We’ve been aboard for about 3-4 weeks now, but it feels much longer – because it does actually feel like home! Living on a boat (for more than a week) is new to me, so I thought I’d share a bit about the practical side and the adjustments we’ve had to make.
The balancing act
One of the big things that I’m still adjusting to is alternating between living on the ocean and being on the land. There is a definite “flow” and motion that your body starts getting used to when you live on a fluid surface. Being on a cat, there is very little rocking, but we do feel the waves from boats that motor passed us, and a general floating feeling. It starts feeling very familiar, and I’ve been thrilled that I haven’t felt any queasiness at all.
The bigger issue for me is that I feel dizzy and slightly lightheaded each time I go on land! Every morning I go up to the bathrooms, and feel like I’m swaying in the shower. I feel “spaced out” in the supermarket – and hope that I don’t appear like a space-cadet or druggie 😉 I suspect it’s something that I’ll get used to over time, but it’s definitely an adjustment for me. Marco and the boys haven’t had any of these problems at all.
Moving from a 4-bedroom house into a catamaran definitely means cutting back on “stuff” – a lot! That said, a catamaran is really roomy as boats go, and after visiting some people we’ve met on their monohulls, I definitely appreciate the room that we have. I think we’ve all had practice living simply and in small spaces, after many wonderful holidays in our cabin in Elands Bay.
The galley (kitchen) is very spacious for boat-kitchens, and I’ve managed to fit our favourite pots and crockery in. Yes – we do have real crockery because a cat doesn’t lean, so things slide around a lot less than in a monohull. We have a stove, oven, fridge and double sink, so pretty easy.
I suppose the biggest issue for me is trying to keep the clutter away. We tend to have a lot of stuff (SUPs, surfboards, skateboards, guitars, school stuff, drawing things – and an uncanny number of towels?), and it’s easy for the boat to get cluttered and untidy very quickly. Marco seems to have endless tools – I know that they’re important, and having spares for all the different components is essential, but they take up a lot of space! It’s also easy for the boat to look like a workshop when one maintenance job is in progress. The key, I’ve discovered, is to sail often. You can’t sail in a cluttered boat, so things do get sorted and packed away before we depart.
This is the name we’ve given our “homeschooling”/”boatschooling”. It is new to all of us, and has been really interesting, although challenging at times. We’ve chosen some lovely curricula and books to study, and have a great Maths app that the boys have used for a couple years already. Marco initially started off teaching/facilitating them, but it’s something I really feel I want to do too, so we now share the load. The boys have adjusted well – they have always been enthusiastic learners, which is a real blessing. We’ve chosen to focus on topics that are of interest and relevance to us all – e.g. our heritage (South African history), sea creatures, the weather. We’ve also tried to make our learning practical – e.g. they’ve been plotting the voltage and remaining amp-hours of the house batteries each day.
Being academic, I tend to focus on the more traditional learning, whereas Marco is more into experiencing what you learn, so hopefully the combination will result in a good balance.
I’m very blessed in having a job that is totally mobile – and flexible. All I need is the internet and a laptop – so I’m able to work aboard the Ark. We’ve got a great mobile Wifi device that apparently works all along the east coast of Australia (even pretty far offshore). The challenge has been to balance my time amongst boat-ed, sailing, general boat maintenance, getting the boys off the boat, seeing family and work, and I’ve had to cut my hours down a bit. I’ll see how this pans out in future, but there’s no sense living on the boat and spending most of the time at a computer, living just as we did before!
We love our food, and make sure we’re pretty well stocked – everyone feels good after a hearty meal! Fridge space is a lot less than on land, so we need to shop more often. It’s also a little more effort to bring the shopping inside – we are moored at the furthest berth in the marina (by choice), and have to walk about 200m from the car to the boat. Luckily there are trolleys – although popular and not always available. We therefore brought our own trolley which we tie up next to the boat. The trick is making sure you don’t lose focus steering and end up with your fresh bread in the water!
Cooking is pretty easy – although the oven is tiny, so no big family roasts for us. We do have a gas BBQ off the back of the boat, and spent a lovely balmy evening outside eating boerie-rolls and sipping KWV red wine. Yes – there is a South African shop nearby, so we’ve had a little taste of home 😉
It’s also a real treat to have so many restaurants around. Margaret River was rather isolated and deprived in that regard – unless you want to pay a complete fortune for mediocre / sub-standard dishes. We’ve found some awesome Thai restaurants – in fact, Mooloolaba seems to have an uncanny number of Thai restaurants for its size! The fishing boats come in near the marina, and there are some decent fish and chips restaurants nearby which offer the catch of the day. A great way to end off a day, especially after a sail when you feel you need to celebrate!
Noah’s Ark has 4 cabins, each with a double bed. At this stage the boys are sharing a cabin, but the plan is to separate them in time (a couple things need to be done to the cabin that Josh will move to). They love reading in bed – and crawling out their hatch in the mornings to come say “hi” to us at our hatch.
Boats make the weirdest noises – especially at night, and it took me a while to get used to them at first. A couple times I got up convinced that someone was walking on our deck, but it was just the sound of the water hitting the hull at a different angle. Another time I thought water was leaking into the hull, as I heard a “glug-glug-glug” kind of sound (not the nicest thought to have). We had a night of strong wind and rain, and I remember waking up thinking I was inside a giant washing machine. Noah said he woke up to a symphony of wind blowing through ropes – there was a kind of stereo whistling of the wind as it blew passed all the masts and ropes in the marina.
I’ve now got used to the thuds and creaks and watery sounds, and sleep very soundly. We’re occasionally woken by very enthusiastic rowers/dragon boaters at the crack of dawn, or cruisers heading off at the chosen tide, but it’s generally very quiet and peaceful.
I know you’re wondering … and it’s a serious concern, where do we go to the loo? Well, we have 3 heads (toilets) on board, so lots of options. At a marina though, it’s a bit gross (and illegal) to do your dirty business on the boat (as it empties into the sea), but number 1’s are fine. So we have our daily visits to the marina bathrooms (the 200m walk again), which are well maintained and clean. They also have lovely hot showers, which I use every day. The boys tend to shower more sporadically – sometimes at the beach after a surf, or in the shower on board.
So there you have it – the day-to-day issues that we’ve had to deal with and get used to. It’s not that hard really, but is rather busy and full-on. It’s definitely not a life of sunbathing on deck whilst sipping cocktails … although hopefully there will be some of that too. There are hassles and irritations – but then amazing rewards, like seeing a dolphin in our “back yard”, or being able to SUP every morning right from the boat, or sailing out to an uninhabited island nearby and watching the boys surf a perfect little wave. And every day, Noah’s Ark feels more and more like home.