The Minimalist Sailor

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The delights of a minimalistic life

Splendid was running out of water the other day, it hadn’t rained for over two weeks, we had had visitors for a while and we were already considering the possibility of going to one of the two islands where you can supposedly get drinking water in KunaYala. During these last couple of days I realized, for example, how little toothpaste we have been using. The amount you really need (both of paste and water) is minimal but when you live in a city you are taught to use too much of everything because someone makes money with your overlooked habits. So you look at the ad on TV and there is a thick, long, colorfully striped chunk of toothpaste on the modernly designed brush, we naturally think that is how much paste we are supposed to put there. And so every couple of weeks you must pick up toothpaste at the supermarket and pay for intricately designed expensive brushes. And the same happens with every other product. By the way, Alex says we should stop using toothpaste altogether and start using baking soda.

But corporations do not only take your money away and exhaust our world’s natural resources. They also take away the joys of living your life naturally, of coming to the point when some things are scarce, which forces you to adjust to that circumstance, become creative, discover alternatives and feel fortunate when you have those things again.

We had started thinking about leaving this amazing anchorage to go get water and then, two days ago, rain finally came, a big squall. We put the hose coming from the bimini into one of the tanks and Alex went to the bow to clean the decks with a brush. Once they were clean, he used rags to close the first drain on each side of the boat and with t-shirts he blocked the way so that the water would collect around the through-deck fittings and just fall into the tanks. The boat was completely full in about 15 minutes.

We were dancing with happiness. The rain was cold! Alex loves being outside in the rain, he does yoga and all but I freeze and the water hitting my skin hurts when it’ss so windy, so we jumped into the sea,which was a lot warmer and protected me from the heavy drops. We swam and laughed, then we had a shower on the deck. But still it was pouring and we could see lots of water being trapped near the t-shirts so each of us took one of the long square plastic containers we use to store food in the fridge and started collecting the water from the floor until we filled all our jerry cans and all the bottles we had onboard. We were delighted. We felt fortunate and proud, we were solving the problem and having fun, we were making the best of a natural thing such as a squall, something other people might even consider annoying most of the time.

A minimalistic natural life can be thought of as harsh, but in my opinion it highlights the joys of living, it reminds you of how fortunate you are, it makes you realize the value of all things around you.

The following day, I used the sewing machine onboard for the first time to make two long tubes of waterproof fabric we will fill with sand so that next time it rains we don’t need to use t-shirts to block the way. I read the manual, I managed to figure out how this marine machine worked and felt once again happy and proud. We were laughing at how brainy I am. I love reading manuals to figure out how things work and also to check if they are well written or translated. Alex has a completely different approach to machines: he opens them up, pulls everything apart and puts them back together to understand them. The simple fact of running out of drinking water lead to a series of adjusting circumstances that made us share blissful moments,reflect on our own way of life, how the world works, how each of us understands it.


It’s funny how all of us are different and I guess that’s what makes this life so interesting, sometimes so joyful and sometimes so hard to cope with. I think the important thing is to find where it is that you belong. But it is not easy because of the way the system works, usually if you want to be free then you’ll have to fight for it. The system’s basic principle is that we do as we are told, not that we do what we want. And the problem with capitalism is that for some to enjoy it, and live with a certain amount of freedom, there needs to be many who suffer (usually in other parts of the world, so that they are not seen) to support those at the top. All of us are part of the capitalist system, one way or another most of us support it, or else we would be out there doing what it takes to change things. I don’tt want to get into a sociological or political discussion about our civic responsibilities or what is it we do to help others. Each of us knows when we are doing our best and when we are playing dumb, inside or outside the system.

What I’m trying to say is that I think many people follow their daily routines without stopping to think whether this is what they want for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, though, I am not extreme, I do not think a minimalistic life is for everyone. I believe some people can be happy living within the system. I, for one, have quite a few friends with whom I’ve been discussing the subject extensively and we always get to the same point: I cannot live in a big city without being miserable, they would never even think about leaving, they have a good life and it shows. But I have other friends who, like me, have left the big cities in search of a slower kind of life, more connected to nature and less attached to consumerism or financial obligations,and who say they would never be able come back. The city was killing them, sometimes even literally: their health was being seriously compromised. If you are unhappy and feel trapped, if you feel many times the world has all its weight on your head, then do something about it!

We were talking about life coaching yesterday and some thoughts came to my mind:

  1. For it to be such a boom there must be a lot of people who feel lost or unhappy with their lives.
  2. Reading the contents of the workshops (eating healthily, finding out what you want from life, taking the steps towards acquiring it, etc) one would think it’d be easy to sit under a tree, in a coffee shop or in bed and come up with the answers yourself, why is it that people need somebody else to help them know what they want? The system tells you what to do for so long, since you are a very young kid, that it’s hard to know who you are or what it is you like sometimes.
  3. Finding details about some of the organizations, it is scary to see how many of them look exactly like Avon, Tupperware or some evangelist cults: we have come up with a program that holds the key to salvation; invest quite a large sum of money and this amazing program will be revealed to you, changing your life forever; invest quite a lot more and you can get training to become a leader within our organization, get your money back and make much more by saving others and revealing the program to them.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help from someone else of course, we all grow from the interaction with others, I told Alex I had done a couple of workshops with The Art of Living and that it really opened a whole new realm of possibilities for me, through breathing techniques, meditation and Indian philosophy, but our instructors were volunteers, all of those who want to become part of the organization, do it to help others in their free time, not to make money. I’m not saying the foundation does not make quite a lot, because the courses are not cheap (it supposedly goes to their free programs in prisons, schools with violent students, etc. though I do not have any details to support this) but at least you know the people helping you out are not doing it for money, you are not a decimal point for them, there is no pyramid, it’s not business. If you’re thinking of taking one of these courses or paying for a life coach do some research. One can get quite vulnerable in circumstances like that and get hurt. The whole business seems to be growing too fast for all these organizations to have real substance. Hundreds of people (like Alex) have been working for years to help others but they don’t ask you to pay a certain fee every month to benefit from their knowledge or experience nor do they promise you will definitely get results. They are not selling a product.

Consume less. Use less of everything. Be amazed at how little you need and how much money and resources you are wasting. Feel lighter and happier. Rediscover the wonders of nature and true human nature. There is an interesting song, Credo, from an Irish band called Firstborn that ends: “Western neurosis is not human nature. Human nature is harmony, like all other nature”

Published in Carla Dorsey
Updated: February 23, 2015 — 10:36


  1. I love your insight! I am so tired of spinning the wheel, like a gerbil! I don’t need ‘stuff’ to be happy. The ‘weight’ you spoke of is a huge reality for me in the form of mortgage interest, car and home insurance (all forced), phone bills, water bills, ever increasing groceries and gas, etc.

    I make more money now, than I ever have and I have less freedom. What the %$#& is up with that!!! No matter that I work 55+ hours a week(away from my family), I am far less happy than when I first got married and didn’t even have a job! I feel like it’s getting close to decision time, ready or not.

    I am going to do my best to join You and Alex, very soon. If I can pull the funds together, I’ll bail on this job and set up a charter. I’ll pay the piper when I get back.

  2. Exactly! I felt the same way when I had to pay my rent and bills and groceries were getting more and more expensive and my salary stayed the same. I felt a prisoner, I could either work more hours or cut down on more and more things to keep up. I never used banks or loans but I can only imagine how much worse it gets! You get paid and most of it goes right away. You work all day just to pay things off instead of enjoying your time (which is so little!) the system’s truly evil. It’s true, what you say, life gets a lot easier when you live on less. I really hope you and your family find a simpler way of life that suits you and makes you happy. Once you’re aware of what you want to change, doors start opening ; )

  3. Hello there Carla, please tell Alex, that he has been such an inspiration to me, and that I really hope to meet you guys one day. Can’t wait for the new movie!
    I am in the process of buying a 35 ft Ta Chiao ketch for five thousand dollars. It is a great boat but needs a little work. Mostly just the decks ( teak decks need pulled up and new plywood and glass). Everything else is painting and systems. I am a very handy guy and will do all of the work myself. I live 10 minutes from where she will be docked and am planning on 5 years or less to get her ready to sail “out of here”. Here’s the funny thing…I have never sailed before. I am reading, and I have some friends that will teach me and we plan on taking some courses. Everyone thinks I’m a bit crazy but I know my capabilities and I believe in our dream so, it will come to pass. I live on Lake Erie in Ohio and most tell me that this is a good place to learn because it is a shallow lake and it will teach me in rough weather.
    Anyway, if you guys are around in 5 years when we sail down to the Caribbean, we will find you and share a few drinks, stories and laughs. I have been looking for a minimalistic lifestyle that was attainable and Alex has shown me the way that suits us best, and I will forever be grateful to him for that.
    Your friend, Jim

  4. Hi there Jim! Lovely to hear you’re taking the first steps!! It’s so exciting, isn’t it? To realize you’re immersed in a life that is not right for you, to finally wake up and say “what am I waiting for? When am I going to start living MY life, they way I dream it?” Nobody is ever going to do it for you. Like Alex says, freedom is something you take and work for, but it’s out there, it really is and it’s not such a big deal. It’s just a matter of being committed!

    Alex says you guys should buy or build a proper sailing dinghy that you will later use on your boat and learn the basics of how to sail in it. I don’t know much about sailing so he told me the same thing, that now that we have a hard dinghy I can learn the basic dynamics of wind, sails, currents… It’s really the same thing on a smaller scale I think.

    So good you can keep the boat so close to where you live as well! You’ll be able to go work on it or just visit and have a glass of wine on your future home whenever you wish! There’s something so magical about living on water, it’s just beautiful.

    I’m so happy for you guys!! And I also hope we get to meet up when your dream is a reality! It’s really up to you, push, work hard, do what it takes, it doesn’t matter if it takes some time as long as you’re giving your 100% the universe will take care of everything else : )

    Keep in touch, Jim. Let us know how things are going! Take care and congrats!!


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