I, BOATER. Dirt House, Donkey Kong, and Perceived Free Time.

I have lived most of my life on land. Yup, that’s 69 and a half years out of 70. Now I live on a boat, and after only 6 months I like the boat life much better. Why?

“Oh for God’s sake Rick. Who cares? Nobody cares.”

I know this. No one gives a shit! It’s like flying under the radar. Invisible. Unseen. That’s why I like it! You’d be hard pressed to find us because we’re floating on our own little island, meandering here and there, never knowing exactly where we’ll end up. If we find a nice place we’ll stay awhile. If not we move on like mysterious vagabond gypsies. It’s kinda romantic, no?

Since last September we’ve been ambling south on the Intracoastal Waterway, a series of inland rivers and canals that follow the coastline. It’s usually much calmer than the open ocean, and more interesting because there’s lots of things to look at.
We float past the backyards of waterfront homes from plain to palatial, sprawling cities, lush green wilderness, and everything in between. All the sights, sounds, and the diversity of American life along this passage is ours, and anyone’s, to experience.

The ICW is wondrously scenic, but it’s not just a pretty face. It functions as a superhighway for tugboats and other commercial vessels that supply the nation with all sorts of goods. This is probably why the Army Corps of Engineers maintain it at considerable cost. Boaters like us enjoy the benefits.

In the southern states dolphins are everywhere. I love those guys! They seem so happy with all the jumping and playing about. We usually see them from a distance, but one day the XO and I were standing on the dock talking to a friend. Suddenly, a dark grey dolphin surfaced right next to us. We all gasped. It was less than two feet away! This magnificent beast looked me square in the eyes before chuffing and disappearing under the water leaving nothing but a small wake and the most incredible feeling of awe.
I’ve tried and failed so many times to get a good dolphin picture, they’re elusive that way, so I asked the XO to draw a rendition of her recent kayaking experience.

There are lots of pelicans too. Squadrons of them swoop in and skim across the water. Their wingtips mere millimeters above the surface, sometimes touching it ever so slightly so as to leave the tiniest ripple. I’m convinced they do this just because it’s fun and daring.

There are all kinds of vultures, weird ducks and other creatures not seen in New England where I’m from. Bald eagles too! They use branches as thick as your arm to build nests as big as Volkswagens.

I’m wicked fortunate to have this, the new backdrop of my life, made possible by a series of events much too personal to recount to you, dear reader. I hope you understand. It’s not you. It’s me. I am unwilling to relive the past, nor will I tell a story that is not mine to tell. But the end result is a good one; I get to live on a boat with my love.

It sounds so highfalutin, doesn’t it? I mean, here we are traipsing about in our 46 foot motor yacht. The XO cautioned me about bragging, but ours is not a fancy boat and we aren’t living extravagantly, in fact, many aspects of our boatie life remain the same as our life was on land.

We do most of the maintenance ourselves, shop for food at the grocery, cook and eat on board but occasionally go out to a restaurant or order takeout. We pay bills, watch TV at night, read, ride our bikes, exercise, spend hours online, do laundry, and enjoy our hobbies and interests. Then there’s the usual drinking, smoking and other privileges of being an adult. The main difference is the scenery and the neighbors change more often.

Dirt house: A term used by liveaboard boaters to describe a house on land.
The XO and I lived in one until recently. I had so much free time I wore an ass groove on the couch in front of the TV.
For the normal person free time is not always a bad thing, as for me, I could take the couch potato thing to the next level. So much so that I developed a method for motivating myself by using my guilt-laden inner conscience.

“Yo Rick. Get your fat butt off the freakin’ couch and do something.”
“But Let’s Make a Deal is on.”
“The grass ain’t gonna mow itself.”
“And then The Price is Right.”
“Rick, dude! The damn car needs an oil change!”

The self-shaming usually worked, but if it didn’t I could easily be lost for the entire day, beer in hand, bag o’ chips, Netflix, Roku, Prime Video, etc. Thankfully, I had the good sense to avoid the hard core stuff. I’m talking about the highly addicting world of Video Games. You go down that rabbit hole and you may never be seen again. Ask me how I know.

“Hey Rick! How do you know?”

I was hooked once. I bought my young son a gaming system and we enjoyed playing together. It started out so innocent, father and son doing something fun, Donkey Kong bonding if you will, but like most addicts I went too far and started sneaking games while he was asleep or at school. I spent an inordinate amount of time playing, and when I wasn’t playing I was thinking about it.
I beat that drug cold turkey and never looked back. Now I’m just another recovering gamer as well as a recovering couch potato, because when you live on a boat free time is a rarity, a specter, a phantasm that at one moment seems so tantalizingly real, then dissipates like a puff of smoke in a gale.
The following is a typical scenario that could happen anytime. Usually while relaxing, eating dinner, or sleeping.

“What was that?” I asked.
“I heard it too. Sounds like water running,” the XO answered.
“I’d better check it out,” I said and headed into the engine room, the most likely place for unusual water-based sounds.
“Yup. Hose blowout. Turn the water off. Will ya?” I asked.
“I thought you replaced that hose.”
“Different hose. Don’t worry. I’m on it.”

On our boat Jane Marie there is a seemingly endless list of things that need to be done, but ya can’t work all the time. Where’s the fun in that? You’ve got to manufacture your free time. I call it Perceived free time. It’s not really there. Not on a boat. But I’ve always believed that there’s nothing wrong with just sittin’ around enjoying the day or doing something that makes you happy.
Currently our to-do list is a manageable 9 items, not bad, but add in all the routine chores and you could have quite a bit of work to do.

The list is fluid and evolving, bloating and shrinking like a living creature that we strive to wrangle whenever the motivation strikes. Do what you can when you want to is the general rule, but you can never count out the unexpected…

…and you can never count out the weather. It’s gorgeous! Maybe I’ll crack open a cold beer and play my guitar for a while, or perhaps just sit here and peck away on my laptop. See how I talked myself out of all that work? It’s one of my super-powers! Once again my cranky inner conscience fights back.

“Rick! You lazy bastard. Get up and do something.”
“But, but, music is good. Writing is good. Ya know, for the soul.”
“Jeez Louise! What the hell am I gonna do with you Rick?”
” I promise to do all that stuff before we leave this marina.”
“Well see that you do! No screwing around this time. I mean it!”
” Okay. I got it. I’ll get right on it. Right after I take a blast on my E-bike!”

2 thoughts on “I, BOATER. Dirt House, Donkey Kong, and Perceived Free Time.

  1. I’ve been waiting for this! Your stories, adventures and photos are wonderful to this dirt house dweller šŸ™‚ I come away enlightened and more educated every time. Looks like a great life and I am happy for you and your wife. Love the old compass, man that this is glorious! Cool that you have a musicians nook . You should record some nautical sounds at different locations and incorporate them in song. What an adventure all around!

  2. Rick — I’m in awe! I think you may be the coolest person I know (maybe Susan). I’m happy just to know you’re living this kind of life.

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