There have been a few essays written here that have discussed the processes and small elements that make up what we will need to do, in adapting to the future world we are going to experience. Some of them are Sans car, The legal process and the slide down, On preparing,and Tiny steps, first steps.
This past weekend, in order to help out a friend, learn something about boats, and do some hard work (good for the soul and all that), and in the spirit of learning to live without, I signed up for a small boat delivery project.
Now, the distances involved were not major; three or four days at sea, with various stops along the way. In a small boat (under 32′), and one that isn’t in perfect shape, you learn a great deal about learning to live without, learning what is important, and how to make do when things are not all according to plan. In the above examples, all land based, some small creature comfort or change was made, and we learned to live with that change. Boats, however, bring that change up a few notches.
On a boat, there are serious limits to what you can bring, and to what you can do when something goes wrong. If you lose a tool overboard, it is gone (unless it is on a lanyard, or it floats). You can only bring a certain number of spare parts, and you always have to be mindful of the resources you are using; water, food, toilet paper (!), paper towels, fuel for stoves, heating, and propulsion. Dry, clean clothes are at a premium. If you forget something, you can’t just go out and pick something up at the corner store. Cell phone coverage can be spotty; electricity and lighting can be limited.
The other element that takes things up a notch is the danger/safety element. One of the things about this trip is that it probably wouldn’t have happened if my presence wasn’t there. Being at sea can be outright dangerous, even in good weather, perhaps even moreso than hiking, driving or other terrestrial pursuits. In undertaking such a trip in the middle of November, you can subject yourself to some pretty harsh conditions. When underway at night, it can be even more dangerous. At some point during our journey, under an overcast sky and at night, the only thing we could see were our navigation lights, and the boat itself. If one of us was to go overboard, it would have meant a very cold crewman, and a struggle to get them back in the boat, and warmed up to avoid hypothermia.
This isn’t to say we weren’t safe; “one hand for you, one for the boat”; “always wear your life jacket”; “move in slow motion” – these are the dictums you need to live by. We had charts, backup navigation elements, radio, GPS; all of which can mean the difference between a small change in course and disaster.
Being aboard a boat, even for a few days, brings up the reality of how much wealth we have (hot showers, clean clothes, lots of water, safety from the elements, access to resources) here in our cozy world. There are other activities like rock climbing, scuba diving, parachuting, flying a small plane or glider which have some danger elements, but boating for long periods, out of range of short by more than a few nautical miles, truly focuses your mind. You can’t screw around. You learn to live without a daily shower, flushing toilets, a wide variety of hot meals and food, entertainment and information on tap.
- What other activities have you done that have focused your mind, and made you learn to live without? Being financially poor; living in a remote location; what else?
- Do you actively pursue situations where you are forced to do without? Fast? Go ‘minimalist camping’?
- Does doing these things really help? It is one thing to go camping, boating, reduce expenses voluntarily; it is another to do those things full time, when no backup is available. Someone once called this “Disney danger”; danger that looks like something really dangerous, but isn’t, because there are so many failsafes and backups to keep you from getting hurt.