This last year has been a blur, to be honest. Every port is exactly like the last and each anchorage is isolated and calm (well, most of them are). They’re not really all the same actually, but when you’re vagabond souls as we now are, there is a certain rhythm and comfort to encountering lots of similarities that makes them seem remarkably alike. However, there are things that stick out in their own ways, and they’re things we’ve learn in the miles we’ve covered. So, what follows is the list of our lessons from 2016.
People. People are awesome. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more heartwarming than all the people who we have encountered on this trip. Some of them were strangers—fellow cruisers or locals, and many of them were friends (The Elmers, a special shoutout to the Norman family, Rod Lake, Coach Haberland, the Hensleys, Bill and Madeline from Scott’s Creek Marina, the Jones duo, the Hamiltons, Mike Brubaker, Jim & Linda LaVine, Kathy Root, and the Hudson family). Some of them gave rides, loaned cars, opened their homes to us in a variety of ways, and/or were just huge supporters. It fills my soul to bursting to meet smiling faces along the way, whether they be new friends or old acquaintances and we wouldn’t have kept going without them.
Sometimes it’s okay to stop and reset. We had a few missteps but rather than rush on and make some bigger mistakes in our haste, we made the decision a few times to stay put and gather ourselves, our courage, and our thoughts before carrying on, knowing that it was delaying our progress south. Since we aren't on a real timeline, there was no real need to barrel forward. In hindsight, even though I might not have been always on board, it was always the right decision by the captain.
Teamwork truly makes the dream work. Cheesy, I know, but it’s not a thing people say for no reason, you know (apparently Josh had never heard this phrase, so is it just a sports thing I learned through countless years of riding the bench in various sports??). I haven’t talked too much about “pink” and “blue” jobs here but we’ve settled into a groove that definitely has it’s parameters. We each have our responsibilities and if one of us shirks them, the other would be left to compensate, which is no bueno for either of us. I do some of the on deck stuff but Josh does the majority of the heavy lifting. Below deck, it’s a little different. I rule the roost in all things domestic and for now it works for us. As we progress, things may shift but for now, it’s working.
Vigilance is key. This came up a few times early on (more than we care to admit) and could have caused costly mistakes. Luckily, all is well. Whether it be keeping an eye on the fullness of water and fuel tanks or simply the charts, Erie Canal signage, or just your surroundings, it’s something we could strive to be better at in the coming year(s).
There is beauty in solitude. It’s been surprising to me how much I think we’ve all enjoyed being unplugged. The encountering of wifi at marinas along the way has been lovely, don’t get me wrong. And there are times it’d be nice to have a tribe as most people have on land have, but in general, we’ve had plenty of fun finding new ways to explore, enjoy each other’s company, and just be. There’s less literal and figurative noise to be contended with out here and it is something that was sorely needed, at least by me.
You know what’s truly lovely?
Bathrooms on land. This year I learned to truly appreciate a hot shower and a toilet in which you can throw your TP. I’d say this is a silly one, but living on a boat has given me an appreciation of the actual small things in life. Like showering. Every day, if you want. I suppose we could shower every day on the boat, but it’s a hassle. Yes, showers are magical, and even more so if they’re roomy, preferably with a large private changing area and hooks for your clothes and a bench in or near the shower is also nice. Can you tell how many marina showers we’ve encountered? I have definitely acquired a taste for how I like my marina showers and they all include skin burning hot water temperatures. Showering in marina is also made more challenging by having to bathe not just myself, but also a toddler who is fond of “washing” his toys with mommy’s nice soap and generally just goofing around, that is, if he’s not screaming bloody murder about having to take a shower in the first place. Sigh.
Along with the above, have I mentioned how difficult things on a boat can be?
Yes, learning to deal with difficult circumstances has been another lesson. From figuring how to efficiently fill the storage we have (there is tons, and all irregularly shaped and therefore, terribly utilized—this one thing I’m still working on), to trying to let your toddler “cook” with you and literally having to have him stand on the companionway steps outside the kitchen because it’s actually only large enough for one person to inhabit, to just not cracking your head open when you climb into and out of the berths or reach in the fridge. Surprisingly, being the shorter of the two of us, I’m the one who bonks her head an inordinate number of times a week. There is also the constant upkeep and repairs that Josh, my main man and mechanic extraordinaire, can speak to. He does all of that with such patience, I am in awe. It’s always something different, often difficult and he’s learning as he goes if he doesn’t already know how to make it work.
Sometimes, you have to laugh at the absurd. There are days that are filled with little snafus (running aground at low tide, a tantrum throwing toddler, mechanical failures, and just ridiculousness). Even out here, things go wrong. There’s nothing to be done but fix the issue if possible and grin and bear it. Or at least grit your teeth and hold on until a better day. It’s all about your attitude. But isn’t it always?
If you’re not having fun (at least 95% of the time), you’re doing it wrong. Cruising isn’t for everyone. Getting out here on the water has taught me that, for sure. There are days where the fun factor hovers around 50% or lower and some days where every waking moment is a pleasure and I can’t wait to get up the next day and start all over again. The key is to balance those types of days. It’s hard, stressful work. The mental wear, the isolation you can sometime feel, the constant upkeep and maintenance, and the cabin fever can all make it too much. BUT, the benefits are immense. Did you see all the benefits we reaped in the above list?? For now, it’s working. For now, we’re all having fun. And that’s the key. We’ve said from the moment we left land that we’d do it as long as it’s fun. And my friends, I don’t think we’ve come even close to the most fun we can have in this new year.