Now I’m out of hospital, homeostasis is not an option. Keeping things, the same in my life will not address the fundamental sources for my depression. During the three months in hospital, I had plenty of time to evaluate how I live. With the help of my CBT therapist, I clarified the changes, when made, I determined would help keep me in robust good health.
Change can be challenging. Remaining within my comfort zone may seem safe, but doing so, continues to expose me to the familiar, and thus comfortable, elements which may stunt my recovery process. In much of my life, I haven’t been content to remain in my comfort zone. My many sea kayaking adventures are a testament to this. There were innumerable moments during these expeditions where I could have taken the safest path but instead chose the more arduous. The rewards for doing so were always incredibly richer.
I identified the key element in how I live which hinders my pursuit of joy in life as being loneliness. I miss day to day contact with others. I miss seeing my friends. I miss having friends to visit and stay. I miss sharing my love of the outdoors with friends and others. My outgoing and richly blessed online life cannot sustain this for me. There are many occasions where I find myself aching to meet Twitter friends for real, to chat, to share time with. Yet, it is through Twitter where I find my most intimate connections with others. It is where daily, I am recognised and valued. Of course, it is not possible to meet people in reality – I would have to travel the world to do so.
I can make changes in how I live which will enhance the possibilities for me to connect with others. The fundamental change is one which carries the greatest potential for loss and sadness for me. It requires me to give up on what I have long believed sustained me but in fact, I have sadly identified, is a major limiting factor in my life.
This is living on our yacht.
We have therefore decided to move ashore. The key reasons for this huge decision are these. I am isolated from others when I’m aboard on our mooring in Tobermory Bay. There is no chance of anyone dropping by and there are times when I can spend a week on board without any contact with others apart from my wife. The only contact I have is an online virtual one. This then leads me to become attached to my laptop, searching my timelines for any recognition for my existence. Although I purport to live a free and healthy outdoor life, this is in truth not the case. I am often cooped up in our saloon, sitting in the same spot all day. Only moving to make coffee or visit the heads. My wonderful photos often trawled from my numerous photographic catalogues. Of course, I do get out and about. I take the dog for a walk and there are times when I get my act together and go kayaking.
This leads onto another debilitating factor regarding living on our boat in the bay. To get ashore we must row one of small dinghies. This means anything we need to transport ashore must be packed to keep it dry, and loaded in the small boat, rowed ashore, lumbered up onto the shore. There are many times when arriving at the shore, I have realised I have forgotten something on the boat which needed to be brought over. For example, the scutter in taking stuff ashore often demotivates me to the point I’ll choose not to go kayaking. Additionally, if I do go kayaking, there’s not much room aboard to dry my wet kit. All this occurs when we are on the mooring. In the winter months, we are berthed alongside one of the pontoon docks in the harbour marina.
This leads into another aspect which I have increasingly found challenging for me. Living on the boat through the winter. Winter is not a good time of year for me at the best of times. It’s when my mood is most likely to lessen to the point where I’m bordering on a depressive episode. Winter here in Tobermory can be tough. The winds often blow from a quarter which makes living aboard uncomfortable because of the noise and movement. When one of the many winter gales passes through, I can be guaranteed very little sleep. Another major factor which I’m increasingly finding challenging is keeping on top of dampness through the winter months. Condensation is a problem leading to things becoming mouldy and damaged as a result. We attempt to keep on top of this but it’s a never ending task. In the mornings I can be woken by large drips of condensation falling on my head from the window above me. With the heating we use, the boat is generally warm and cosy. We don’t suffer from being cold but with heating comes condensation.
Finally, I have come to accept I’m not a worthwhile handy-person. There are innumerable maintenance tasks which are required to keep the boat functional. For some reason, I find it extremely challenging to keep on top of these and ultimately perform them to a high quality. I accept I’m self-critical of myself, but this aspect does weigh heavily on me. It is an issue which I ruminate about and can build within me as a negative force.
There will be a huge amount I’ll miss about living on the boat. The first one, and this is probably the key one, is my loss of identity. I’m known as LifeAfloat to my many followers in my online world. Moving off the boat removes me from this attribution. I will personally miss acknowledging myself as a yacht live-aboard. An important part of my personal identity will be given up. This saddens me.
I will miss the elemental aspect of living on the boat. This is the deep connection I have developed with the weather, the sea, the tides, the birdlife and the boat herself. I will miss falling asleep to the movement created by the swell. I’ll miss becoming intimately knowledgeable about the weather and living my life, so I’m prepared for it and not too discomforted. To a certain extent I’ll miss the challenges the elements present because they remind me of my place in the world.
I’ll miss the opportunities to drop the mooring and sail off into the wide blue yonder. The itinerant lifestyle, not feeling anchored to one place. However, to be honest, we don’t do this half as much as we would like.
So, it’s with an extremely heavy heart, I’ve decided to bring to end my living on a yacht. It has been seven wonderfully interesting, joyful, challenging, and rewarding years. I’ve learned so much about living a simple life. I’ve learned much about myself too, namely I’m keen to live adventurously despite my age. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed the alternativeness of my lifestyle to the point it became a completely normal existence.
We are moving into a delightful terraced house looking over Tobermory Bay. We’ll have a garden which will offer us uninterrupted views across the bay, the Sound of Mull beyond and then the mountains of Morvern in the far distance. It’s a comfortable house with plenty of room. We were extremely fortunate to find this house, because rental accommodation in Tobermory is rare.
So, what are the opportunities?
I will have a room as my ‘office’ where I’ll write without having to clear my stuff away when we need to eat. We’ll enjoy all the aspects living in a house as opposed to living on a boat. Namely, no condensation. We’ll have a spare en-suite guest room.
The latter is extremely important! We hope this will mean we no longer live in isolation with no visitors. We make this room available to all our friends, even those we have not yet met. I am particularly keen our house becomes a hive of visitors where we share time together and connect. There are many Twitter and Facebook friends I want to meet and get to know. Additionally, it’ll be so much easier to then share some wee adventures together; kayaking, walking, exploring Mull.
There will not be scutter involved in rowing everything ashore before I can enjoy a day out kayaking or walking. I’ll simply open the door and walk down to the quay. At the end of the day, I can wash and dry my salty wet kit without stringing it out in two small cabins. I think this means I’ll get out on the sea far more often.
When winter arrives, I won’t be struggling with the gales and the darkness as much as I would be on the boat. This will be good for my mental health.
I will invite friends around and folks can drop by. My life will become less lonely and this too will be good for my mental health.
Finally, our dear dog, Ziggy, is becoming stiff in his legs and no longer jumps with the youthful confidence he once had. Living in a house where he doesn’t have to jump into or out of the saloon will certainly benefit him.
Although I will no longer be a live-aboard, I’m not relinquishing my LifeAfloat moniker. It is my intention to spend more time on the sea in my kayak than I have ever done before. There are huge swathes of coastline for me to explore. Additionally, I will buy a traditional clinker built sea going sailing skiff. I have my eye on one already. I will do this once we have sold our yacht.
This leads into the final point. The money we’ll realise from the sale of our yacht will not disappear into the general pot. We’ll divide it equally for each of us to realise our adventure dreams. I’m formulating a huge expedition to take place in a few years. Karen for example, has always wanted to trek through Iceland on a pony. There are many other aspirations we wish to fulfil. The key here is the spirit of ‘Anna-Maria’, our yacht, will live on through our commitment to enjoy adventures from her sale. This fills me with excitement. The possibilities!
We have no further plans than the immediate ones we have made. We aspire to live a life with as small a footprint as we can. This move into the house is a stepping stone towards our next life adventure.