The Stewart family buy a boat, jack it all in and go sailing!

Living aboard: Week 1

We’ve been living aboard for a week now.  It’s mostly great but there are still plenty of challenges.  We still have piles of crap everywhere, are struggling to stow everything, walk for miles to get to the car, lug shopping around in the boiling sun and have a thousand other minor inconveniences.  I’m struggling not to loathe the tiny top-loading fridge.  I seem to spend the majority of my day preparing, serving, clearing up and washing up meals.  The galley (kitchen) is tiny and the sink takes ages to drain.   We can’t find paperwork, because it doesn’t yet have “a place”.  The heads (loo) can be a bit smelly and we have to put our weed-on toilet paper in the bin and empty it regularly.  There is lego EVERYWHERE.

The past couple of weeks altogether have been frustrating, inconvenient, dirty and sometimes uncomfortable.  And my over-riding feeling about the whole endeavour?  I love it.  I wouldn’t change it for the world and I wish, WISH we’d started living on a board years ago.

It’s magical starting the morning with a coffee in the cockpit, watching the water turn from an oily black to gold as the sky brightens.  I love watching the runners and dog walkers pause to chat on Shingley beach, and the kayakers slip their boats into the water and paddle away noiselessly.

I love watching the girls find their own rhythms, interests and friends.  We were befriended a lovely family who are sailing the Whitsundays for a month, and the kids bonded instantly and solidly.  Sasha and their youngest played endless, complicated games with ponies or barbies on whichever boat or bit of pontoon was nearest when they met.

Tilly and the older boy spent hours building dams, bridges, and other civil engineering creations on Shingley beach, coming back as the sun set; tired, filthy and content.  All four of them would roam the pontoons as darkness fell and the adults chatted and cooked supper on the barbie, trying to catch the huge, complacent mullet that swim so tantalisingly close to the surface in the marina.  And once, to the delight of all the kids, they caught a squid in their shrimping net – yells from parents of “don’t take it on the boat, it’ll ink! NO! Not down below, find a bucket!” – and who was examined in captivity and released to propel himself indignantly away.

I love the easy camaraderie of boat life; I love the easy friendships that are struck up, the advice and help always offered, the things lent and returned, the slow pace of having time to stand on the dock and chat and compare notes.  We know some awesome local people and have met lovely new people who are visiting – some of them come to stay for MONTHS, lucky things – and everyone has been so helpful.  Our lovely (land) neighbours (who also run an amazing sailing adventure company) came to visit and bought champagne, admired Iron Will and said all the right things about our new work-in-progress fledgling home. They advised on a couple of simple fixes that mean we’ll sort our halyards and also now have an operational mizzen boom cover – a BIG thank you to the fabulous Airlie Sails.  Our marina next-pen-neighbours offered advice and unguents to remove the varnish from our laminex coachroof, and took our girls fish-feeding with dinner scraps.  A friend of Matts from work has given up hours and hours of his own time to help us remove the stays and install the replacements.

So yes, it’s been hard, this first week/weeks of getting settled, but it’s also been rewarding.  Wise friends who’ve done similar things advise that it takes a month or two or even three to get into the new rhythms of living away from the conveniences and space of a house.

We have a couple more weeks to go in our marina berth – we booked for three months, and that comes to an end mid-August.  We’re hoping to be slipped around then, although the boatyard at Airlie Beach is still super-busy due to the effects of Cyclone Debbie, and now people trying to prepare for Race Week.  Fingers crossed we get this spot, and get our haul-out! And even then, when we’ve cleaned her bottom and anti-fouled and returned to the water, we’ll probably be here a little longer (at anchor) to finish the rigging to make sure she’s in top condition safety wise.  We’re all about safety here on Iron Will, the cosmetics will have to wait a little longer!