The Minimalist Sailor

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Ground Control to Major Betty

Alex has been gone for 8 weeks now and it’s the first time I’ve been alone on Splendid for more than one or two nights. It’s me who usually travels. I thought maybe you were curious to know how I’m doing. So here we go.

Yesterday afternoon. A sunny day after many rainy ones. Picture me on the back deck wearing some grey cut-out cargo shorts, which are completely sun bleached and stained with paint, epoxy and varnish. A similar state on my tank top. My hair braided but a complete mess after sleeping in it for two days, also stained with some white paint in the area next to my left temple. My flip flops, arms and legs also sporting some little white paint stains. I look pretty bad-ass, although perhaps not very “feminine”. I have to say I feel proud of myself though, I’ve been on my own for two months in charge of all the systems on the boat, starting the generator, rowing everywhere (got callouses and all, man!), I’ve been sanding until my arm hurts, wearing a hilarious mask which makes me look like a survivor of the apocalypse…

I’ve been re-doing the whole aft cabin and head. Not re-painting, re-doing. Most areas in the cabin had veneer finishing, and the head had heavy tiles on the walls which Alex and I ripped a long time ago to find some moisture underneath. When Alex got Splendid there were leaks in a few places so even though now the boat is perfectly dry we knew there must be soft spots under the veneer from back then.

Just before he left I started ripping all the veneer out. Some bits of the plywood underneath were ok but there were also bad spots where I had to dig and even get to the fiberglass at times because the wood was not hard enough, I could tell it had suffered the effects of some humidity. It’s not really structural, because there’s the plywood, then fiberglass, the teak outside and also the glass that Alex put on top of the teak. But even though we are gonna sell the boat we though it was important to give it away super solid and pretty, like she deserves. It’s not easy for us to let go of her, this is a very special boat who not only brought us together, it also taught us so many skills, it really made us stronger.

I dedicated the whole of october to doing that and mixing epoxy and talcum powder to fill all those areas and I also covered all the few old drill holes or uneven spots I found. I also used chemical stripper to get rid of all the old varnish on the teak trim, doors, cabinets, drawers, ladder, etc.

So I was left with a lot of lovely bare teak and some rough plywood that was not meant to be exposed and some very smooth epoxy bits. This week I taped all the trim and I could finally start painting after all the unrewarding prep work that takes so long you want to cut your wrists with a popsicle stick!

I started with the easiest to see some results and get a boost of energy: I sanded and painted over the fiberglass walls. That was pretty easy because they looked ok we just changed the sand color to a creamy white and some brown on the top next to the ceiling. And yesterday I decided to cover all the rough plywood with a few heavy coats of primer so that it might look smoother. I can’t do fairing compound everywhere because it’s a lot of surface, most of the cabin and head, but the primer covers all the typical plywood pores and imperfections. Now I gotta sand it, fill a few spots where it looks uneven still, paint it all cream and finally varnish all the teak. It will look like a million bucks it’s such a majestic boat, the design inside is so comfortable and homey. I love it. I wonder whether I can add pictures now that there’s a new website, I’m gonna try!

So anyway, I wanted to share a moment I had, I was on the back deck getting the big can of grey primer, mask on and all, and a lancha went by, full of tourists. It was funny I could see them staring at me.

Tourists always look at us, wave and take pictures, they find it strange that we live like this. But you know they usually see women in their sarongs or swim suits. I looked like a dirty, hippie skateboarder from an apocalyptic future, which is a look I sincerely much prefer to Paris Hilton’s, don’t get me wrong, but I though it was funny how people looked at me with a little shock in their faces.

When I opened the can of primer I saw that the components had separated: all the clay-like stuff was at the bottom and the transparent liquid at the top. I looked for a stick but didn’t find one so I got a long screwdriver and tried to mix it but it was very hard. I remembered Alex had shown me once a thing for mixing paint that you put at the end of the drill. I found it quickly, fortunately, yet as usually I had to fight with the drill for a while trying to unscrew the part that holds the bits to release the one it had and put the mixing tool in. Alex closes things and I can never open them afterwards. It seemed impossible but I found some pliers and managed.

So I sat down in the cockpit with the big can, the mask, and the Makita drill with the long weird-looking mixing tool at the end and it was so funny, as soon as I put my finger on the trigger and the thing started spinning in the container making the primer smooth again I thought “wow how nice! It’s just like making a sponge cake!” cause really that was exactly what it looked like. I couldn’t stop laughing. No matter how tough I might look on the outside sometimes, with callouses on my palms, boy pants and paint in my hair I’m such a Betty hahaaa -a cool unconventional one but still a Betty, a Betty Crocker, a Betty Draper (have you seen Mad Men? I’m in love with that show, I’ve watched the whole thing twice and I’m seriously thinking about starting again!).

I love this lifestyle so much. It really fits me like a glove. I love being in the water everyday, stocking the stingrays to take photos of them, having lots of time for my million hobbies but I also love rowing, doing canvas, painting, varnishing, I even started teaching myself wood carving. Alex and I complement each other so well, I have no idea how to sail yet, or to do the mechanical, electrical or plumbing work. He’s great with fiberglass too and loves hunting.

The more I live here the more I realize how feminine I am in my own way, I am the one in charge of the “nest” side of things. I like to be in charge of organizing spaces with plastic containers and vacuum bags, cooking healthy wholesome meals and making the surfaces of the boat clean and beautiful with all these new skills I’m learning.

Being apart for so many weeks has been hard, but nowhere nearly as hard as we expected. We have so much love, trust and respect for each other that we have focused 100% on what we had to do to make this happen. We communicate many times a day with voice messages and photos on whatsapp and sometimes talk on the phone, we can’t wait to see each other. But at the same time, discovering that in effect we can be separated for months without having a single dramatic moment (cause honestly we’ve had no communication issues at all, the energy between us and with our friends and family has been happy, clean and warm the whole time) has made us feel so much closer. It showed us how solid our marriage is. Essentially it has shown us how beautiful and healthy freedom really is.

We’ll end up spending our anniversary this Saturday by ourselves but we will spend the period around Christmas and NYE together and if we are lucky also with loved ones from both our families.

These two months have been a little crazy, very intense especially for Alex who encountered many obstacles in very rough weather but you have no idea how many people have come to the rescue and offered their help. It has been mind-blowing. So very beautiful.

We feel so blessed. Thank you all for being part of our journey!!

Much love!!!


Published in Carla Dorsey
Updated: November 19, 2014 — 15:01


  1. Thanks for the update Carla! I wish you guys all the best, lots of progress on the boats, and a happy reunion at Christmas.

  2. Thank you Meagan for making contact! Yeah we can’t wait to see each other it’s been too long!
    We’ll keep you posted!!


  3. Hey Carla! You can´t imagine how proud I am of being your father! Thanks, also, for bringing Alex to my life…

  4. That’s my dad! Hola pa!

    No matter how crazy my adventures were you were always supportive, I’m also a product of the parents I got. Thanks for all the freedom and for setting an example on how one can lead a good life full of art and travel without really being part of the system. You’re the first anarchist I met! And there was mum with the guitar and her folk dancing and singing. An there was no going back, I’ve been a sensitive rebel since then!

  5. An exceptional post Carla thank you so much for sharing. The very best of luck with selling your boat, for the right price. Have a brilliant Christmas, Rob UK

  6. Thanks Rob!

    We love Splendid, we can’t wait to go back to Panama and finish making her solid and beautiful! We’re nearly there! And then we will start looking for someone who will love her, enjoy her and take good care of her. I think it won’t be that hard, she’s majestic inside! I know Eleanor is a better performance boat, and stronger, but we will miss Splendid as well, she’s so big and open inside and has so much storage! It’s a much more comfortable yacht. And we’ve given her a very modern galley, with huge sinks, stainless counters, a new stove. It’s perfect for a cruiser looking for comfort. I’m sure we’ll find the right candidate.

    Take care and thanks for appearing there! I always get excited when you guys comment!! It makes my day.


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