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What do you do all day?

What do people do all day on their boats?

The question came up as we were sitting on our boat, midday, doing nothing. The stiff breeze that had dominated our first three days in Tyrell Bay had abated slightly, still blowing steadily, but only gusting occasionally into the 20-knot range. The sun was warm and occasional cumulus clouds drifted across the sky.

At anchorage, we spend a lot of time watching the activity around us. Part of this is due diligence, but a lot of it is pure learning. Watching different boats come in and hunt for an anchoring spot is as instructive as it is amusing. Some skippers are pros: they quickly scope out a spot they know their vessel will fit into, and they move in quickly, set the hook, secure it, then dive on it. Then they are off for a cold beer or five.

Others are lunatics, slaloming between boats, spinning their vessel around, anchoring downwind. It is not unusual—and it has already happened to us this week—to wake up and find a 45-foot catamaran looming over your cockpit. Fortunately, the boat moved as soon as the light was good.

Watching how boats behave on anchor is also instructive. I keep a range finder handy to check our position relative to the boat in front of me and the boat behind me. This gives me a sense of our own boat movement. We dove on our anchor as soon as we could, and we could see that it was dug nicely into sand and grass bottom in 18 feet of crystal blue water.

I’m talking a lot about anchoring a lot because it is much on my mind. Our windlass is broken—actually that’s not true; it works, but we have discovered that the chain is mismatched to the gypsy, so it sucks the links back around and jams up. We have tried to overcome this with some DIY fixes, but ultimately we need to replace the chain or the gypsy. The net outcome of this is that the chain and anchor must be hauled by hand. You should see the muscles sprouting in Chantal’s shoulders.

So people think a lot about anchoring while they are sitting around their boats all day. And there are boat projects. There is always something that needs doing. This morning I was futzing with the dinghy outboard, which uncharacteristically acted up yesterday. Fuel tank, fuel supply line, connection, fuel filter, air filter, spark plug, all looked in good condition, and it started right up for me, so we will keep an eye on it.

For most of the day yesterday, our neighbor (on a 40-foot catamaran) was up the mast, working on his lazy jacks—lines used to hold the stack pack in place. (The stack pack is a sort of pouch on the boom that the sail flakes into; it protects the sail from weather when not in use.) Another skipper had his head in one of his diesels (he was on a catamaran, too, and they come with two diesel engines).

But there are lots of other things to do. Flag ID is fun: there are boats in this bay flagged in Denmark, South Africa, France, Germany, Belgium, the U.S., Canada, Grenada, Bermuda, the U.K. and others. There is reading. Route planning. The weather. Food preparation. Napping. (Insert your own desired activity here, you nasty boy!) Day-planning (getting off the boat is critical, if only for the cheap, cold beer available). Swimming—the water here is lovely, and Chantal has been using her swim buoy to get some honest laps in. And when I’ve been out to dive on the anchor, I’ve been accompanied by a pair of small Caribbean reef cuttlefish who are happy to escort me back to the boat. And there is people-watching.

When you come into a busy anchorage, you tacitly surrender your right to absolute privacy. When you are out on deck or sitting in your cockpit, you are in public view, and while spying on people with powerful binoculars is uncool, everybody sees what everybody else is doing. The other day our neighbor appeared on the transom of his catamaran in his swim trunks, dove into the water, swam several invigorating laps around his boat, got out, pulled his trunks off, and had a thorough shower with his deck hose. He then energetically dried himself, then modestly wrapped the towel around his waist.

I spend a lot of time working at my job, for I am still teaching online. That means not only am I working, but I’m fretting about my wifi connection. We are currently using Google Fi, but we are dissatisfied and actively looking at picking up a local SIM card. Of course, a lot of my worrying is abated by getting off the boat and finding a friendly place with killer views and free wifi—and cheap, cold beer. I get lots of work done in places like that.

So don’t think we are simply living the good life, searching for out lost shaker of salt. We are busy, busy, busy (watching those shrimp, they’re beginning to boil).

Note: Don’t forget that you can follow our Ship’s Log of sailing with this link:

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Dec 10, 2021

Looking forward to swimming a few laps off the starboard myself and learning more nautical terms.

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