Sunday, August 9, 2009

Learning to do with Less

“Cruising is learning to do with less,” Pedro the carpenter told me a few Fridays ago as I helped him load pounds of groceries onto his boat. He left the following Saturday for a 30 day plus sail to Easter Island and Chile. It will be the longest journey alone for him. But for Tomek, who anchored near us while we were in Panama City, 30 days is nothing. He and his dog, Wacek, sailed their boat Luka non-stop around the world for 391 days. Imagine that – 13 months with the open sea and your dog as a companion. His dog is slated to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first dog to sail around the world non-stop and they both did it the wrong way, wrong in terms of currents.

But I’ve been thinking about Pedro’s comment -- that those of us living at sea are learning to do with less. When we’re out at sea, we can’t run to the grocery store to pick up milk or fresh vegetables. Hopefully, we’ve provisioned sufficiently so we don’t have to survive on rice and beans every meal. And hopefully, we’ll catch a fish to feed us for days. If we’re lucky, there might be a small town along the way where we can get mangos or avocados. But, for Tomek and Pedro, who don’t stop en route, they have to buy all their food in advance.

When we’re at sea, we need to do with less water. Even though we have a water-maker on board that converts salt water into fresh water, it requires power and filters and so we still need to conserve. We still need to be careful and take a “military shower” about every three or four days and not every morning like I did when we were back on land. We need to carefully wash our dirty dishes with minimal use of water and we need to catch rainwater to increase our supply.

We’re living with less electricity and are always searching for ways to conserve. We can’t keep the refrigerator door open for a long time to search for the pickles stowed in the way back. We have to turn off lights when we leave a room and are thankful for the invention of LED that are tremendously more efficient than standard bulbs. We can’t log on to the internet anytime we like and whittle away hours with Google, or my favorite, the New York Times online. Instead we need to experience the world, rather than read about it.

Maya and Kai are living with less toys. They need to make do with what we have and improvise along the way. Here in The Perlas Islands where the 2003 tv-series of Survivor was filmed, the collected limpet and barnacle shells have taken on a new role. Instead of bracing themselves as the tide rolls in, the shells line up on our cockpit cushion and are carefully sorted. Maya says that some of the big shells gobble up the little shells, just like the big fish eat the little fish.

I have to do with less clothes and overall less stuff. Tim reminds me of all the stuff we have in storage and scattered around Hood River and Sausalito. He asks as we swim to a desolate island with coconut trees, “is there anything there that you miss?”

“Well, maybe my bicycle,” I respond, wondering what is in all our unopened boxes.

In some ways we’re living with Less so we can have More. We’re living with less so we can have the freedom to make our home anywhere we choose, to visit countries and sail amidst the world of the dolphins, turtles and whales. We’re living with less, so I can hold Maya’s hand as we swim together in the clear blue water and she points out all the names of the fish. We’re living with less, so Kai and Tim can catch yellow finned tuna and dorado and we can eat sushi for lunch and dinner. We’re living with less, so we can sample chapulines in Oaxaca, chat with the Mayan Indians in Guatemala, marvel at the Kuna Indians living in Panama and enjoy ice cream in every port. We’re living with Less, so Tim and I can fulfill our dream together, to sail as a family and see the world. We’re living with less so we can have more.

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