Hello you. You’re that blog I write about sailing the boat we renovated. That blog I’m failing to maintain, because we’re neither sailing nor working on that boat. Hello and, as always, apologies.
Gwen’s fine, thanks for asking. Neglected, but well. We’re living happily within her – hooked up to the electric, planked up to the pier and lashed in place between charter boats. In the month and a half since I last wrote she has only moved once, and that was while I wasn’t here. She’s resting and probably bored.
We are finally able to afford our life in balmy palmy Palma, though it’s pricey and we’re not saving like we’d hoped. I’ve got two jobs. In the first I teach beginner classes twice a week to five nervous but keen professionals. In the other I menace my eardrums with the cacophony of a city primary school, assisting English teachers with vocabulary drills, pronunciation correction and going “shusshhhhh”. I smile a lot. Children ask me if they may go to the toilet and I tell them I don’t know. Tots hold on to my legs and babble at me in Catalan and I smile and nod and hope that I’m not agreeing to anything stupid. Thankfully this means I don’t have to do any more online transcription work, for which my back and sanity are truly grateful.
I cycle across the city four times a day and am generally shattered, though I’m still managing to gather weight due to having quit smoking yet a-bastard-gain. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. Puffers at al fresco bars that line the city streets are to be found edging nervously away from me as I sniff up close for a whiff of nicotine. It’s been a month and a half and I’d still rather have a fag than dinner, sex or world peace. Addiction is a bitch.
Rich still enjoys his friendly colleagues, but is increasingly disturbed by the bewildering opulence of the boats he works on. People who own massive yachts that are heavily staffed and stocked year round, on the off chance that they might fly in for a sail, stand on an incredible rung of wealth. Their enormous craft sound more palatial than any house I’ve ever lived in, and their staff’s finely detailed requests are a far cry from the rough, heavy caulking and planking that Rich was doing when we first met. This work has its own delicate satisfaction and is less demanding physically, but in his grumbling Rich reveals a nostalgia for the real boat building that is performed for real seamen.
Yeah, I said seamen. I’ve had this blog for over four years. I can’t believe it took this long.
Our weekends are often pleasant and if we cross our fingers we can usually find a day free and sunny enough to go off in a van we borrow from Rich’s work, heading off to scale some scrambly rocks or a castle. We walk long high paths, breathing in the incredible pine and rosemary scented air and working up an appetite for tapas back in Palma.
This is the first city I’ve lived in for many years. Wandering around in a spare moment always reveals an as yet undiscovered cobbled alley or a weird shop to explore. The comforting anonymity that cities provide is enhanced by the language barrier, making me feel at once at home and curiously remote. It doesn’t hurt that Palma’s beautiful and full of art. It doesn’t hurt that we don’t move and are never scared by storms. I’m not saying I want to stay in the marina any longer than our contract, and I do look forward to returning to a world of octopuses and bowline knots, but I can’t deny that I am enjoying some urban comfort after the blowy blue wilderness.
City dwelling has its downsides too. It’s dark inside the boat, and can get cold. The dinghies on deck, with nowhere else to go, cover one saloon light source, and neighbouring boats block out the rest. But we’ve got a shore socket so we flick on the lights and plug in a heater with no thought to the cost in solar power. It’s scary how much cardboard and organic waste we accumulate now we don’t burn the former and throw the latter overboard, and I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to have to row ashore to get anything you want. In many ways life is easier, but it’s not the low impact nomadic life we enjoyed so much last year.
So, what about that life? We don’t know yet when it’s going to start again and where it has a chance of taking us. We’re low on funds and thus low on motivation. We talk so often about making a new list for this year’s jobs and essential purchases, and sometimes we even get part of the way through. We discuss what we might do, then distract ourselves with something else. Rich fantasises about what project he’ll take on after Gwen, diverting his attention from current needs to permaculture plots and houseboats. I throw myself into drawing and guzzling, hoping to develop skills that I can one day pursue with more dedication (illustration, not eating competitions). We work, and we get tired from working, and we let ourselves off thinking about Gwen for one night, and another, because we need our rest and our time to enjoy each other.
But still, thoughts of her seep through. She is unavoidably all around us, after all. There’s a lot to do if we’re going to leave this island. Gwen will have to come out of the water at some point this year for antifouling, and she desperately needs tweaks to the engine and bilge, attention to the galley, backstay and wind vane, and some sort of sun protection both for her wooden parts and for us as we sail her. Though the memory of voyaging is getting more distant we both feel its freedom teasing us while we sit in this self-sprung trap. One dip into the blog or a photo album or someone else’s sailing video and we’re swept up in salty memories. We remember why we’re here in Mallorca – to grab some cash so we can keep on cruising.
The money, the work, the jobs, the money again… it’s all quite huge and, for Rich in particular, it’s always got a time pressure associated with it. His stress might seem well hidden to some but his body, my nerves and our happiness take the strain, and always have. The time we take to escape it, the climbs and drinks and wanders, are important. We talk about how one day, maybe not yet, but one day, we’ll get the balance right. One day maybe we’ll think smaller, or dream slower dreams. We won’t be all work or all play, but all somewhere between the two.
But we’re not there yet, so we’d better get back to fuelling this dream – this amazing journey.
Any day now.