Till now, it has been how BooBee went from the world of a dog pound to what most people would have considered as living the dream!
The journey for me as BooBee’s caretaker, “daddy”, captain of our floating home Micasa, Jack-of-all-trade in keeping Micasa in a seaworthy condition, had been just as contrasting. I have mentioned briefly, somewhere in the introduction in this blog about my previous life. I was a corporate executive director. A top pen-pusher or keyboard tickler for many years in a multinational company based in Singapore.
In my previous, previous life (not quite the 9 lives of a cat!) I was a farmer, a plantation manager in some far out of reach corner of the world. There are much more closer analogies between a farmer and a sailor, than to a corporate slave. You see, being a farmer, my job was to keep things going and ticking along despite of the remote location and distance from civilization. It meant that if a water pump, for example, was not working, I would need to find some ways of fixing it, if possible, rather than to lug it 50 miles into town to get fixed. This thing about fixing things in remote locations (some call it exortic places) will ring a very loud and clear bell to those cruiser sailors.
Of course, at the other extreme corner was the guy in a crisply ironed white long sleeve shirt, half strangled by a fabric noose around his neck! This guy would have a pale complexion and an almost guaranteed condition of vitamin D deficiency from the total lack of exposure to direct sunlight. He would take one look at the broken water pump and proceeded straight to filing up a maintenance requisition form.
A boat is usually in a very harsh environment, especially those in a salty abode. Closer to that imaginary line which divides the globe into Northern or Southern hemisphere, the sun would be at its fiercest and relentlessly putting out a zillion watt of UV energy to reduce everything to crumbly bits in no time. Things will breakdown frequently and maintenance requirements simply off the chart. A boat is a very high maintenance thing, per se. Put that corporate guy on that boat and you will be seeing a B Grade movie remake of the Titanic which always end with the captain going down with his ship (boat)!
So as you can imagine, the ex-corporate guy that I was did struggle on the boat and was trying desperately to find my farmer’s hat thinking “if that guy was around, he’d know how to fix this!”. The mindset and habbits moulded by more then 20 years in a corporate environment was my greatest hindrance. I did eventually find my farmer’s hat and gradually those skills that were of second nature to me started to surface again.
I was retrenched from a company that I had put twenty over years of my working life into. It was as if that company was mine – I helped build it, didn’t I? As much as I had wanted to see things in a more positive light, that was a bitter pill to swallow and it certainly would require some strong medicine to remove that enormous chip on my shoulder.
Yes, I did move from living in a high rise apartment to sea level, literally. I rented out my apartment for a bit of income (trust that corporate guy to keep thinking in dollars and cents!). The boat was a high maintenance item and living on the boat became working on the boat. And unless I would be doing most things myself it would have been a very fine line between living the dream and going broke! Where’s that darn farmer? Can’t he come around a little sooner?!
It was hard physical work (at least to that ex-corporate guy) and I would either had to gunk myself up in sun cream or live with the consequence of painful sunburn. I had decided for the later till my skin was dark enough that I would burn no more under the hot tropical sun. As soon as the farmer in me stuck his head around the corner, I took on ambitious tasks like refurbishing the entire boat’s floorboards from stern to bow. I had to remove each piece of floorboard for sanding and revarnishing on the pontoon outside. That way it would make lesser of a mess inside and my sailor dog was inside the boat.
She was always curious and inquisitive about whatever I was tending to. If I would open up my tool bag for example, she would immediately stick her snout in there to sniff around. On a freshly varnished floorboard, she would have no hesitation towards trampling over it. I once was doing some gelcoat repair on a patch of the fiberglass deck. BooBee stood watch nearby and when her inquisitiveness got a better hold of her, she marched over for a closer inspection. Of course it created some commotion involving panicked shouting and waving arm! Then seeing that I was a little upset, she marched on to go into the boat, leaving a trial of white paw prints on the teak deck. A couple of those prints are still there on the teak deck today, a good two years after that fiasco. I could remove them easily, but I thought, why not just leave them there. This being her home as well and this is her Hollywood walk of Fame imprintment.
All that boat work was therapeutic to me. It required elbow grease and much patience on my part. Waiting for varnish to dry had been rather testing at best and my mind wandered into asking why UV cured varnish for the DIY man had not been created. The technology is not new and with China’s manufacturing might today, the LED UV curing machines are even used for DIY manicuring. A thought for some of you enterprising folks, perhaps!
I am a perfectionist by nature. For example, if a piece of floorboard wasn’t varnished right, I would have little hesitation to sand it all off to start over again. So I got better at it. Practice does make perfection! The list of boat projects was never ending. There was a chipped veneer door that needed tending to. An interesting 2 days project involving water colours to blend the repair in. At the end, I myself couldn’t really tell where the chip was initially.
The therapy was great and over time I could tell that the enormous chip on my shoulder was deminishing in size. A sort of detox for the mind. I do keep a sort of journal on Facebook both as a mean of record keeping and to keep my friends and family informed.
I was looking out for a job initially, the sort that I used to do in the corporate world. The suitable ones that came along would require me to relocate to places like China, Vietnam or Myanmar but then I had to decline. I’ve got 2 girls (my Admiral and sailor dog) and a boat to look after.
After a while, I had simply stopped looking. Strangely too the headhunters have also stopped calling.
Over the last few years of maintaining and upgrading my boat I have became good at it too. Be they of woodworking nature, mechanical, electrical or even electronics (all boat related), I’ve tackled them all to the extent that even the perfectionist in me was satisfied with the outcome. Micasa, is certainly one of the better maintained boats around. I am now more the farmer turned sailor than that ex-corporate guy who would struggle at manual work.
Earlier this year, I’d realised that the canvas awning over Micasa, needed replacement. Instead of relying on professional services I undertook this huge project myself. First building a structure around the boat out of PVC piping material, then wrapping the entire structure with heavy marine canvas which I sewed myself. Trust that the perfectionist in me would have done a decent enough job at that.
Decent enough that I have gotten requests from boat neighbours to do some of their canvas work. I’m okay with that and I’d realised too that I can supplement some of my expenses from boat work alone. That corporate guy is no longer around and I’m fine with it.
Taking on that first odd job was a turning point for me. It was a closure in a way to a corporate job, which I’m Okay with. I’ve realised too over the last couple of years, that being away from the corporate environment had allowed me to broaden my horizon to a vast extent. I’ve recently mail ordered for a large invertor for use on Micasa (after installing some lithium batteries) which did not work (the inverter). It was from China and the 1 year warranty was not entertained at all. Instead of throwing it out I had repaired it by changing a few resistors and a MOSFET. Never in a million years would that ex-corporate guy ever attempt something of that nature.
So these few years had been a journey of sorting out my priorities in life. I am comfortable in my own skin now, walking around barefoot in a pair of shorts and a tank top.
The Admiral still holds a full time job on shore, in Singapore. I would wish that she will say “enough”, soon! That would be the signal to cast off our dock lines and we will be sailing off towards the horizon as true cruisers with BooBee our sailor dog on board.
Part of the journey has ended for me and I am looking forwards to the second part of it. BooBee the sailor dog has become a big part of our daily lives. I’ll continue to share my experiences of living on a boat with a sailor dog both in the present and in retrospect, in this blog.
Goodnight for now and do tune in for more in the future.
Cheers and remember to live life.