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My Highs and Lows of 'Boat Life'

When Ryan suggested doing this trip and showed me some of the sailing videos he watched I was so excited and knew this was something I wanted to do. We dreamed about all the amazing places we would visit and the fun little adventures we would have. It became almost an obsession, every night we would put sailing videos on, I listened to the soundtracks from some of the sailing Youtubers constantly and it was all I could think about. I wanted to get away from life, from the boring 9 – 5, from the stress of sitting in traffic every single day. I used to sit in my car and look at everyone else on the M4 travelling to work and think ‘there must be more to life than this’. The idea of leaving all of that behind was bliss and to travel the world on a floating house with Ryan and Poppy – what would be better than that?


The decision was made, and we bought Chelsea and then the hard work started!

The next few months were terrible. We wrote a list and everyday a couple more jobs would go on it that we needed to sort before we left. We hadn’t realized how long everything would take and quite how much stuff there was to get sorted. We had an A3 bit of paper with a list just of things we needed to buy, let alone learn how to use, or fit them onto the boat. Every job seemed to create new ones or would end up having 3 or 4 parts to them. Even something as simple as getting new boat keys cut turned into an ordeal as, typically, we needed a special key which needed ordering in, then they ordered the wrong one and finally 4 trips to the key cutting shop later, we were able to cross it off the list.


Throughout this process we were still working so it meant every break and lunch time was spent researching/ordering or on the phone to one person or another. Then, as soon as we got in from work, it was straight onto jobs for the boat. Every weekend was going to the boat to take more stuff or bring stuff back to learn how it worked. It didn’t help matters that Chelsea was moored 2 hours away and there was always a ridiculous amount of traffic. We became more and more tired as the standard bedtime became midnight, then 1am. We weren’t eating properly because there just wasn’t time or if we did it was an obscene hour and it was purely because we felt we had to get something, anything inside us. Our friends and family saw it and they suffered – we didn’t have time to go and see them or speak to them on the phone. I don’t think many of them fully understood, but it literally took up every waking minute. I even did my school reports on the boat as we were sailing it back from Cardiff as there was just no other time!


The last week we were in the UK was probably one of the hardest. We had done all the jobs on paper and it was the final bits on Chelsea that needed sorting – new life raft, moving onto her, cleaning etc. I think in hindsight I also found it hard because we began saying goodbye to everyone. The last day I saw my mum and dad was so sad :( I’ve never been away from them for long really and I knew they were so worried and that my mum was upset, and it broke my heart. I felt so guilty leaving, but it was going to be the trip of a lifetime and I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity. The final day before we left was weird – we stopped in the evening after having just got everything done and sat down in silence. This was it, we were leaving the next day, gone for a year and we were ready for it. Everything we had done had built up to this moment and it was finally here. We were excited, and it was the first time that we had been able to fully appreciate how amazing this trip was going to be. Lots of people had asked us if we were excited in the lead up to leaving and the answer was always “no, it’s horrible, were so stressed and its shit”! Now we were excited, and the trip could begin.


Looking back at how I thought this trip would be and the reality is quite hilarious. I genuinely did think that it would be all fun, lots of sunbathing, no stress, no arguments and over all pretty chilled. Reality – sailing is hard work, mentally and physically. The weather so far has been far from sunbathing worthy. Our stresses haven’t lessened they’ve just changed – now its rocks, weather, food, Wi-Fi___33, boat maintenance, money and other boats that are the issue. Living on a boat in such a confined space is impossible to prepare yourself for. Chelsea is 43ft so she’s a big boat and we’re extremely lucky to have lots of technology and appliances to make it quite luxurious. But going from having lots of space, being able to drive anywhere anytime, having time apart and the social side of seeing other people every day, to this, is very challenging.


Another thing I’ve found so hard is not being able to do anything myself yet. I don’t know anything like as much about sailing as Ryan and I’m a slower learner. It takes me a good few times to get it right, whereas Ryan just understands: he has a go and can master it straight away. This difference has caused quite a few arguments. Ryan needs me to understand more than what I do, and he needs me to be able to react quickly. Anyone who knows me knows I’m ditzy, slow on the uptake and specialize in faffing – Ryan had no hope! Even the general workings of the boat, like what each button on the switch board does and how to open the sea cocks so the water drains from the sink is a challenge. I think I struggle with confidence in my own ability and therefore even if I think I know how to do it, I worry I’m going to get it wrong and cause the boat to sink or something!


One thing I do know how to do is clean, and I love to do it, always have. Anyone that has ever lived on a boat, caravan, motorhome, will know that keeping the place clean is a never-ending battle and even when you’ve finally won, and everything is perfect, it only takes around 10 minutes for you to be right back at square one again. It’s a nightmare! Being able to cross cleaning off my list is about as achievable as being able to grow wings and fly across the ocean instead, never going to happen! In fact, being able to cross anything off our list is challenging. I love a list, not for the organization but for the satisfaction in crossing thing off. Boat life produces more jobs every single day and most take days or even weeks to be sorted. A lot of things depend on other people being reliable or shops having items in stock or even weather permitting us to be able to start a job. This has been a common theme since we started planning this trip and it’s not getting easier, but we have started to laugh about it. We fully expect things to take triple the time they should. If we’ve gone through a day and managed to either cross one thing off or at least not add anything to the list, then it’s a major success!


I imagine you are thinking I sound very spoilt and I should be writing about how amazing and lucky I am to be doing this trip. I do feel lucky and it is amazing and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, but it is just not at all what I expected and for anyone thinking of doing a trip like this, prepare yourself for some seriously hard work, mentally get to grips with the fact that it is not going to be all sunshine and butterflies, and practice patience, because you will need it, regardless of who you’re going with! But there is no way that any of the above outweighs the highs of this trip so far.


The biggest high for me so far is the sights we’ve seen. We have sailed through all kinds of weather, seen so many different states of sea, moored in some gorgeous little coves, found deserted beaches, climbed around rocks, explored tiny, quaint authentic little towns, met some incredibly interesting people, had adventures in old fortresses, been on nights out with new friends…the list goes on and we’ve only been gone a month!


We’ve also seen dolphins so many times I can’t count. They are the most amazing animals, so pretty and playful and it makes me unbelievably happy when they come and swim along with the boat – I don’t think the novelty of seeing them will ever wear off. On top of dolphins, we’ve seen sharks, whales, seals and so many different sea birds. My family gave us some classification cards for us to work out what each animal was and so far, we have seen quite a few. Our mission is to spot a turtle, that would be insane!


Another high I am finding is how much I am learning every single day. It’s no secret I know very little about sailing but I am gradually picking it up and seeing the progress I am making is quite satisfying. There is a lot to learn with sailing – obviously you have the main workings of the boat, the sails, their positioning in different types of wind and sea states, the different ropes and how each one should be used. But you also must be so aware of the weather all the time - different cloud patterns mean different types of weather and there is usually something that you need to adjust in preparation for it. The wind speed and direction as different sails are used in different types of wind. The tides – their height and direction – this can be the difference of moving at 1 knot or 9, and in a day can either lengthen or shorten the sail but several hours. As well as sailing, learning how to live on board a boat has been stressful and a challenge but a fun one in a way. Its forces you to be self-sufficient – if something goes wrong, there is no electrician or mechanic on board, you must just work it out yourself, well Ryan does!


Experiencing different cultures has been interesting and we’ve met a lot of people along the way so far who have told us about the places we’ve visited in ways no tourist guide can. Learning about the true history of a town, the most random places to eat, going to traditional bars and watching communities dance and sing together, being advised on the best local spots to visit, talking about the politics of the area, practicing how to speak in another language (so far just French) – it’s all been great and has definitely opened my mind to how different and yet how similar other places are to home. I’ve also tried a lot of different types of food and liked them! Those of you who know me will know my staple diet consists of burgers, chips, jacket potatoes, diet coke and ketchup, so for me eating sea food, Thai and traditional French food that I can’t pronounce, is a bit of an achievement!


So, there have been a lot of highs, and some big lows but I would say over all, it’s been an incredible experience and I am so so so excited to continue the trip and see what the next 11 months bring!

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