Reflections on a year at Sea
Today - New Years Eve marks 365 days since we moved onto Lukim Yu to pursue this mad dream of living on our boat.
Although a totally foreign concept to pretty much everyone we knew, there are in fact a decent amount of people who actually do something like this. Whether it be on land or on sea. The sea based version is I admit more extreme, but when you love swimming, snorkelling and diving as much as we both do, then it’s pretty much a no brainer.
We had had this dream for over 15 years. Initially intending to go away for 1 year with Jake and Kobi. Having met so many ‘kid boats’ as they are called I wish we had been able to make it happen, it is literally life changing for the kids (even if they don’t know it at the time).
So, the big question has life at sea been all I dreamed it would be?
It’s a loaded question……
The highs are incredibly high, the lows, so low it’s almost indescribable. A bad day at sea can only be described as psychological torture.
There’s this t-shirt going around that says “A bad day at sea is better than a good day at work” I call bullshit, I would trade a bad day at sea for cleaning toilets, or any number of indescribably horrible (body fluid) related nursing jobs.
Lets start with the lows:
As I have frequently described passage making even in decent weather is taxing. Intense levels of sleep deprivation (at best you are getting a collective 5 or 6 hours broken up into 3 or 4 lots of sleep). Even Jamie, who quite frankly could sleep for his country struggles to get more than that. I, an incredibly light sleeper struggle to get 4. This is sustainable for only a few days, after that you are just chronically tired, and it effects your decision making. The other night I couldn’t remember how to tack (change the boat direction by moving the headsail from one side to another). A simple task that my brain simply would not compute at 4am. I sat down and waited my brain out, it got there in the end.
In bad weather passage making is psychological torture. You are living on a lurching platform (think mechanical bull) that violently throws you around. The simplest task of going to the toilet requires intense concentration and skill and and involves some serious bruising if not careful. If you are lucky this lurching is in the right direction, if you are unlucky you are tacking back and forward gaining almost no headway.
Boats require a lot of repairs, in Lookie’s defence the majority of her repairs occurred in the first 6 months of serious cruising. It’s understandable she’d gone from a holiday boat to some serious sailing. Things were bound to break. But still, even now, most days something needs to be done maintenance wise. I have learned however, that Jamie is seriously handy, he will downplay this but it’s true - he has been hiding these skills from me for 20 years.
It’s everywhere. I clean at least one object/surface everyday - walls, floor, inside cupboards, speakers, cushions, clothes, shoes, UGH. Major experiments and research into mould prevention and the best people can come up with is Clove oil. Yeah, that doesn’t work and note to self, if you spill clove oil in your bedroom it will take 3 weeks to get rid of the stench. YUK
Mould - 1
Denise - 0
Everything is difficult
And I mean everything, cooking dinner requires major excavating of food storage lockers. Going snorkelling requires 4 different locations for snorkelling equipment, refuelling the dinghy, lowering it into the water, packing all emergency self rescue equipment, then the reverse upon return (that one is totally worth the effort)
Now I love the heat and the tropics as does Jamie, what we didn’t expect was that Jamie would be leaving a trail of sweat (think snails) wherever he went, nor that he would be perpetually covered in heat rash. He currently has to sleep on a towel so that he doesn’t spend the night basting in his own juices (sorry terrible visual picture I’ve painted). However its even worse than you imagine. The tropics around the equator (we are currently at 1 degree south) are oppressively hot. Jamie had an epiphany the other day and he worked out what has been making him sweat so much. He said that he had been overexerting himself. Doing what I enquired? Breathing…..
As a couple we really really like spending time together, however we also like socialising with other people. It was easy in the cruising season in the Pacific. Since we left Vanuatu though it has been very isolating. Very few boats head up through the Solomons, PNG and on to Indonesia at this time of year. Luckily we eventually caught up with Waterhorse (kid boat) and have been passaging with them since. It has also been much more difficult maintaining relationships with family and friends at home. Remoteness means that the satellite phone is often our only option, text is fine, but calls are reminiscent of overseas calls in the 70s, delays and crappy lines - highly unsatisfactory.
And now for the highs:
Sharing our life
We have been so fortunate this year that so many family and friends made such an effort to come and spend some time with us, allowing us to give them a glimpse into the fun side of our life. Absolute highlights were the seperate visits from our 2 sons and their families. Having our grandkids on the boat with us, and spending quality time with our boys and their partners was incredible. We couldn’t ask for 2 more supportive and understanding kids. They totally get it! Being away from them is by far the hardest thing we do.
Wow, have we had some amazing experiences, Manta Rays, Sharks, Whales, Turtles, crazy clarity, crazy amounts of fish. The water is incredibly warm, and even an average dive or snorkel we are often surprised with an unexpected encounter of a spotted eagle ray, an unusual nudibranch, or just a spectacular wall of coral. These are locations that we would never have access to without this lifestyle
Up until September we were constantly in the company of other boats and making friends and socialising was easy. And we met some amazing people who will become life long friends. No doubt once we settle into Indonesia and the cruising season kicks in there we will once again be in great company. The intense life that we lead is incredibly bonding. You become very close very fast.
So many aspects of our life are self sufficient, we make our own power, own water, and often catch our own food. It seems a simple thing but our ability to catch a fish and supply ourselves with a week of protein is very rewarding. My filleting skills have improved out of sight and my fishing is slowly improving thanks to so many people that have spent time with me along the way and my uber resource Dave, who is always ready with some advice when I need it.
Time and freedom
Time is such a gift. To be able to go (within reason) wherever we want, whenever we want is such a pleasure. Visa restrictions are our only limitations on time. If we love a place we stay, if we are bored, we move on. If I want to spend the afternoon learning the guitar, I do. If we want to read and snorkel all day we do. There is nothing pulling us away, except our own needs. It’s an incredibly selfish (but pleasurable) way to live.
Team Lukim Yu
Although not a revelation to us (we have a very strong relationship) life at sea is testing. When we both individually listed our top 3 highlights of the year we both said that our ability to work together to problem solve, repair and support each other through trying times was one of the highlights. This 24/7 life together can be challenging, however in a year of challenges we have not had a single fight. Don’t get me wrong, we irritate the crap out of each other from time to time, but no full blown fights. Together we are indeed better.