Weather Helmed

an adventure in renewing the spirit and living the dream…on a sailboat

Weather Helmed

Maybe this is a little TOO honest….. FULL DISCLOSURE: one month in

March 24th, 2010 · 8 Comments · Boat Work, Introspection, Life Lessons, Life on the Boat, Mexico, Oh Crap., Stupid Ideas, The beginning, This sucks

“What if I told you, Karen , that you couldn’t have anymore of anything… No more friends, no more money, no more anything, until you first got happy with what you have? Actually Karen , I’d never tell you that, because frankly, it’s not always true. But, if you’re not happy with what you’ve got, it’s hard to imagine that you’re really thinking favorably on those things. And the thoughts that you are thinking, perhaps unfavorable, limited, and afraid, are the ones that will receive priority in the manifestation of tomorrow.

~from The Universe

As a quick side note, how appropriate is it that I got that this morning, seeing as how I wrote the below last night…

It’s 3:21 A.M. and I am laying in the cockpit.  I’ve been up here for at least half an hour. I can’t sleep.  I woke up due to a nightmare (something ending with guns and me trying to gouge someone’s eyeballs out with my fingers), and then stayed awake worrying that our anchor was going to drag.  I came up here so my restlessness wouldn’t wake Matt.

Now, I’m out here, with the refrigeration compressor whining continually in the cabin below my head (because our fridge is leaking and so the compressor is running more often than it should) and the dinghy making slurping noises behind the boat, all which would make it difficult to sleep, even if I could.

My mind begins to wander and settles, inevitably, on this new life we’re living.  We motored out of Emeryville on February 10 and pulled into La Cruz March 14.  Today is March 24, so we’ve been “cruising” now for a little over a month.  And, truth be told, it hasn’t all been kittens and roses and rainbows.  Meaning, sometimes it really really really really sucks.

These past few days, and many more before this, Matt and I have been in especially foul moods.  A strange reality has begun to set in that life has not magically gotten better since we left.  We both had high hopes and expectations that we would be more relaxed, happy, motivated, lighthearted, carefree, etc. etc. once we left our jobs, left the marina, and freed ourselves from most of our landlubber obligations and responsibilities.  What we did not expect was that we might be absolutely miserable and it wouldn’t have anything to do with the weather or the condition of the boat.

I won’t speak for Matt here, although I know he’s struggling with similar thoughts, and I’m currently still trying to sort through my own emotions about this trip.  There have been days where I’ve wondered if this isn’t all a huge mistake.  If we foolishly entered into this trip without any real understanding of what the cruising life would demand from us.  Because, so far, it’s been a lot of WORK and not a lot of FUN; a lot of THIS SUCKS and not a lot of WOW THIS IS AWESOME.  There have been moments, of course, where it’s been kind of nice to not have to sit behind a desk, or think about commuting, and we’ve relished having our time be our own, and we realize that our experience is pretty spectacular.  But those moments have been few and far between and are quickly and easily overridden by moments of pure frustration and fatigue and worry and fear and annoyance and anger.

We had half-joked about this trip being our honeymoon, but, um, isn’t a honeymoon supposed to be where someone else fixes things (including breakfast), someone else cleans up after you, someone else worries about the details, and you and your honey just sit around feeding each other strawberries and jumping off waterfalls into peaceful lagoons and taking silly pictures of each other posing next to ridiculous statues or in front of the absurdly-named restaurant you just discovered?  This trip, so far, is certainly NOT honeymoon material, let me tell ya.

I know we’re only one month in and I know that we made it down to Mexico faster and with fewer stops than most sane people do, and I know that I’ll probably get two dozen comments telling me it will get better and to give ourselves a break, etc., but the reality is that, right now and for the last couple of days, I’m not happy and I’m not necessarily enjoying myself and I can’t say that this is really where I want to be or what I want to be doing with my life.

Being on the boat is not relaxing.  There is always something to worry about.  Yesterday, another cruiser whose opinion and knowledge we both respect, warned us about dragging our anchor even though we feel it’s pretty well set.  Apparently, in rolly anchorages like this one, when your boat is turning 360 degrees multiple times a day, it’s easy for your anchor rode (the chain) to become wrapped around the anchor and dislodge it from it’s nicely settled position.  This cruiser called up two other boats earlier this week to tell them they were dragging.  One of the boats had a 100-lb anchor!  So, even though we might have two anchor alarms set, it’s difficult to sleep at night, wondering if you’ll be awakened either by your boat banging against someone else’s or by a beeping alarm indicating that it’s imminent.  And, of course, there’s the rolling.  The constant rolling which just takes a toll on your body and your sanity.  And even little things are more challenging than you’d like them to be – like going to the grocery store or mailing a package or doing your laundry.  If I sound like a disgruntled, spoiled American whining about how it sucks to be subject to conditions that second and third world countries deal with everyday and that tons of Americans experience as well, so be it.   Right now, I am a disgruntled spoiled American who is feeling like maybe it wasn’t the best idea to give up the nice cozy, non-rocking apartment, with a glorious vertical fridge and a bathtub and easy-access laundry and carpet.

I feel bad saying these things because I know it makes Matt feel guilty.  After all, this whole sailing gig was his idea.  BUT  – after I realized the trip might *actually* happen, I got excited, too, and thought it would be an amazing experience.  Pristine, white sandy beaches and gently swaying palm trees are, after all, what dreams are made of, right?!?!

I just wasn’t prepared for life on the boat to be so HARD.  It’s not hard in the normal sense of the word, I guess, but it gets really old attempting something, just about anything, and have it be ten times more complicated, time-consuming, frustrating, painful, and difficult than you ever imagined it could be.  The mantra on Syzygy for the last six months has been “Nothing is ever easy” and there is currently no sign and very little hope that anything ever will be.

For those in the know, “cruising” has been said to be the euphanism for “doing boat work in exotic locations.”  We should have paid more attention to that phrase because so far it’s proven true.  Everyone we’ve met here has something they have to fix.  One family’s mast cracked, another had sails tear, one family has to have their dagger board repaired.  Others are fixing self-steering gear or searching for engine parts, we now have to re-charge the refrigeration system and fix our windvane.  The issue is not that all boats have problems, it’s that all boats ALWAYS have problems.  Poor Matt hasn’t really got a moment’s relaxation because his list of things to do on the boat continues to grow each day.  We talked about it a few days ago and the only solution I can come up with is that at some point, you just have to stop caring.  You have to stop caring about that new noise you hear, that new crack you see, that new leak that appears down below.  You just have to look at the boat and say F* It!  and go back to reading your book or snorkeling or whatever.  Because maybe, just maybe, that two weeks of total relaxation you get will outweigh the two months of non-stop boat work to fix all those problems and just discover new ones.  Sometimes, ignorance really is, for a few minutes at least, total bliss.

On this blog, I have tried to maintain, for the most part, an optimistic perspective I think.  There are some things in which, once a certain time and emotional distance is achieved, I can see the humor and craziness…  like the cereal incident.  But, that I can eventually see the ridiculousness of it doesn’t change the fact that I lost a year or two of life to stress and anger and frustration when it occurred.  I think that this, too, is another way having a boat is like having a child.  When the kid is three or seven or fifteen or twenty, you can laugh and joke about how s/he screamed like a banshee for the first three months after s/he was born.  But, from what I’ve heard, when you’re a new parent and your baby has been crying non-stop for the last 72 hours, you don’t think it’s cute or fun – you want to rip your hair out, bang your head against the wall and maybe hand your baby over to the lowest bidder.  Even though you know that it won’t be like this forever, it feels like there’s no end in sight.

That’s kind of how I feel right now.

I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed that the next few weeks will be better, that the Pacific crossing will be awesome and will be just the sort of true, complete break from the “real world” that we need to fully enter into relaxed, carefree cruiser mode…  That the days will come soon when the baby wakes up all smiles and giggles, gurgling and cooing happily…

until it starts teething.


ok, ok, I promise it’s back to sunshine and puppies tomorrow when I’ll have another post ready, and get this – there will be PICTURES.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Lou Quick

    I’m sorry ur sad. Cruising is hard work and hopefully there come those magic moments when you can really enjoy. Your parenting analogies are dead-on! As a sailor and father of three- 23,20 & 18 there still are more times when I wanted to sell them, 50 cents was the price, than joyous parental moments. But I wouldn’t trade those wonderful parental moments for anything.
    Like parenting or maybe anything in life – stick with it – time will tell. You’ve come so far. Trust each other, trust your boat you will need to learn to relax it takes time and confidence. I was able to build that up over years, and I still am. You guys jumped right into it. I’ve had the anchor drag, I’ve been on the rocks at 3:00 am, I’ve had boats drag into me. You take it as it comes, react and work through it. Do the best you can.
    March first 2010, my wife and I were in the BVI on a 40′ Hanse. Even in the most perfect place we had issues with the boat. My wife, who is new to cruising, had a short breakdown to cry, letting off some frustration and anxiety. She didn’t let me see this but told me about it later. To which I had to reply ” There’s no crying in sailing!” – Love Tom Hanks
    Be happy and get yourselves to a more protected less rolly anchorage. Good Luck – Love your blog.


  • jeffreyjack

    Such a great blog. Incredible honesty. Nice! From what I’ve learned from my current read: Stumbling on Happiness – Humans consistently fail at predicting what they think will make them happy. We are consistent with our hind-sight and present experience, but if we get attached to what we ‘think’ will bring us happiness, we can be disappointed how we then actually Feel in the new present. What I’ve learned from my Buddhism readings: Desire does not cause suffering. It is the Focus on the Lack of which you desire that causes suffering. (and maybe some of the trials of your present moments being harsh) Everything is constantly changing and focusing on the negatives will paralyze you and prevent you from seeing the good in the now. Know that, yes, you have the long to-do list – but you also have each other and the world and time and the huge ocean and are amidst an experience you’ll never forget or regret. Get some rest amigos if you can. I’m gonna go figure out how to buy you some rounds! Know you’re loved by all your land-lubber friends!

  • Brenda and David

    I’ve followed your blog since we met in San Diego. Your writing is very enjoyable. We love the baby analogy in a prior post.


    When things are different than we expected, it’s often hard to reconcile the dream with the reality and to figure out “are we still happy?” with this new unexpected reality. Usually David and I are “roll with the punches” types of people, so its all good. But…

    So many wacky things happen in life–and we’ve learned that many times things are so very much harder than we ever imagined they would be! From bootstrapping a business to rebuilding our boat ourselves, being able to laugh rather than cry and place the crazy, hard stuff all in perspective is what we strive for.

    I am blessed that David is a person who can laugh in the middle of disaster. As long as I’m able to let the stresses go, we can chuckle about the insanity of fluky winds, weird storms, parts that break while being installed, and the projects which still remain to be done.

    Yes, everything hurts today due to yesterday’s projects and yes we’ve got way too many things on the “to do” list to imagine they’ll ever be done! We just take it one day at a time and ask you to consider doing the same. “Don’t worry, be happy” 🙂

  • Mark

    Hang in there, it will get better and your rewards will come soon.

    I think there was a reference in on of the Lin and Larrry Pardey books on a “flopper stopper” – a device built from canvas and milk crates that acts like a check valve to prevent boat pitch in a rolly anchorage. I know, just what you need, another project and another thing to build, maintain and store on the boat… But if it is in the Pardey arsenal, you can assume it has some merit, given their minimalist approach.

    I hope you guys find the time to really value and enjoy the unique journey you are on. You are having an irreplaceable experience worthy of all the hardships. I find it is sometimes useful to project into the future and imagine how you will look back on your current circumstance, or what you might tell others, then try to make that the best memory or story possible – it requires some effort as well, but for me it grounds the present in the future and makes me focus on what I should value most. But then, I am not on a boat in a rolly anchorage, struggling to make breakfast (but I wish I were).

    Keep your chin up, have a beer, enjoy a sunset, catch a fish, sleep in whenever possible…

  • victor

    Perhaps your analogy about boating and child-rearing will prove true in another sense — that you will end up saying it was one of the most important experiences of your life that you wouldn’t trade it for anything. I hope so. Keep your chin up and your eye on the many graces that happen in your life every day.


  • Karen

    Lou~ thank you for your encouragement! “There’s no crying in sailing…” haha 🙂

    Jeffe!! Thanks for your comment. it is so true that happiness can be all around us, but if we’re not LOOKING for it, we can miss it altogether. We’re working on our attitude/mindset adjustment, just wishing we could flip a switch and be more relaxed, ya know? guess it’s not always that easy 🙂 love the quotes. How are things going for you there in MT?

    Brenda & Dave~ hi! thanks for keeping up with us! We are trying hard to laugh about things and keep our perspective. some days it’s easier than others. appreciate your encouragement!

    Mark~ thank you for your comment! Matt actually just made a flopper-stopper the other day and it’s helping some. but, you know boats…. i like your idea about “predicting” the future like that. will have to take some time and think about that vision.

    Victor~ i hope it’s that way!!!! “the many graces that happen in your life everyday…” you’re so right. we need to open our eyes to see a different, and better, world around us. Thanks for your comment.

  • Jenny Halteman

    Thanks for the honesty. Someone else posted a link to your blog and I’m psyched because I love reading other boat blogs.

    We’re stuck at the docks now (we’ve been living aboard for 3 years) and are making plans to cruise soon.

    It’s great to read about the suck parts of cruising. It doesn’t turn me off of the idea, it only paints a better picture of things for me.

    I can’t wait to read more of your blog!

  • God bless the internet

    […] for all my moaning and groaning, we’ve actually had a fantastic experience here in La Cruz and with the cruising community.  […]

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