I haven’t done much on Gwen in the last couple of weeks, but Rich has been on it as ever. He finished scraping the deck on his own, Merv’s blowtorch in one hand, a scraper taped to the other arm with a flip flop or piece of pipe to stiffen it, refusing to let me help as it’s hard on the wrists and mine are incredibly weak. He also did some filling on the keel, preparing for when we put on a glass shoe and make Gwen a seafaring Cindarella, and made seats for the cockpit from polyurethane foam and fibreglass through which the morse controls now sit.
But me, I’ve been rubbish. I have only succeeded in cutting a load of plugs with a plug cutter (while shooting seething looks at the “getting the little woman to help out” comments of a neighbouring boat person), cleaning out the bolts of the rubbing strake and plugging them up. I’ve performed my usual planning and catering duties, but I’ve been out of sorts or working the rest of the time and not much bloody help at all.
A week and a half ago I went away for a merry couple of days in London for a friend’s 40th, enjoying the train ride with the same blended sense of appreciation, anticipation and freedom that I hope will accompany our sailing adventures. I soaked in the old sights, the gossip, new highs of cocktail tasting (kindly bought by more affluent amigos) and new lows of karaoke participation, and the freedom of conversation with people who like the same things as me, drunkenly and warmly taking the piss out of each other, sharing stories with references I didn’t have to explain or have explained. With my return to Gwen came a sharp bump back to reality.
Boat life these days is all about the boat, and since the urgency to get out of the shed became our top priority Rich has been more obsessed than ever. His every waking thought is about the boat in some way, (even his leisure time is spent researching something that will eventually be in or on her) and he shares it all in a monologue that can sometimes be overwhelming, full of stages of calculation, prices, sizes, specifications, modifications. This has always been the case, and usually I can dig in with my own contribution or patiently abide it with an understanding smile. But this year it’s taken over and I feel almost as if another part of him has gone – a part that has maybe had to be temporarily sacrificed for finally making this dream happen – the part that is interested in me and fun and the world beyond. I didn’t realise until I returned from London how much of my life has become about surviving this cold, dark, dirty shed, the absence of shared enjoyment and the consumed distance of my partner in crime.
For a week I slumped, gradually falling in to a silence, a disconnection. Rich made a new forestay and started adding the hardware to the mast. I started smoking again. I’d do an hour or two’s work on the boat then lose interest, didn’t fancy running, stopped caring about what I ate, ate all the time. Work or volunteering or seeing friends kept me distracted in between, but I yearned for some project of my own or way to generate my own happiness. The oppressive shed, it’s day-long noise and night-long isolation, and the lack of simple comforts like a sink where the water can drain away so you can easily wash your hands or clean your teeth, made the boat seem more uncomfortable than ever before. How easily your head can turn a sanctuary in to a cell.
It’s still there and I’m still yanking the motivation to do anything from a deep place, and though Rich and I have talked through a lot of what is going on there seems to be no way to change it for now – we just can’t always be carefree. We can’t always have drainable water and space to put things and fresh free air greeting us on deck. Sometimes we just have to be in a shed and look out the doorway at a sunny day and know that we’ll be joining it soon.
But fun – despite our lack of money, surely we can have some of that. Today we togged up and took the dinghy over to Bogey Knights (ain’t no doubt – we are here to party) in Plymouth – as I put it in a tweet “traversing the windy warship-strewn Tamar in a shit little dinghy with an abused engine”. The place is a treasure trove of services surplus, boat paraphernalia and just plain weird second hand shit, and we came home with a heavy booty of paint. We had lunch in the sun, visited friends, played stupid games when we got home, drank cider and laughed a little. Important stuff.
We’ve been in the shed for seven months now, and we’ve got an aft cabin and will have a new rig and paint job because of it, but both of us will be so relieved when we’re out. It takes its toll on each of us in different ways, but we are both agreed that it is utterly shit, and the fact that it will end keeps us both going until the day comes that we can fuck off out of here.