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Pearls of Wisdom
Random Reflections
On Being Re Metau
Ocean Side Relaxing
~ Ocean Side Relaxing ~
Reflections Icon
Top 10 Annoyances of Life Aboard
Just a Pinch of Reality
The space in which we live isn't even big enough to entertain an echo. It's prone to palsy motions, strange sounds, and peculiar smells, and one must forever remain with a weather eye open.

Let's begin with the motions. There're those during sailing – spending hours heeled over at 10 degrees while on a close reach, The point of sail where the wind is coming from between 20° and 90° off the bow. or the stomach-clenching wallowing while on a run.The point of sail when the wind is coming from the stern. There're those while at anchor – pitching fore and aft like a hobby horse being the much preferred dynamic to the inconsistent, side to side rolly gesticulation that knocks everything over and throws everyone into a bad mood.

Next come the sounds. There are the banging of stored goods as the boat is heeling, wallowing, rocking and rolling. There is the incessant slapping of windblown ropes and waves against the hull. There's the grinding of the anchor rodeRefers to the chain or rope that attaches the anchor to the boat. as the chain sweeps the ocean floor and the snubberThe snubber is used to reduce shock load on the anchor rode, especially on an all chain rode. rubs against the bobstay.A cable that runs from the tip of the bowsprit down to the hull, and counteracts the upward force of the forward sail and rigging. And then there's the forever inexplicable 'ting…whoop…gurr…thump' that will wake you up, get you up, stop until you give up, then start again just as you go back to sleep.

And if we're sitting comfortably and quietly on calm seas, there's always the possibility that a heart-stopping buzzer will jolt us out of our tranquility. Besides the customary household alarms for smoke and carbon monoxide, we have an inordinate number of additional signals to warn us about the numerous other problems that might occur; if our anchor drags, if another boat is bearing down on us, if our bilge is filling up with water, if our engine's oil pressure is dropping, if our chart plotter loses its GPS signal, if our autopilot loses control. About the only ordinary alarm we don't have is one to wake up for work!

Then last, but far from least come the smells – which are trapped and amplified by the small space in which we live; the holding tank, the scummy sump, the fuel fumes, and the captain's flatulence (no dog around to blame.) The noxious odors can become inescapable, because if you think going out on deck is always a viable solution for fresh air, you've never smelled 'Low Tide.' Imagine the stench of moldering slime mixed with rotting fish and you've got an inkling of the bouquet.

Several people have asked us what the biggest hassles are about living aboard versus living in a house. The funny thing is, everything I've mentioned so far doesn't even make the list. I feel like all my senses are keenly engaged with this more organic lifestyle. However, for those people who are looking for the facts to better balance our reality, we accommodate with a list of some of the really annoying aspects of this lifestyle.

Don Doing a Bottom Job
~ Don Doing a Bottom Job ~
1. Always Something Expensive to Do
Huh? I said that was one of the Pleasures About Life Aboard didn't I? At least without the Expensive part. The word 'Boat' is often referred to as an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand.

Don and I have often debated whether it was true that a boat is far more work than a house. We don't have a lawn to mow each week, but we have a hull to wash and scrape each month. It took us a minimum of 3 hours to properly clean the inside of our house (and we are tidy people), it takes us about 30 minutes to clean the inside of our boat.

My argument is that if a person were to do all the maintenance suggested by every household appliance, and were to keep an immaculate yard, clean gutters and freshly painted siding – the work would be equal. But it is rare when a homeowner feels obliged to do that level of upkeep. It's not likely that a life threatening situation would occur because the paint on a window pane is peeling.

Well, sometimes all the projects and maintenance required to keep a ship in shape can get a little overwhelming. You know the adage – A boat is a hole in the water that you throw money into. The really aggravating thing is the price of anything marked 'Marine Grade' is 10 times the cost of a comparable household item. Marine appliances, waterproof gear, even the clothing sold for sailing can wither a wallet. And if you want to reduce the cost of a repair or improvement, you can plan on spending a lot of time doing the work yourself.

I say a house is just a hole in the ground that you throw money into as well. No one looks at a house in that manner because it's allegedly an investment that will most likely be recouped once sold. I say allegedly because several expenses to the financial investments made in a house are often over-looked, and most likely the seller is going to take their profit from that investment and turn into a buyer, who is paying for someone else's investment. It's just a vicious circle.

In any event, a boat cannot and should never be viewed as a financial asset. It is more accurate to equate the investment properties of caring for a boat to raising children. They are expensive, take a lot of your time, and can cause a great deal of headache and pain. But properly cared for, they will provide you with endless joy, steadfast loyalty and a great deal of pride.

Neptune In Storage
~ Neptune In Storage ~
2. Nothing is 'Right at Hand'
It is fair to assume there is less available storage on a boat then in a house. And it is easy to conclude that things need to be stowed properly so as not to go flying while underway. However, there is one unexpected disparity about storage in a house verses storage on a boat.

In a house, you have logical places for things – food, pots and dishes in the kitchen, towels and sheets in the linen closet, coats and boots in the mud room. On an ocean cruiser such as ours – there is no real such separation of space. So you store where things fit, and try very hard to remember where that was. Some people make maps and lists of what is stored where. Organization is the key to having a clue as to where your stuff is.

One bit of guidance I'd received regarding life on a cruiser was to only open the ice box for short periods of time to prevent the cold from spilling out and reduce it's electrical demands. Well I find this expectation most humorous. Like every compartment onboard, it is not uncommon for me to have to completely empty the box to get at whatever it is I'm going in for.

When it's time to retrieve something from some cubby or locker, I've figured out that it's just easier to remove everything on top then to try and exhume the item through everything else in the space. But it's a good way to keep balance with only having necessities on board, and it causes us to clear out anything that isn't useful.

SCUBA Shark
~ SCUBA Shark ~
3. Boat Bites
It seems that every boat project must include a little skin and blood. We've come to call these 'Boat Bites.' Don and I are never without cuts, bruises, bumps and scrapes. Our band aids have migrated from the dark recesses of the first aid kit, to just inside the medicine cabinet, to the top of the salon table along with our umpteenth tube of Neosporin.

Like Olympic athletes we competitively compare our wounds with honor. "Look, I was awarded the purple toe for the dropping wrench on foot event. I think that beats your bronze welt in the vanish scraping with heat gun category." I've come to regard scar tissue as a sign that we're running behind on boat work.

Re Metau coaches us toward the final objective, challenging us to endure the pain and goading us to strive for perfection. So we twist our ankles, scrape our shins and bang our elbows trying to make her proud of our achievements. Luckily we've not experienced anything too severe. We aren't complete klutzes and we do try to take all the safety measures possible.

But let's face it; we're dealing with tight spaces, constant motion, and a somewhat demanding vessel. She only deserves the very best and at the finish line, we are always rewarded.

Hey, I've read that wrinkles mean you laughed, grey hair means you cared and scars mean you lived! Re Metau is endowing us with all three of these badges of honor!

Diana at the Helm
~ Diana at the Helm ~
4. The World is Not Flat
Ok – so it has been many centuries since anyone believed that the world was flat. But the majority of land dwellers occupy very square, planar and level spaces. Take a quick look around your environment right now and compare the number of cubical shapes you see to the number of curves and spheres. Thousands of years later we still praise the invention of the wheel, but we depend on the utility of the straight line.

It stands to reason that we tend more toward 90° in our daily utility of man-made creations. With basic math we can measure a line; basic geometry will tell us an angle. However it takes calculus to analyze a curve. More things can be packed in a box. Gravity and motion have less power on a cube. Like lazy architects we settle on the simplistic nature of straight lines. And so, we surround ourselves with flat surfaces, and create a level world. Unless you live on a sailboat.

We have very few flat surfaces, and the level plane changes with the wind. Our walls are concaved, our angles obtuse or acute. The power of gravity and motion are constantly revealed to us as things not strapped down on at least 3 points will soon tilt, slide, fall or fly. Sometimes even that doesn't stop the screws from unscrewing and the glue from ungluing.

The frustration comes when we try to employ objects originated on terra firma in our wavy world. Try stocking cartons in a refrigerator that is shaped like a quarter of an avocado. Try putting fitted sheets on a trapezoid mattress. Imagine throwing a rug over a clamshell shaped floor, or trying to stack boxes up the inside of a bowl.

I understand the reason for each curve on our vessel, and I have grown to love the lines of Re Metau. I look around at nature and see no truly straight columns, no sharp angles, no boxlike shapes. I believe the need to have all things straight, level and flat is due to man's obsession with manipulating his environment. But we're living in a more natural flow of form, and it is we who must bend in order to not break.

Florida Keys Friends
~ Florida Keys Friends ~
5. Leaving Your Friends
Like dogs greeting their own kind in the park, we vigorously wag our hands at any passing human we see on the water. All these wonderful people come floating into our lives with whom we have so much in common, and so much to share. In some instances, one or the other of us has journeyed for extended periods of time, isolated from the human race. We tend to bond almost immediately with other sailors, becoming tight knit traveling communities.

And then all too soon it seems, the time for someone to sail on to a new destination arrives. This is perhaps the hardest thing about being a live-aboard. You try to gather for the grand sendoff, but so often a weather window opens suddenly, the anchor is hoisted quickly, and silently a member drifts off. You're joyous about the adventures ahead, but sad about the break in the bond.

Don Diving Down
~ Don Diving Down ~
6. It will Fall into the Water
Have you ever noticed when you're in the bathroom, and the lid of the toilet seat is up, that anything you drop – no matter how far away – will bounce and do a perfect NBA arc right into the bowl. Two points if it's not your toothbrush. Water must have some mysterious magnetic forces yet to be recognized by the scientific community.

And we are surrounded by it on all sides. It doesn't matter how hard we try and keep a good grip on our tools – many of them are now lost at sea. I try to center myself on the deck, crouching around whatever it is I'm working on, and inevitably a screw or nut will magically fly up and dive into the deep blue. On the occasions we go to purchase those essential, and expensive stainless steel fasteners for the project du jour, I always buy extras as alms to Poseidon.

Cell phones, groceries, shoes, jewelry, all have gone to a soggy grave. I would venture to bet that the most common item lost to the ocean floor would be sunglasses. I don't believe I've met a boater yet who has not contributed at least one pair to the depths. While diving, it would not surprise me to discover an entire school of mahi mahis sporting Maui-Jims while on the hunt. Cuts down the glare and stylish to boot – they would consider these gifts from the thunder gods, bestowed when that roar and churn sweeps across the alien space above their watery world.

Often times it's not just small, inanimate objects taking the plunge. Don has rescued several of our dock mates, as well as our cat Neptune on more than one occasion. The captain himself has suffered the indignity of taking an unexpected dip or two, but I don't find those moments annoying. I find them amusing!

Some of the most devastating losses to the ocean's powerful pull occur around sunset near Re Metau's own little Bermuda Triangle, our grill – where the sea has stolen my beautiful steak, and liberated the lobster tails from Don's grasp. Those are sober, mournfully meatless moments not soon subdued.

So we tighten up our harness, and loosen our possessiveness, and suffer some vexation for the ocean's liberation.

The Manatee River Bascule Bridge Guard
~ The Manatee River Bascule Bridge Guard ~
7. It Will Rust, Stain, Fade or Break
If it doesn't fall into the water – it will rust. Not eventually, not slowly over time. It will rust right before your very eyes. It doesn't matter what type of metal it is. Eventually it will corrode, tarnish, oxidize; whatever reaction the ocean can extract from the metal, it will. In a matter of weeks, cans of food will be nibbled on by the salty air. Chrome rails will display burnt sienna blemishes days after polishing. Bronze and copper all turn sea green and stainless steel is little more than cud, endlessly gnawed on by the hungry sea.

If it isn't metal, it will get stained. The ocean works at absorbing all it can into its body in what ever way it can. With heat, moisture, and constant agitation, it endeavors to digest everything it touches. And in this environment many things liquefy or turn gooey. Grease, ink, dye, coffee, varnish, sea spray, you name it. It will jump up, spill over, melt onto or drip off of something and inevitably leave a stain. I am certain that all Don has to do is look at a tube of caulk and it leaps onto his shirt. Our good clothes are the ones with the least amount of noticeable stains. And the ironic thing is – most of the stains are rust colored.

But we don't lose sleep about the stains, because it is only a matter of time until, like all deep hues, it will completely fade. What the sea doesn't alter, the sun does. It saps all the pigment from most any material, bleaching everything to a chalky pastel. According to the sun, brilliant colors are reserved for fish and flowers only.

Alas, rusted, stained or faded it will ultimately break. No matter how expensive the 'marine grade' item was, it will come to some inexplicable demise. And it usually happens when you need it most. That waterproof seal will leak and short out that very expensive VHF radio, or spot light, or electronic do-hicky. That UV coating will degrade and it will rip, snap or crack. It will rupture, shatter, fracture, and split. And your first thought will be "I don't have a spare one of these!"

And so, we admire from afar the shiny surfaces, luxurious textures, vibrant colors and functioning do-hickies that will long endure in safe seclusion from the sunlight and sea air. To have such things aboard is fleeting, making the really necessary becomes ever more evident.

Where We Came From
~ Where We Came From ~
8. Meet the Head
The systems related to the marine toilet on a boat are referred to as 'the head.' They are somewhat complex, with a series of vents, tubes, pumps and seals, all designed to manage waste no larger than rabbit droppings. At the end of this labyrinth of piping is a holding tank, in our case strategically located just underneath the berth and sized to store a day's worth of waste from no more than two little bunnies.

When we moved aboard it was just a wild guess how much our tank would hold, as we had no means to monitor how full it was. Frankly I had no idea how many gallons of excrement Don and I were capable of producing in a day. After all the material possessions we purged from our lives, as live-aboards we are required by law to carry our sh*t around with us – literally!

I've often read that more cruising dreams have been shattered by the head, than any other piece of equipment onboard a vessel. You can have your electronics fail and still see your way on paper charts. You can have your engine break down and still move forward on sail power. It may seem exasperating, but you can do without your refrigerator, your air conditioner, your stereo, or any other of those creature comforts. But when your head starts causing problems – there is nowhere to run and hide from the stench.

I know from experience there is no viler odor than human waste. Especially when it has been stored in a tank, churned into a viscous sludge and allowed to ferment in the summer heat. When our holding tank backed up from having company put too much demand in it, there was no sleep to be had – by anyone on board. My most dreadful experience with the head was having the pump-out tube erupt in a volcanic explosion right into my face. I could not get to the shower fast enough and have gone through a great deal of self-hypnosis to erase that experience from my memory.

This is one system on a boat that does not allow its problems to go unnoticed. If the neglected tribulations of civilizations could produce smells akin to the marine head, the attack on everyone's olfactory senses would demand an immediate solution and the world would be a far more compassionate place for the human race.

Boot Key Harbor Dinghy Dock
~ Boot Key Harbor Dinghy Dock ~
9. You are where Everyone Wants to Be
Again – didn't I say that was one of the Pleasures About Life Aboard? Well – there are consequences to being located in vacation hot-spots. When everyone retreats to the same place, there is no place left to retreat from everyone. Traffic and crowds are thick on any sunny day, and during certain times we don't even bother to attempt going ashore. Even normally peaceful anchorages become magnets to raucous weekend boaters.

We've also experienced the ugly American tourist on more than one occasion. For some reason, when these people are away from home they revert to adolescence – forgetting how to use a trashcan, failing to pick up their toys from outside, disregarding quiet time, cutting in line, and generally being rowdy and insufferable.

One day we were cooling off on the edge of a small and crowed pool when a 300+ pound, debatably post-pubescent man decided it would be a good idea to do a cannonball into the midst of all the waders. Truly this was indication of some seriously inebriated brain cells. Indisputably it was rude and with our patience now drenched, we took our leave.

We understand that these people are on holiday, want to relax and have fun. But it sometimes seems like we are perpetually hosting really obnoxious out-of-towners. We are the ones who are left to rescue the sea life caught in the thoughtlessly abandoned plastic rings and fishing line. We are the ones who have to retrieve the deckchair and flip-flops from the water. We are the ones surrounded by the trash carelessly tossed EVEYWHERE.

We've met many wonderful people on holiday with whom we have thoroughly enjoyed talking to and relaxing with during their short respite. But if going on vacation means taking leave of your senses, reverting to a childish state, completely shedding all your personal responsibilities and really pickling your mind, I suggest you check into a sanitarium rather than a hotel. They are far better equipped to accommodate you there.

Abandoned Marina in Tarpon Springs
~ Abandoned Marina in Tarpon Springs ~
10. No Live-Aboards Allowed
At every level of government in the State of Florida, live-aboards are regard as unsavory citizens who should be ceremoniously denied an existence. We are blamed for polluting the waters, accused of being freeloaders who don't pay property taxes, vilified as vagrant bums, and disparaged as an obstructive nuisance to the "real"resident's waterfront views. With these manufactured accusations securely circulated, many of the municipalities along this state's two-thousand miles of tidal shoreline have tried to outlaw our way of life.

It is true that in most any anchorage live some less than desirable boat-dwellers whose dilapidated vessels are no longer navigable. They may indeed be 'bilge rats' whose sole support to the local economy is down at the wharf side watering hole. We refer to this as affordable housing, and know the occupants have chosen the shelter of a berth over that of a bridge.

Correspondingly, on terra firma live some less than desirable occupants whose derelict houses remain protected from unlitigated eviction. On land, if a particular dwelling is deemed dangerous, the deed holder gets a day in court and it would be thought ludicrous for the State of Florida to outlaw ALL habitation in a suburb just because of a few objectionable neighbors.

But over the water, we're all rousted into the same boat and given the heave-ho by local legislation, whose unwarranted acts conflict with the more appropriate Admiralty Laws that apply to aqueous activities. Because of these legal contradictions, cases against counties who strive to curtail long term cruisers are occasionally brought to the courts, but moving to a more welcoming mooring is more likely to occur.

To me, the accusations that are lofted our way contradict the very nature of those of us who consciously choose an aquatic home. It makes no sense for us to pollute the water we float on, dive in, and desalinate to drink AND being permanently unplugged from a petroleum powered grid, we often generate our own electricity with the renewable resources predominant to our way of life – wind and sun. Thus we are much less impactful to the environment than the carbon footprint left by the average American home.

We vote, we pay property taxes within our marina and mooring field fees, and we're subject to even more government taxation via annual boat registration fees, dinghy registration fees, and outboard motor registration fees.

Many of us have jobs, and a lot of our cash is sunk into the seaside communities where we anchor. Finally, the very irony of being thought of as an obstruction to a waterfront view is evident on the many of the walls of these ocean side villas where portraits of sailboats floating on serene seas are commonly included in the décor.

The deep blue bottomless soul of the sea pervades nature and mankind in a way that intrigues us, enchants us, and romances us. As live-aboards and fulltime cruisers, we've revolutionized our way of life and entered into this coveted realm of unconventional autonomy. We should not be outcasts, just because we've chosen an extraordinary existence, but more importantly–I believe we should be embraced for charting new passageways to a more creative, caring culture.