The next three months became ten, during which all the necessary ducks lined themselves up to transform our voyaging adventure back into the routine of work, school and living for the weekend. Hence no posts! We are doing all the things that working families do the world over, we just happen to live in a boat. Our childcare, like all childcare, is as grueling as any challenge the sea could crash upon us. The last nine months have been a seemingly never ending parenting rollercoaster ride of feeding, cleaning, entertaining, teaching, painting, cleaning, guarding, cleaning, did I say cleaning? It takes everything from us (the adults). There is little left at the end of the day. Usually, we fall asleep with the girls bouncing around our heads, we prop one eye open as we mutter like drunkards to each other ‘can they get out, can they get out?’ Why did no one tell me? Parenting. Is. So. Hard. Especially on a boat. Especially this boat. Especially, our kids. Pirates.
Anyway, as to the facts; Ben found work in a large boatyard, managing the woodwork department. He has a company T-shirt, a team, a brand new workshop and lots of machines at his disposal. He seems in his element. There are boats a plenty and lots of rueful beard stroking advisories, despite his initial grumblings about not wanting to be a manager.
What of it…he gets paid! Which means the girls have been nicely installed in their pre-school / nursery – a fantastic Montessori set up. They have loads of fun and they get to do lots of learning and art and craft and most importantly, make friends. They have set a few heads turning with their independence and fearlessness. One messy play day was only supposed to involve some blue paint and the hands and feet of any game student. Alfi, one of the youngest pupils, set the pace by dipping her hands in blue paint and then proceeded to smear it all over her naked torso. Olive followed suit and whilst other children looked on telling themselves they must not get dirty, they must not get dirty, Olive and Alfi insisted on getting as mucky as possible. This is them at the end of the day, with Suzanne, their head teacher who now calls them her ‘Blue Devils’.
So Ben at work, kids at school, and me? Well I suppose it would be easy to assume there lies sand between my toes and a rum punch in my hand. Hear my shrieks ‘oh if only!’ Like all ‘stay at home’ mums (what a misleading phrase) will know, time is short and much has to be squished in to the school day. Supermarket runs, boat chores, cleaning, driving etc..then after school there is no let up…kids to be entertained / fed / kept awake and so on. But of course there are gaps in the day which I have used to swim swim swim. I was training for a 2 mile swim across the bay. An organised affair with free swim caps and medics and stewards and so on. A whole new world for me being used to public pools, overcrowded and over-chlorinated lanes. It was wonderful, I loved it and was just very happy to have finished.
As for Dhanu, she was hauled out in December and plopped back in the water late January. Ben replanked her in parts and gave her bottom a good clean and re paint. It was great to get her back in the water after being on the hard, climbing ladders, lifting children and buckets and so on. Olive was thrilled to find her home was back afloat…
Since then we have been living in the boatyard. This is an experience that warrants another post altogether. Suffice to say, depsite the aqua aerobics we do to complete just about any domestic chore, we have just been like any other family. Living for the weekend. I am thankful that these are filled with waterfall walks, wild empty beaches, swimming in water as clear as crystal, never far from a rum shack or from eating the fruits dripping from the trees. We are lucky though I do feel we have earned it well and are paying the price for these privileges.
The truth is that even with all this at my fingertips, I do admit that I have found life aboard of late, just a wee bit testing. Unfortunately this drives Ben bonkers – he who can withstand anything and never complain. Dhanu; man I love her, but she is what she is. 36ft housing a family of four, two of whom just keep growing. At sea, she makes great sense. She is small, sturdy and cosy. She can be sailed easily by one. She makes a brilliant, not least very pretty, survival pod. However in port the encounter is different. Space is the issue. As the kids get bigger, the boat does not. Routinely (usually when I bang my head for the millionth time), I found myself remembering my bathroom and washing machine and thinking, hmm…what are we doing again? My monthly audits have become ambiguous in their conclusions. Is this really easier, better, still worth it? Sometimes it is VERY CHALLENGING to live aboard as we do. Imagine camping for two years…that is sort of what we are doing…admittedly in a warm and beautiful place. I know I could easily continue to forgo modern conveniences (running water, a loo, unlimited power, WIFI) all of them if only for just some more space. An extra cabin would do it…preferably at the other end of the boat to the kids’ cabin. And so as we continue to play Twister by day and Human Tetras by night, Ben and I and probably the girls too, dream big dreams of a bigger boat…we live in squished hope!
So aside from the fact that we live on a boat you could just about swing a cat in, our life is much like yours, did I mention..minus the conveniences. When it comes to the kids, we are all slaves to them one way or another. We have Duracell Bunnies for children. They go on and on and on. Adult time? Me time? His and my time? I don’t know what that is anymore. Even if we had some, it would be filled with slumber such are our exhaustion levels. There is a lot to be said for mainstream living, TV, hot water, washing machines, grandma, cousins, friends, babysitters! Need I go on???
Of course I am not complaining, well maybe just a little. Keeping things in perspective, overall, life is very good. The kids are here, we cant avoid them or get a refund. Nope. Here they are to stay, along with their washing and feeding and entertaining needs. The constancy of their needs is impressive. But of course they are great company and very funny. They have a unique approach to life and an honesty that is blatant…’Hey mum’ shouted Olive down the yard – she is very loud – ‘come and look at the fat man!’ as she screamed laughing and pointing to an incredibly rotund cruiser who would have been a robin, had he been a bird. I stiffled my snorting laughter, whist throwing the robin some breadcrumbs dressed up as a parental apology. Kids, you have to love their truth.
So all in all , the Great Pea Green Boat (& Parenting) Adventure carries on, just in a more obvious and land based way. We know we are giving our kids and ourselves a unique parenting experience in a beautiful warm place, full of discovery, despite the fact that we get no time off. And upon the advice of many other parents to older children, I suspect they are right when they say this toddler age is the best. They are small and funny and affectionate. And we are right by their sides laughing mostly. One day, there will a door in the face), or a ‘whatev’ or worse…right now there is just knackering fun.
As for the girls – what do they think? Well as for their enjoyment of living aboard…from time to time they struggle too…
At the beach, they never have any fun, tending to keep themselves to themselves…
As for our adventure, well the adventuring is now all in the mind. Where once there were charts and provisioning lists, now I have questions that drive Ben crazy like ‘what is our Plan?’ and ‘what are we Doing?’ ‘How much would a fridge cost?’ ‘Can we afford a 50ft boat?’ Mostly, we have no answers other than to conclude that our life is pretty straightforward here. Until the UK calls us to heel and only once a Re-Entry Plan emerges, we have no reason to upset our hand to mouth, mango eating existence.
Tata for now…