…A wide mix of things – most of them positive with a few negatives thrown in to keep things interesting.
In April 2014, my husband 3 ½ year old daughter (at the time) and I left Gibraltar with our newly purchased 2003 56’ Oyster ready to experience a new life. Our intentions were to say ‘good bye’ to the rat race and say ‘hello’ to life on a boat, a more peaceful way of living and ultimately to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.
From Gibraltar, we sailed to Malta getting stormbound in Algeria, Africa (Read ‘Sailing from Gibraltar to Malta‘). From Malta, we spent a month visiting Sicily, sailed over to the Greek Ionian, spent a month enjoying the islands and then travelled through the Corinth Canal, separating mainland Greece from the Peloponnese. Once in the Aegean, we hit Athens, Poros, Mikonos, Delos and several other islands as we made our way over to Turkey.
After a quick stay in Turkey we visited Kos, Symi, and then stayed in Crete for a couple weeks. Thereafter, we sailed up to Santorini and then around the base of the Peloponnese (Monemvasia is not to be missed!) and back up to the Ionian Islands where we spent a month in mainland Greece having our engines pulled apart and put back together again (not a planned stop!). Read ‘We’re not idiots abroad, we’re idiots on a boat! for more about our engines.
By October we found our way back to Sicily where we stayed for six months at Marina di Ragusa. Our boat and around 65 other boats (including over 15 different nationalities) spent the winter enjoying happy hours, excursions (olive picking, Sicily sight-seeing trips, sports trips), open-mic nights, writing circles, yoga classes, knitting/guitar/craft lessons and holidays together.
By April 2015 we had many new friends but we were all ready to get sailing again. Being one of the first boats to leave the marina, we set sail for Preveza, Greece (mainland) to have our boat hauled out, put on the hard and undergo a major refit. The mast came off, new rigging was installed, the antifoul was done, various bits where serviced and so forth. The refit was to prepare the boat for our world circumnavigation. Watch our video, ‘What happens when a boat undergoes a refit‘
While hubby stayed with the boat, I took my daughter to North Carolina and stayed with my Brother and his family. We stayed for six weeks and thoroughly enjoyed time spent with family. My mom and stepdad live close-by so it was great for Sienna to have quality time with our family in the States. On the way back to Greece, we also stopped off in England to see my father-in-law (Sienna’s granddad) and many of our friends.
In June after the refit, my husband, Simon and I set sail for Grand Harbour Marina in Malta. It was our first time sailing the boat alone. Previously we had crew or a friend on board to help out. Sailing a 56’ is relatively easy – it’s the mooring up ‘stern-to’ a jetty that gets complicated. You really need three people (and a fourth on land!) – someone to do the anchor, someone to helm and someone throw the ropes to a person on the jetty. And if there’s no one on the jetty…things become even more interesting. Getting off the back of the boat with the dingy in the way is not easy – I have to go under the dingy, scale a wall without hitting my head on the dingy and pray I make it to land and not in the water!
Anyway, the trip went well and I survived my first night sail – in fact, I really enjoyed sailing in the dark- surprise, surprise
Our trip to Malta was necessary due to our unpaid VAT situation. We took advantage of the Maltese Lease-Back Scheme allowing us to pay a reduced amount on the VAT due. Going back to Malta finalized the scheme. (I talk about the Malta Lease-Back Scheme during my podcast interview with Medsailor.com – listen to it here)
After Malta, we sailed to Sicily to pick something up at Marina di Ragusa. It was very strange going back in the marina without the other winter live-aboards present. Everyone was gone and it was like a ghost marina. We said ‘hi’ to many of the locals and saw some friends that remained, but overall it felt weird to be there. In a way it felt like we took a step backwards and weren’t supposed to be there.
From MdR we sailed to Syracuse to meet up with friends…and then went to Taormina, Sicily to meet up with even more friends. And eventually, we sailed across to the Ionian to finish up our last refit elements. Sailing from Sicily to Greece takes one to two nights – if the wind is good it’s quite a quick sail. Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed my night sail (I wrote about it here: Sailing through the night – is it scary, exhilarating or boring?)
Back in Greece, we put the finishing touches on our boat, met up with friends, and enjoyed a bit of sailing around the islands. The Greek Ionian is where Simon and I first started to sail over 17 years ago so we hold the area dear to our hearts.
We were about to plan our trip west and then we received word that our good friends from Sailboat ‘Why Knot’ where making their way from Turkey to the Ionian. Instead of heading west, we decided to hold back so we could see them.
More than three weeks later and we’re still in the Ionian and still with our friends. We’ve had an absolute blast showing them around the Greek Ionian Islands (all new to them) – we’ve taken them to spots on Kefalonia, Meganisi, Lefkas, Kastos, Paxos, Corfu and all along the mainland!
We met Sailboat ‘Why Knot’ last year in Patmos, in the Greek Aegean Islands. After spending a couple days with them in Patmos, we later met up with them around Kos and spent a couple weeks with them. They were veterans to the area so they showed us around!
Every day we went to the next destination and took turns cooking dinner or choosing a restaurant to go to. The children sailed with us or our daughter sailed with them – there were sleepovers, craft days and excursions… One of my most memorable was our 2-hour horseback trip in Kos.
(Ironically, we all just went for a 2-hour horseback ride in Corfu a couple days ago!)
It’s funny how the universe brings people together – isn’t it? And it’s also funny how you can meet a family and spend more time with them than you would your own family. Perhaps it’s because everyone is so easy-going – there’s no politics, there’s no massive stress and life is about enjoying each other’s company, having nice chit-chat and living in the moment…
So…(deep breath)…after slightly more than 5000 nautical miles of sailing, visits to six different countries, a 6-month stay in Sicily and meeting some really amazing new friends, how does it feel to be living full time on a boat?
Here are my thoughts:
I’m much more relaxed and find it easier with going with the flow now more than ever.
When we first started out I was a recovering control freak. Now, I’ve realized that I don’t have to control anything. Life is going to play out the way it’s destine to play out. Plans are what they are – and they are going to change. I just don’t feel the need to control anything anymore…it’s not who I am.
Every day I wake up and just let the day unfold. There’s no need to force anything. Sometimes I pop into the old Kim and get uptight about something but my issues are usually short-lived. This lifestyle seems to force you back into going with the flow.
I’m less concerned about money (in general) and eventually making money
My whole life was built on the premise that I must make money to be happy. I worked, pushed, forced, cajoled and kicked my way through life trying to become more and more successful. Ultimately I made a bit of money but I didn’t enjoy the journey as much as I could have. That being said, it’s been very hard for me to shed my obsession with making money.
When we first started out I worried for months about how we’d be able to keep sailing. Id get stressed, try and come up with various ideas and then I’d become a nightmare to be around.
Now…I seem to have a sense of knowing that things will work out. I don’t know what we’ll do when our savings runs out but I’m not worried about it. Living on a sailboat is so inexpensive that our savings isn’t reducing as much as I tought it would. I’ve been slowly building up my Sailing Britican Store, magazines approach me for commissioned articles and I’ve written a couple books. These things build up and over time I’m sure we’ll have enough cash-flow to keep going.
I’m just not so worried about it. Furthermore, I don’t have this mindset to be ‘successful’. I don’t want millions…all I need is a bit of monthly cash-flow. It’s so inexpensive to live on a boat – furthermore, I don’t need money for the things I used to value (like watches, cars, gadgets, clothes, shoes…) None of those things are important on a boat!
If you are interested in how to make money while sailing, I did write this article that might interest you: Ten ways to make money while sailing around the world
Hubby and I are massively more comfortable about how our boat works (mechanically, electrically, etc.)
This is a big one. When we first took possession of the boat in Palma, Mallorca and sailed it to Gibraltar we had NO CLUE. One of our circuit boards (electricity panel) has 44 switches (I just counted them!). The other panel has 12 with a variety of twisty knobs. There’s a battery bank of nine batteries! We had to figure out the water maker, black/gray/fresh water systems, davits, windless, hydraulic system and on and on and on… And then there are the navigation systems – the autopilot, plotter, radar, gps, Nav 6, AIS… We have three computer screens (two inside and outside) and around 12 different Raymarine devices.
Notice that I haven’t even mentioned the ‘how to sail the boat’ bit yet!
We were totally and utterly overwhelmed when we took over our boat. Yes, we had a 35’ Moody sailboat before HOWEVER the Oyster is a whole different ballgame. The sailing bit we understood but all the mechanisms were new. And having to learn about our engine and generator was a massive learning curve.
That being noted, our voyage last year provided us with an outstanding learning ground. We made many mistakes but we also met many teachers. I’m so proud to say that Simon and I know so much more than we did before. Of course, there’s loads that we don’t know…but not only have we learned about our systems, we’ve increased our confidence to the point of being able to problem solve.
Last year, something would happen and we’d simply yell, ‘Help!’
Now we know enough about troubleshooting that nine times out of ten we’re fixing things ourselves rather than paying someone to do it for us.
I’m totally fine with anchoring – in fact prefer it now
When we started out, we stayed in Marinas. I was too scared to anchor – what if the anchor didn’t hold? What if we were swept out into sea or worse, what if we where dragged onto the rocks?
After my good friend Elaine, from sailboat ‘Why Knot’ taught me how to use our anchor alarm, I started to feel much better about anchoring. What happens is you set the alarm on your GPS system when you drop the anchor. If you move, the alarm goes off and it will wake you up to survey the situation. So…if we do drag, we know about it instantly.
After months of anchoring, I now love it. I enjoy the peaceful setting, privacy, ability to swim and ease of anchoring. We don’t have to put fenders out, tie ropes on, panic as to whether someone will be on the jetty to help. We simply find a patch of sand below the boat, drop anchor, make sure it’s dug-in and the jobs done.
I’m chilled out about food, preparation and eating
This was another biggie for me. Not knowing how to cook before we left on our adventure, I was always in a state of turmoil about what to buy at the store and how to cook it. I never learned how to throw things together… Fortunately for me, I had my wonderful cousin with us for the first 5 months and she loved to cook! She gave me confidence with food and helped me understand what goes good together.
Now, I have my main recipes that I cook often (chili over rice, chicken wrapped in bacon/parma ham with veggies, spaghetti carbonara, chicken pie, BBQ, chicken soup, Mediterranean shepherds pie, pork in a cream sauce, seafood pie, stuffed pasta shells, Greek burgers, sausage pasta bake and of course all my salads – potato, green bean, Greek, pasta, broccoli….) AND I also go on the Internet and get new ideas too. Furthermore, I’ve become an expert at making bruschetta, tatziki, and hummus!
And thankfully, I have my mom’s spice blends (that I sell in my Britican Galley range – view in shop now!) so when I have to make a quick dip or spice a chicken, seafood, or beef dish I just use a Tablespoon of the blend.
So for me, cooking has now become a very enjoyable part of my life. Before I thought it was a necessary evil but I actually enjoy preparing food. I seriously never saw that coming 🙂
Cleaning the boat is easier – I know what products to use, how to use them and when
I was totally overwhelmed with the amount of cleaning that is necessary to keep a boat presentable. I thought by trading in our 6-bedroom house for a 56’ boat would reduce my cleaning time massively. Oh how wrong I was.
I have to vacuum the boat every day – yes, every day (not that I do it)! The amount of dust that appears from nowhere is insane. The bathrooms need a good clean every couple days and the kitchen (and doing dishes) never ends.
My two biggest tips I have for cleaning the boat (and I’m only talking about the inside right now) is to buy yourself a handheld Dyson. Also, get those bathroom/kitchen wipes. I know that those wipies are causing landfill issues and that is a big problem…HOWEVER, using those wipes keeps chemicals out of the sea, they’re quick and easy to use and if you use one every couple days the bathrooms (heads) don’t get out of hand. I vacuum the bathroom and then use a wipe – it’s the quickest, easiest and most environmentally safe (for the sea).
The topside of the boat is a whole different beast. If the rains come from the Sahara Desert, you’ll have a boat full of red sand. After a day of sailing, there will be salt, dirt and dust all over the place. My big top for the top of the boat is use Permanon. But this is for another article.
Perhaps my biggest take away about cleaning on a boat is to not underestimate how quickly boats get dirty. If you’re interested on maintenance tips, read my article: My top 15 sailing maintenance tips, tricks and little known secrets from 2014
I’m even more convinced that new friends await us at every new port
Saying ‘good bye’ to old and new friends is the hardest part of our new life. Leaving our winter mooring at Marina di Ragusa made me feel sick. Read, ‘Warning: Becoming a full-time cruiser can cause massive heartache – this is why:‘
More recently I posted on Facebook that I was feeling very low due to saying good-bye to sailboat ‘Why Knot.’ Many people wrote very kind words of support. And a friend that Simon and I met while sailing the Ionian last year, Mick Burrow, responded with some really comforting words:
For you Simon and Sienna.
The one thing you must remember is you are leaving friends in the Mediterranean you didn’t have before and they and us will always remain friends.
You are also moving on to new adventures and new friends and cultures
Embrace it and enjoy the experiences.
Sometimes I fail to feel grateful for all the amazing friends that I wouldn’t have had in the first place! Shame on me. I suppose I still crave non-change… I find a new friend and I just want to keep them. I want the world to stop spinning and life to just be simple. Sure – over time that wouldn’t be very nice, but the combination of having to keep moving forward and say good-bye creates loads of change. It’s not always easy.
The community feeling is getting stronger – almost everywhere we go we know someone (this will change when we’re out of the Med, but it’s nice feeling like you have friends close by at all times).
It’s great to be down below doing something while anchored in a bay and hear, ‘Britican – is anyone home.’ When I pop up it’s a friend we’ve met in a previous mooring or while staying in Sicily.
Every few bays we go to, we’ll see someone we know. And often when we’re sailing around we’ll see a friend pop up on our AIS (AIS is a positioning device – it shows you who is around and vice versa – all on your plotter). Once you join the sailing community you truly realize just how small the world really is.
Furthermore, I keep in touch with many of my sailing friends so I know where they are. Often they’ll be a few hundred miles away – if that. Knowing where people are offers me the feeling that we’re never alone!
I’m more comfortable with our homeschooling routine and overall entertaining a five year old full time
Life with my daughter, Sienna, has become easier and more enjoyable. If you’re interested in what it’s like for a child to live on a sailboat, watch my video entitled, ‘Sailing with children – here’s what it’s like to be a 5 year old living on a sailboat‘
[Side note: I just had to get up from the computer. I’m sitting in the cockpit. Simon and Sienna are swimming with Tanna & Sienna from ‘Why Knot’ and Katie and Harry from ‘Zulu’. Sienna has finally taken the plunge and jumped off the top step of the stairs. Everyone is clapping and yelling, ‘yeah Sienna!’ Her response is, ‘this is the best day ever!’ Back to writing my article…]
Possibly the hardest transition I had to make was going from a work-a-holic production machine to a stay-at-home mom confined on a 56’ boat! (Please note that I use the word ‘confined’ loosely…we’re not really confined. I feel the need to interpret any contentious words for fear that the press will take my statements and turn them into headlines!)
Anyway, I had to trade in my laptop for a dolls house, my overly logical mind for legos, and my full time adult conversation style for kid talk.
In a nutshell, I’ve had to learn how to play again. It hasn’t been easy – there’s always something else that needs to be done rather than playing or doing school work, but I’ve slowly relaxed into it. Doing schoolwork is a breeze – it’s just part of the day now and we all enjoy working on numbers and letters. Sometimes Sienna doesn’t want to do it but we usually find a way to make it fun.
Sienna has learned how to play more by herself and that’s great – she’s not reliant on me and Simon 100% of the time like she was previously. When it’s just the three of us Sienna’s behavior is, for the most part, really good.
When we have friends over or are moving around with another kid boat we often have issues but I think it’s because Sienna is staying up later than usual, learning social skills and trying to make sense of her world. Emotionally, I’m not sure if she’s maturing as quick as her counterparts but she’d be the same if we were on land. I could write quite a bit about Sienna and my thoughts on how things are going but, once again, I’ll leave that for another day.
Overall I’m absolutely convinced that she’s getting the best possible upbringing we could give her. I have no doubts and absolutely no regrets.
My relationship with hubby is good
We’re further settling into our roles and are closer to knowing who does what. I handle most of the cooking, cleaning and figuring out how to make some money. He handles the boat servicing, maintenance, passage planning and sailing. We both share responsibility over Sienna. As for romance?! We’ll it’s just too darn hot for that! Hehehehehe.
Over the past year we’ve been doing our own thing. I’ve never been one for teamwork but I feel that I’m starting to warm up to the idea. Rather than do things on our own, hubby and I are helping each other and it’s adding another element to our relationship.
Some days he chews too loud and leaves his wet towel on the floor for the 1000th time which drives me nuts but those moments are far and few between. Thus far this experience has definitely helped us to grow closer – in fact, all of us as a family are much closer than we ever were before.
So there you have it. After fifteen months of living on our boat full-time on a boat I’m still raring to go.
At this very moment we’re preparing to leave Greece for Sicily. Once we’re in Sicily we’re getting our new bimini and some solar panels. After that, we’re going to new lands (for us). I think we’ll hit Sardinia first and then Corsica and we might even sign up for a regatta in Palma, Mallorca for September (super yikes!). And of course, there’s our imminent Atlantic crossing in December (super duper yikes!)
I’m feeling scared about moving to pastures that we’re unfamiliar with but I keep reminding myself to stop thinking too far forward. Live for today – eh? So here’s to more travels, more hello’s, more good-bye’s and loads more of living life!