It is 27th September 2017 – exactly one year since we set sail from Hastings, Victoria. We have lived aboard a catamaran on the sea for 12 whole months. How completely mad!
We’ve been in four different Australian states, and further up the east coast than I’ve ever been in a car or an aeroplane. It is entirely a different kind of life to the one we had been immersed in for many years.
Although we remain on a learning curve, it’s not quite as steep as it was at the beginning. Despite the fact that he built her in entirety, M had never sailed Bella Luna before – and they spent a few months getting to know one another. Now? They are enmeshed and in tune. Together they sing.
Me? I’m better at this stuff than I was (it would be quite horrendous if no progress had been made) – I have not, however, ascended the heights of sailing prowess that I, one year ago, hoped I might.
I continue to find it tricky – M has years and years of sailing experience on me, in addition to being immersed in the boat build for nine years – his sailing knowledge is e
ingrained in his being. Mine? I acquire further bits and pieces as we go, but remain the first mate and cook, rather than co-captain. Living aboard is a world away from day-sailing.
In attempt to rationalise this, I call upon the Theory of Mental Load. Bear with my tangent…. the term ‘mental load’ was crystallised by a French artist earlier this year when she produced a cartoon that illustrated exactly why it took a woman (and it usually is a woman) two hours to clear a table – because of all the extra tasks she encounters and completes as she puts things where they belong.
This cartoon resonated with me – big time. Nothing has described the time-suck and brain-snap I struggle with so well. So to draw this into the boat musing, I suggest that M – as captain – is probably struggling with the mental load that goes with that position.
To simplify – if I ask M to clear the table, he will Clear. The. Table. He won’t walk into the bedroom to put something away, spy the esky and think “Oh, I must change the ice-blocks in there or the carrots will rot,” which then leads to opening the fridge, realising there’s not much yoghurt, and putting on the stove to heat up some water to make some, and so on, and so on. The table will be clear. Fini.
If M asks me to go on watch, or check what the Bureau of Meteorology
Just as some of the domestic grind that constantly bangs around inside my head doesn’t occur to M, a large percentage of the many things that need to be assessed and combined to ensure a good…tolerable…safe… passage don’t occur to me. Depth, tide, obstacles, wind, wave height, swell…
The problem is – in both scenarios – is that because I’m good at what I do (all the cook-y provisiony bloggy stuff) and he’s good at what he does (exhaustive passage planning weather watchy navigational stuff), it’s easier to stick with what we’re best at. Lazy, but true.
But. And of course there is a but. I am USED to this mental load thing. Occasionally resentful of it (as the person who pays the bills, organises birthday presents, sorts out the mobile phone situation, manages the money), but nonetheless dealing with it as a given.
M, however, has gone from the autonomous boat builder whose partner is primary carer for five days a week – to CAPTAIN! The person who is responsible for all our safety onboard, for the navigation, forecast interpretation and the SAILINGZ – he can’t rely on me as an equal back up – I can provide the muscle, the intuition, the opinion – but no way can I provide the forward thinking and nautical knowledge.
He glances at the esky and doesn’t change the ice-blocks. I glance at the chart to check out our intended destination, but don’t check what the tides will be doing at the scheduled time of arrival.
Horses for courses, right? But it’s only sustainable if nothing goes wrong – if one of us is out of action, the other one HAS to know how to successfully plan a passage, anchor single-handed and feed the Smalls at the same time – NOT on rotten carrots.
The difference between us does not fall in my favour. Should I hurt my back/crack a rib/break a leg – he will be able to sail confidently onward, while throwing freshly charged iPads and bits of cheese and apple to the Smalls – napping briefly courtesy of Hoo-Ray the Autopilot.
Should he hurt his back/crack a rib/break a leg – I would be able to sail – or motor, onward – but not as confidently or as well. If the weather remained benign, I would get us to where we needed to be. If it did not, I would struggle, the Smalls would have to fend for themselves and there would be a great deal of stress involved.
Both of us need to upskill. Both of us hold knowledge in our respective areas as a result of social conditioning – and also because we both pursue what interests us. And we both need to realise our gaps and try to fill them. Learning and remembering.
M is not interested in remembering that the Mothership doesn’t have a lot of milk in her tea, that everyone but him likes their cheese sliced thin and that the fridge needs defrosting.
I am not interested in remembering to check the levels in the fuel tanks, change the oil in the generator or examine the direction of the current in relation to our progress.
The obvious issue is that while we will (and do) survive quite well if our cheese slices are too thick, the generator we rely on will not survive unless it’s given regular maintenance. Then again, the food will rot and the fridge won’t work properly unless those things are also looked after.
Like most things, life aboard is a complex intertwining of systems that all rely upon each other to function properly. Probably what I need to do is focus on improving one of the gaps in my knowledge, rather than being overwhelmed by All I Do Not Know. May I remind you how hard it is to know what you don’t know?! This article has some pertinent points.
A general band-aid in the meantime is that we both need to delegate more in our own areas. We need to slow down and remember that this is a lifestyle – not a holiday that we need to cram in as much as possible before we get back to the office.
May the explorations, innovations, and tiny living aboard Bella Luna continue onward, enhanced by what we’ve learnt over the past year. Fair winds…