…and so do their boats.
As someone who is extremely motion sensitive spending time on a boat typically poses a problem. I have always been attracted to the water, I love the beach, I love snorkeling, and just hearing the crash of the waves on the shores soothes my soul. I actually live about 100 metres from the ocean and walk there frequently. Having lived inland most of my life, I am loving life on the West Coast.
When you live on an island, you don’t have to go far to find people who by choice do not live on solid, stable land. Recently, I had the privilege of meeting some of them. As one of my main characters lives on a boat I wanted to get the scoop first hand about living aboard an ocean-going vessel.
I met Hannah and Tony though a friend in my writing group and immediately I was welcomed on board and allowed to investigate every nook and cranny of their home on the water. Which I did, but declined to crawl down into the engine hold. I took Tony on his word that it was a tight close space.
Over a cup of tea and some fresh mango, Hannah and Tony answered my every question without hesitation and just talked about their life on the water. Their home is a trawler, which is basically a fishing boat bottom with a yacht top (Tony’s description). This configuration sits higher on the water and gives them more windows which equal more light.
One of the main characters in my story lives aboard a sailboat so, on our way off the dock, Hannah introduced me to Ralph, who does live aboard a sailboat. As Hannah and Tony were off to meet some friends, they handed me over to Ralph, who, without any advance notice or hesitation, welcomed me on board and also allowed me to look at every nook and cranny of his home. Amazing. I had a lovely chat with Ralph and he too answered all my questions and even loaned me a book to read.
I was thrilled with my few hours of research and had some interesting points to incorporate into my story and some to investigate further. But it didn’t stop there. Much to my delight (and some trepidation), the next day Hannah and Tony invited me to spend a night on their boat as they were going to be on shore. I was honoured and thrilled and as soon as I hit send on the email accepting, I went in search of my sea-bands.
One of the things which I learned is how close a community it is for those who live on boats. I mean, your neighbours are basically an arm’s length away so your privacy does take a bit of a hit. Such a close community looks out for each other, shares what they have; something that we on land could learn from. How many of us, when meeting a stranger, would welcome them into our homes and give them access to everything? I don’t care how good the reference is, we would hesitate.
During my overnight on the boat, I met both neighbours on either side of Hannah and Tony. Just before dinner, John and Tracy invited me over for a lovely glass of wine and we sat on their deck enjoying the ambiance and greeting the neighbours as they walked by. John and Tracy have a dog on board and she was also lovely and welcoming. As there is a dog in my story, this opened up some interesting possibilities for my characters.
Then, there was Lynne, who gave me fresh homemade rhubarb pie and ice cream for breakfast the next morning. I love rhubarb pie. She and her partner live aboard a sailboat designed for long offshore trips. Like the others, she also allowed me to look everywhere on the boat and answered all my questions.
What I took away from my research experience, besides a week of nausea and dizziness and the belief that I could never live aboard, is this:
- Boat people are amazing.
- There are more different types of boats and layouts than I imagined.
- The close community is unlike anything I have found on land.
- Everything one brings aboard a boat takes careful consideration. Does it have a purpose? How much space does it occupy? Will it bring pests (ie: bugs) on board?
All of this and more will make some aspects of my story, no matter how small, more real and relatable.
Thank you to Hannah, Tony, Tracy, John and Lynne. You honoured me with your openness and hospitality.