Sunday, June 11, 2017

Living the Yotting LIfe

Written by: Donn

We are six weeks or so into this adventure of cruising on the yacht Brigadoon. It's been five years of planning, five years of sacrifices, hard work, missed schedules, changing plans, but we are here.

"It's been a long road,
getting from there to here.
It's been a long road,
But our time is finally near.

I can see my dream come alive at last..."

Getting this far has been a beautifully challenging mix and, it's nothing, I tell you, nothing like living on land. The interesting thing has been the assumptions we've been witness to and the target of, as we embark on and continue this adventure.

For example, in a conversation about my country (The USA) a friend raised a very political question about our immigration policies:

"There are no developed countries a US citizen can go to and, so long as we physically make it onto the soil, are welcomed with open arms, no questions asked, and immediately provided all the benefits of natives. No matter who we are or how sad our story, if we don’t follow their rules we’re turned around and sent right back where we came from. They require we follow their rules or they don’t let us in.

The same countries we’re jealous of for their “free” healthcare and extensive social programs also have very strict immigration rules. They clearly value the interests of their own citizens over those of others."

My basic response was, "We (edit: this country) are rich enough to take them all and provide for health care for all, if we choose to. There is nothing special about being born here."

I meant it. My country is rich beyond measure and, if it weren't for the greed corrupting our high ideals, I truly believe we could set an example to the world, if only we wanted to.

Setting that political question aside, because I have no interest in debating that here, I'd like to focus on his response and the assumptions contained therein.

"Since I know you to have a very good sense of humor I'll just ask: Are you being funny, or is a guy who's currently sailing around the world on a yacht telling the rest of us how easy it is to embrace the huddled masses?

My friend has since apologized for his assumptions, that we are some rich, well off yachties, sailing around the world, telling him and others what they should do with their guilt. Let's talk about those assumptions, because this isn't the first time we've run into them. They are in Facebook posts about young couples who threw it all way to take on the sailing life, tossing aside the normal cares of the work-a-day world, leaving all of those wage slaves behind. They visit tropical islands, far flung places, arriving on their yacht, only to depart for another paradise the next week.

Allow me to inject a little reality into this life we have chosen and share a little bit about us.

First off -- the money. We are not rich, or even well off anymore. True, we had fairly high paying jobs but, we used all those resources to pay off our debt, outfit our yacht to make her safe and seaworthy, and set aside a little for living expenses. There is some savings but, we are basically unemployed at this time and I, for one, have no plans on ever working for anyone else, ever. Not ever again. I'm working on a novel, which I hope people will like and buy but, aside from that, it's our savings and my modest retirement that will see us through this adventure. Money aside, let's talk about what it's been like to go cruising on a yacht.

Brigadoon is our home. She contains all our earthly possessions within the confines of her hull. This includes clothes, food, art, tools, spares and anything else we think we might need. That means that, when we are sitting in a beautiful cove, surrounded by towering firs and cedars, with eagles flying overhead and otters playing in the cove, we still have to fix that leaking water pump or get that diesel stove working so we can keep warm. There is no ordering of parts from Amazon Prime (and getting what we need in two days). There is no mechanic to call, who will arrive and fix the problem while we go out to dinner and a movie. There is no store to drive to (if we still had a car), to get what we need. We have to be resourceful and make do with our resourcefulness and parts on hand. No one is coming to save us.

Imagine if you had to work on sink at home. The water isn't coming out. You can't just have someone replace it. You can't just run to the big box hardware store in your car and get a new faucet. Water pressure is supplied by a pump, not the city. By the way, all your water (80 gallons of it), is stored under the floor of your living room. The pump is located in the corner of a closet, hidden behind fishing poles, dock lines, buckets, and a host of other things that must be stored there. You have to remove all those things to get to it and, they have to stay on the boat. There is no spare room to move them to, so you stack them in your small back porch, hopefully in a corner so you can still walk around.

You need tools and spares.

The spare water pump is located under your bed. Not under it like you just reach under a regular bed under it, like inside the the box springs, under the mattress. You have to lift the mattress with the block and tackle (it weighs 80 pounds) and dig though various spares.

Tools are located under and inside your couch in the living room, so you have to tear all the cushions off and put them on top of your bed. The rest of the tools and miscellaneous spares are located under the cushions of your love seat, so you have to take the cushions and pillows off that too and put them on your bed.

You now have absolutely no place to sit, but it's time to get to work while otters play along the shoreline and majestic bald eagles hunt from hundreds-year-old fir trees along the granite cliffs surrounding the beautiful cove in which you are anchored.

You work on the problem until it is solved, or you give up for a break -- remember there is now nowhere to sit? You get back to work until you solve the problem. Simple as that. You have nothing but what is on the boat and you can't go get anything else you need. When you do finally solve the problem, because you have to, you simply have to, you put all the stuff back.

All the tools and spares have to be put away in some semblance of order so you can find/use them again. Once that is done, you dig all the cushions our of your bed and put them back on your couch and love seat so you can sit down again.

If you are skilled, resourceful and lucky (never discount this), you fixed the problem and can now enjoy the paradise in which you are currently anchored.

Then the house heater malfunctions the next day. You start moving cushions again, lather, rinse repeat.

Until the next problem.

So you plan your road trip to a destination twenty miles away. You check the weather, because winds and road conditions can literally swallow your car and everything you own. If the road is too bumpy today, it might be too dangerous to go. You double check the route to make sure there are no obstacles in your path on maps you have never seen before, and you have to trust that they are correct. If they aren't, and you hit one of those obstacles, the road can literally swallow your car and everyone inside. You might want to call for help or a tow but, no one may respond and, if you really screw up, no one is likely to find you. You make sure you have enough fuel (there are no gas stations en-route). You make sure you have enough food in your fridge (there are no stores on your route). Do you carry spares or a means to replace or repair every single part of your vehicle (there are no stores or mechanics along your route). Do you even know how?

Then, if everything is ready, you leave the beautiful cove, with the playful otters, the shell beaches, the hunting eagles and the bears (don't forget the bear spray). You take the car our of park (manually lift a 46 lb anchor and 160 lbs of chain) and hit the road.

Along the way you may find that the weather report lied or the conditions simply changed. The roads are now outright dangerous. You have to find a safe parking lot and you hope your parking brake (anchor) can hold you in place until the weather passes. You find it and decide dinner is called for -- the stove doesn't light because one of the propane tanks is empty, so you have to go out to the back porch and switch to the backup.

Then you discover the knocking noise every time you turn the steering wheel...the last person (not you, then you who tried to fix it the first time) didn't solve it.

But the place you parked is beautiful and, when the storm blows over the next day, you find yourself in a Yottie's paradise, surrounded by towering fir trees, hunting eagles and kingfishers, otters and maybe an occasional porpoise or whale. You are in paradise for a day and, to be honest, it was worth it to get here, even if the bumpy road tossed everything in the car just simply everywhere.

But you earned every eagle, every otter, every skinny dip in a warm mountain lake, every stroll along pristine shell beaches.

Even if no one really understands what it took to get here.

And you'll do it again the next day, and the day after that, because you want to.