Reflections: Life aboard SV Dakota now and then 

Since our last post, I’ve started our next post at least three times – the now-familar post indicating where we’ve been and what we have been doing while there. And there has been plenty to report on! But the thing I think you all might find interesting at this point in our adventure is a little more of the “day in the life” part of our adventure and how it is shaping us as both individuals and a family now. 

It’s been an interesting process evolving from a land-based family to a family afloat and I can now freely admit that it was not the easiest transition to get through. I’m recalling our first month aboard, August through September, and thinking to myself (and to one of my besties who knows me better than I know myself) “I don’t think I can do this. I really don’t.  I miss my house, my shower, my bed, my car, my girlfriends, my nanny, date nights, hell I even kinda miss WORK!”  And I will always remember what she told me, she said, “You need to find something that makes you happy and do more of that.  And you’re all probably going to have to re-think how you do life together.”  And boy was she ever right. In our former life, I ran the show pretty-much on my own most of the time. Hubby has a gone job, which meant that I was the point person for all things related to the kids, the house, the social, academic and extra curricular calendars- and oh right, my job. That thing that used to pay me for a *bit* of my time. 🙂

All of this changed when we both left our jobs (temporarily or otherwise) and became full time educators, kid-minders, boat fixers, passage planners, cooks, cleaners and entertainers 24-7.  It also drastically changed the fundamental and long-running nature of our marital and familial relationship(s).  

It’s interesting and funny how hindsight works, I see clearly how it was all changing and evolving as we made our way through the days, weeks and months travelling down the California and Mexican coasts. Back then, I recall thinking that “living the dream” shouldn’t be so damned hard!”  While many folks following our adventure, whether loosely or quite closely, are aware of the difficulties entailed in being together 24 hours a day with no breaks, we have occassionally fielded the occasional, “what a fun vacation for you all!” or “aren’t you so lucky to get to chill all the time!” Hardly the case my friends, in fact it could not be farther from the truth.  I wistfully recall the days when I had a dishwasher, a washer & dryer of my own, a car, a garage that opened with the single and easy click of a button, easy and high-quality internet access, fuel I didnt have to lug around in a 5-gallon jug, water that flowed from the tap and did not require me to first dump it in 5-gallon drum by drum, into our tanks and then add anti-microbials (just to be sure). Yeah, all those things that make life EASY are the things we no longer have. So sure, we have traded in our traditional paying jobs for the non-paying kind, and we are solely responsible for educating our children (which we are actually diggin!). But we also traded in the abundance, comfort and ease of existence that life on land entails.  

We’ve become intimately familiar with every miniscule operation of our boat, for which we are the only operators and repair folks around –oil changes, pumping out random fluids, replacing anything and everything from engine parts to an entire MACERATOR (if you don’t know what that is, Google it, you’ll be sufficiently grossed out when you figure out what is involved in replacing it). So when the macerator went kaput on us in Mazatlan, a mere days before we were set to leave on a long passage, we scrambled to find a replacement and then had to replace it. TWICE. (the first replacement was missing  critical bolt that literally seeps piss and shit if its missing). 

Besides sole and primary ownership of all maintenance, repair, cleaning and operation of all things boat AND maintaining our family and educating our children and oh yea, trying to find a moment for ourselves as individuals and as a couple, we are trying to navigate a different country in a different language and trying to change and adapt to a huge change in the foundation of our lives. We were forced to confront questions and situations we had not thouroughly thought through prior to leaving and adapt our roles, gender and otherwise, to conform to our new lives. For example, I used to be entirely in charge of cooking, cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping. But living afloat, those 4 responsibilities take up a HUGE amount of our time and I was shouldering that burden entirely alone until more than halfway down the coast of California. I finally hit a breaking point when we were docked at the marina in Santa Barbara (after a particularly nasty fall in the water, in the dark, while trying to dock – see this post for more on that). And at that point, after breaking down to my bestie, hubby and I had a heart-to-heart about what changes needed to happen to keep this family going on this adventure.  

And I can happily report, many months later that both he and I have come out of that experience changed and for the positive. I get so much more support from all of the boys in my family now. We work as a team to grocery shop, manage laundry and cleaning, cook, tidy up and generally keep Dakota in good shape. And for my part, I’ve learned to let go of some of my too-high expectations and demands and become more patient in executing tasks I used to just do myself to save time.  On balance, it has been very liberating and bonus, we have more time to enjoy and pursue other interests, hobbies and experiences because we are faster as a team.

And I see changes in myself, as well as each person in my family aboard, that I likely would not have had the mental or emotional bandwidth to recognize had we not taken this leap of faith together. And I am so grateful. I now know my kids on a level I never really did before and I think they know (and love) me more than was ever possible in the time we had in our prior lives. Hubs and I are in sync on all things parenting and home/boatschooling and we have (mostly) seamlessly passed the baton from main teacher to teacher’s assistant as the tides of influence and positive progress have ebbed and flowed.  

I can say with all possible conviction that this experience, not even fully completed, has changed the fibre of our family and how we move with and through each other.  And those are just the noticeable changes, the ones we can see and feel as we reflect on our time right now.  I know there will be more as we begin to transition back to land life and even more, like distant waves, as we recall fondly the experiences we have shared together this year abroad. 

I cannot even fully describe all of the things I’ve learned…. but for now, here are some:

  • I was silly to be afraid to travel with my kids before. They don’t suck at travelling. I just sucked at being able to handle it. Or perhaps I just needed to try to control every outcome less.  
  • My husband is kind of a bad ass. He’s not only a meterologist and an amazing sailor, he is also a bad ass when it comes to any and every boat repair, electrical work and knowing how to navigate, dock and anchor our beast of a boat. Additionally, he is the funnest dad these boys could ask for. He’ll drop everything and anything for a story, a hug, a body surfing session and generally just takes the time to do the things.  Oh, and he’s pretty adept at managing my neurosis and successfullly anticipating and sidestepping landmines.
  • I am, and should be, proud of myself for doing this and hubby should be as well. This is hard. Getting out here, cruising and living full time on a sailboat, is NO EFFIN JOKE. It’s not for the faint of heart whether that be for creature comforts, fear factors or purely for the gross shit we have had to deal with. (I have never been so one with our raw sewage as I am now–and THAT I will not miss!). But this is scary. And not because of the passage or the fictional pirates folks thought we would encounter. It is what you have to give up to get out here and having the courage to keep on when things arent all fun and sunshine and #nobaddays.  Cuz it aint always like that. 

I could go on about all of the things I have learned–about Mexico and its amazing people, culture, music (we actually like Mexican polka now!!), about cruisers and the different kinds of people it attracts, about the environment and the inhabitants of that great big thing we call the ocean. And as much as I am looking forward to returning home, to our comfortable and EASY American life, there are many things I will miss.  And I’m fairly certain it won’t be long until we start planning our next adventure abroad.  

For now, I’ll start with a tequila centnario on the beach while my boys play in the sand.

7 thoughts on “Reflections: Life aboard SV Dakota now and then 

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