Universal Lessons

Posted in: Featured on Saturday, June 30th, 2012

The universe works in strange ways and has taught me a few lessons this past week, and as my parents have always said, I seem to learn the hard way.

Living on a boat takes many adjustments and brings new challenges, some forseen, others completely unexpected, and as is my way, I haven’t always handled them gracefully or with great stoicism.

Some things I have complained about and cursed more than often, and this week in an ironic twist of fate, I’ve found myself having to do without them.  It has occured to me that there is a lesson in that.

The galley tap is an old plastic thing with one knob broken and a habit of screaming whenever turned on, that combined with the drone of the water pump, my patience has been tested almost every time I’ve turned it on.

Then there is the lights.  I enjoy embroidery and reading and of an evening when I usually get the time to enjoy them, the poor light ends up straining my eyes and I can’t enjoy them long.  Without my downtime (i.e. time to do stuff that isn’t boat related) I can get a little stressed and hard to live in a confined space with.

As for cooking, we have a two burner Lido gas cooker installed, which i’m really happy with and am adjusting well to using.  At the house we had an electric cook top and we hated using it, gas is a pleasure to use again and in my opinion yields better results.  Most importantly our coffee is prepared with it.

Three days ago due to some unusually low lighting the Captain identified battery issues and an inspection found the starter battery terminals to be badly corroded and the deep cycle batteries unable to hold their charge properly.   One cabin light would drain them significantly. They were removed with much effort and taken to Battery World to identify the problem.  This morning we got the call informing us that the starter was dead, and the best of the two deep cycles was at 51%.  All three had to be replaced at no small cost.

Without her batteries Tygress doesn’t have lighting, running water, and as the gas detector won’t work, neither will our gas.  It also means our bilge pump is out of action as well (the dam wall holding back all my neurotic fears of the boat sinking).

Despite our quest for a simpler life, this was a little too simple for me.

In miserable, wet conditions I had to fetch our water supply in an assortment of plastic water bottles from the tap a couple of berths down.  Leaving me soaked and cold and starting to think a little more fondly of my old galley tap.  For the first night the only lighting we had was a Coleman camping lantern (that now appears to be on the fritz) which proved to be inadequate and even more of an eye strainer.  A friend lent us a long fluro light that we could use with shore power, depending on where you placed it, it could either provide light or blind you.

Thanks to the decision to bring our camping gear with us meant we had the single burner camper stove we picked up for cheap at Aldi (Single burner = no coffee). Cooking wasn’t too much of a hardship…until our butane supply ran out on the second night.  As for last night the Captain was a champion and cooked steaks on the bbq in awful conditions with uncooperative equipment, in a stroke of luck we eked enough gas out of a cannister to fry a precooked pack of rice.  The steaks were divine and we dined like kings.  It was an unexpected treat at the end of a long day and I don’t think a steak has ever tasted so good.

Time for reflection has revealed some lessons to be brought away from the last week, some of them i’ve been taught before but they haven’t always stuck.

Like the fact we take the most basic things in our daily life for granted.  The lack of running water on board meant I had to fetch and carry,not unlike millions of impoverished and struggling people the world over have to do.  It also made me thankful for a water source that was safe and clean and that I did’t have to walk through a war zone or desert to get access to.

We take for granted our easy access to fire (or heat) with which to prepare our meals, whether they’re basic or extravagant.  The use of fire in cooking, an act almost as old as humanity, has only recently become a vital part of our daily life.  And without the gas we have no fire.  Going without it has taught me to appreciate a hot meal all the more, even if it does come out of a tin (and sometimes even more because of it, it’s quick and easy solution when we’re both buggered at the end of the day)

Or the fact that for recent generations light has always been the flick of a switch away, and for us, even poor lighting was only a switch flick away.  Without light, the sun really does dictate when your day ends.

The combined lack of all these basic necessities, or as i’ve come to think of them, simple luxuries, has taught me yet again to be thankful for what I have, be it a loud broken tap or having light after dark whatever the quality and fire to cook a hot meal with.  These are indeed simple things and I will never take them for granted again.