I poisoned myself for the second time this month. Poured the water, knew of its dubious origins, (a 40 year old fiberglass boat tank) and drank away. It wasn’t like I was in dire straits, awash for days without freshwater… the gas station was just a quick dinghy ride away from my mooring ball.
It was however, the quickest way of seeing if the new water filtration unit I installed was working correctly. No… It wasn’t, even after copious amounts of bleach and flushing. I’m working up to test number 3.
Also, I have this habit of breaking things.
Mechanical stuff and I just don’t get along. Never have.
So the dream I had of living aboard a boat was out of reach, in my mind, for most of my life. I had been inspired more than 15 years ago, thanks to Tania Abbie, even Jean Du Sud.
I’d stick to reading the many stories of those young, clever, and many not so clever but still successful, men and woman who temporarily cast away societies idea of normal, and followed their heart.
Eventually a turning point in my life brought forth a confidence to challenge my previous lack of self belief.
Already a long distance hiker, I’d stumble around foreign countries by the dozen over several years playing tourist… hang on, selfie with my Pad Thai… ok, I’m back.
Eventually I found what I needed… oddly enough it involved milking cows, new friends, yoga, and challenging myself on a daily basis in a Buddhist setting.
Something like that.
Then I took the first steps, back in Canada to start this plan.
I lived out of my dodge Caravan in Toronto taking sailing lessons, and becoming familiar once again with handling a 24’ sailboat. Theory, practice, repeat.
I already owned a boat, but was previously too intimidated to take it out.
I found a girl crazy enough to live on a 26’ Pearson sailboat, and set off getting comfortable with things. Turns out you don’t really need a lot of space to cohabitate, we survived the summer, barely, as had the family of 4 that did the same thing on the exact model years prior.
In any case, I found I wasn’t getting out enough, living on the one took too much time to prepare it to sail. So I purchased another boat for dirt cheap and parked them side by side. I became known as the guy who went out when the others were coming back in. Calm days at the beach, small craft weather warnings, daytime or night, I set sail becoming more confident… Until, my motor overheated, and I had no clue what to do with the 9.9 hanging off the back.
So I did what most people without a clue would do. I called the mechanic. Then paid $350 for labour and parts ($25 part) to diagnose and change the impellor. Damn.
I was brought back down from my high. If I knew nothing of oil changes, electricity, or even how to change the spark plugs, there was no way someone without general knowledge could live aboard and travel confidently.
At the end of the summer, after 27 day and night sails, I called the only college in my part of Canada that offered a Marine Mechanic course.
Turned out, the year-long course started in 4 days, I packed up and was there in 2, living out of a hotel until I found an apartment.
I was one of two sailors in the classroom, the other being a retired engineer. It was fair to say I was starting from ground zero in the mechanic department, knowledge wise.
I stripped bolts, bent rods, lost bits and spent most of the class looking like a confused puppy. It took me 2 weeks in outdrive class to even grasp the concept as to what the heck they were, even as we disassembled them… Thank god there aren’t bellows on sailboats.
Eventually things clicked. Electricity made sense, engines made sense, carbs became easy and I was comfortable with the basics. Graduated with reasonable marks, even got a cash award for “hey you freaking made it with all your fingers intact!”
I started my apprenticeship at North Americas largest fresh water marina. Turns out Mechanics are in high demand, and it’s a field I’ll always find work in no matter where I go. An unexpected bonus.
I worked on old derelicts, multi million dollar yatchs, seadoos n everything else.
Hauled a ton of batteries, and learned a lot about getting into and out of tiny spaces covered in oil n acid, hot, dark and razor-sharp mazes over and around huge diesels. Fun!
Then, sold my previous 2 boats in preparation for the one that would fulfill this dream of mine.
The dream is simple, with no destination or time limit.
One, I want to experience being completely out of sight from land for at least several days and nights alone. Two, to learn as much about repairing every aspect onboard a boat. Engine, fiberglass, electrical, navigation equipment…
Simple. Oh, and three, go somewhere tropical to make this a worth while investment.
We spent months looking for the perfect boat. Turns out it doesn’t exist, and never will. There are always compromises, as the hardened ocean going vessel isn’t as spacious or comfortable as a coastal cruiser, with many more important factors coming into it as well.
We had fallen for several boats. A Bayfield 32, Irwin 34, Aloha 34, and a Douglas 32. This was after personally inspecting 18 boats, test sailing several, and discreetly interrogating the owners.
The Aloha was gorgeous, and saw 4 of them, except I didn’t want a saildrive, and the prices were steep. The affordable one was neglected to the point of never having an oil change in the 9 years of hard running from the owner, and it smelled of septic. Heartbreaking, I passed on it.
The Bayfield was nice, though was completely stock, it was a definite top 2. The Douglas 32 was a steal of a deal, with excellent woodwork and solid throughout…
The Irwin 34, was the unlikely candidate for what I was looking for, turned out to be the perfect boat. Almost every system I had learned about was installed on this boat, it was within my budget, and it was the perfect couple’s boat, or luxurious single persons boat with shoal draft.
I am extremely patient, one of the qualities she liked about me. However she had violent tendencies of jealously that bordered on insanity… that no one ever knew about, no one ever saw, and she never spoke fully about how bad it was.
When she wasn’t triggered, she was lovely, and I miss that side.
That changed my plans slightly, as in the beginning I had started with the notion of a solo trip, like the many books I had read. Then, I got excited with the possibility of travelling with a partner… and now, I’m back to the solo plan, which has it’s benefits as well.
Back in the water, the repairs and upgrades have commenced. Some cosmetic, like the exterior woodwork. Some routine like setting the valve lash, and some for comfort, like redoing the massive amount of upholstery (it’s always moldy), replacing the foam and putting it back together.
Over pressurizing the old septic system had been one of the bigger foibles on board last year. Now completely removed, cleaned, primed, painted and an entirely new system installed, no more smell thank god. An expensive mis-step on my part.
A few days ago I was working, looked up and thought the spare solar panel needed to be tied down… On my way over I then accidently kicked it off of the boat into the swiftly moving murky waters… $300… I dived down but couldn’t see past a foot in front of me, fighting the current the entire time.
I wonder if Mr Bean ever went sailing…
It’d probably be similar to when I got stuck upside down in a tiny hole while rebedding my thruhull transducer, and had to tear myself out in almost panic mode.
So far though, no major disasters. Of course, the official journey starts in a few weeks. Beginning with learning the new boat, I’m awaiting my main sail with extra reef points sewn in, and full enclosure. Sailing this new boat on the nearest lake in every weather condition, sunny, foggy or stormy. Anchoring out every night, and looking forward to testing my new hooks in a blow. Probably won’t sleep those nights, but that’s ok…
Hurricane season ends in 4 months, and this year is supposed to be the worst in over a decade for named storms. Lovely.
Everyday I’m tightening, tinkering, rebedding in an attempt to learn and improve whatever I can.
To challenge myself, and to make sound the floating 34 foot world I live in and depend on are my goals.
Or die trying, with the third attempt at purifying my water system coming soon