can we live without it until that happy day?  In all of this there exists a fraught balance.  A boat is, in all senses, a vehicle.  The "dream," whether it's primarily about going to far-off places or the crossing of oceans to get there is never about fixing broken things.  Upgrading, improving, bigger bells, better whistles, yes; making what used to work just work again, no.  We accept it as the "cost of doing business" but there are boats and there are times when it becomes all consuming, when trying to keep up with our vessels' unending ailments shifts from being a necessary evil to our raison d'etre.  

But isn't all this just the insufferable harangue of a rather pathetic ingrate?  I hope not.  It is, or at least I aim for it to be a realization about what is, finally, a way of life that I can live, rather than, as I naively assumed beforehand, a dream for which everyone would give their eye teeth.  I think those who know that this lifestyle is not for them are smart; it isn't for everyone.  Looking at it as I can now, I don't think it would be for me if I had ever been any good at the other one.  Seeing the world alone wouldn't be enough to justify the constant stress of fearing what will break next and whether I'll be able to figure out how to fix it or how we'll get along without it and what we can possibly do to preempt  the potential inconvenience or tragedy of not having it.  I would view it as a creative, live-by-your-wits sort of challenge if it wasn't always something or more than one something at once and/or if I knew anything or were especially talented at figuring things out.  But back there, back in the other life, I wasn't any good at finding non-minddumbing work, nor any good at making my own meaningful employment, try and try though I did and none of the jobs I held, nor businesses that I started came with long walks along the beach at sunset.  I have felt stupid and incompetent for nearly a year now at everything, every day, all the time.  That's hard on an ego and I don't think I have a larger than average one.  But, save for managing to make anyone recognize my potential, I was very smart and very good at the jobs I've held and it only served to make me feel egregiously underemployed.  Moreover, none of those jobs came with the prerogative to choose for myself which days to be productive and which to be a slug or how long to attend to a problem before throwing my hands up in the air and bringing them back down around a cocktail.  And, no, this profession doesn't pay but I seem to have as much of an aversion to careers that do as to ones that would take me to warm places in January.

It is all to say that this is a life-sized trade-off, a hedging of bets, a hope that I can become successful at this life against the knowledge that I would never have been so at the other one.  So I will lay awake nights worrying that we are draining away too much of our battery's life instead of worrying that I am draining away too much of my own.  I will crawl around to find our plumbing and electrical runs rather than kow-tow to keep a job that I do not want to need.  I'll learn to tie useful knots in sheets and lines instead tying myself into useless ones.  We'll lead inverted lives of cold showers and warm food until our refrigeration and water heater are fixed.  And perhaps every so often we'll get to sail the seas and see the world.  Bonus!

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