We have been floating around now for over four months, the longest we have ever been on board non-stop. So how is it going, you ask? Well, it has been a period of adjustment, and probably a bit different to what we expected.Having started cruising in winter, 6 weeks of that time were hard going. We had difficult weather to contend with and very cold conditions. But once North of Sydney, things improved a lot. Life became far more comfortable and the sailing more enjoyable. And yet we feel we have not started in earnest; even though we are having fun now, the real cruising life will begin when we come back from France. In our first few months we could not go too far since we had to be back in Melbourne in early December.
We have sorted out systems
You think everything is organised when you leave, but there is a lot of fine tuning to do: desalination and washing machine operations, internet usage, managing rental properties and finances at a distance, mail… So it was a bit tentative to start with, but things are falling into place now.
Take our internet usage for instance; when you do everything online, you chew through your data allowance. We now have a better idea of our monthly need and the plan we are on is not sufficient. We can either curtail our use or pay more. As we don’t want to be restricted, we will get a bigger data allowance so we can run the website, get the weather, search for and download whatever we need as we see fit.
And the water maker – you can’t really use it in turpid or dirty water unless you want to clog your filters! So we find we don’t always use it as regularly as we ought to, particularly in ports or rivers. Certainly in coastal cruising conditions, you can do without. Again it will be different when we cruise to remote areas or spend time anchored at an island or at the reef.
On a boat it all takes longer to attend to the daily routine of life: food shopping, laundry, tracking your finances, boat maintenance… It takes hours. We knew this, but there is no getting away from it now that we are on board permanently. There is no rush though and when you are bound in an anchorage because of the weather, it does not matter, you have got all day!
We have been sorting ourselves out
Life as a couple on board has been relaxed and laid back as we knew it would be. It is not stress free; living afloat can never be. But it is a lot less stressful than the life we had and that is important for us. One aspect has been difficult. Dealing with chronic health issues can be a real challenge, especially on a boat. Late onset Type I Diabetes is an insidious condition and managing my erratic glucose levels on board is not easy. It has had adverse effects on my energy levels and sense of wellbeing. But the hardest thing is coping with realising my physical capacity is plummeting as the disease progresses. I used to be active and strong a few years ago and would take on anything physically demanding. Now we have to accept this is no longer the case. It is quite confronting and affects both of us.
Wade is more concerned about me than about himself. He is quite philosophical about his own condition (early prostate cancer). He is under supervision and accepts there is nothing he can do other than get monitored. “They’ll intervene when needed. Till then, life goes on.”
Although we had no choice but to come back to Melbourne this year for our medical issues, it will be different in future years. Both our specialists are comfortable managing us via Skype consults next year, so we won’t sail back to Melbourne, although we may fly back once in a while.
Another aspect we had not thought about much is physical exercise. It can be easy to do very little on a boat if you don’t get into a routine, and that goes for us and for our little pussycat! It is particularly the case if the weather does not allow us to get ashore for walks or the wind and sea make swimming, snorkelling or kayaking difficult. We don’t want to turn into blobs!! Wade has got into the habit of rowing the dinghy ashore, we walk as often as we can, take Bengie for beach wanders and we have purchased some Yoga and Pilates CDs for when we are boat bound.
One aspect that has somewhat surprised us is how little it costs to live aboard… especially when you don’t have mishaps! Our only regular expense is food and fuel for the boat. When you don’t wander around shops, there is no temptation! Of course there is normal boat maintenance and insurance, but that’s an expected annual cost. It is very comforting to know for sure we can manage well without fretting about the dollars.
We are planning for next year
In the first few months of our new life we have not been where we had hoped. Nothing we are doing is ‘remote’. We have mainly gone from port to port. It has been pleasant enough and we have caught up with friends along the way, but it has not been our usual wilderness expeditions. Why? Probably because of the amount of sorting out to do as described earlier, because we started in winter and because of the limitations of having to be back in Melbourne at the end of the year. Having got things under control now, we can structure our cruising differently for next year.
We have a plan: we will be going around Tasmania anticlockwise as soon as we get back from France; we have never sailed along the entire West coast, so this will be a new challenge for us and we look forward to returning to Port Davey. We will head to Queensland by autumn to spend winter around the Southern Great Barrier Reef for some serious snorkelling in tropical waters. In spring we will sail down to Southern Queensland around Fraser Island and Hervey Bay, far enough south to avoid the cyclones but still in warm regions. And this will have the added attraction of seeing the whales again. The one thing we have missed this year is hearing their song as they rest and socialise. So the protected coves on the west coast of Fraser Island and Hervey Bay are the spot to experience this.
And of course we hope to welcome friends on board in beautiful surroundings. Sharing our cruising brings us a lot of joy.
One of our friends, Baz, asked us what the highlight of the trip was so far and our favourite anchorages. It got us thinking! The highlight was easy: sailing in the midst of a whale migration, seeing hundreds of them! We felt so privileged and it is incredible to witness a story of recovery from near extinction. Favourite anchorages was harder, although Providence Beach at Broughton Island and the western side of Wilsons Promontory stand out.
What did we miss?
And our friend Ann asked “is there something you missed”? Nothing came to mind immediately, but then it dawned on us: long, hot showers!
So there you have it. We have spent time adjusting while thoroughly enjoying being on board, ‘retired’, and experiencing a relaxed pace. We have had some time to recover. We have the lifestyle we wanted, with its great pleasures and unavoidably its frustrations. All in all it is going well, but we are looking forward to really cruising without restrictions, really having the feeling of choosing our pace and place.
If any of you have questions or are curious about anything we have not covered here, don’t be shy, and send us a comment!