Living & Working Aboard: Early Reflections

sailing Photo Credit: Ned Jones

By Rich

I’m nearing the end of my third week living aboard Le Saberage as our Newport summer home (I flew home for a week after week #1 but have been aboard full time since June 7th) so I thought it was time to share some early reflections on sailboat-as-summer home living. Here are my major highlights so far:

This experience is fun and exciting, but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. For me the quality of the experience (and correspondingly my moods) have been tethered primarily to the weather and the boat’s reliability. To date a Monday huddled down below sheltering from a cold, driving, soaking rain while chasing leaks with towels has set one of the notable low bars, while a glorious weekend of sunny bliss with Lisa that was as delightful as any day in the Caribbean set some of the high ones. Even within a given day the experience can vary widely. This short photo essay pretty much sums up the peaks and valleys: rain IMG_6254

The ‘feel’ of one day varies radically from the next when living on a mooring. If you crave variety, you will love the experience. If you love a consistent routine, you may not. What do I mean by ‘feel’? Consider an average work week. The office-commuter’s routine is pretty standard: the get-ready routine, the commute, the lighting and views from the office chair, lunchtime routines, and so on. The ‘feel’ of one day can blend into the next. By contrast, on any given day aboard the boat the tides and winds swing you in different directions and weather changes have a much more direct effect on your experience. The lighting down below, temperatures, sounds and outside views are all in constant rotation (sometimes literally). I’ve come to realize that the cumulative total of these sensory inputs change the entire ‘feel’ of a day and I thoroughly enjoy the variety. I am much happier than working out of the house and 1,000 times happier than I was commuting to an office day after day – the memories of which are enough to make me shudder with dread. sunset

Scarcity teaches conservation. Fast. In fact, scarcity enforces conservation. In this context I mean scarcity of fresh water, electrical energy, time, internet bandwidth, hot water, and refrigeration. More on this point in future Tips & Tricks posts.

The choice of venue matters (duh). We had heard from others who have cruised New England that Jamestown is a turbulent mooring field. Holy cow is it. There are some nights where I’ve tried to sleep in the V-berth and been hard pressed to find a difference between the experience here on the Jamestown mooring and the experience during the ocean passage up here. It gets very choppy and the tides are strong enough to turn the boat beam (or stern) to the breeze and to bring the topsides banging against the mooring ball. Light sleepers: look elsewhere than Jamestown! That’s not to say that Jamestown doesn’t have significant advantages. It’s quiet and very picturesque, with terrific access to the yacht races. The last two days have been as flat calm as those in Lake Ogelton back home. But if the forecast shows breeze from the east or north buckle your chin strap!

The summer vacation season in Newport starts later than Annapolis! This June the weather here has been very cold. The locals tell me the season runs from July 1 through the end of August and as I sit here at the chart table typing while wearing a sweatshirt covered by a fleece – with the companionway and all hatches closed – I believe them. Mental note for future seasons!

Living aboard a boat for an extended period of time is the only way to really know how ‘ready’ for an extended cruise a boat is. We have a 10-day Cape Cod cruise planned for July and I am thrilled that I discovered our dead house batteries and aft cabin porthole leaks before they put a big damper on that trip. When it comes to finding chinks in the armor, there is no substitute for being aboard full time in a variety of weather conditions.

Working a full time day job while trying to get a boat ready for extended cruising sucks. S-U-C-K-S. I love my job – especially the flexibility it gives me to do something nutty like living aboard a boat for the summer. The problem isn’t my job – the problem is effectively working two full time jobs.  Over this past winter and during the last few weeks I have come to realize that getting a neglected weekend cruiser ready for extended passages is pretty much a full time job in and of itself. Even when vendors are hired to help out, they still need lots of direction and many tasks are only economically done by the DIY’er method anyway. It’s very stressful trying to manage the demands of a 40 hour week with the need to try to get leaks fixed (for example) before they rot out furnishings or fill a hanging locker with mildew. It’s especially tough given the need to work between weather windows . If an urgent on-deck project looms and rain is forecast for the evening, one has to simply grit one’s teeth and stay at the laptop working through the sun of the day and accept that the project will have to wait for another weather window. Brutal. Living aboard helps tremendously because I can get to work immediately at the end of each work day, but I still feel like I’m stretched far too thin. The next time we prepare a boat for extended cruising, I don’t want to have a full time day job in addition! desktop There’s more to share but in the interest of keeping readers awake, I plan to break up my additional insights into individual Tips & Tricks articles, the first of which is coming soon. In the meantime, greetings from Jamestown! Today is sunny with light winds from the West, so the ‘ride’ on the mooring is placid and so are the moods and sentiments aboard Le Saberage!

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