Log Entry: 1, August 18, 2015, Omaha, NE, USA
What does one do when a child prepares to leave for college, eager to take the reigns of his own life, when meaningful work has stagnated for years along with do-able wages. There are a few close friends, but they, of course, are entangled in their own lives. I guess, some of us return to our earlier dreams, even if those dreams seem a bit extreme.
Since I can remember, tall white sails and classically painted hulls just captivated me. There’s nothing about a sailboat that I am not in love with–unless it has no keel. Do any of you remember the show, “Quincy M. E.” that ran from 1976 to 1983? Quincy, the character, lived on a boat at the harbor. Fictional though it was, I was smitten by the idea that people actually live on boats, and I never lost the pang for it.
So, several years ago, I started searching for information about live aboard culture, and the cost of blue water boats, as well as working abroad. The internet is teaming with eager people who will tell you everything you’d ever need to know, and some of what you don’t want to know: how to fix a motor, cooking on board, pets aboard, finding live aboard communities, boats to avoid, who got drunk last night and got on the wrong boat, and so on. My imagination swelled, and that was good because it got me taking myself seriously about actually doing this. The big question was, when will it happen?
In May, my only child graduated from high school, and has had college on the brain since junior high. No worries there. My job ended in June, and there’s no real love loss there. I have no other family here, where I’ve resided for 24 years, and have dealt with enough to be ready for Chapter 3 of my life. The downside is leaving the people I love in Omaha, my support system. Leaving that tugs at my heart a bit. But, they go out and have experiences, from time to time, themselves. So, with nothing holding me back that can’t be rearranged, I decided it was time to get serious about the live aboard life.
About a month ago, I got back on the internet, and did a search on sailboat crewing. There were several websites connecting boats with crew. So, I wrote my first sailing resume, and signed up. Oddly, it felt like joining a dating website, a little strange, sort of like, “I like your boat. Do you like my skills?” And, my resume was hilarious, being that the extent of my sailing experience is that I have crewed on a Snipe for a couple years, and know the points of sail. I could hardly call myself “competent crew” according to this site’s criteria. Not to be daunted, I looked at the many certifications needed to become “competent crew”, and decided I’d better work on those after getting on a boat. At best, I could expect to be a deckhand, which is fine. At least I had discovered my competency level.
After a few days of checking boat listings, and sifting through messages from creepy men saying only, “hi”, I said, “note to self: be very careful”. Nobody who’s taking you seriously, as crew, introduces themselves with no more than the word “hi”. I decided to keep at it, and became determined to remember the the dangers that lurk about travelers everywhere–especially for women.
Around July 24th, I looked at the tall ships on my selected crew site. At the top was a beautiful black and white schooner named Alvei. At 115 feet, her white sails were so many that they looked like sheets hanging out to dry on laundry day. She has three masts, three jibs, three gaff rigged sails–one the main, four square top sails, and a mizzen. Wow! She is pretty. Then I read about her. Alvei is privately owned, but is used for international aid work–a service boat.
Doing international aid work is something else I’ve had a pang for, and majored in Sociology as well as worked for anthropologists in graduate school because of my deep interest in cultural affiars. It seemed that all my dreams were pointing beyond the U.S. Way beyond. Looking further, a note on the ad read, “no experience necessary”. What! Looking even further, the ad said room and board were shared among the boat’s occupants. Actually, a lot of ads say that. Most boats want crew to help them as long as it’s still considered a charter experience to a degree. It’s a way to keep a boat going. So, I let Alvei go needing a paying job. But, it sure seemed like a great way to spend life: sailing and doing projects for indigenous groups whose resources are limited.
A day or so later, I received a message from a boat captain. Finally, a real message from someone who wanted to talk about actual sailing. I told the captain about the aid ship that I had read about, but that it was out of my reach, and that I was interested in talking about his boat further. The more the captain shared, the more I realized I was communicating with the captain from the aid ship, Alvei. He was inviting me aboard–to work–not for pay, but to work. But, that was the problem. I needed income, and explained why I would’t be able to accept this rare offer. We chatted for several more days. I checked him out. We both vetted each other through conversation and other means. Then the captain, Captain Evan Logan, said he could cover my expenses for the first few months.
Okay, I definitely had more questions: was he expecting repayment in monetary form or otherwise? You follow me. I asked him how he earns his contribution to the boat. That’s when he told me about when and how he began his life on board.
The next post will talk about how to make a living and do aid work on Alvei.