Maine’s pretty nice. I can’t say we’ve ever before sailed our home into a more serene and tranquil location than this little area north of Pemaquid. We’re tucked nicely into a very quiet cove, sheltering from the strong northerlies predicted today. At least two species of diving ducks, cormorants, plovers, eagles and other birds I can’t try to identify surround us here amongst playful seals, T.S. Kyle is well offshore to our East, and predicted to continue out into the Atlantic, but just a bit of his wind is still coming our way, spilling over the evergreen hills to our north. Let’s just take our time here.
Last night before bed, we stayed on deck watching stars (some meteors too), listening to the silence. Earlier we heard only a few motorized vessels in the distance (usually lobster boats). But after dark, we hear occasional grunting seals and low-pitch squawking birds on the surrounding islets. I had called Kelly away from her flossing to witness new spectacles. Two schools of small fish (at least I think they were fish) boiling on the otherwise undisturbed liquid surface, in a roughly twenty-foot circular pattern. Two of these groups were barely visible except in the slightest light left in the starry sky, but clearly audible disturbances were moving about the boat. Combine witnessing this event simultaneously with an occasional calling loon and a crescendo of coyotes in the distance. Then we see a single small blackish duck pop itself up onto the surface, look at us for fifteen or so seconds, then silently dive strait back down. With fifteen feet of darkening water under us I wonder what is he eating? Now we know why the water was boiling!
We enjoy an otherwise silent background at 2200. No planes, no cars, no motors, no people partying. Wow. A silent background reminds us of some lesser-traveled Caribbean islands, but not the pronounced chatter of the northern latitude wildlife and piney scent. Any surprise we decided to stay for a few days? Can we call our observations simple things?
We use much less power, pollute less, and probably have fewer material possessions than most of our land-based folks, especially because more wouldn’t fit onto our little 35 foot vessel! We’ve received questions about how we deal with important issues, tasks, etc while living aboard. It all boils down to keeping it simple.
I’m about finished reading another good book: The Sixth Extinction, but it’s a bit depressing in terms of the upcoming devastation to my current observations, and others elsewhere on our little spinning globe. But the book is making me think more about our low-impact life aboard Fayaway, and how we don’t take for granted the many simple things we have.
Clothes & dirty laundry. In the Caribbean we didn’t wear much clothing, so didn’t need to wash much – clothes or ourselves. We swam every day, cleansing in the clear warm water, and then further washed and rinsed on deck by pouring water from a quart-sized plastic reusable orange juice container. (Sorry, no pics, for obvious reasons). Crude? Perhaps. But so what? Who are we trying to impress? We don’t feel any compromise, have stayed clean and healthy, and couldn’t be happier while living in paradise. Going north gives us colder water, and thus less swimming (brrrr), and thereby requires more clothes (darn), and more washing. We shower in our head (that’s our bathroom in boat-speak) with pressurized hot water. Washing of our bodies, clothes, dishes and just about everything uses fresh water made from sea-water which is everywhere we go. Power for making and pressurizing fresh water is provided by our friendly sun.
Radio, internet, cellphone. Not really anything to do with sustainability, but we don’t have a television. We don’t miss TV at all, but we do watch movies on the laptop. We try to listen to music on our FM radio (where there’s reception; less often on the outer islands of Maine). We get local marine weather and gossip from the VHF, which stays on most days, scanning several popular channels. Most often, and possibly too much, we rely on the Internet, which we typically have access to via our cellphones. This is how we receive frequent weather forecasts and news, and yes, social media. Yup – all powered by the sun.
Garbage disposal. Heavy items, such as metal and glass go overboard when at least three miles from land, and over deep water offshore (never any plastic). We buy mostly fresh foods (limited meat & mostly vegetables) when available, eliminating a lot of packaging. We look for other choices incorporating less packaging, but often can’t avoid it. We find creative ways to store dirty trash for weeks. We re-purpose easily-sealed, ready-made containers, such as yogurt sealed in plastic. We use the containers to pack other non-biodegradable trash aboard until we find a proper disposal ashore. Simple things folks. We can’t just chuck and forget.
Comb hair? Haircuts? I know that COVID-19 has certainly made many people less mindful of grooming. Won’t be seeing people, so why comb hair? Well we still believe in self-respect, so maybe we comb less, but we cut hair with a rechargeable set of clippers, powered from, you probably guessed, the sun.
Power – We use our wonderful sun (a theme going here?) and sail as much as possible. For full disclosure, it’s important to admit we do use our little 29hp diesel engine to propel Fayaway through the water, usually to get somewhere against wind and/or current. It consumes often less than 1/2 gallon per hour while underway, and we never run it for other purposes. We’ve traveled over 1000 miles since the last time we purchased fuel, and still have almost half of it left! While motoring, we reclaim the motor’s excess capacity to heat our water, and further maintain batteries. Considering how little fuel we use, I don’t laugh, but scratch my head when looking at smaller (shorter and lighter) pleasure boats that have prominent multiple 300+ horsepower gasoline engines hanging off the back. Really? Perhaps Sigmund Freud would have something to say about this too. Ok, I digress…
“Sippy” cups. We appreciate the simple pleasures, like sitting calmly at anchor in the morning, sipping coffee out of our favorite ceramic mugs. However, when offshore we often use reusable plastic mugs, obtained years ago from Starbucks. I call them our sippy cups, resembling ones used by small children.
Propane. Another non-renewable necessary evil. But we don’t use much. Since moving aboard thirteen months ago, we’ve used about twenty pounds. Cooking almost every night and sometimes for other meals too, we have filled our two ten-pound cylinders twice. And they weren’t empty before filling at a convenient opportunity. Our Magma grill has gone through three of those little one-pound cylinders. Eating a lot of salad probably helps reduce some cooking. As mentioned before, we avoid burning propane by making coffee, tea and oatmeal by heating water with an electric kettle (again, powered by the sun).
Little Thing, Big Importance: A 1/4” pin. A pin connects a swivel to the anchor, from which hangs our home. The swivel’s other end goes way up in size to a mere 5/16” hardened chain. I recall when not long ago we’d feel more comfortable at a dock or on a mooring (and one of questionable integrity) than hanging off our own anchor. Not the case now. After doing this for a while now, I feel considerably safer in any conditions dangling on our own hardware, as we know it’s condition before it drops out of sight into the water. Unlike most rented mooring tackle, we inspect ours every time before we anchor. More about anchoring, and how the process has evolved for us…
Through experience (not without flared tempers), anchoring has reached the point of being uncontroversial. As we slowly approach a previously discussed spot, Kelly walks to the bow, armed with knowledge of the depth, and thereby how much chain to drop initially. I’ll try to time our approach as she removes the securing pin and loosens the anchor on the roller, then looking back to watch for my signal. I give a thumbs down, indicating to drop now, as the boat stops. We let the boat drift back with the wind, often with bow falling away faster. We know the feeling of when the anchor catches. I know how much throttle (or how little) to apply, while Kelly knows how fast to let chain out as we drift back. If weedy, I’ll let it settle in more slowly. If mud or sand I may gently apply more backwards throttle. This method seems to work for us. Retrieval is another easily communicated routine. Once in Provincetown harbor (Cape Cod, USA) I recall getting fouled on a piece of ancient fishing gear- I quickly ran forward with a knife to cut the offending net away as we drifted toward another boat. Disaster avoided!
We are grateful for Captain’s Hour when rolling about the waves offshore, or many call it sundowners when at anchor – especially when in view of that beautiful setting sun. We absorb the awe-inspiring surroundings and know that it rises again to warm us tomorrow. Winter will be here again soon, and lower latitudes beckon so we can stay warmer (without releasing carbon atoms). We appreciate these and many other simple things, and especially each other, our family and having so many wonderful, generous friends.
We’re not the first, and certainly not the only sailors attempting to tread lightly on our environment. For example, check out these fun and friendly guys, whom we met and had coffee with while visiting Saba: Sailing Naked. Don’t worry about clicking – it’s clean!