30 August 2012

Ship Shape

Hard at work as usual
So often do I find that this life we now lead, this life we have adopted, is a life steeped in mystery and wonder. Every so often in the evening as I watch the sun take its last bow, a good stiff whiskey on the rocks close at hand, my mind drifts and I find myself pondering them. It is ever a mystery to me, for instance, why we aren't dead yet. I perpetually wonder why this boat breaks down so often and why any of it works at all. And I muse about other cruisers and how they don't look as fat as I'm getting. 

Eons ago, while we were in the too-stupid-to-turn-back-while-there's-still-time phase, I was told repeatedly how cruising would get and keep me in the best shape of my life.  "It's a very active lifestyle," "You'll work harder than you've ever worked," "Great for your core muscles" were just a smattering of the reasons given as to why I would, like the legion of scrawny sailors who had gone before, never need to count my carbs or watch my waistline again. In tallying the results of the surreptitious glances unbefitting heterosexual men that I have cast upon other guys (for the record, I do not glance at women surreptitiously or otherwise just in case my mother was being truthful when she said doing so would instantaneously fry my eyeballs--who wants to chance that?), I have to admit that it does seem to be the case. Most guys, if not buff, are at least not puffy. This leads me to believe that, as with countless other aspects of the cruising lifestyle, I am doing something wrong. How do they stay in shape? There just aren't that many ways to exercise on a boat, especially not aerobically exercise.

60 lbs. was all it took to glue that gasket back on.
I will confess that I was a lesser man several months back when I was lifting weights, albeit  dumbbell-sized ones on a regular basis. I may not have been smaller per se, but there were muscle fibers in evidence. I have found, however, over the two or three dozen times in my life that I have maintained a strict weight lifting regimen, I invariably become suicidally bored. And that is when I have enough space to exercise both arms at once. The starboard aft stateroom, where my weights wait patiently for my return, is pretty spacious for a bedroom, but ridiculously small for a gym. Fortunately, the plates are well-suited to doing double duty as weight wherever I need to weigh something down.

We did purchase a set of folding bikes awhile back to take up that last few inches of space in the starboard forward cargo hold. I had a bike when we lived in Milwaukee. I like biking well enough as long as I am able to avoid people, cars, other bicycles, and inclines of any size or grade, or having to put the bike in a vehicle and drive to someplace that meets the above criteria. I rode that bike twice. It spent the rest of its time with us as a bicycle helmet stand. So far, we've used the folding bikes once. We biked out to the George Town airport in The Exumas to retrieve some boat parts we'd ordered. But it was a ten mile ride each way so you'd think that'd hold us for awhile. Here in Santa Marta, we would be at greater risk of ending our lives prematurely on a bike than if we were to do something dumb like try to sail a big boat we had no idea how to operate. In actuality, it's not even up for consideration because of how nerve-wrackingly busy it is. Drivers here have no sense of lanes; they just fill the next available empty spot ahead of their current location and horns are used to communicate in full sentences. We keep walking to a minimum for all the same reasons. It's just not fun.

Jane, before she earned herself the nickname "righty" was somewhat better off. She loves to snorkel so for awhile between that and diving down to search for lost propeller parts, she was getting pretty regular exercise.

On forums for cruisers, yoga is frequently suggested as a viable on board exercise option. I can see where it makes sense for some, particularly those who were into it prior to moving onto a boat. It doesn't require a lot of space; it keeps you limber, a definite benefit when pretzeling oneself in ways the human body is not designed to bend; and it is well-known as an effective stress reducer. For all its benefits, it still isn't right for me and probably not for Jane either. I, for one, can't fathom spending years becoming well-versed at something I hate doing in the first place. Moreover, all of the pictures I've seen of people doing yoga aboard their ships show them on deck not far from the edge. Being near water and reducing stress are mutually exclusive in my book. I'd develop cirrhosis long before I ever achieved tranquility.

One cruising couple whose blog we follow swears by the TRX suspension training system. This contraption is devised of a complex arrangement of furniture moving straps which said couple affixes to their mast somehow and with it progressively resists themselves into shape. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit to having purchased a set which I contend I will someday use. Not while we are underway; my life jacket would surely become entangled in the device and asphyxiate me mid-rep. Nor when we are in a marina or anchored where others can gawk at me; one is not the picture of grace or elegance while one is benefitting from its principle of dynamic tension. I'll wait until we are anchored in a completely uninhabited area, then I'll bust that puppy out, lash it to the mast and twist myself silly. Okay, the next time we are in a completely uninhabited area...

I can't help but wonder if I'll win my battle of the bulge. What I can do to outpace my penchant for exercising my elbow remains, for now, a mystery.  What is clear to me though, as clear as the crystal waters of The Sea of Abaco, is how flawless the dream; how flabby the reality.

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The Monkey's Fist

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