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Windsurfing In The BenAnna Republic

The world of Ben-kingdom seen by Anna-rchista

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Life Philosophy Aboard

Retire on the Go, the secret of thrifty living.

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Since we came back to live around the same city, I’ve met several other women sailors and also read more blogs about other people’s adventures. It’s quite surprising how often the question of the sailing budget comes around the corner with other sailors or just our family. We consider that  we live with a lot (largely)) but apparently when we compare with our contact’s budget we are nowhere close to their figures annually. We live with less than 10 000 AUD/year; for both of us.

I made a little spread sheet to explain:

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This might seem a lot to you or very little. For the ones who think it’s a lot: yes we are working constantly to reduce our needs and we will bring that figure down on our next trip. The less we spend the farther we can sail before going back to work.

Now, if this seems to you very very low; let me explain and give a few tricks. For starters, we have a light sailing catamaran, built by my talentuous skipper thought out to produce the LOWEST maintenance cost possible while achieving marvelous performance sailing (light light light). Ben and I can repair/fix absolutely everything which is not too electronically complex. Thanks to his incredible cleverness and practicality and a little bit to my engineering degree, we are technically wired, both of us. Inara is made unsinkable and doesn’t have the following: bilge pump and diesels (the main sources of a worry on a boat). Our Philosophy is KEEP IT SIMPLE AND IT WILL BE SAFE.

We also have normal expectations of comfort: no washing machine, no TV, no air con, no complex shower system, no abnormous fridge/freezer (a full 40L Evacool fridge last us 2-3 weeks which is anyway what the fresh food usually last..). We like to do most things ourselves because it makes us happy, the notion of “chores” is overrated. We also have a plethora of toys (light) onboard to entertain ourselves: mountain bikes (very important for shopping and discovering), spearfishing equipment, hiking equipment and of course…. Windsurfing equipment. Believe me we are always super busy, not really a lazy life out there…

Because we are always busy, we buy less… we have the shops in horror.

Which brings me to the next topic: food. We value fresh organic food and I love cooking (especially on the boat). We try to eat red meat once a week only and it’s almost always kangaroo meat. We just found out that we are happier that way, red meat is hard to digest and makes you dozy. We eat chicken a few times a week and fish aplenty when we catch some. This happen often when we cruise, we love fishing. I buy my veggies in farmers markets and I found out that the same amount of veggies cost me half the price that when I get it from Woolies or Coles. AND they last longer! It’s up to you to organize yourselves with farmers markets when you are cruising. I repackage the meat to take less place and it last longer. For example, I would buy a full chook and consume it bits by bits (breast, legs, wings, carcass). A full organic chicken used this way make us 5 meals for the two of us along 10 days. We carry a good assortment of cans and plenty of options for Asian food. I can’t live without cheese so we make sure the fridge always have some and I bake my own sourdough bread with homemade culture, propagate yoghurt from used jars, make anzac bikkies and shortbreads, grow sprouts and herbs… the classic yachtie gal… we carry a massive assortment of sauces, spices and teas.

A few ideas of what we love to eat regurlarly (homemade): Roo burgers, asians stir frys, Indians curries, satays, miso soups, enchiladas, tortillas con frijoles, slow cooked chicken soup, crumbed fish and rice, ratatouille, crepes and the very occasional australian baked dinner. When we are under sail, I make salads sandwishes and toasts. But sometimes, I can as well bake a “tarte aux pommes” while we are flying at 15 knots….

Because we are very busy, exploring everywhere during the day, we tend to eat a massive breakfast (coffee muesli, yoghurt and fruits) and then have a large meal of the above around 4-5 pm, cup of tea and bikkies at night time. That’s it. Less dishes to wash, less haziness to digest and more time to be with the Nature.

We don’t drink much alcohol; a 6 pack every couple of weeks, sometime per month. This can lead to funny situations: while invited for sundowners we turn up with 1 L of fresh green coconut water harvested by Ben. We tend to share a drink (a can of cider or beer) at sunset because we found out that we were enjoying more the symbolic than the drink in itself. Unless after a hard day of windsurfing: a Mojito with fresh mint from the boat garden is mandatory!

What else? Our gas consumption is quite typical. And our fuel consumption is mainly for the dinghy! We never motor anywhere else than arriving and leaving anchorage. We tend to do more and more under sail anchoring and leaving procedures because we hate the sound of fuel being burned. It’s a lot less hassle to just sail everywhere!

We don’t go to marinas because there is nothing there we want: we don’t need water, electricity, fuel or social status. Also, because we are confident in the way to manage our boat, we save on the insurance: why spending so much money when we can just be careful, anchor responsibly far from everyone and fix everything ourselves? In the worst case scenario (gale at 50+ knots), we can beach Inara in a corner somewhere or tie her in the mangrove. Ben has been living for twenty years on his own, with his boats, without any insurance. For many of boats owners, those thoughts are frightening. It’s quite a risk.

Anyway, marinas are bad: they are expensive and your boat is locked into a slot baking in the sun. It damages the paint, the sail covers, wooden decks, the ropes, everything… so it makes your boat age faster and therefore cost money also in the long term in terms of additional maintenance cost. And seriously? Who wants to live just next to others people, able to hear them when they go to the toilet or put music and pay more than for an apartment on top of this? Anyway, plenty of people live in marinas and it’s fine. It’s just not for us, Inara and the BenAnna team like to be free to swing at anchor, enjoying a 270 degres view…. (and 360 sometimes…. Inara….!!!)

We get books at book exchanges and clothes at op shops. Most of my clothes have an average of 5 year turnover because I only get things I really like of durable quality….

Finally, there are the phones and internet…. I didn’t realize until I did the exercise but that’s way too much! Hopefully when we cruise oversea next time we might be able to bring down that expense. But it will probably be replaced by satellite phone bills for weather forecasting and cruising permits….

All of this goes with a philosophy too: the more frugal we get, the more we can explore everywhere and spend days living our life properly instead of laboring for someone else. We don’t believe there will be any system of retirement living in 20+ years. We don’t understand the material acquisition race that everyone else seems to be having.  We don’t want to spend the best years of our life paying for the system, the banks, the rates, just to be able to go somewhere warm when we are 60 and our health is not so good anymore. So we retire on the go: 2 years on, 2 years off, 1 year on, 1 year off, depending of our mood. We don’t need any kind of center link support and we don’t use any; our only objective is to stay in a good health, be free and be happy.

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Why yachties should be shortlisted for employment opportunities

Let’s face it, I am looking for my next stimulating position within a great company at the moment. I have to sell myself, my experience and also convince the prospective future employer that the numerous holes in my CV are due to the fact that I am dedicated to live my life fully and not to incompetence. Given that we spend a lot of time sailing, some might wonder if our social qualities are up to date and if we are competent enough to be entrusted with great responsibilities. I believe that yachties living aboard can demonstrate the following qualities:

  • We are passionate about our commitments. It takes a great amount of money, time and will to maintain a life on the water and be successful doing so.
  • We are naturally organised people. We have a place for everything on the boat, we set rules and know what getting rid of the clutter on a permanent basis means.
  • We also have a great affinity with logistics and organizing replenishment on a schedule with weather imperatives.
  • We have a keen eye for detail. We can spot what is wrong quickly or also pick up small disturbances on the water, spotting lures in an amount of plastic and so on. The other day someone put a test to spot a “C” in a middle of columns of “O” and said that if you find it in less than 1 min you were part of 10% of humans. It took me half a second.
  • We take initiatives and think outside the box. No other choices when breakage happens, you have to react quick.
  • We have a great sense of teamwork. Or at least when you are not a solo sailor.
  • We understand hierarchy and the need to use it sometimes especially in dangerous situations.
  • We are trained everyday with risk assessment scenarios. We read charts, weather maps and encompass all the data we can find for a safe journey.
  • We can live with very low energy consumption levels and be self reliable in term of water management and electricity production.
  • We know why it is important to do maintenance work. We do it ourselves.
  • We understand systems and procedures as well as material stress and constraints.
  • We love learning and observing our changing environment.
  • We know when to shut up, to manage tensions when the crew is edgy. We are very sensitive to other people’s mood. We care.
  • We have a high regard for “safety first”.
  • We are independent and able to manage our own situation for the best.
  • We are responsible individuals in charge of the safety of the boat, the passengers and the other users on the water.

Ok, there is nothing about humility there. And I guess I have met a lot of live aboards who were missing this undeniable quality.  However, Ben, my partner is the absolute buddhist monk in that respect and I, “little bandicoot”, am making a lot of efforts to follow his wisdom. So do you think a human ressource manager would value this or am I missing something important?

 

WHY IS IT SO MUCH BETTER TO LIVE ON A SAILBOAT

Most people look at boats with marvel and dream; or as the symbol of wealth for someone who can spend it on superfluous. Almost no one consider that they could be the best sustainable and exciting home than one can have. The reasons for this being that most of the people are afraid of the sea, afraid of being seasick, afraid of the cost and more than anything afraid of the responsibility.  A great amount of persons also don’t actually know that you could live perfectly well on a sail boat, they just never have thought of it. Boats can be scary, unsafe, dark, moldy, rotten, complicated and unusual.

A lot of people also have a problem with their image and they can’t imagine setting themselves out of the herd; them; for whom suburbia is the quintessence of social achievement, pretenting to themselves that “they couldn’t afford anything else”.

Living on a boat and enjoying is MAGIC, literally. It is as rewarding financially as it is inspiring philosophically. You see so many things with an exceptional point of view from a sail boat. Starting with the light and the feeling of space which are unique compared to the life on land. You will be able to see the horizon most of the days and the confinement inside the craft is largely superseded by all the space available all around you. Even better, the organization required to live on a sail boat gives a secure feeling because each item has a place and a use. There should not be too much superfluous aboard and if you allow yourself a bit of non essential items (my paintings for example); they really feel being a treat.

The light will be an important part of your life because you will witness every sunrise and every sunset each day. It will be normal for you to awake with the shimmering reflections of the water painting themselves inside the hull through a window. You will feel the slightest change in the breeze and the smallest variation of atmospheric pressure. The birds will sometimes display unusual habits just because you see them all the time and you will notice small things that researchers on a short field trip would have no idea about. We saw a group of pigeons developing a taste for fishing copying sea eagles, for example.

You will live with the weather forecast constantly. It is not just useful for a social chitchat; you will actually understand the weather changes and see them coming a long way ahead when you consult the weather maps.

There are so many places that you will have the chance to discover from the coast. Better even, you will witness the reality of distances travelling at a normal pace. Each headland and each island will have a meaning for you and will be remembered. Each anchorage will have a story and a particular flavor. On a boat, you approach so many animals; mammals, fishes and birds; that you feel being part of a wonderful ecosystem where you are only a peaceful spectator.

Whether you believe me or not, you will develop quicker reflexes and an incredible balance (and grace) out of using your internal ear constantly. Catching in flight objects falling from a table out of instinct will impress you and your friends at first but then; you will realize that you are dealing with moving parts all the time.

Your sense of smell will become extremely accurate and sensitive to artificial emissions and human activity. You will be trained to think, to act and not to panic.

Now the tough thing: being salty and cold can be actually fun when you know that you can enjoy a dry towel and a hot cup of tea when you are safely at port. Sailing provides so much adrenaline that when you are surfing down a wave, you will barely notice how cold and wet it can be. You will be too busy laughing your head off.

Modern sailboats nowadays have all amenities onboard including the luxurious oven and the fabulous hot shower. And this is a point that makes life at sea even more worthy: the sense of rationing. Somehow, you enjoy something more when you have a limited quantity of it. Water becomes gold and each times it rains and you tanks are full, you feel rich. Electricity is a luxury and each time your computer is charged you make those minutes counts by getting news from your family and friends.

All these other times, if you have no wind, no water or no friends; you will learn patience and contemplation. This might even stimulate your creative side and your taste for craft, photography or writing. Being unable to do anything on your boat and getting bored only happen if you are very unlucky or very disorganized.

For the ones who dream to have it all; get a sailboat. You will actually own million dollars views all throughout the year without never having to pay the rates for it.

On the cost of life, the obvious still stands: passed the initial investment, if your choice is wise (a seaworthy composite sailing craft); you will spend a maximum of 10 000 AUD per year, maintenance and cost of living included. The water is free as well as the electricity (solar panel and wind generators). The fuel can be almost equal to nothing if you sails when there is wind. It is then a lot easier to get all that great organic food and organic cleaning products to reduce at the maximum your impact on the environment. What’s about work? Well, you will be able to earn your low cost of life anywhere close to the water and relocating for you will be as easy as resigning: hoist your sails and there you go.

So why is there no more young people living aboard? For less than 20 000 AUD, one can find a handful of perfectly seaworthy composite sailboats ready to jump onboard and be sailed along the coast. The word has to get out there, that yes, you can live differently and you will even enjoy the few sacrifices for it.

Finally, it is true that it is not a lifestyle that encourages laziness. From all the wrong concepts out there, the one depicting the sailor as a beach bum, lazy and unwashed, is the most wrong. It requires a lot of work, organization, personal hygiene, anticipation to live full time on a sailboat.

This is exactly the key which makes the magic works: You will enjoy each day because you will have earned each of them.

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