Sure, we live on a boat in the Caribbean. Sure, we don’t work for the ‘man’ in a cubicle that measures 3×4 (though we do, actually, work) and yes, we can do things like go to the beach, snorkel and swim in the ocean daily. BUT (and this is a big BUT) , I would wager to bet that 80% of you who call what we do a “permanent vacation” and think of it as such, would be sorely disappointed by how little our life resembles, say, a week of R&R at a beach-side bungalow in St. Barths (ah, that would be nice). Furthermore, I would wager that an equal number of you (after seeing how we “really” live) could not be paid to live the way we do.
Don’t get me wrong – we LOVE it (otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it) – but this ‘lifestyle’ is no walk in the park, and it most certainly is not a permanent vacation. Different lifestyle, yes. But vacation? Not at all. For some reason, when someone says they live in the Caribbean, all problems are assumed null and void. If I even hint at having a bad day, I am barraged with responses like, “But you live in the Caribbean, what could possibly be so bad?!?!” Well, I am here to tell you that it ain’t always paradise in paradise…
So – in an effort to “keep it real” and not show you everything through rose-colored glasses, here are the
Top 10 Things that (can) Drive us Mental as Live-Aboard’s
1. Flies and mosquitos. At the moment, they are everywhere (it’s the rainy season here). There is nothing, nothing more annoying than drifting off to sleep only to hear the telltale buzzing of a mosquito that you know is going to be at you all night unless you kill it. I have become the master mosquito killer of our duo. Today, on the way to the bathroom (which is one small step for man, one giant swat for winged insects), I killed three blood-filled mosquitos and missed about 3 others. The clincher? Yesterday, I killed a fly – a disgustingly huge fly – that was buzzing around my head while I was reading. I grabbed the swatter and when I squished it, it busted open to expose hundreds of tiny, squirming maggots inside it. I cannot make this up people. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen, and even typing it out has me wanting to Lysol our entire boat and douse myself in bleach. Ugh.
2. The heat. It is summer here. Which means temperatures are in the high 80’s pretty much every day. The sun rises around 6:00am and it sets around 6:00pm and it is consistently, uncomfortably hot between those hours. The sun is incredibly strong and shade is your best friend. There have been days we have not left our boat because simply going outside is just too exhausting. Another side effect of heat? Sweat. I have never been what you would call a “sweaty” person, but down here, it’s sweat city and it’s gross. Did I mention we have no air conditioning? Because we don’t. We have a few dinky, sub-par fans that have a life of their own and do little to quell the heat (read on for more on them).
3. No refrigeration. We’ve been dealing with this since the beginning – and we’ve been doing okay. But we’re starting to crack. Mostly because of the aforementioned item and secondly because we are so limited by it. We can’t have leftovers and fresh food must be gobbled up quickly or else it goes bad. We have no cold drinks and things like yogurt, most cheeses, milk (who the heck can have cereal with room temp UHT milk? We cannot.) and more are just not part of our diet. If we use 1/2 a can of spinach, the other half goes bad. If we use 1/2 a can of condensed milk, the rest is wasted. Thus, we are strongly considering removing ourselves from the “hard core” group of cruisers who lack refrigeration and going to the dark, cold side.
4. Our holding tank. When you flush your toilet, the contents mysteriously get whisked way into an intricate system of government run pipes and sewers where it eventually gets treated once, twice, three times and more and then, magically, gets reintroduced into the environment all polished and pretty. And all you had to do to start that process was flush a toilet. Unfortunately, things aren’t that easy for us. We hold only 12 gallons of “waste” at a time (that’s about two days of two people going to the bathroom) – and then we need to do something about it. At sea we pump it overboard, but in this marina – we obviously can’t. We used to have it pumped out every week and use the marina bathrooms for anything that was not number one. Even that got tedious because our holding tank gets so full, so fast. So now what do we do? We pee in the bathroom sink. Yep. I admitted that. Our holding tank stays empty, we don’t have to walk to the marina bathrooms five times a day and it’s easier for everyone. Sorry – I warned you this wasn’t going to be pretty. This is the truth people. No glossing over.
5. Each other. Spending 24/7 together takes it’s toll on two people and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Just because we’re young and in love does not mean we skip down the dock hand-in-hand and have tickle fights every night as we dream of future horizons. Sorry. Sometimes, it gets ugly – especially with two head-strong people. We have disagreements, things get heated, and sometimes – we need to spend a day doing our own thing. This lifestyle is not for the weak relationships, in fact – we have heard many a story of marriages and engagements falling apart at sea. If you think of this lifestyle as a way to make your already rocky relationship better, you have another thing coming! Luckily, Scott and I are on firm ground as far as our relationship goes, but I might have thrown a bottle of sunscreen at him once (okay, and an empty coffee cup – relax, it was paper!).
6. Cooking. I know this is no surprise to any of you, because I am pretty vocal about my dislike of cooking, but someone still has to do it (and yes, Scott cooks too). Those of you who follow our Facebook page might even notice I have been “kicking it up a notch” by cooking more involved meals. Again, this doesn’t mean I like it. Cooking in a boat (for me) is difficult at best and always involves breaking a sweat because a) the stove/oven can heat up this place in no time and b) getting “supplies” usually involves me on all fours, lifting floorboards, cushions and carpets to get at something. Then I need to do it all again to get the rest of the ingredients. Is it a deal-breaker? Not at all. A pain in the ass sometimes? You bet.
7. Tight quarters. Our entire home is probably similar in size to your foyer. The other day, we saw a private bathroom bigger than our entire living area. While we love our boat and know that it is perfect for us, there are moments when we feel like we are going to burst at the seams. Rasmus is by no means “roomy” and living in such tight quarters; especially when we combine #1 with #2 (and occasionally, #5), it can be downright unbearable and it’s then that I hop online to Yachtworld.com and dream of boats in the 40 foot range. Then, reality sinks in and I remember all the work we did to this boat and how much work – and money – a new boat would require and the bubble bursts. Luckily, those times of desperation are few and far between – but trust me, if you are going to be living on a boat, you too will get size envy from time to time.
8. Our fans. We currently have these fans and they don’t blow, they suck. Big time. They were great, we loved them and their three speed on-a-timer convenience – but now, just barely a year old, they are taking on lives of their own. They must be coerced to work by gently tapping, hitting (and sometimes kicking) just the right way while tilted at just the right angle, and even then they work intermittently. They are on the fritz, and when the weather is 89 and sunny every single day, this is not a good time to be fritzing. We despise these fans. Do NOT buy them.
9. Feeling stuck. At the moment, it is hurricane season and we’re not moving much. Scratch that – we’re not moving at all, actually. This irks us greatly because we LOVE to be on the move. Staying in the same place for a very long time is not our style and we miss the wandering life. While we enjoy the opportunity to explore this island, we sort of wish we were in cruising mode again. We think Rasmus is growing roots or at the very least a heck of a lot of barnacles and sea life under her keel – neither of which she likes. Speaking of, anyone want to come down and scrape them off? That job also sucks.
10. Sunscreen. Sunscreen is a necessary evil in my opinion. You have to wear it, lest you end up looking like Magda a la Something About Mary, but it makes you feel greasy, slimy and disgusting. Once you mix a little sweat in there, then you really feel ripe. Go ahead, scratch your arm and then check under your nails after – I dare you. You’ll see a disgusting brown film underneath them and you’re not sure if it’s dead skin or dirt. Yeah, it’s gross. They say the best inventions simply improve existing products and I’ll tell you, sunscreen is one thing that is in DIRE need of a re-vamp. We’ve tried them all; sprays, grease-free, sensitive skin, generic and top of the line. They’re all equally evil. Surely there must be a better way of blocking the sun other than being cloaked from head to toe? A way to douse myself in some sort of invisible shield? Some sort of body wash that cleans and applies SPF? Inventors, do you hear my plea?
So there you have it. I told you I was going to be honest, and I told you it wasn’t going to be the rosy view you are used to. I was also going to mention all the boat work, chores and how often things break – but Scott actually enjoys fixing these things and he lives for “projects” so it doesn’t make the list for us, but I think he is the exception (he can fix anything). So… for all of you who look at us and think we’re just lounging around in the sun drinking tropical slushy rum drinks, maybe this will help you to see that, though we are living our dream and living life on our own terms, it ain’t always pretty.
Brittany & Scott
_When two people, with the same life long dream of sailing around the world find each other, there’s only one thing to do… make it happen!
Which is precisely what we, Scott and Brittany, are doing aboard our boat, Rasmus, a Hallberg-Rassy 35 which departed from Chicago September 2010! Follow along at _