For anyone considering life on a boat, one of the questions that immediately springs to mind,other than
"is it cold in winter"is "where do you keep all your stuff?" But, the question should really be,
how much stuff do you need?
We are so conditioned to acquiring more and more things that make life easier, simpler, more efficient or more, just, more... that learning to reverse that can be very very hard. Especially when lots of those things have been given as presents from friends and family over several years.
It took years for me to pare down my possessions to enable me to fit them in the 57' narrowboat, Honey Ryder. It was down to clinical, cold hearted, calculated sheer bloody mindedness and several slightly awkward conversations with folks who felt slightly peeved that I had Ebayed gifts from several years previous.
On my mission to have less but live more, I asked all friends and relatives to please not buy me any gift or thing that doesn't have a very specific purpose (I should make it clear that I have very generous friends and family for which I am extremely grateful) To the point that I get very anxious when given a well meaning but useless item. My immediate thought, where will it go?
If it cant be drunk or eaten; fit easily within a boat cupboard; withstand 45knots of direct wind or be dropped on the floor in a puddle of salt water and remain useful then it has no place here.
When I was living on Honey Ryder, every month I would go through the cupboards in a section of the boat and have a bit of a clear out. With every thing that I got rid of, I felt as though a weight was lifting from my shoulders. That 57' x 6' metal tube was schtuff absorbing. Even when it was fully loaded, it still trundled along at 4 or 5 mph. It was a non performance boat. It weighed 15 tonnes. It was made of sheet steel. If I had 3 pairs of shoes or 10, it really didn't give a toss either way. It was a bit like the Hob-Nob biscuit of the boat world. You know, the kind you can dip in a hot drink and it asks for more.
"C'mon, is that all you've got? Hit me, hit me again, just lay it on me. C'mon, I can take it"
When I was paring down, ready to sell Honey Ryder I had the aim to fit everything I own into a car.
One single car.
It wasn't easy. And I didn't quite manage it. My car was too small.
It seems I am quite the maximallist for a minimalist.
When I bought the Dehler 36 four and a half years ago in Gibraltar, I didn't have particularly many plans, other than to sail solo round Britain at some point and have a nice time cruising around in the holidays and at weekends, I certainly didn't want to race it, but I am a speed demon and I like to go as fast as I can at all times.
Minimalism, though important, wasn't an all consuming obsession until reality hit home after sailing
It's only when you move onboard a weight sensitive yacht and start to get a feel for how your stuff fits as well as how your stuff is, or isn't, fit for purpose that you can see further areas that can be slimmed down or changed.
While I was worrying about fitting everything into a car, what I should also have been considering was getting everything I own down to less than 120kg, or the weight of two people.
|No room for fat people unless they're going to sit on the rail. Make them pack light.|
The boat seems to whinge and complain at anything brought on board. It mocks me.
The shape of the cupboards means they are awkward to use. Food shopping is frought, everything that comes onboard has to be taken out of its packaging and put into boat specific containers. This highlights the vast amount of over packaging we deal with daily when emptying four carrier bags of food and immediately have one full carrier bag of rubbish (recycling) to go straight back out. .
"so you want to put that large bag of crisps in there do you? Fine, they're light enough, but you won't be able to close the door"
How many pairs of jeans? They're heavy, how about jeggings? Make sure you roll them really small otherwise the door wont shut. Thick cotton shirts? Let's just have long sleeve t-shirts and throw a short sleeve shirt over the top. That way you can survive with fewer space consuming shirts on hangers.
"you're gonna need some smaller hangers, this cupboard is meant for pigmies with narrow shoulders."
Don't forget to roll those t-shirts nice and small, otherwise the door wont shut
One coat, not six. One pair of boots, not three. Maxi dress? Ha ha ha. You want jumpers? You can have two, and make sure you roll them small, otherwise the door wont shut.
a bonus is that people think you dress kinda kooky and edgy, without realising that it's borne out of lack of options.
It becomes very apparent, very quickly that a yachts performance is effected enormously by the weight it has to carry and how it's distributed.
The wardrobe is on a strict one in, one out rule. Everything is counted, itemised, audited.
I never thought I'd be saying that I audit my wardrobe.
In the galley, that glass jug and earthenware you've always moved from house to house, suddenly seems to weigh the same as a baby elephant and despite being aesthetically pleasing, it is now coming between you and that extra 0.002 of a knot you so desperately seek when sailing.
|plastic straight sided jug with attachable lid is very light and practical. Glass jug = baby elephant.|
|Weigh your dog. Unless you're going to train it to ride the rail and hike to maximise the moveable ballast weight, then trade that heavyweight Labrador/Doberman/Alsatian in for a 3kg compact version.|
You'll find yourself perusing the plastic summer season picnic section at the supermarket, with a tape measure, to ensure any glass to plastic replacement isn't more than X high and X wide with straight sides so that other lightweight plastic things can be stacked inside it to save space.
Glass coffee jars? They're a just a plain liability, a plastic coffee receptacle is required. Sugar in a glass sugar jar? You're kidding right? That's slowing you down by at least 0.000001knot.
Actual glass wine glasses? Ok, I'm not a barbarian, I saved a couple of those for shore based quaffing, but otherwise all glasses are being replaced with plastic. I'm still seeking plastic replacements for shot glasses. (friends/family - a gift idea, it passes the eat/drink/drop test)
Over the years I have acquired six different mugs (all of them pottery type), that's SIX! I don't even drink hot drinks and I've never had more than four people on the boat. Clearly there is still work to be done.
|6 pottery mugs, hardly ever used. Plastic rules the drinks cupboard.|
Anything that looks pretty is usually a liability. You'll find yourself browsing the shelves of kitchenware in various stores and giving it the little nail tap on the side to check if it's glass or plastic and swiftly eschewing anything that goes with a ting or ring, preferring instead a dull clack or thud.
|hand painted bowls from Istanbul, pretty but fragile, not very heavy though. They've survived the past 4.5 years amazingly.|
It's hard to have too many bowls on a boat, they're more practical than plates.
|Almost my entire book collection lives on this|
Seasonal stuff such as thick duvets, electric blankets and winter boots are just dead weight in the summer. I don't want to get rid of them, but I really don't want them on the boat. A family heirloom pottery piggy bank and lead crystal vase? Where in the name of Schtuffingtons should that live?
Where to put spare sails or those pesky doors that I took off to allow the boat to breath?
The answer, is that most people who live on a boat have shore-side storage. Some have a shed.
Some have a shed on wheels (a trailer or horse box). And some of us have a shed on wheels that can be driven.
My van is in effect the other half of my house. It's that, much visited loft space in a house, it's the cupboard under the stairs, it's the shed down the end of the garden, it's the spare box room.
Within its practical cavernous interior my dirty habit of fabric hoarding resides. My entire wardrobe of cycling clothing, my giant larousse french dictionary, my winter coats, a union jack tutu and spare main sail battens, the baby sander, the bucket of car wash and sponges, the games of pictionary and Cluedo sit on a shelf next to some motorbike gloves and a helmet which is right beside my photo studio light stands and a spare diesel jerry can.
It doubles as a changing room, a workshop, a cycle storage and maintenance area.
|abandoned for too long, the shed needs a bit of a tidy|
My Peugeot Boxer long and high is a mighty tool. But in recent times it's been a troubled thing. It first failed its mot as it needed a bit of welding, nothing major. No problem, "I will just sell the half ton tail lift out of the back and that should raise enough money to get it through" I thought. But whoops, the William Anker who came to remove the taillift, in my absence, chose to rip it out rather than sympathetically remove it. Bolt cropping the electrics he basically disabled the poor Boxer, unbeknown to me, until the time came to try and drive it to an MOT station. I knew I would be in for a tough time when I moved south while the poor van languished in Essex, unloved and undrivable and more importantly, too far away to use as a shed.
While I've been gadding about on the triangle race and other sailing trippettes here and there as well as working, the van has been towed backwards and forwards around the marina in Essex by friends who were trying to keep it safe for me until I could arrange to move it.
I hired a truck, and went to rescue it. It took a full day. And a curry.
Now I have my "shed" within the same car park as my car, I can finally get to the bottom of the electrical problem and see if I can get it fixed up and road worthy again.
First job, de-clutter six months worth of schtuff accumulation.