Another Change in the Wind

I smell change in the wind again. (It smells vaguely of seabird poop.) After nine months of having both a Honda Element and a thirty-eight foot sailboat serve as part-time homes, I have mostly achieved a system that works for me – with one glitch that’s stirring me to make a change.

Simplifying and systematizing my daily routine is an ongoing process. It’s become very simple, yet my lifestyle is still complicated in some ways. I never stare frozen with decision paralysis into a cavernous closet full of clothes anymore. Now I have only a tiny hanging locker and a carry-on-sized suitcase. And I while I can afford this lifestyle, frustratingly, I’m finding that I’m not saving any money for the future. This is a problem to solve.

I would like to get moving in the next few years… if not with a boat of my own, then by crewing my way around the world. I’m not getting any younger. I want to be on a 2 to 3 year plan, not a 10 to 15 year plan. I’ve come to terms with the reality that keeping the partnership or taking full ownership of Makani would put me on a 10 to 15 year plan. Luckily, someone is waiting in the wings ready and eager to take my place. 

I can’t – and won’t – work any harder than I already do, so the solution is to downsize and simplify even more, so… Time for another change. Strangely, I’m not at all apprehensive. Bring it on. It would seem like a challenge to downsize from a 38’ boat to a 28’ or 30’ boat, but I have a feeling it will be easy. I have quite a few things on Makani that I don’t use regularly enough to justify keeping, and I’m ready and willing to let go.

In the meantime, I’m happy to be reunited with Makani tonight, indulging in my usual Saturday night routine of dancing in the dark with her as she rolls, bobs, and jerks on her dock lines. I’m thankful to her for being my cozy weekend crash pad for the last nine months. We had some unforgettable sails together too. Makani taught me that I can live aboard a sailboat comfortably and happily (although I really miss long epsom salt baths). As I dance back and forth, v-berth to companionway, my bare feet collect lint and fallen hairs from the cool teak and holly sole.

My time with Makani has ripened my desire to take on a boat of my own that I can do anything I want to and really make my own, as cheaply as possible.

Tomorrow, I’m attending the survey of a 1982 Islander 28 that I might be buying – for $910. Her topsides are coated with bird poop and moss and her bottom encrusted in seaweed and critters. This little boat has a story, and after lying in neglect for two or three years, her fate has fallen into my hands. As I spent hours poking into her every nook and cranny, I found a boat that someone once loved and cared for, but then suddenly abandoned. (Was it something she said?)

I stood in the salon surrounded by piles of racing gear in good condition, looked around me and saw how I could fit in a boat of this size. I saw how I could make her mine. But I’m not romanticizing this. I also saw many things begging for repair, much of it cosmetic, possibly a few frustrating and costly projects. I also saw many things in good order — important things like the head, and she smells pretty good for an old boat.

Now that I no longer have a garden, houseplants, aquariums, furbabies, or children to fuss after, I have nothing better to do in my spare time than fuss after a boat of my own. Somehow, I look forward to it.

Will Zephyrus ever sail again? Will she retire her sails and rigging and be only a tiny floating home? Or will tomorrow be the end of her story – to be hauled off the mooring ball and ripped apart by a backhoe? My decision will depend on what the survey finds. If all goes well, by the 18th of this month, she’ll be mine. If the survey finds a fatal flaw, it will be the backhoe for this little boat, and I’ll keep looking.

With the ten percent liveaboard population limits on marinas in the Bay Area, finding a full-time liveaboard slip can be very difficult. This means I won’t be able to replace my hastily-constructed platform bed in the back of my Element with the original rear seats anytime soon. But, the good news is that I will save around $650 a month on routine shelter expenses. At first, some of that would have to go towards making the new-to-me boat a livable home, Then, I can finally start saving to go see the world.

Admittedly, at times vehicle-dwelling can be a downer. But I love that I can park close to work and not have to sit in rush hour traffic. My bed is warm and comfortable. I feel safe where I park. But it can feel lonely and isolating. Surrounded by Marin County’s wealth, it feels humbling to be living out of your car. I take pains to not draw attention to myself. Not having ready access to a shower and toilet is also a pain, and I do really miss those epsom salt baths. But it’s not terrible. It is doable, this much I have learned. Dwelling part-time in a vehicle and part-time on a sailboat will have to continue for a little while longer, but at least it will get me closer to sailing away. I can do this.   

Is it worth it? Well, in spite of the challenges of this mobile lifestyle, I’m ridiculously happy. I love my job, I have access to a variety of boats to sail, I sail often, and I’ve many new friends in the sailing community. For now, I know I am exactly where I need to be, but this is subject to change.

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