At some point in the dark and wee hours last night, I got up, grabbed a flashlight, and lifted a floorboard to peer down into the bilge, bottom of our boat. I'd like to tell you why, because it's a huge part of why this endeavor is about so much more than "going sailing" for James and I.
James has recently been working on reconfiguring the plumbing of our fresh water system. Our hot water heater had, by design, a slight drip. James did not agree with this design (waste of water, and who wants unnecessary water dripping into the bilge?), so he is taking steps to eliminate it. This is a process, and has involved repeated attempts and layers of solution. He has been endlessly patient, spending hours crammed into the awkward engine compartment, teaching himself about plumbing from books and the internet, and bemoaning that American and European plumbing is not standardized. (Our boat is Swedish, so parts are metric and often hard to source in California.) He sometimes shouts EMBRACE THE SUCK. He sometimes mutters it under his breath. He is my hero.
Currently, we are waiting on some parts. There is still a drip. There is a bucket catching the drip. You can see the blue bucket in the engine room in the photo above.
Last night I was in bed, sleeping. I heard the water pump kick on a couple of times, which told me that water was dripping out of the system and being replaced. After a couple rounds of this, my sleepy mind kicked up some anxiety. This is a natural tendency of human bodies, especially those of 48 year old women -- some anxiety upon waking in the wee hours. My inner conversation last night went like this:
Anxiety: OMG HOW MUCH WATER IS THAT TANK LOSING?
Calm: There's a bucket under the drip, honey.
Anxiety: BUT WHAT IF IT OVERFLOWS?!
Calm: Then it will flow into the bilge, which is designed to catch water just like that.
Anxiety: HOW MUCH WATER CAN IT HOLD?!
Calm: Well, there's a pump in the bilge which will pump the water out if it hits the level of the sensors.
Anxiety: BILGE PUMPS CAN FAIL. WHAT IF OURS DOESN'T WORK? WHAT IF THAT'S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?!?!
Calm: Well, let's just go see what's up so we can sleep, okay?
It was my turn to sleep against the hull, so I scampered quietly over James, went out into the saloon, and grabbed the flashlight in the dark from its standard place, appreciating how wonderful it was to be able to grab a flashlight silently in the dark. I peeked and saw that the bilge was dry as an old bone. I was able to return to bed and easily lull myself right back to sleep, happy that the bilge was dry, happy that I had known how to check, happy that I had known how to honor and settle my fear so easily. When the pump kicked on again later and I felt James wake, I whispered that I had checked the bilge and all was good. He muttered "Oh my gosh, you rock," and we both went back to sleep a bit longer.
When we tell people we are going adventuring on a boat that we live on, they often say how frightening this sounds, because it is not a familiar way to live, and that which is not familiar is often frightening. This story is a perfect example of why we love this life. On land, if anxiety hit in the middle of the night, it would likely spin about something that was beyond my control. And SO MUCH is no longer in our control in modern American urban lives. In the attempt to make life easier and more comfortable, people's lives have shifted more and more toward spending their time working at their jobs and hiring other people for all the other parts of their lives. Other people clean the house, repair the car, care for the children, fix the plumbing and the wiring and the roof and, and.... Often, now, in San Francisco, other people select your food, even chop your vegetables. Even the great human pleasure of feeding oneself is outsourced. There are apps where other people will park your car for you, pack your suitcase for you. Freeing you to... just work more and more, it seems! Everything is supposedly moving toward ease and comfort but honestly, no one seems more comfortable. Everyone is always talking about anxiety.
Modern Americans often hire away responsibility for the everyday maintenance of our lives because we think it will be easier, and we mistake ease for comfort. But in abdicating basic responsibility for ourselves, we lose our grounding. We feel adrift, and we spin, anxious, unconnected.
James and I believe that abdication of the basic maintenance of the means to survival is at the root of a lot of modern anxiety. We find that choosing a simpler/harder life in which we spend more of our time and effort working on the means of our existence makes us feel more grounded (in the happy metaphoric way, not the literal sailing boat-run-aground way), more connected, happier, more peaceful. When the worries hit in the middle of the night, I can shine a flashlight on them. I know how to do that.
We look forward to discussing this in depth over time. We'd love to hear how this resonates for you in the discussion!