Monday, April 25, 2011

Seven Life Lessons from the Boatyard

Moving towards deliberate consciousness.

Kayaking. From basic principles of physics, to finer points of paddling technique, to how we interact, kayaking is just a tool for life to teach us what’s true. This has been my life philosophy for many years. Now it’s starting to expand to bigger boats.

Today I painted the wine-red hull and put another coat of epoxy paint in the forward part of the bilge. Everything wants to tear apart a boat: salt water, sun, heat, movement. Paint is one of those things that holds it together, like social etiquette.

On a sailboat, even in the boatyard, it pays to make every move a conscious one. Hit your head in a confined space enough and you’ll learn. Try to avoid the freshly painted bits while living among them. Don’t drop the tools overboard. In life, we don’t get to do it over again, either. Here are some life lessons from the last month in the boatyard:

• Projects go easier by moving slowly enough to think.
• Prepare well.
• Change the perspective when necessary, rather than struggling from the position you’re in just because you’re there.
• Give a project or a person the time they need, even if it’s longer than expected.
• Adjust expectations frequently. They are just illusions anyway.
• Endeavor to see a project through to its finish before beginning another, but also be willing to set it aside if something more important comes up. It’s delightfully liberating to take on no more than one thing in a given moment.
• Painting your partner’s sailboat is just another way of saying “I love you.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Happiness is like the scent of acacia tree blossoms I pass on the morning run. It wafts in on a breeze, inspires a smile, and moves on. Can’t hold onto it, just enjoy when it passes my way.

Because it is the road out of town, I run along it in the morning. Because it is a road out of town, people throw trash along it. Because there is a wide spot to pull over at the top of the hill, there is a big collection of trash. Yard debris, carcasses, shattered TVs, part of a toilet, all manner of plastic bits, tires, household refuse with rotting food morsels. Because the local dogs are hungry, they gather here. This is their home. They sleep here. A matted, furry head pops up as I run past, and begins barking. Four other mangy dogs jump to their feet and limp away, barking. Almost all are lame in one way or another.

The road crests a hill and makes a curve, blinding drivers with the rising and setting sun. I run wary when I run in the morning, listening well, looking behind whenever cars or busses come head-on, and being ready to leap into the dried grass in a heartbeat. Watching there for toothy things that hiss.

Perception is a funny thing. The dogs live beside the road, and ignore the passing cars, which pose their biggest immediate threat to life. I come plodding along, not a threat, just something different, and they bark and run. Three of the poor bony creatures died on the road this week, casualties of the passing vehicles.

Isn’t it interesting how we, too, accept the familiar even though it may be hazardous, and resist the new and different just because it is.

There will always be choices of what to focus on. Happiness is the scent of acacia tree blossoms on the morning run.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Marina Seca

A boatyard is a unique community. Think of a boat as a home. Some are fixer-uppers, some are in good shape requiring only regular maintenance, and some are plush vacation homes, cared for by hirelings. Some are lifetime labors of love. Some are lived in while a renovation is done. Some are occasionally visited. The difference between houses and boats, is that a house is usually attached to a piece of ground, and that the people inspired to inhabit those homes are spread into their corners of the countryside. Boats, on the other hand, often congregate where the services are available when maintenance or renovation is required or a return from the vacation is due.

Marina Seca is a dirt lot in Sonora, Mexico next to the sea. A concrete wall and a chain link fence surround it. Intermittent electricity and water, even more intermittent internet, and a boat lift, are the amenities. Sunshine is more reliable than water or electricity, and almost every day is a painting day. The town of Guaymas is nearby with materials, San Carlos isn’t far with some marine goods, and the US is a day’s drive away for specialty items. Marina Seca attracts the do-it-yourselfers of the boat world.

Some breeze through in a day or two, haul up their boats, wash off the salt, scrape the barnacles, cover the windows, lock it up, and are gone to their other lives. For some it’s minor repairs and paint. Some cruisers stay for months and repair holes in a hull or change a mast or redesign a structure. Others have eddied out of the flow altogether and settled into their live-aboard projects, climbing ladders into their dry boats. Wood boats with rot, steel boats with rust, cement boats dissolving to bits. None will ever see even pennies per hour for the work they do. But daily they answer the call of some internal time clock.

It’s a forest of boats, with their accompanying stanchion-branches supporting them. Climbing the ladder to board adds to the feeling of living in a treehouse in a strange landscape.

At Marina Seca (dry marina) the boats may be dry, but their people certainly aren’t. In the afternoon shade of a hull stripped bare of paint, happy hour begins. The hardworking forest elves drink themselves giddy before retreating up their steps each to their own deck with a view over the wall, then down into the bellies of the boats to sleep.

After some weeks, this scene feels familiar. Just another community. Round-bellied tree houses feel like the norm. The glacial progress of projects becomes visible. Everyone has a story. They lack only to be written down, but somehow it’s appropriate that the stories, like the wind that bore them, blow away with the ending of each day.

These are the good old days. Living simple with a purpose. Talking of love, lifetimes, and dreams. Sailing Vessel Misty is our capsule to see the world, even if only in our imaginations for the moment. Meanwhile she gives our days structure as we ready her for long voyages, wherever they may be.