Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hot Showers and All the Rest
By Michael

Less than one year away from actual teen
age and we already have a blue streak.
(courtesy Bryce Cannon)
Maybe it was in Passage to Juneau, maybe it was in Coasting, but someplace writer Jonathan Raban related this idea that island dwellers have a different relationship with the sea than their continental brethren. He wrote that islanders see the ocean that surrounds them as a path to other places, a gateway or a highway, whereas the people who inhabit continents see the ocean as a boundary, the end of their beloved roads.

Del Viento is our tiny island. We do most of our eating, sleeping, schooling, and living aboard that 40-foot fiberglass hole in the water. It's home. And while she's a small home, we don't feel bound. Aboard Del Viento we are surrounded by paths to other places. I think this islander perception does something to a person's psyche. Not good or bad, but something.

I'm a regular guy who has spent the better part of my life living the conventional American land-based life. I'm not ignorant of nor immune to the allure of the lives we left. I'm not a Moitessier-like seafaring gypsy who can only find peace on a boat far from land. Yet, we've lived unconventionally for the past four-and-a-half years. Now, having been continental people since Christmas, I realize I've been changed by our lives aboard Del Viento.

I've experienced a range of emotions and reactions since we left Tonga and I think I can distill it all down to one word: struggle.

Here in the regular house in which we are staying, hot water flows freely from a showerhead whenever I want it to. I don't have anything like this on Del Viento. Sure, if the stars align and I have the solar shower filled and the sun shines all day and the night is cool, I can haul that bag up on a halyard and enjoy something like a hot shower. But the stars don't often align in this way. Along with not seeing good friends (like Jana Price), I've long-considered the absence of frequent hot water showers a drawback of life on my tiny island. I've said the same about having to lug jerry cans of fresh water aboard. About perpetually slow or non-existent internet. About good beer and ice cream being hard to find.

I no longer think the absence of these luxuries is a drawback.

When we first landed on the continent, the hot-water-showers-on-demand gave me tremendous pleasure. But now that feeling has almost disappeared and there is nothing to replace it.

Losing my appreciation for the shower isn't the problem. I think the problem lies in the absence of a longing that seems to enhance life and mark the days. I like that aboard Del Viento I can remember the few days that culminated in being naked on deck beneath the stars and a hot solar shower. I appreciate those showers like the hot showers I get here, but I never stop appreciating them. In the same way that even after schlepping the 5-gallon jerry cans of water aboard, the delicate and fickle systems on our boat never allow me to take for granted the availability of that water at the tap. The same way that a whisper in American Samoa that bitter ales could be had in Tonga was a catalyst for anticipation. We've grown accustomed to celebrating the basics. I don't know how to write it so it doesn't sound dramatic, but I think it ties into the idea of feeling rich with comparatively little.

In two weeks we return to our island, surrounded by an ocean that is a path to other places, perhaps a gateway to the next hot shower, good beer, faster internet, and all the rest. But definitely not all at once, and maybe none at all. I can't know what's over the horizon and if I catch myself bemoaning that fact, I'll remind myself that I prefer it that way.

It's been nice to witness the rebirth of California wildflowers
with the rains that have been so long overdue. The mighty
oaks are happy too. (courtesy Bryce Cannon)
Another lesson from returning home is that you don't have
to travel to remote parts of the world to find beauty.
(courtesy Bryce Cannon)


  1. I think you'll be needing a cold shower when you get back to Tonga. Hope DV has fared well on her mooring... can't wait to follow along your upcoming path virtually! Hugs to you all!

  2. Fascinating take on the "deprivation" concept (the landsman's disbelief of all you "do without" to be on a boat)! It does seem that when we have less, and perhaps work for it harder, we appreciate it more. Looking forward to tagging along on the next chapter - yours and ours!

  3. I'm sorry you won't be able to connect while you are stateside! Life is just too complicated right now to get away for our spring break . . . Miss you!

  4. Love your philosophical side Michael! Great thoughts and lens to look at life through. Looking forward to the next adventures on Del Viento!

  5. Though I have never taken the time to ponder this, I believe you are right. I find it funny how I look back so longingly to those times when we had little and yet were happy. Not to say we aren't happy now, but then again we don't have a shower onboard so that could be why!

  6. Thanks uncle mike for the photo cred, really appreciate it -bryce


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