Life On Board

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Having always been a bit of a people watcher I find it extremely interesting the differing reactions that people have when you tell them that you actually live on board your boat in a marina. The responses range from the shock/horror type. “Oh no, how could you possibly do that?” or plain cold disdain, “Hmm, well I could never bear to live on a boat, I couldn’t be squashed up like sardines in a can!” There’s even a muttered inference that because you don’t sleep four steps away from a gold tapped, pink tiled bathroom that you must be a bit of a grub or worse, a member of the awful species that frequent marina bars…. “The grotty yachtie!” May Allah save us from such horrors!

Admittedly, it does rather seem a fact of life that the further you live from the actual marina club house on your boat, the greater the proportion of wrinkles in your shirts and jeans, but at the end of the day, it is not exactly a hanging offence, is it? All boaties are a bit like that, aren’t we? I have seen some very posh yachtie types that belong to my club that appear to have barely escaped from a wind tunnel with hairstyles to match, but then again a lot of them seem to own open top Mercedes sports cars.

Living on board, in a marina is a bit of a double-edged sword I know. Like everything else in life, there are pluses and minuses, in many differing ways. The minuses can, on certain days, outweigh the pluses by far, but hey, life goes on. What are the minuses? Well, these can vary in horror content depending on whether you are on a swing mooring or marina berth. Let’s get the swing mooring type out of the way first. In fine weather, nothing (they assure me) beats the quiet and solitude and sense of freedom far away from the rowing neighbours and barking dogs. It must be idyllic, I am sure, except for the endless row of power boats that skim past your porthole every two minutes at weekends. However, (I shudder as I write, actually) when the barometer plunges and a southerly buster swings in towards our little spot of heaven on Earth promising black rain clouds and howling gales, my heart truly goes out to them. I have often stood by the porthole, snug in the cabin, on a filthy day watching small flooded dinghies sail past out of the gloom filled with cowering forms and sopping dogs whose eyes are fixed intently on the nearest land borne lamppost. I feel like applauding out loud at their true grit and amazing tenacity. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper out there and I really feel the club should award those solid members with bravery medals and give them free dinners, as most of them are the truest yachties amongst us all. I must admit I’m curious to know how some bosses react when one of their staff walks into work on rainy days looking as if they had been over Niagara Falls whilst being washed down with a fire hose. Saying, “I live on a boat” only seems to make it worse somehow.

But let’s move on to the next hardy species, the ‘marine berth’ dweller. Once again, distance from the shower and toilet come into play but the further away you are the less able you are to hear the warbles and crashes of the resident band whose repetitious refrains of bloody ‘Mustang Sally’ for twelve weeks on end during the summer season are almost too much to bear. Additional nuisances are the giant washes of Riviera owners who roar out of the marina at 15 knots tipping your dinner into your lap, and when the wind is southerly the sound of crashing waves against the stern drowns out all speech. Unless you’ve actually tried to sleep in a washing machine you’ll realise why boaties normally walk around glassy eyed. It’s not just the rum I can assure you. Money too, or the distinct lack of it, dictates your life’s comforts. There’s truly no comparison to the wealthy live aboards on an eighty foot Dyna towering above us mere mortals who live somewhat like hermit crabs in wooden shells under the shadows of their giant exhausts.

However, on a sunny Sunday we all become as one. Out on deck, clustering around the barby (the great aussie leveler twixt rich and poor) with visitors and friends gurgling cheerily into their chardonnay, banging on about how lucky we are to be here, etc etc. and as the greasy scraps go over the side into the boiling gangs of frenzied bream, they croon on about how great it must be to eat fresh fish every day, free of charge. Naturally, we daren’t burst their bubble of fantasy by telling them exactly why they hang around under the boat awaiting the clarion call of the toilet pump, it just wouldn’t be fair. Eat one of them little suckers and you’ll wake up with a crowd around you with tubes out of the places you didn’t know you had! As for the bream, they are remarkably piranha like and will eat anything when their blood is up. I have often wondered what would happen if a small child grasping a sausage plunged off the deck in amongst that lot of snapping jawed cutthroats. I dare not think.

There have been some amusing incidents at the marina and I can remember with horror the first time I arrived blissfully unaware for my first shower. Humming cheerfully, I stopped dead in my tracks after walking in to the showers, only to see through the clouds of steam, a gang of nude men, all cheerily foaming up. Communal showers…oh no! Being a Pom I suppose I must be naturally bashful, never having been to Public school, of course. This was a shock. Desperately, I looked around to see if there were separate cubicles and there was…just one. Trouble was some black hearted fiend had scrawled in big letters above the door, ‘Wooses Corner’. I was sunk. Bugger. I had no choice. OK fast and foamy it was to be. I threw off all my gear, acting casually and slunk to the furthest vacant tap. Modestly facing the wall, I lathered up, however, there was more to come.

One of the misty figures was a plump, jolly old salt, round of belly and white of beard. He was happily laughing and larking around with all the others. I happened to notice that he was sadly, one of natures unfortunates, having been badly placed at the end of the queue when nature bestowed her gifts to man. The thought actually crossed my mind he had an unfortunate and terrible accident, but no, there were signs of residence, albeit mini button mushroom size, to say the least. Suddenly, through the steam strode another figure, Adonis in the flesh. Six foot plus, brown, handsome and long of hair…long of something else he was too, by God and to a man, we all fell silent as he strode proudly to the shower, bearing his handsome (and enviable) share of natures riches. Before he could reach to turn on his tap, the bandy old white haired salt had strode up to him, hands on hips and surveyed him wondrously up and down…finally he laughed out loud and said, “Jesus mate, you’re bloody beautiful, aren’t youze!” I have never heard so much laughter in a man’s shower and much later that night in the bar, I noticed Adonis and the crusty old salt having a drink. It crossed my mind that I had shared a shower and a beer with probably the biggest and the smallest members of the yacht club! Happily, for my dented pride I can announce the showers have been rebuilt and cubicles abound!

Another funny thing happened one day as I sat on the stern of my boat. I heard a splash and turned around to see some large ripples pooling around the stern of a deserted boat. I had seen the parents and the kids leaving earlier so no one on board had heard anything. As I watched, I saw a black stick surface and start to head outwards away from the boat. I believed that it must have been a fishing rod, the handle full of air. Jumping in to my dinghy, I determined to rescue the rod and put it back on the yacht. As I got nearer, sure enough I saw it was a rod and so I grabbed it and hauled it aboard. It hadn’t occurred to me that something had pulled it in, I just assumed that it had fallen in.

Suddenly the rod clattered and to my shock the line tautened like a guitar string and pulled the head of the dinghy right around. Astounded, I sat there wondering what the hell it was that could be towing my dinghy but whatever it was, it must be huge. (It didn’t help that my partner, Nicky, who was nice and safe on the deck of our boat, was loudly humming the theme tune to Jaws) I nervously grabbed the rod and reeling like mad, the rod bent double and I finally saw a large shadow rise up from the depths. Horrified, I saw it was a huge ray, probably about four feet long…the wings were huge and it looked really peed off. Luckily for me, it gave a wrench and dived back down, the line breaking off. Shaken, I quickly rowed back and left the hookless rod back on the boat. I didn’t tell the kids later when they returned but I bet they wondered what had chomped their hook and sinker. As for me, I have still got visions of those huge eyes and that damn great spike rising up out of the water. I am not so sure about fishing now, after all is said and done and I really don’t like to walk on the pontoons after dark at all!

Certain forfeits have to be made on board also. Many boats boast cabins so small that if you turn round quickly you will meet yourself coming in but one gets used to that, except, god forbid, if you happen to be over 5′ 3″ tall. You then develop a sort of crunched up and peculiar crab like walk that immediately announces you as a nautical type. TV too, can be taxing. One must be patient if, as like me, you like F1 racing for example. After sitting up until 2.30 in the morning, the race is near to an end with the leaders neck and neck. Suddenly a gust of wind blows the head off by about 2 degrees and your already snowy picture disintegrates into a full blown arctic blizzard with sound effects to match. Who won? Who cares? Yes, TV addicts need not apply.

But overall, positives and negatives aside, I must consider myself lucky to be one of the few fortunates who can’t afford a four hundred grand shack on a block of precious Gold Coast scrub and therefore have to put up with all the delights and limitations of life in a long wooden cave that floats. However, the actual realisation that one day when my ship comes in (and I will probably be waiting at the station waiting for the train) and I finally become rich, I will have the enviable ability to cast myself adrift upon the tide and let the gentle currents float me Northwards to the Mecca of all boaties, the Whitsundays, where I can drink twelve dollar rum and cokes, squashed amongst the thousands of chundering backpackers lazily brushing aside the hordes of mozzies eager to share my alcohol laced blood…heaven on earth will finally be mine.

Till then, dear reader, take heart in the fact that up until that distant dot in time, I will have to trudge daily to the showers (and back) in all weathers, queue endlessly for one of the ancient cold water washing machines (we are privileged to use) and gratefully receive a few coppers discount off my beer, bravely bearing the scorn of members so rich they don’t even own a boat, dreaming of the day I can fling off the ropes that bind me to the present and sail off into a pink tinged future complete with my damp bed and an eager crew of cockies. Life on board?….wouldn’t be dead for quids, shipmates…head due North, me hearties.


write by Xenia

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