03 June 2012

any HOBBIES anywhere?

Yup, there's an
app for this.
Impellers need to be changed periodically, as do fuel and oil filters.  Winches need lubricating, raw water strainers need to be cleaned.  Every sheet and line needs to be inspected for chafe; every exposed wire and hose for wear.  Routes need to be planned, weather monitored, safety equipment checked and rechecked.  There are the usual chores that everyone has to do:  grocery shopping (a.k.a. "provisioning"), cleaning, laundry, bills, blah, blah, and blah.  (Insert whole additional section here if you have kids.) It is also statistically true that, be they major or minor, on a boat three things will break every day.  And since sailing/cruising is brand new to both of us there is the incredibly steep learning curve inherent in adopting a very different way of life in a very short space of time.  This pleasure boating thing is the most demanding job I've ever had.  Jane says it's ONE of the most demanding jobs she's ever had: right up there with being a woman at the Naval Academy and being a principal in the Milwaukee Public Schools.  Yarrrrh, what's a pirate to do!?

But wait.  I seem to recall-- alas in ever thinning wisps of memory--that we used to have things we did just for fun before we chucked it all to sail away on our dreams.  Unlike sailing itself which has consumed every molecule of our lives, these were things that were relaxing, engaging, pleasant distractions.  Whatever happened to those...our hobbies?  I could have sworn we brought them with, some of them, anyway.  Well, things just don't disappear off a boat, so they must here somewhere.  Maybe in the back of some locker, or way at the front of the forepeak, perhaps under a spare sail, or maybe in the bilge.  Someday we'll find them again.  It might help if we could recall what they were.

Until Jane finds her needles,
these are available as a kit from
Hmm.  Ah, yes.  Jane used to knit.  She'd just started to learn when we decided to buy and move onto JOY.  In retrospect, it was a rather prescient choice on her part, the limited applicability of woolen garments to equatorial climes notwithstanding.  It doesn't take that much room, if one doesn't store too many skeins of yarn.  It can be done underway as long as the seas aren't too rough (recall that a sharp stick in the eye compares unfavorably to just about everything), and it can produce some useful stuff (more POTHOLDERS everywhere!).

In our landlubbing life, Jane played in her garden.  Sprouting is her scaled-down, live-aboard version.  It's really a better fit for her (since there's no weeding) and for me (since I did the weeding).  Though it could be argued that producing food is about as much a hobby as is doing laundry.  The supplies are cheap (check out sproutpeople.org) and the necessary equipment is minimal, just a plastic container with inserts.  Spout People sells single variety sprouting seeds and blends as well.  We'll have fresh sprouts for our salads, sandwiches and stir-frys until I'm 80.  Fishing is my newly-acquired pastime.  Our division of labor is such that since Jane took up farming, hunting fell to me.  Not that I have any complaints.  I had a great teacher in Phil Cappello (Hello, Phil!) and I suspect I'm still benefitting from beginner's luck.  And I hate to admit it, but there is something singularly satisfying about turning one of God's creatures into a fishstick.

You won't be tiptoin'
through no tulips
with this baby.
After a more than 10 year hiatus, I'd decided to take up the guitar again.  What it lacks in portability it more than makes up for in popularity.  It's not a bad way meet people not to mention become a one-man musical industry with a brand of beer and a Sirius XM radio station inspired by songs one has written.  It will be fun to find fresh ways to pair my guitar picking style: a blend of island music / country / folk, with my operatic barritone voice.  (Think a tiki bar trio made up of Marley and Denver with Sherrill Milnes on lead vocals.  Oh, sure, if I'd said "Pavarotti" or "Domingo" you'd know who I was talking about.  I'm tellin' you, barritones don't get no respect.)

Speaking of barritones who don't get any respect, we met a guy who took up the barritone ukelele when he moved onboard.  Yes, it sounds like an oxymoron, but it is in fact a wiser choice especially for smaller boats.  The barritone ukelele as he explained it to me, is essentially the top two-thirds of a guitar.   If you happen to be up against more daunting space and/or budgetary constraints, yet still yearn for an outlet for your musical passion, you might want to give serious consideration to the udderbot. (WARNING: do not expect to achieve this level of virtuosity overnight.)

Sensing that our hobbical choices--should we ever find them much less than get back to them--lacked a little cool, I surveyed both my Facebook friends and some of the folks here at the Marathon Marina.  Since only a tiny smattering of my FB pals are boat dwellers, I felt I had to set some parameters mainly having to do with equipment size and expense considerations.  I regret to say they were not a font of help.  The only useable (ok, actually even repeatable) suggestion I got was pen-turning.  According to the person who submitted it, the largest piece of equipment needed is a lathe which runs about three feet long and collapses for storing.  Three feet of floorspace might be too much of a sacrifice on some boats; on others maybe not.  Unsurprisingly, I had better luck with boatfolk.  One of, if not the most popular hobby is photography, specifically underwater photography.  Now that digital photography is thought by many to rival its predecessor this makes perfect sense.  The equipment needed can be pretty extensive depending on how serious/professional one wants to get, but it's very stowable.  As for supplies, what, pixels?  It can even bring in a few extra bucks if one sells one's shots on stock photography sites like istockphoto.com, bigstockphoto.com, dreamstime.com, etc.

Some cruisers paint.  As with photographers, painters are never bereft of worthy "models".  Although, it does strike me as a rather problematic hobby when underway.  Unless, that is, one's aesthetic bent is toward Abstract Randomism and one holds the belief that the "canvas" need not exclude the overhead, bulkheads, or deck.

1 pair for $10, 2 for $20.
Find Paige at the Marathon Marina.
Jewelry making is another popular hobby for live-aboards.  Our friend Paige turns fresh water fishing flies (among other small, shiny and feathery objects) into fabulous earrings.  We've heard that world cruising naturally lends itself to acquiring precious and semi-precious stones in their countries of origin where they're a lot more affordable and crafting them into jewelry that one can then sell in other parts of the world.

Another of our neighbors plays MMOG (massive multiplayer online games).  She lives at the marina full-time, however, so she always has a reliable Internet connection.  I don't know how viable an option this is for blue-water sailors who don't otherwise need to fork over the cash for a TracPhone and a data plan.  Nor can I say how a player's chances of winning not to mention the balance of the universe he or she occupies will be affected if an extended leave from the game is taken to transit an ocean here on planet Earth.

Lastly, there's always writing, provided it's not what one does for a living.  Whether blogging for the folks back home (Hello, folks back home!); writing articles for travel, boating, or cruising magazines; or crafting the next great literary classic; as we-who-live-it know better than anyone else, stories of those who go off on grand adventures have always and will aways trigger the human imagination.  Until such time as traveling to the far corners of the world becomes as commonplace as taking a bus to the library, we cruisers remain the fodder for millions of lives lived vicariously.

I look forward to when I'll have time for a hobby other than praying for our survival.  I have to wonder though if this consideration of hobbies doesn't sound odd to our landlubbing loved ones, who envy our living witness to the preciousness of every moment.  I know it would have sounded odd to me.  "Hobbies," I sense they wonder incredulously.  "Really?  Why do you need a hobby?  You're already living the dream, you're, like, in paradise.  That's like asking what people in heaven do for a hobby.  Really?"

Yarrrrrh! If only they understood.

Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.

The Monkey's Fist


  1. Great job on the blog. It is very well written. Have a wonderful time.

    1. Thanks, I appreciate the compliment. Jane and I have a lot of fun writing posts, so we're always happy to hear that folks like reading them.

  2. Great job! I especially loved the part about praying for survival. I regularly take part in that activity.

    1. George Day, editor of Blue Water Sailing, says it's better to be lucky than smart. I used to pray to be smart. Now I'm praying for luck.

  3. Great article! Its a lot of fun reading other boaters' take on this subject.

    1. I agree (I mean about reading other boaters' insights). We've already discovered that we're far less well-read than anyone else. Who let this happen!

  4. Fun read ... appreciate your humor. And, "statistically true that three things break every day?" It broke me up, before 8 AM this morning - does that count as one of the three for our boat or yours?

    1. It all depends on how soon you need to be fixed. I'm still working through February's breakages. Glad you liked the post.

  5. I really enjoyed the blog post, Ean. You are a fabulous writer-- and dispatches from the sea could be a awesome hobby to keep up. Our three major hobbies all wouldn't work well for you at sea, I'm afraid. Gaming-- maybe, but the gaming pool is limited. I'd still bring some good games on the boat, though. Compact ones that don't require a lot of set-up or pieces. Disc Golf is right out... the whole water hazard thing takes on new meaning. And Geocaching is only good when you get back to port-- though I think it would be a blast to travel around and always grab a new geocache in whatever port you land in. You could spend time making your signature items while at sea and then leave them off in caches when you are on land. What signature items you ask? I don't know... how about little messages in little bottles. That could be fun...

    1. Hey, you-you,

      Thanks for the compliment. I hadn't thought about it before, but geocaching is actually an awesome idea. First of all, there's having a reason to work our way inland. Second, it'd give us a way to connect with more folks around the world (didn't but shoulda realized geocaching was global), but maybe best of all, what's more perfect for a pirate than sailing the world looking for buried treasure!? Messages in tiny bottles...I like that. Thanks.

  6. Enjoy reading your stuff....one day I'll be doing my own 'stuff" . Rock on buddy.

    1. Hey George,

      Thanks for the compliment. I enjoy writing it. Let us know when you're doing' your "stuff.". I want to read about you, too.

      Fair winds,

      P.S. We'd love it if you'd pass us on to your friends. The more readers we have, the funnier we get.