It’s been nearly three years since I met Alex and dove into a life in the sea.
I’d always been drawn to the ocean, though, since I was a very little girl. There was always a certain magic every summer when we went to the beach that I did not find anywhere else, not in the mountains, not in the countryside, not in any city (and we did travel a lot with my family).
There are creatures in the forest of course; and in the jungle as well. But if I had to choose to be turned into an animal I always thought I’d love to be a dolphin. They seem so cheerful, friendly, clever, elegant.
There’s no feeling like being in the water for me, I love to float, swim, dive and dance in it. I like to look at it sparkle, I like to listen to the sounds it makes, I like to drink it, or put it in my mouth and spit it out if it’s salty, I like to feel how soft it is when you touch it with your hand, and how it accommodates to any element that comes in contact with it.
The water has always amazed me. It is most definitely my element. Ever since I can remember, there was no place in my family home that I enjoyed more than the bathtub. Even as an adult, if I ever feel under the weather, a little ill, or sore, or sad, or tired, or worried, the one place in the world I want to go to in order to feel safe and warm is a bathtub, to sit in it and let the hot water just fall on me. If it’s cold outside, then I fill it up and lie down with some music. I can stay in there for a long time. I feel my whole being warm up to its touch, and I also feel it’s an absolute private moment, an oasis of solitude and privacy. I feel alone in there, but in the best way one can be alone, calm, safe and warm.
Now when it’s really hot outside and you have a cold shower, or jump into the ocean, river, lake or a swimming pool, the experience is completely different. You are awakened, energized, ready to be active, play, laugh, swim, get out, put a towel around you.
Taking a hot shower or bath makes you slow down, listen to your own heartbeat, forget about whatever it is that might trouble you. It is so soothing. It is also great if your body is not working properly, if you feel ill or if you have pain of any sort, a fever. You lie in there and relax and let the water cool down, bringing your own body temperature down, gently, gradually.
We do not have a tub on the boat of course but that’s the one thing I miss from the city when it’s stormy or cold. The first thing Alex and I do when we visit a friend’s home or a hotel is take a long hot shower or bath. Apart from family and friends, a bathtub might be the only thing I sometimes miss living here. Well, cotton candy and cinemas too. But the thing is, since I’ve been on the boat, apart from when it is cold, I haven’t really felt the need to find a place like that to retreat, hide, collect my thoughts, or relax. I just haven’t really felt stressed, or beat up, or confused, like I used to when I lived on land.
In three years, only once was another person rude to us. We were in Kuna Yala, in an anchorage called Elefante, driving around looking for a place to anchor with my brother and his wife who were visiting. Their little girl had not been born yet, it was just the four of us. We were looking for a spot, we hadn’t even slowed down yet and this guy came out of his catamaran and started yelling: “Could you come any closer to my boat? There’s no room to anchor here!” Alex and I got furious (we both have a temper when it comes to rude idiots like that) and it was strange for our guests. They didn’t understand why we didn’t just ignore him and go on enjoying our beautiful day in paradise.
The thing is, this was the only time in three whole years when someone had been rude to us. We had forgotten what that was like. We were not conditioned by the environment to accept it anymore. And we felt it was our responsibility to tell him off to try and have him stop acting like that. Alex went over with the dinghy and I could hear his voice in the wind chewing the guy’s head off, “I am thinking of having a beer with my brother-in-law, is that ok with you? Later on I might make love to my wife, should I come and ask for your permission first?” It was quite funny because his outburst had been totally uncalled for. We were just passing by, not that close to him of course (there is so much room to sail and anchor in Kuna Yala), looking for a safe spot to anchor. If you know anything about Alex and I you know we don’t like to be where everyone else is. We always anchor as far as we can from the other boats, in order to have our silence and also because it’s safer when the wind picks up and people with small anchors start dragging.
When you live on land, people are rude to you in one way or another quite often, in big cities almost every day: while you’re in your car stuck in traffic, or at the counter of some store, or when you have a misunderstanding about money, or it might be the bus driver, or your boss having a bad day. Governments and corporations are also rude, invasive and abusive constantly, in different ways. There are always things you learn to ignore so that they do affect your life, or mess up your energy.
You rarely have to do that when you live on a boat. You have no services, no bills, and very few neighbors. Most people around us keep to themselves and only approach when they want to share something, ask for information, see who you are and socialize, comment on something, or donate stuff they do not use anymore. Also most of them have come to the sea looking for peace, and time, and nature. Most of us are unconventional, some pretty weird even, but we all want to be free. That does not mean you will get along with everybody, of course not. But there is a certain code that everyone understands: we keep it quiet at night (a late party only now and then, usually with musicians jamming live in someone’s cockpit, not too bad), and we respect each other’s space and energy.
When your home is floating on this amazingly huge mass of water that is the ocean, and I don’t mean at a dock, because that’s like living on a flat, you can hear other people’s conversations and they can hear yours. I mean, when you live on the hook a couple hundred yards away from land, there’s a great feeling of freedom and detachment from the world. You are literally detached. You don’t really belong to any country or society anymore but to this community of weirdos, the nature around you, your own home and whatever and whoever lives in it.
Splendid has become the most amazing big floating bathtub for me. It protects me from all the shit and fear in the media, other people’s stress, consumerism, pollution, bills, junk food, forced socializing, I could go on forever. You walk around the boat and everything is smooth, soft. You never feel your knees are absorbing the impact of your step, the boat slightly adapts to your walk, or the wind, or the current.
This splendid bathtub is big enough for me to have all my stuff in it, I can even fit the man of my dreams, who loves me and makes me laugh all the time, and he’s pretty big coming from a Ukrainian family. Instead of being full of water, my tub is surrounded by salty water which helps me float, heals my wounds, and dies my hair. This is ocean water which makes waves I can listen to, play with, duck under or surf. And if I sit on the edge of this bathtub, let my legs dangle and look down, I see the most incredible creatures, out of the wildest night-time stories. Sometimes I look and there’s a big spotted stingray, circling the boat or leaping out of the water and doing somersaults. Sometimes there’s a funny looking squid changing colors, or two big dolphins with their baby, who is learning to swim. It might be a shy turtle popping its head out of the water just for a couple of seconds. When the visibility is good, way down on the bottom there are orange and yellow starfish and a sleepy nurse shark. And almost every day I see a school of fast, clever mackerel that go round and round Splendid, cornering and eating tiny silver fish. There are also lots of pelicans fishing. Life is thriving all around us. At night we can see thousands of stars, follow the moon, listen to other dolphins breathing and look at the phosphorescence floating by. Sometimes we play with it with our feet or an oar and see it get even more luminous. It is quite magical.
You can’t really know what living off the grid like this is like until you experience this. Because you can live in a country house, an hour away from the nearest town, but still you live in a particular country that is ruled by somebody; a country which has a particular economy and politics and good and bad periods and your house cannot move. On a boat, if you got food and you’re not sinking, you’re fine really. If something goes wrong, you can pick up the anchor and sail somewhere else. You don’t belong anywhere other than the sea, and it is enormous. You have so many choices as to where to go, within a particular country or through big passages, that you get very excited and change your mind all the time. You can go for colder latitudes, or warmer, calmer or more challenging ones, you can change language if you wish. You can collect coconuts, mangoes and bananas or go somewhere you can pick raspberries, rose hip fruit and chestnuts. There are borders but not really. You have to go and take the time to approach the authorities and let them know you’ve arrived. Things are kind of slow, old fashioned, simple. I tell you there is nothing like it.