I tried staying away but it didn’t work out.
We’re back, I mean, we never went away but anyhow, things happened that meant blogging was practically quite difficult for a while. But I’ve decided I’d like to make the effort to do it again. There’s an awful lot to tell and lots has happened to our little vessel, I will try to catch you up on a bit of the boring I-did-this, then I-did-that home building stuff in the fullness of time but for now:
People said we were daft to live in a swamp... but we did it anyway.
Off grid living has become this sort of fashionable buzzword for all kinds of ways to live away from the usual services that some people expect; and we honestly weren’t thinking of living like this but we’re doing it, feet first. We’ve kind of got to. Its a direct result of the practical remoteness of our little spot, even getting our water standpipe done years ago took negotiation. So it’s simpler to solve our power needs ourselves. After a while we’ve found out that we get by fine without microwaves, tv’s and haircurlers. Obviously we have to make our own power, which is in common with other tugs but the ones I went to sea in had three phase. We’ve got a small diesel generator, a wind turbine that vandalised itself last winter, a solar panel that’s too small and some old submarine batteries, they’re doing remarkably well.
It’s a really tough way to live in some respects, something always demands immediate attention. Starting the generator, filling the freshwater tanks, topping the battery up, emptying another tank, dragging LPG on deck and endless firewood below all winter long. Stopping the generator. Remembering food from the workshop fridge, but forgetting the sodding milk and going for the ten minute walk of the cursing man to retrieve it. There’s ALWAYS something to do. Mindful of the phrase ‘careful what you wish for’, I do realise that I asked for this. When it’s howling a gale and I forgot the milk, again, I usually have to remind myself through gritted teeth that yeah, this is pretty much what I wanted.
It’s amazing too, many evenings after the days work is done, we experience bursts of complete joy. Or is it wine? There’s an amazing and quiet beach of sand dunes a mere five minutes stagger away. We have a home. Most nights you can hear the seas changing moods, there are really clear stars at night, and at the moment the kingfishers are back. They fly in at about a thousand bright blue miles an hour at about the same time every winter and hang around for a month or two. There’s a naked cyclist in the summer and a feral peacock called Po bamboozling the tourists all year round. You can tell which ones are tourists because they stop, get out of their cars and take pictures of him as if seeing an angry giant Indian pheasant in the street causing traffic jams isn’t completely normal. The locals just beep furiously and in some cases have a go at running him over. Peacocks can fly, with the right persuasion.
So it all works, and I’m astounded some days, but it does. And as time goes by I’m less and less inclined to return to life on solid land. I like that when I go to stay with a friend I always wake up marvelling at how far away the ceiling is, and how power comes out of the wall, just like that. On the other hand, the island we are moored to gets really muddy this time of year and sometimes flailing about in the mire, usually with shopping, or milk, does me in and induces a forlorn wish for whatever normal is, or at least some paving slabs to stand on.
I guess what I like most is that we still see everything we now have at home as a luxury of sorts. Like ok we don’t have a toaster, but you can make toast in a dry frying pan really quite quickly on our fancy gas cooker that took no small effort to find, transport, get on board, partially dismantle to get it to fit through the galley door, and rebuild at the cost of grazed knuckles, contortionists fingers and muttered swearing; not to mention the whole finding a gas fitter who was prepared to work on a boat for four hours without charging us approximately three million pounds saga.
There is never a dull moment. Our toilet. Is broken. Again. The result of this particular mechanical hiccup is that we are back to a portaloo, the one I had the foresight to stash in the forward bilges, I really did clean it first. Now, a portaloo is really just a fancy looking bucket and, although I have come to admire its stout simplicity and therefore elegance of design it is, lets face it, a box of poo. I consider myself extremely lucky to have a partner who has not just run away screaming at the sight of this familiar box of awfulness, thus there are three upsides to consider. 1) it’s just an inconvenience, 2) My wife is pretty amazing really and 3) when we eventually get a new loo sorted (because this one really has died this time) we will spend half the evening flushing it in wonder, like those apes at the beginning of ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’.
Funny old life, it can be so benign in summer, endless evenings of barbecues on the island of content and a genuine feeling that the boat is looking after us, providing us with a retreat and comfortable haven from the world, even if it is only half three quarters nearly finished. But then next thing you know the winter arrives and it’s Oh For god’s sake the gangplank has fucked off in storm Angus. So it’s six o clock in the morning, I’m wearing a fetching ensemble of dressing gown, wellington boots, sou-wester and frightened expression whilst dangling about trying to sort things out so that we can get off the boat without using a catapult.
Like I said, we’re back. And it’s pretty much the same as ever on board Wendy Ann 2, but with a few more mod cons than we had at the beginning. They all work, usually.