Part 2: Personal stuff
What’s life on a ship like? We’ll tell you, in our part 2 of our review, the personal part. Spoiler alarm: it will be longer than usual.
What a year
We are docked in the Port Louis Marina in Grenada and look back on our first year on the Rivercafe. A complicated year and different from what we thought. And there were a few reasons for that:
Ka and I were not yet ready to sail after a four-year break. The ship was not ready to sail either. And then there was the pandemic. The sailor’s social life virtually fell through. And the route planning spoiled faster than fish in the sun. Everything was set for a debacle.
Fortunately it was not an actual debacle. Now, after a year, we’ve come a long way. The ship sails mostly where we want it to go. We feel comfortable on board and the upgrades and changes are a boon. The Rivercafe is now finally our vessel.
As for the rest, we write dual today:
The “Master of my Soul” on a ship is the nature. It determines everything. The day, the well-being and the mood, the planning, the activities and even the course of the year. Our year in the Caribbean starts in November and ends in July. That’s when the hurricane season starts and we look for a safe haven.
I won’t say anything bad about nature – I’m determined to do that. Climate change is noticeable. Sure. But we can still breathe, swim and have clean water. The greenery around me makes my heart beat faster. Trees with flaming red blossoms, mighty and bright green. Even a pair of iguanas that live here in the harbour are greener than any green in my paint box. The warmth, the air, the clear water. All this makes me richer every day. And every day I think, hopefully Hannah and Henri can also experience the world as colourfully as we do.
Flora and fauna are mind-blowing. But the weather is also part of nature. And unfortunately you have to take what comes. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s extremely “not-great”. Not easy for me when it doesn’t go my way. It’s stressful when the wind pulls hard on the anchor chain at night. That means little sleep and a tired next day. But the normal windy days, the gentle nights with light breezes, clear starry skies and gurgling water – these are the highlights of life. They make you forget all the bad things.
left: Nutmeg, right: Iguana
Time runs differently here. Time is not a currency here. Planning is not possible in this part of the world. More like taking things into consideration. Just sort something out quickly? Nope. Or buy something quickly in the shop? Nada.
Slowness – I’ve wished for it for so long. Now it could be there. But it isn’t. Yes, the world around us is slow. It’s hot here, no one moves fast and fast thinking is not established everywhere. Actually, I wished for less slowness than calmness. The peace of being able to do everything slowly. To learn a new piano piece slowly, to draw slowly and to think long and hard about my own personal questions of life. I’m still practising.
This is my penance for my lifelong impatience. How many times I’ve wanted to jump down the throats of the stamp guys behind the desk – I can’t count. Stamping a passport can easily take three hours. I still have to learn how to watch the leaves waving. But I see progress, my desire to kill is slowly diminishing. On the other hand, I have never heard of a heart attack or burnout. I still need one or two “hommms” until I get into the flow.
left: marina at night (from 7 pm on 🙂 ), right: just a pool in the marina
We have three types of everyday life: sailing days, days at anchor, days in a marina. Taking care of the vessel and the crew is much more work than on land. And you have to plan ahead, e.g. the availability of provisions or internet, depending on the location. Ship maintenance, route planning and weather planning cost a lot of time. On top of that, we have a fixed part of our everyday life planned for work: for clients, writing or our blog work. Or whatever else each of us does. The rest: visiting islands, swimming, sports, socialising.
Well, everyday life is something completely different. The classic one doesn’t exist any more. Right now, in the harbour, when we’re waiting to sail again, everyday life is perhaps feasible. But while sailing, not a trace. Sometimes we are anchoring or are moored on a mooring ball and I swim around the ship, eat, write, draw. My favourite activities and the new ones (like apnoea diving) take up so much time that I could easily fill 4 more hours a day. So boredom is certainly not one of my occupations. When I live on land again, I have firmly resolved to make LIVING my hobby.
A few activities, however, remind me a lot of everyday life: washing, cleaning, cooking, making beds, maintaining the ship, updating software. That, yes that feels like everyday life then.
I’m usually on deck around 6.00 a.m., drinking my first coffee as the sun rises. The beginning of the day is the best time of the day for me. It’s sunny and warm, a tropical morning atmosphere. Mostly a jump into the water and then to the day’s work.
The ship has many routines, maintenance, care, resources – that takes up a fair amount of time. Our supply of food and drink takes a lot more time than on land. Finding good sources of supply always takes a few days. There’s too much American food in the supermarkets here, a shock for spoiled Europeans. Vegetables and fruit are a big hit and many of them are unknown to us.
(The delivery in the photo cost us 10 euros – exceptionally something very cheap. Normally everything here is expensive).
The climate is my dream, around 30 degrees every day, rarely below 25 at night. Just right for a life in shorts.
I am 57 years old and my hobbies are: Swimming, snorkelling, diving, illustrating, playing the piano, looking at the world, wondering and reading 😉 Sometimes I manage to save my work in https://www.behance.net/KARINBINZ or here: https://myyachtbranding.com
It’s like moving into a new place every few weeks. Once you’ve settled in, you move on. Experiencing that and reporting on it is one activity right now. The other is navigating ourselves between the pandemic and knowing how and where we’re allowed to enter. And what time the ship leaves goes to everything in and under the water and to spending time with sailing friends.
Social life is different than on land. There is no status check at all. You like each other – or not. After a while, everyone sails their own ways and at some point you meet again.
To all of you out there: I miss you. Most of all my grandchildren, with whom I can Skype about once a week. Jil and my mum and all the rest of the family and my friends. What I miss exactly: “Hello, are you home? I’ll be right over …”
The sailor social life suits me well. We always meet great people from different countries and have good conversations. It’s simple: if you like each other, you drink or eat together, do something. If not, you go your own way. It doesn’t matter if you are a local or a sailor. There is no fuss, what a relief.
It was an incredibly exciting year. A beautiful but an unnecessary exciting crossing, water shortages, blackouts, dangerous manoeuvres, wild weather, doldrums and a highly complicated crew constellation at the beginning. And then Corona. Islands you couldn’t call at, closed restaurants and shops, people robbed of their livelihoods by this teeny tiny virus. Expectations were simply a waste of time this year. I am looking forward to the upcoming season and read with enthusiasm when once again 20 people could be vaccinated.
Whether my expectations will be fulfilled, I can only say when this journey is completely over.
Well, so….. I knew what lifestyle awaited us, in normal times. The year was very arduous, complicated and often frustrating for us, as it was for everybody. Then there were some bad decisions at the beginning. Fewer technical problems would have been a great thing too. And the weather was an unexpected challenge. Lots of opportunity to learn a lot.
After all, we are “over there” now and for me the journey with the new season is just beginning. A lot of things will hopefully become easier and more rational. It’s quite enough for me if only the weather sets our limits.
The air feels warm on the skin. Tonight I’ll have a glass of champagne, like every Saturday night. The sun will set bright red. Crickets chirp and I jump into the water and let myself drift. And other than that, I’m fine.
The amplitude of life is greater at sea. Higher amplitude up and down. I feel more alive. Even if I swear more often. Or sometimes ask myself why we do this crap to ourselves. The next day something wonderful happens and then the question is convincingly answered.
Everything is more intense. There are indeed dangers beyond crossing a street. Every decision has real consequences and inattention can have serious consequences. We have left the fully insured life. This is real, with no reset or pause button available.
No day is taken for granted. But it’s a really cool way to live. / Ka and Holger Binz