Finding Balance


Photo of balance rocks near a jetty with the WA state ferry in the background

Balance. Everybody wants it. Wether you are literally balancing rocks like in the photo above or working to find balance between work, family, and personal time it is something we all strive for every day. Living on a boat is no different. Although sometimes the need for balance can be a matter of life and death as you stagger on a deck that is pitching every which way, but more often what we struggle with is a balance between each other’s wants and needs.

Do you know what you need every day to be happy? What brings you joy? What if those things aren’t the same as your partner? Well that’s where it’s really helpful to be clear on what you need and clear in your ability to communicate with your partner.

Last winter we lived on the boat as Rob started working on a long project list and it was hard. He needed his tools out where he can see them and grab them quickly as he worked. I needed uncluttered space and clean surfaces so I could relax. The two didn’t mesh well. So this year we did something different. We hauled the boat out of the water (putting her “on the hard” in sailing vernacular) and moved the little camper out of storage to live in. This way Rob could turn the boat into his workshop and I could keep the camper tidy—well as tidy as possible when there are 2 people living in a space 20’ long and 8’ wide.

Rob working on the boat

Lucy in her studio

Most days it worked out really well. We’d get up, Rob would go to the boat to work on his long list of projects and I’d go study with a local artist in her new Atelier art school. If class wasn’t in session, I’d stay at the camper and deal with all the paperwork that comes with modern life (insurance, banking, budgets, permits, fees, etc) or go grocery shopping and cook food for the week ahead. And somedays, when Rob needed a hand, I’d go to the boat to help out. We each accomplished a lot on our own and together this year!

Here is a fun 3-minute video showcasing some of the many boat projects Rob successfully completed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a42tF3wfE8w

And here is a fun 1-minute video showcasing how I did my charcoal drawing of a cast. It took about 160 hours over 4.5 months to complete and I’m very proud of it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkBXtfYO0MQ

Overall this winter worked—we were both happy—learning, troubleshooting, creating, and expanding. There were some tense moments here and there, mostly related to the dark, grey, wet weather making me dark, grey and wet but we got through it and are ready for a sunny summer cruising North. We are excited to visit Canada again, see our friends there, and find new nooks and crannies to explore.

So what are our long term plans? Remember how I said above that it’s really helpful to know what you want and communicate clearly to your spouse? Well there is nothing like stripping your life of all the normal expectations and living simply to help you discover what is really important to you. Whereas I’m not sure I can recommend it because it’s rather painful experience but when you come out the other side, well, you have a lot of clarity. We left our old life November 2016 and only now, 2.5 years later, can I say that I love my life again. Why? Because I’m very clear on what I do and do not want. I love how living on a boat simplifies life—our whole responsibility is to feed ourselves, deal with our poop & pee, remain clean / hygienic, make safe choices, and sleep. At first those things took a LOT of attention as they are all a little different on a boat. But once they became “normal” there was an opportunity to see what else we wanted to add back in.

SPACE

This is the big one for both of us. One cold and soggy winter morning in the camper Rob said, “I’d like to spend a little more time moving from one room to another”. In our camper it literally takes one step to move from the “bedroom” to the “dining room” and two more steps put you in the kitchen. It’s tight. I’d like space to dance and space to set up a proper art studio. Rob would like space to see all his tools and room to work.

PETS

Another big one is that we both miss sharing our lives with animals. We’ve been fortunate to meet several people in Port Townsend whom have allowed us to house and dog sit for them. Those blissful weeks spent spreading out and cuddling with furry critters kept us from getting cabin fever. Funny thing though…even when we had space to sit in separate rooms we more often than not chose to sit right next to each other. (Awwwww!) Some of you may think that we could have pets on the boat but I’ve come to the conclusion that boats are NOT a good fit for animals. Sure some may adapt well to it, but more often than not the animals we see onboard don’t look relaxed or comfortable.

CLIMATE CONTROL & A COMFY BED

I am bone tired of either huddling in front of an electric space heater or hugging a hot water bottle while wrapped in a sleeping bag. Rob runs hotter than I do and he’s tired of seeing me cold! This winter Rob and I slept separately in the camper—he got the double bed and I got the fold-out couch (which had to be folded out every night and then folded up every morning). Neither was that comfortable—his bed had memory foam which caused him to overheat (if you’ve slept on the poorly designed ones you know how they leave one side of your body sweating and the other side freezing), and mine had a thin cushion with several “holes”. It worked short term but we both want a comfortable bed that we can sleep in together. (Awwwww!)

SUNSHINE & OPEN TRAILS

The sun is a rare visitor here in the winter. But the summers, wow, the sun comes out, the skies are clear and the views fantasist, amazing, glorious, and heavenly. No matter what season though, you have to be on an established trail to go anywhere in the woods—the underbrush is a crazy thick green wall (thanks to all that good rain). Both of us miss the open landscape of Colorado where you could literally wander in any direction in a forest and have a clear view of the terrain.

ART

That one is just for me. After Nancy opened my eyes to how I can create fine art I want to learn more more. I want to improve my abilities and grow my portfolio. I feel like I've found my path.

MOMS

And last but by no mean least, we both miss spending time with our moms. Both of our fathers have passed away and both of our mothers are in their 80s. We are acutely aware that someday they will pass as well and we want to have more opportunities to spend time with them.

All this adds up to us wanting a land home base for part of the year. And we found one in Las Vegas, New Mexico (NOT, I repeat NOT Las Vegas, Nevada). This Las Vegas is a small town with a university, historic district, active train station with a restored engine and a restored original Harvey House, public hot springs, interesting history, and home to “Hollywood West” (many western TV shows and movies have been filmed here). PLUS it is close to the desert, close to a a ski area, and close to friends in CO. Check out this goofy video about the town:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G8q2dq4Kn8

In fact, we are in the process of purchasing an old house (circa 1900). It would need a complete renovation including electrical wiring, plumbing, heating, paint and a lot of other things. Good thing Rob loves that type of thing and has dreamed about fixing up an old house for years. It has good “bones”, is in a nice neighborhood (we’ve never lived in a neighborhood!), a 2-car garage, a workshop, a green house and a secret room on the 2nd floor. As an added bonus to me, it is about 45 minutes away from Santa Fe where there is another art school similar to Nancy's.

Front of the house

Back of the house

SO, the big plan for the next 12 months is to buy the house and still go cruising over the summer. We will head North, sailing the Inner Passage, and exploring all the nooks and crannies that most people pass by on their way to Alaska. In October we will return to Port Townsend where we will tie the boat up, hook the truck up to the camper and drive to New Mexico. Once there we will check on the house and leave the camper as Rob may need to live in it while working on the house. We won't stay long as we want to be in Missouri for a family reunion after which will return to New Mexico and get Rob set up to start renovating. Once he is up and running I will head back to Port Townsend to live on the boat while continuing my art studies with Nancy at her Masters’ Atelier of Drawing and Painting. Of course I will occasionally go to NM to see Rob (Awwwww!)

Once the house is habitable we will spend part of the year on the boat and the other part of the year on land. Where the boat will live while we are on land and where we will sail her are all TBD so our sailing adventures will continue!

And with that my friends, we hope to find our "balance".