Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Things That Drive Us Mental

Scott, going 'mental'.  Not really, but it looks like it.
The thing that makes me laugh the hardest about our lifestyle is this overwhelming insistance 'outsiders' have on calling what we do a "permanent vacation"...
Sure, we live on a boat in the Caribbean.  Sure, we don't work for the 'man' in a cubicle that measures 3x4 (though we do, actually, work) and yes, we can do things like go to the beach, snorkel and swim in the ocean daily.  BUT (and this is a big BUT) , I would wager to bet that 80% of you who call what we do a "permanent vacation" and think of it as such, would be sorely disappointed by how little our life resembles, say, a week of R&R at a beach-side bungalow in St. Barths (ah, that would be nice).  Furthermore, I would wager that an equal number of you (after seeing how we "really" live) could not be paid to live the way we do.

Don't get me wrong - we LOVE it (otherwise we wouldn't be doing it) - but this 'lifestyle' is no walk in the park, and it most certainly is not a permanent vacation. Different lifestyle, yes.  But vacation?  Not at all.  For some reason, when someone says they live in the Caribbean, all problems are assumed null and void.  If I even hint at having a bad day, I am barraged with responses like, "But you live in the Caribbean, what could possibly be so bad?!?!"  Well, I am here to tell you that it ain't always paradise in paradise...

So - in an effort to "keep it real" and not show you everything through rose-colored glasses, here are the
Top 10 Things that (can) Drive us Mental as Live-Aboard's

  1. Flies and mosquitos.  At the moment, they are everywhere (it's the rainy season here).  There is nothing, nothing more annoying than drifting off to sleep only to hear the telltale buzzing of a mosquito that you know is going to be at you all night unless you kill it.  I have become the master mosquito killer of our duo.  Today, on the way to the bathroom (which is one small step for man, one giant swat for winged insects), I killed three blood-filled mosquitos and missed about 3 others.  The clincher? Yesterday, I killed a fly - a disgustingly huge fly - that was buzzing around my head while I was reading.  I grabbed the swatter and when I squished it, it busted open to expose hundreds of tiny, squirming maggots inside it.  I cannot make this up people.  It was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen, and even typing it out has me wanting to Lysol our entire boat and douse myself in bleach.  Ugh.
  2. The heat.  It is summer here.  Which means temperatures are in the high 90's pretty much every day.  The sun rises around 6:00am and it sets around 6:00pm and it is consistently, uncomfortably hot between those hours.  The sun is incredibly strong and shade is your best friend.  There have been days we have not left our boat because simply going outside is just too exhausting.  Another side effect of heat?  Sweat.  I have never been what you would call a "sweaty" person, but down here, it's sweat city and it's gross.  Did I mention we have no air conditioning?  Because we don't.  We have a few dinky, sub-par fans that have a life of their own and do little to quell the heat (read on for more on them).
  3. No refrigeration.  We've been dealing with this since the beginning - and we've been doing okay.  But we're starting to crack.  Mostly because of the aforementioned item and secondly because we are so limited by it.  We can't have leftovers and fresh food must be gobbled up quickly or else it goes bad.  We have no cold drinks and things like yogurt, most cheeses, milk (who the heck can have cereal with room temp UHT milk?  We cannot.) and more are just not part of our diet.  If we use 1/2 a can of spinach, the other half goes bad.  If we use 1/2 a can of condensed milk, the rest is wasted.  Thus, we are strongly considering removing ourselves from the "hard core" group of cruisers who lack refrigeration and going to the dark, cold side.
  4. Our holding tank.  When you flush your toilet, the contents mysteriously get whisked way into an intricate system of government run pipes and sewers where it eventually gets treated once, twice, three times and more and then, magically, gets reintroduced into the environment all polished and pretty.  And all you had to do to start that process was flush a toilet.  Unfortunately, things aren't that easy for us.  We hold only 12 gallons of "waste" at a time (that's about two days of two people going to the bathroom) - and then we need to do something about it.  At sea we pump it overboard, but in this marina - we obviously can't.  We used to have it pumped out every week and use the marina bathrooms for anything that was not number one.  Even that got tedious because our holding tank gets so full, so fast.  So now what do we do?  We pee in the bathroom sink.  Yep.  I admitted that.  Our holding tank stays empty, we don't have to walk to the marina bathrooms five times a day and it's easier for everyone.  Sorry - I warned you this wasn't going to be pretty.  This is the truth people.  No glossing over.
  5. Each other.  Spending 24/7 together takes it's toll on two people and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.  Just because we're young and in love does not mean we skip down the dock hand-in-hand and have tickle fights every night as we dream of future horizons.  Sorry.  Sometimes, it gets ugly - especially with two head-strong people.  We have disagreements, things get heated, and sometimes - we need to spend a day doing our own thing.  This lifestyle is not for the weak relationships, in fact - we have heard many a story of marriages and engagements falling apart at sea.  If you think of this lifestyle as a way to make your already rocky relationship better, you have another think coming!  Luckily, Scott and I are on firm ground as far as our relationship goes, but I might have thrown a bottle of sunscreen at him once (okay, and an empty coffee cup - relax, it was paper!).
  6. Cooking.  I know this is no surprise to any of you, because I am pretty vocal about my dislike of cooking, but someone still has to do it (and yes, Scott cooks too).  Those of you who follow our Facebook page might even notice I have been "kicking it up a notch" by cooking more involved meals.  Again, this doesn't mean I like it.  Cooking in a boat (for me) is difficult at best and always involves breaking a sweat because a) the stove/oven can heat up this place in no time and b) getting 'supplies' usually involves me on all fours, lifting floorboards, cushions and carpets to get at something.  Then I need to do it all again to get the rest of the ingredients.   Is it a deal-breaker?  Not at all.  A pain in the ass sometimes?  You bet.
  7. Tight quarters.  Our entire home is probably similar in size to your foyer.  The other day, we saw a private bathroom bigger than our entire living area.  While we love our boat and know that it is perfect for us, there are moments when we feel like we are going to burst at the seams.  Rasmus is by no means "roomy" and living in such tight quarters; especially when we combine #1 with #2 (and occasionally, #5), it can be downright unbearable and it's then that I hop online to Yachtworld.com and dream of boats in the 40 foot range.  Then, reality sinks in and I remember all the work we did to this boat and how much work - and money - a new boat would require and the bubble bursts.  Luckily, those times of desperation are few and far between - but trust me, if you are going to be living on a boat, you too will get size envy from time to time.
  8. Our fans.  We currently have these fans and they don't blow, they suck.  Big time.  They were great, we loved them and their three speed on-a-timer convenience - but now, just barely a year old, they are taking on lives of their own.  They must be coerced to work by gently tapping, hitting (and sometimes kicking) *just* the right way while tilted at *just* the right angle, and even then they work intermittently.  They are on the fritz, and when the weather is 89 and sunny every single day, this is not a good time to be fritzing.  We despise these fans.  Do NOT buy them.
  9. Feeling stuck.  At the moment, it is hurricane season and we're not moving much.  Scratch that - we're not moving at all, actually.  This irks us greatly because we LOVE to be on the move.  Staying in the same place for a very long time is not our style and we miss the wandering life.  While we enjoy the opportunity to explore this island, we sort of wish we were in cruising mode again.  We think Rasmus is growing roots or at the very least a heck of a lot of barnacles and sea life under her keel - neither of which she likes.  Speaking of, anyone want to come down and scrape them off?  That job also sucks.
  10. Sunscreen.  Sunscreen is a necessary evil in my opinion.  You have to wear it, lest you end up looking like Magda a la "Something about Mary", but it makes you feel greasy, slimy and disgusting.  Once you mix a little sweat in there, then you really feel ripe.  Go ahead, scratch your arm and then check under your nails after - I dare you.  You'll see a disgusting brown film underneath them and you're not sure if it's dead skin or dirt.  Yeah, it's gross.  They say the best inventions simply improve existing products and I'll tell you, sunscreen is one thing that is in DIRE need of a re-vamp.  We've tried them all; sprays, grease-free, sensitive skin, generic and top of the line.  They're all equally evil.  Surely there must be a better way of blocking the sun other than being cloaked from head to toe?  A way to douse myself in some sort of invisible shield?  Some sort of body wash that cleans and applies SPF?  Inventors, do you hear my plea?

So there you have it.  I told you I was going to be honest, and I told you it wasn't going to be the rosy view you are used to.  I was also going to mention all the boat work, chores and how often things break - but Scott actually enjoys fixing these things and he lives for "projects" so it doesn't make the list for us, but I think he is the exception (he can fix anything).  So... for all of you who look at us and think we're just lounging around in the sun drinking tropical slushy rum drinks, maybe this will help you to see that, though we are living our dream and living life on our own terms, it ain't always pretty.


Last Paradise said...

You mean its not sailing off into the sunset with a cocktail in your hand? This is always the hardest part to explain to people... And yes, I have peed in the sink too ;) Keep having fun! xo Abby

Tytti said...

This could ease the sunscreen problem:


TT said...

LOL. I love this post B, you nailed it all right there. I'm just about to write my own post, mainly about #5, as many have asked us: "how is it possible that two people who're together day and night can make it without wanting to kill each other?" Well it is NOT possible!!! You wish to know how many times we almost DID kill each other???

Ha ha, glad to hear I'm not the only one throwing things.

Dave said...

Do you regret taking out the bigger holding tank that the boat originally had or was it worth it for the extra stowage? Have you thought about installing an Type II MSD?

fairwinds4linda said...

Brittany, If I could add #ll - or an "honorable mention" it would be boat bites. Those nasty bumps and bruises you get when the boat zigs and you zag; when you go to pour your coffee and miss the cup; when you climb down the companion way and miss a step because the boat is healed. I could go on. But for me, boat bites make me crazy!

Windtraveler said...

@Dave - nope, we don't regret it at all - the space we made is MUCH better. This isn't typically an issue as we anchor most of the time - but our circumstances are different at the moment and we have to be at the marina...and no, we have never considered a type II MSD - too much hassel, too much $$.
@ Tytti - NICE!! A pill would be PERFECT!
@ Taru - glad you can relate (and I, too, am happy to hear I am not the only one throwing things!!)
@ Linda - very true, though boat bites aren't really a problem on our boat for us - probably because it's so cozy and compact and there's not much to be bitten with ;)

Anonymous said...

That has to be one of your best posts so far! For those of us still in the planning phase it's always good to have those rose colored glasses smacked off every once in awhile. Thanks for the info!


Quest to Sail said...

My wife and I love to read your blog and dream ... I am NOT sharing this post since #4 is already and issue with her on our charter trips. No more posts like this (JK)! As always, love your writing style.

Mike Riley said...

Frigoboat Rocks! Check it out.

We have a huge ice box and it runs maybe 12 hours a day, (1/2 hour every hour) and pulls 5 amps during that time. Keeps everything at 40F. One solar panel will keep up with it. Given the new technology it really isn't a big deal at all to have cold drinks on board.

Our unit is the keel cooled version. It'll probably quit today now that I've said this but the unit we have has been running for three years non stop for the most part with no failures, other than Rachel, my wife putting a knife through the evaporator plate! Good times.

Marcy said...

Hey Brittany! I love your brutal honesty! Have you ever thought of putting in a composting toilet? Just a thought! :^)


Anonymous said...

Do you have a Y valve? Perhaps just pump the head straight overboard for number 1, and use the holding tank for the rest. Same as peeing in the sink without the pee in the sink.

NatGeoWannaBe said...

So....what you are really saying is that I should be extra careful brushing my teeth in the head on your boat?

Like that you are keeping it real! Sometimes it's good to see the "un-photoshopped" version of 'paradise' that we all envision.

Jessica said...

I won't leave you hanging, you're not the only one who solves #4 that way. We only empty our holding tank about 3 times a season on out boat, and going in the sink definitley helps with that.

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Great post! It's always good to get the truth, the good and the ugly! I often wondered about your choice of sunscreen as I've never found anything I'm happy with either. Pee in a sink ... I've peed in a cup several times. After all, I'm from the land of New Orleans and Mardi Gras! LOL! Thanks again guys!

L.L. said...

Marine fans a such a rip off. Places like West Marine mark up cheap plastic fans just because it is 'marine'. We have 2 AutoExpression fans on board. They have a super strong clip so you can move them depending on where you are in the boat. They are amazing and you can buy them in the car section of Target for $8.00.


Also, we just made the jump to 'non hard core' and bought a used refrigerator. It is amazing. It freezes meat and uses very little power. It's worth it for cold cocktails, trust me.

Liz in San Diego

Whisperboat said...

We have cruising friends that have one of these and it works well if you can find a spot for it. Not cheap of course but well made. http://www.roadtrucker.com/engel/engel-12-volt-acdc-refrigerator-freezer.htm

We pee in the sink too from time to time. :-) No big deal.

Tytti said...

I thougt about a cup too. Sink (or plastic bottle) is easier for men, but it gets hilarious thinking about the acrobatics needed for women to get over the sink ? Some sinks are quite small and on a high level.

Christy said...

Wow. Just barely got off a seven day trip island hopping in Greece on a 50-ft boat.
It was my first time doing anything more than a day sail and I walked away with: 50 gazillion mosquito bites (but don't worry, I seem to be the only one onboard they liked), seriously dirty fingernails (despite my best efforts to keep them nice, several times a day) piles of grotty skin kind of stuck to me all over the place, pasted in place with sweat and sunscreen.
Also: Memories of the BEST WEEK EVER.
Now it's all said and done I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Tomorrow. Tonight. Now. In fact I'd sell my car and all of my stuff and jump on a boat full-time if the opportunity came up. I'm a little bit hooked.

(We had things a bit more luxurious, I will admit - We had a cold box, direct pump-out system and sometimes a fridge/freezer - thankfully, as ice was essential because I dislocated my thumb 20 minutes into the trip!! Ugh!)

wandoo1 said...

hi i've never bought fans that are pre-made. i was given this advice after the one and only store bought mistake. buy a computer fan, runs on 12 volt. Solder a switch to the circuit and presto cheap fan. i have a 4 inch fan which is 9 YEARS old that still runs perfectly. it is my exhaust fan for my engine room. can't beat it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys! Just catching up on your latest posts. Its starting to get "real"! Its been hot and buggy here in GT too which made cleaning up after Irene that much more fun.

Your holding tank issues made me think you might be happy with a composting head. We use them here a KH now from a company called Nature's Head. They work great and do not stink because they separate the poo and the pee. Two people could go weeks before need to "change the tank". A couple of Bob's customers installed them on their boats and like them. Anyway, let us know if you're interested and we could hook ya up with a good deal.

Good on ya! Hang in there! Summer is almost over!

Catherine (Exuma)

Anonymous said...

Just getting around to reading past blog posts... I'm so glad I'm not the only one who pees in the sink. And yes, I admitted that too haha! Sometimes you've gotta do what you've gotta do.

Melody s/v Vacilando said...

I just stumbled upon this old post and cracked up out loud. Peeing in the sink - SOOOOOO true. Been there, done that, and am probably a master at doing a 3-toed balancing act on one foot as a result (so as not to put all of my weight on the sink). So funny.

Anonymous said...

You should try the good old cedar bucket or if you want something really modern and high tech get a plastic one.

Robyn said...

Hey Windtraveler, What you need for those pesky flies and mosquitos is the Amazing Handheld Zapper from Amazon!


Reading the review comments is almost as fun as frying the little buggers! Honestly, it works great and after waking up with 15+ bites one morning I don't even feel guilty any more.

Fair winds,
Robyn, s/v Smart Move

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