I’m going to be completely honest here. Last week, I nearly went completely stir crazy working on new t-shirt designs on the boat. It most certainly is possible to work there, but it is also most certainly not a productive environment. Brian continues to point out to me that, if I want to make art, then I will make art no matter where I am. True. And I did get some work done despite it all, but just ask him, I clearly came down with cabin fever in the process.
What can I say? I live on a sailboat. My office/studio space is the saloon of a ’37 boat that is filled to the brim with live-aboard stuff, and my face is about three feet away from the kitchen (dirty dishes and all); believe me I am trying, but I am not always as productive as I’d like. Sometimes it gets downright lonely and claustrophobic during the week. Brian is at work all day (also working overtime), and I am trying not to spend a dime (since I have little-to-no income at the moment), so I don’t go out much. It’s not that I don’t like the boat life anymore, because I do, but is quite different living on the boat while it’s stationary than when we are traveling on it. Sure, I did it in Charleston, but back then I had a bit of studio space where I could work on my art and get away from the boat for a little while.
So yesterday I decided to reclaim my sanity by taking a bus-metro-train-car trip to Yorktown to visit my parents and work on new t-shirt designs at the house. My goal is to get my Etsy shop up and running in the next few weeks, so I need access to my screen-printing equipment and some room to think and create. I’ve only been putting this off for a year (almost to the day); I registered my Etsy shop last year, but sadly never listed anything. So here I am in Yorktown for the week, increasing my productivity and happily working on my art again.
I took a few pictures last week of my work setup on Illusion. There were several rainy days, which actually did wonders for my creativity/mood….who knew?
Our two combined water tanks (approx. 65 gallons) provide Illusion with anywhere from four-six weeks of water depending on how often we cook and need to wash dishes. The faucet on our sink (as on most boats) only runs as long as you twist the knob, which can make washing dishes more difficult, but greatly cuts down on water usage. Also, the water pump comes on only after the water subsides to a tiny trickle. Thus when we fill a pot to boil water, we are more likely to use less water than wait on the water to fill. In addition, Illusion has three 6-gallon jerricans that we keep up on deck. We keep them filled but generally only use them for showering, which is kept to a minimum – truth be told, we have showered in the rain before!
Originally, Illusion had a hot-water heater and a small shower head over the toilet, but neither Brian or I ever used it. Brian removed the hot-water heater to create extra space in one of the outdoor lockers, and after the new floor was installed, showering in the bathroom became more-or-less impossible (because we don’t want water to get trapped underneath the vinyl flooring). Instead, we opted to buy a solar-heated camp shower, which holds up to four gallons of water – enough for four showers. We hoist the big plastic bladder, black on one side and clear on the other, a short ways up the mast with the halyard, so that it hangs above our heads. I usually only fill it halfway before I lay it in the sun, clear side up, for several hours to let it heat up first. True, I have to shower with my bathing suit on, but it can be quite a refreshing experience to shower outdoors.
When we are docked, we use public or marina showers depending on the access, so I would say that I am most wasteful on the boat when I wash dishes. In any case, there is an obvious correlation between the amount of cooking we do in a given month and the duration of our water supply. Our situation differs when we are on the move, of course, as opposed to stationary, and if we are docked, we usually have direct access to fresh water. The rule is: always top up the water supply before leaving the dock. If we are underway and far from land, we will scoop up seawater or drag a netted bucket behind the boat to clean our dirty dishes, soaping and rinsing with freshwater afterward to save our supply for drinking. Water is by far the most precious commodity on board Illusion, and although we haven’t ever been far from land for long, it is of great importance. I find it all too fitting that our main water tank looks exactly like an old metal treasure chest – surely it must have hidden gold doubloons at some point in time!
We don’t wash our laundry on the boat (although there are machines you can buy specifically for boats), and the toilet uses seawater for flushing; call it conservation or conscious water consumption or just plain necessity, but that’s it in a nutshell. Sure, there are plenty of ways to cut down our water usage even more. We can always shower less (although it is healthy from a personal-hygiene standpoint and I do love a good long shower), use less water to cook, stop boiling noodles, and make other subtle changes, etc. Not to mention, there are systems you can rig to catch rainwater and replenish the supply. But being stationary at the moment, I am pretty content with my current freshwater usage. I estimate that, on Illusion, I currently use an average of 1.5 gallons per day (drinking, dish-washing, and cooking water), +1.5 gallons if I shower on the boat with the camp shower. Of course, my personal water-usage amount is higher if I use public showers, or the laundromat, or even if I eat out at a restaurant, but that does not affect Illusion‘s water supply and cannot be quantified at this time. Even without an exact estimation, it still puts me far under the average in America according to this site, Water.org.
No doubt, I am certainly using less water than I ever did on land. Think about it; how much do you use in a day?
It seems that the hours of studio time I put in last fall are beginning to pay off now. After just three weeks here, my hand-printed osprey and sea turtle tees are on sale at Vivo Boutique, an eco-friendly boutique supporting local artists and designers in Annapolis. I’ve also met a group of hip young artists at SOTA, Studios of the Arts, including fashion designers, screen printers, photographers, and videographers. What with all of the connections I’ve been making lately, and due to my proximity to DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, I strongly feel the need to spend more time working on my t-shirt designs and developing my art portfolio. Although living on a sailboat makes it infinitely harder to work (space issues), it keeps my monthly expenses down to the absolute minimum, which makes this artistic exploration possible.
I have to admit, though, I’ve been struggling over how best to use my time over the course of the next three months while Illusion is in Annapolis. Initially, I felt a great deal of pressure to get a “real” job – one that would offer me steady hourly work, decent pay, and look good on the ole’ resume. After all, we are trying to build up our savings again for our trip south this winter. But we are only in Annapolis for a few months, and that is easier said than done. Because Brian found a steady job immediately and is already working full-time, it takes some of the stress off of me. But I am still wrestling with my own sense of responsibility, both to my art and to my bank account.
My gut feelings tell me, without a doubt, to follow the art opportunities that are presenting themselves to me at this time. If only those feelings weren’t at war with my sense of duty and need for financial stability. Sigh. I need to trust that the time I invest in my art now, will pay off for me later, if I work hard. So guilty feelings aside, I am going to find some cheap studio space and get focused again. I am more than ready to get back to my art.
Perhaps some of you have already heard of Lomography, a company based in Vienna that sells art cameras, such as the Diana Mini or this cool fisheye camera that I bought back in February (as a birthday gift to myself). Well, I’ve been carting around the first roll of film since Illusion left Hilton Head Island and only recently developed it. Unfortunately, the film canister popped open in my purse (several times), overexposing a few of the images, but I still managed to get a few cool shots out of the roll.
This camera has several cool features, which I thought would work well on the boat: the curved lens captures 170 degrees, it is plastic and therefore less fragile than my digital camera, I can double expose images or leave the shutter open for an extended period of time, and I bought it with the underwater-housing case. I envisioned using it to document our journey south, putting together a small look-book about our journey after the completion of our trip – perhaps I will still do so. After all, I am pleased with the results of my first experimental run. What do you think?
“Oh, how neat,” some people exclaim when I tell them I live on a sailboat, “how romantic; how adventurous.” They assume that boat life is all about snorkeling, fair winds, and white-sand beaches. Well, it is, but it isn’t always that way. In fact, I haven’t so much as touched a snorkel since I moved onto the boat, but that’s what I tell people I signed up for. After all, it was Brian’s main point of debate, when we began talking about it several years ago.
More often, people look at me in bewilderment, “You live on that?” Yep. I live in a 10′ x 37′ floating space. It is a hard concept for some to grasp. Sure, it’s tight sometimes, especially when Brian is working on a project with every last one of our belongings pulled out of their places and strewn about in complete disarray. But when we are on the water and our field of vision opens up so that we can see for miles and miles, it’s a complete luxury.
It’s a simpler existence, one that makes me conscious of my water consumption, aware of every piece of trash that exits the boat, how much power I use in a day, and infinitely more aware of the natural world around me. When I initially moved aboard, I had to carefully choose which material possessions to bring along, as we had a finite amount of space. Since then, I have carefully weighed every material purchase decision against what I already had, and my material possessions have shrank considerably. Do I really need that new dress? Probably not. All this is to say, that I’ve been thinking about the ways in which I have begun to live responsibly on the boat and consider things I can do to decrease our impact even further.
Since we became mobile, Brian and I have been trying to reach a target point of self-sustainability and eco-friendly living. I consider this a worthy effort, because the environment is important to me (as you may have deduced from my art), and regardless of any politics surrounding the matter, I want to enjoy and admire it in it’s natural state for a long long time. It’s only right to respect the environment, appreciate what it has to offer, and live consciously. With this in mind, I’ve decided to add a new category to this blog of a sustainable slant. This means that from now on, I will be including posts about the ways in which we are conserving, reducing our impact on the environment, or using renewable resources for energy. Or as my mother recently said, ways in which we are “going native.”