How Did I Get Here?
In three months I’ll be living almost totally off-the-grid in my sailboat. I’m about to float around, wherever the wind takes me, but generally pointed north. I’ll be relying on my skills as a sailor and my ability to have engineered a seaworthy and comfortable floating home. I’ll be doing this for at least five months, being away from the nearest town for up to a month-and-a-half or more in the remote fjords and islands of British Columbia.
How did I get here? What set me apart? What nuggets of wisdom do I have to share? What allowed me to persevere where so many let their similar dreams crumble? In reflecting on this long journey, I see three elements, more than any others, that helped me to succeed:
- I bought a neglected fiberglass boat with the intension of learning to fix it up, sail it, and eventually live on it.
- I taught myself how to work with fiberglass.
- I took skilled sailors out on my boat and asked them to teach me.
I think this attitude can be summed up as ‘sweat equity’. I was willing to buy something on the cheap because I trusted my ability to teach myself new skills. Fiberglass is a very forgiving medium, and my choice of a coreless fiberglass boat was fortunate. I also learned that boating is an expensive hobby, but an inexpensive lifestyle. Choosing to liveaboard as a goal made all the difference
2) I didn’t know the first thing about fiberglassing when I started. My first few projects were a huge mess and I wasted a lot of material. But I kept reading West System guides and watching YouTube videos. I experimented and got better.Epoxy fiberglass is an amazing building material. It goes on as easy as painting a wall, but is incredibly, structurally strong. It is unaffected by salt water and other corrosive materials. It lasts forever and can be repaired easily. We are truly living in the future with this amazing material.
Learn to fiberglass.
3) Taking skilled sailors out on the boat was a no brainer, but it’s amazing how few people take this initiative. The thing you have to realize is this: taking your own boat out is a lot of work. There is a lot of prep work before and clean-up work afterwards. If someone invites you on their boat, you get all the fun without any of the mess. Skilled sailors love passing on their knowledge too.
Re-read that last paragraph. It took a long time for that truth to dawn on me. Once it did, I started reaching out to my friends and dock neighbors. I put the word out that I was looking to take people out who could coach me. Once I did this my sailing skills, and knowledge of sailing in general, improved radically.