I haven’t written here for a while for several reasons. The first is because I’ve been working 12 hours a day on the boat, while Adam works 12 hours a day earning us the money we need to work on the boat! The second is because I didn’t really feel I had anything to write.
It’s easy to write when things are going well. I want to share the incredible moments and I enjoy writing about them. It’s even good to write about the bad times. The hard bit is writing about the bad times while they’re happening, and we’ve been having a hard time for a good few months now.
Since we arrived back in Greece three months ago life hasn’t been the greatest. Alongside the rest of the world we’ve been trying to avoid a deadly virus, and worrying endlessly about family and friends back home. We’ve had the same money worries as everyone else, with jobs on the line and a lot to lose. Unlike the rest of the world we have a 30 year old sailboat that’s already caught many diseases, and we’ve been trying to nurse her back to life with our limited medical knowledge.
Anyone who has been in a boat yard for more than half an hour will know it really isn’t the most romantic or relaxing of places. For those that haven’t been inside a boat yard I suggest you never bother. Boat yards are dusty and smelly, they’re noisy when it’s windy as everyone’s untamed halyards slap against masts, the toilets are a bike ride away and the ladder arrangement is no short (pun intended) of terrifying. As you can imagine, the last three months have not been the most comfortable.
A Love Affair
When we bought Hot Chocolate we felt like the luckiest people alive. We tentatively got to know her, we thought she was the most exciting and beautiful thing we’d ever seen. We wanted to spend all our time inside her (minds out the gutter please). She was the perfect boat for us.
We would stay awake for hours dreaming about all the adventures we would have in her. We introduced her to our family and friends, hoping they would love her just as much as we did. The first trips we took in her were the most memorable and thrilling. She was new to us and we savoured every moment.
As the season went on we got to know her really well. We knew how she liked to be handled, we discovered her weaknesses and her strengths and we began to really trust her. Adam and I learnt how to really work together as a team. We had never had to make quick decisions in a stressful environment together and it took a little getting used to. We got to know how to communicate better and more effectively.
The Turning Point
Unfortunately, like all good relationships, we hit the hard times while in the boat yard. We knew she needed some serious attention and we had so many plans to help her and improve her. The trouble was, we could no longer work as a team. And we no longer had any financial security at all.
Adam unexpectedly needed to work full time. He took a big pay cut and every month the risk of losing work altogether was big. We’re used to living on a budget now, but trying to fix up a cheap old sailboat on a budget is not something we had planned for! To make up for the fact I didn’t have Adam (who, let’s face it, is far more handy than I am), I worked 12 hour shifts on the boat while he worked 12 hour shifts on his laptop.
He was hot, stressed from the mess and noise I was making and mentally exhausted from the uncertainty of our situation. I was physically exhausted, frustrated I didn’t have anyone to help with difficult tasks and pretty overwhelmed taking on tasks I had no idea how to complete. Meanwhile our beloved boat was left high and dry. Literally.
Anyone looking in from the outside could see this was a recipe for disaster. Two people living in a dusty building site, both too exhausted come 9pm to even cook, let alone communicate. Unfortunately, asides from some lovely boatyard friends who regularly bought round drinks and cards and tiny cats, we had no one to force us to stop. So with a boat more broken than ever, blisters on our hands and a growing coffee addiction, we broke too.
On a very dry, hot day in May we snapped. Over a decision to take a coffee break immediately or to finish another job first. It really was something as stupid as that that caused Adam and I to have our first proper fall out ever. Of course we bicker sometimes, or snap at each other for no reason. But always pretty calmly, and with a very quick apology. This time though we barely exchanged a single word for a whole weekend. Adam spent two days solid fixing the swim ladder (one of the least pressing jobs on our list). He broke every drill bit he owns in the process, and one or two of the neighbours for good measure. I spent the weekend crying.
A Whole Lot Of Soul Searching
Our love affair with Hot Chocolate had hit that point in a relationship where you have to decide if it’s really working out. You’ve seen all their scars, realised those cute habits are actually just irritating, seen them throwing up drunk at 3am with mascara streaks down their face and realised that relationships will always be, to some extent, hard work.
Living on a sailboat is not about ‘living the dream’. It’s about living. And part of living is facing some tough times where things don’t seem to be going to plan. During our two days of silence we realised some important things. We love our life on a sailboat, and we love our life with each other. We might not favour the times in the boat yard when things aren’t going to plan, but the real question is, do we favour it more than the lives we had before?
If we had waited until we could afford a ‘better’ sailboat, we wouldn’t be living this life today together. Once I realised this, I started to relish my time in the boat yard. I realised I was learning all sorts of useful new skills that were enabling me to take care of the boat I love, and any future boats down the line. I’ve achieved things I never thought possible on my own. I also became more grateful than ever to Adam for working so hard to bring in the money we need for this adventure. For his resourcefulness and positivity when it feels like everything is working against us. Adam and I became a team again, making time to talk and taking care of each other and not just the boat!
With a lot of hard work and some testing times, Hot Chocolate is looking in better shape than ever, and we are stronger than ever, in the knowledge that to have the really good things in life, you really do have to have a healthy share of boat yard battles.