Wax On, Wax Off
“Don’t you get bored?” a coworker on a field job asked. “Just sitting on a boat all summer?”
Clearly he had never owned or lived on a boat. There’s never nothing to do. “Just sitting” only happens at the risk of enduring substantial guilt, induced by the as-yet unaddressed items on the to do list.
Our sailboat is like a very compact house, equipped with complex electrical, plumbing, and propulsion systems. It floats in a corrosive medium (we sail the Salish Sea, which is, of course, saltwater) that is always moving, sometimes gently and sometimes not. That means there’s almost always something to fix, despite keeping up with regular maintenance. Then there’s the polishing. And decks to be swabbed. Really, that’s not merely a phrase. No, I don’t get bored.
One of the things I love about life on Kagán, is that much of the work is physical. It often has a meditative quality to it. Wax on, wax off is also not simply a phrase. A week ago, we finished varnishing the bright work (that’s nautical for wood trim). The next day, I waxed the gelcoat in the cockpit. When it rained, I reveled in seeing the droplets beading on the newly-protected teak. And as I write this, the gelcoat is gleaming in the sun. The pleasure of seeing those results is worth all the hours it took to get them. I believe if we take care of Kagán, she’ll take care of us. Keeping her beautiful is one of the ways we do that.
But it’s not all scrubbing and polishing, I’m also engaged intellectually during our summers on Kagán. I think I do more basic math here than in land-based life. I calculate tide fluctuations to determine anchor rode lengths and evaluate current directions, speeds, and timing for transiting narrow passages. There’s also the decision making involved in planning for and executing cruises of several weeks, like water use management and provisioning. And then there are the minute-to-minute judgements while under sail – what tack to take, and how to trim the sails for speed and comfort and, of course, safety.
The outcome of a job, the consequence of a choice is often immediate and tangible on Kagán – it’s a stark contrast to so much of the online and virtual work we currently do.
We’re at anchor today, and I’m “just sitting” in the cockpit at the moment. But in addition to admiring the very shiny gelcoat, I’m listening to oystercatchers chatter on the rocky shore, savoring the cool breeze as Kagán swings to it, and following the kee-kee-kee call of a bald eagle to see it swooping in for a landing on a high snag. Peaceful, happy, and offline, yes. Bored, no.
Tell me, what engages you?