Category: sea change


Living Off the Grid

The Adventurer goes on these grand rants about “living off the grid” and “eating from the sea”. That’s all well and good, but so far, what we have saved on electricity has been spent on buying a generator which runs on stinky diesel, replacing the inverter, and buying an extra solar panel. Now I do understand that you have to spend money to save money, but we also had to replace all of our computer and phone chargers which shorted out after being plugged in while the generator was running. And as for “eating from the sea”, the only ones eating well are the fish who are getting all the pilchards, prawns and chicken fillet offcuts they can wrangle off the hook.

On our honeymoon, The Adventurer told me all sorts of tales about where we were going. We wouldn’t need to fill the pantry, he told me. We would fish all day and eat our catch at night. There were also oysters a-plenty, ready to be picked off the rocks with a knife. In 5 days we caught 1 fish, and even that gave him the slip and jumped back into the water when he went to clean it. As for the oysters, I sat in the sun for 2 hours as The Adventurer tried to prise them off the rocks with inappropriate tools. Finally, he got one and brought it to me. The look on his face was like a cat when it brings a dead bird to it’s owner. Beaming with pride, he handed me the shell with an oyster so small, one lick and it was gone.

Having said that, I have to admit I love to fish. I love everything about it…except I don’t like to touch the actual fish. Or clean them. On the rare occasion that I actually manage to haul one up, I swing my rod around to The Adventurer to get him to get it off. That makes it a bit tricky if I want to fish when he is not around. On those occasions, I fake fish. I bait the hook, and sit back with my glass of bubbly and a gossip mag and when I feel a tug-tug on the line I just say “Hello little fishy” and let him have a munch. After all, it’s important to fatten them up for when I am really fishing.

The first time I caught a fish worthy of the fry pan, I was alone. We were moored in a nice quiet little bay and it was blowing an absolute gale. It was already dark and The Adventurer had taken Doglet to shore for a pee. I had been “fake” fishing all day – albeit unintentionally. As soon as The Adventurer left, I felt an almighty tug on the line – the kind that made me drop my mag and spill my bubbly! I struggled to keep the rod, and myself, from going overboard. I knew this fish meant business…and breakfast. My screams for The Adventurer to come back and help went unheard as the wind carried my plaintive cries into the night. Finally, I pulled my catch up. It was a good sized black bream. My problem then was what to do with it. I couldn’t get it off the hook. That would involve touching it! Instead I threw the fish, hook, line, sinker , rod and reel into the kitchen where the fish landed in the sink. I was trying to decide whether it was more humane to fill the sink with water or to just let it flail around until it died when it extricated itself from the hook from all it’s flip-flopping. That was one problem solved. After a couple of minutes, it stopped struggling and gave in to the reality that it would soon be in my fry pan. I decided to leave it there for The Adventurer to deal with.

“Everything alright?” he enquired on his return. “Yes, but I was going to do the dishes but the water wouldn’t drain. I think something’s blocking the sink”. That should have been a dead giveaway right there – I don’t do the dishes! I cook. He cleans. It’s a perfect combo. He said he’d check it out, but went about the boat doing other things. Meanwhile, I am giggling under my breath like a 5 year old playing hide and seek. Finally he went to the kitchen, but still didn’t see it staring back at him from the sink. Was this man blind as well as selectively deaf? He grabbed a plunger and went to the sink. He let out a scream, like a girl, I say, (although he denies this) as his first thought was “How the hell did this swim up the plug hole?”.

There were 2 downsides to eating the fish for breakfast the next morning. The first thing was it was too big for my one and only fry pan. The second

The One That Didn't Get Away

was it had frozen overnight in the fridge so I had to thaw it out before cooking it. That spoiled the occasion as it was like cooking something bought from the supermarket freezer rather being my first big catch of the day!

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My parents are grey nomads. They have taken their small caravan around the country on the back of Dad’s pride and joy, the Leyland P76. Given the fact that all our holidays as kids were spent at campsites, I figured it would be the last thing Mum would want to do in her twilight years. But they often hit the road and rough it…more than I would. Their caravan doesn’t have a bathroom, so they have to treck to the communal loo block at the caravan park in the middle of the night. Whereas I don’t like to holiday without room service.

So when we announced we were buying a houseboat, Dad virtually had his bags packed by the door waiting for an invitation to visit. A few weeks ago, it was The Adventurer’s 50th birthday. A perfect opportunity for Mum and Dad to come over for a few days so their favorite son-in-law could show off his new toy.

Despite the rainy weather, we decided to take the house “round the corner” to the Hawkesbury River. There are some beautiful spots around there – Refuge Bay, Yeoman’s Bay, America Bay. Heading out of Pittwater, the sun came out and the waters were calm and we floated happily along. The next 2 days were very relaxing despite the fact that it poured with rain most of the time. Lots of fishing, kayaking, and generally doing nothing. On the 3rd day, The Adventurer announced that we would have to head back. He had been watching the boating forecast and there were some rough seas due. Rough seas are not necessarily related to the weather. That is, just because it’s pouring with rain doesn’t mean the seas are going to be rough. The same can be said for a lovely, sunny day, the seas can be treacherous. Going “round the corner” is tricky. The Hawkesbury River, Pittwater and the open ocean all meet for a short spell, with Lion Island smack bang in the middle. The tides all cross and it can be very dangerous. I was concerned the trip was going to be rough as my Mum is not great on the water, although she had done quite well so far. As we headed off, The Adventurer informed us it wouldn’t get much rougher than it already was. We were bobbing along quite gently so I wasn’t concerned. Dad set himself up with his camera in front of the glass sliding door and gave us a running commentary about how the trip was going. He was disappointed the water wasn’t splashing up spectacularly enough for his footage. That was about to change.

“Where’s Lion Island gone?” Dad asked innocently. In a matter of seconds, the massive island in front of us had completely disappeared from sight. The houseboat was pitching deep into troughs then coming up for a hammering from a big wave. “Ooh, that’s better” said our intrepid cameraman, as The Adventurer said “I think we’re in trouble”.

The penny dropped and Dad suddenly found himself at the helm as The Adventurer raced to the back of the boat. The dinghy had been hit by a couple of big waves and was full of water. This meant we were towing the equivalent of a cement slab and weren’t going anywhere. Meanwhile, Mum had retreated to the bedroom so she didn’t have to look at the waves, and I was holding up the pantry and the fridge which we yet to be tethered securely to the wall. My back was wedged against the pantry, one foot on the fridge, right hand on the microwave and left hand on the crockery cupboard. It was like an extreme game of Twister. I could hear the crockery sliding around and figured I’d be buying a new set when this was over. I was trying to avoid the cupboard opening and shards of glass and ceramic flying around the kitchen. As we took another few hits, I was getting very concerned. Mum was throwing up in the bedroom and The Adventurer was out the back without a lifejacket, trying to work out what to do with the dinghy. The dinghy rope had come undone and had wrapped around the left engine propellor, rendering it useless. While the dinghy was still attached to the houseboat, we were not going anywhere. The Adventurer was not sure what to do. With my 80 year old mother decorating the bedroom, I said “just get us home”. With that, he went back out with a knife and cut the dinghy free. Our lovely eBay bargain, complete with eBay bargain motor, kids lifejackets and buckets and spades went floating off upside down, and we were able to limp back to Pittwater on one engine.

The Water Police and a couple of guys from our marina took off to see if they could salvage our dinghy. Not only for us, but a loose dinghy can be dangerous to other vessels. No luck there.

Once things were settled, we checked out the news and read about a Tornado that had ripped through northern NSW the night before and had made it’s way to Sydney, doing some damage to houses. That was what had affected the seas, but there was no warning. The next day, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. It would seem we had come home a day too soon. However, the seas were even rougher than the day before. You never can tell from the weather alone.

Amazingly, we sustained very little damage. Our biggest concern was that the aluminium dinghy had damaged the hull, but it appeared to be fine. We lost 4 glasses, and only because the stems snapped off. None of the crockery was even chipped! There was even a silver lining – the quilt mum threw up on was put into the dry cleaners. They lost it and replaced it with one that is much better quality. Bargain!!!

Splashing Out

There are few down sides to spending a lot of time on the water, but one of them has to be spending unexpected time IN the water. You can’t say “if” I fall in the water, but “when” I fall in the water. In other words, you have to plan ahead so that you have a safety plan, particularly when you have children or animals on board.

It was quite a while before I took my first unexpected dip, and it was on the sail boat. It was quite a high boat, and to get into the dinghy involved climbing down the side on a ladder. It could be tricky, but getting out of the water after swimming (or falling in) was trickier as you had to hoist yourself onto the ladder in order to climb back up. The kids are able to scamper up effortlessly. It seems “hauling ass” is only easy if you don’t actually have one. Needless to say, I was always very careful getting in and out of “Cherished Wish”. However, this particular day I had already made it into the dinghy, with the kids waiting to go ashore. As I reached up to grab the dog, I had 1 hand on the boat, the other arm holding the dog, the dinghy moved backwards, and the dog and I had to jump for it. At least it was summer and I was suitably attired for swimming. The dog, however, was not impressed.

The houseboat is much lower and therefore “supposedly” easier to get in and out of. Technically I can see the merit in that argument. However, in the relatively short time we have been on the houseboat, I have gone in twice.

The first time, The Adventurer had gone off somewhere with the dinghy, leaving me to contend with the kayak. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day. Too cold for swimming, but lovely for a paddle, so as I had to go ashore to collect a visitor, I passed on calling for the tender service available through the marina and hopped in the kayak to pick her up. As I paddled over, I remember feeling quite impressed with myself and was feeling confident that I could be independent and not have to rely on The Adventurer to drop me to and from shore. Boat to marina? So far so good. Marina back to boat with passenger? Also good, although we did crash into a small barge on that leg, but that’s a minor detail. Got passenger out. Got bags out. I stood up, again holding onto the boat with my feet still in the kayak. The kayak (and feet) went off to the right while I hung on to the railing for dear life. My visitor and I were laughing so much, there was no hope for me. And while she quoted lines from “Titanic”, (you know the bit where Kate is on the raft/door and Leo slowly lets go…”No Jack, no don’t leave me”) in I went.

The 2nd time also involved the kayak. (Ah…I’m starting to see a pattern forming). The Adventurer was away and the dog needed a walk. Our mooring is less than 50 metres from a huge off-leash dog park. It is so popular, people come for miles so their dog can play here as it includes a big sand bar as well as a park. In NSW most beaches prohibit dogs even being walked on a leash, so there are very few places where dogs can really make a splash. It’s lovely waking up to the sound of dogs barking when they are playing and swimming, and not because their owners have gone to work and they are bored and locked on the patio for 8 hours a day. I got back from work, got changed and hopped in the kayak. It was a glorious winter’s day. Way too cold to swim, but the sun was warm on the sand. Doglet took off as soon as we pulled up to the beach, and I sat happily on the sand while she went about her routine patrol of the park. When it came time to go, I carried her to the kayak, popped her in and started to push the kayak out. As I got in, Doglet decided she hadn’t finished patrolling, and tried to get out. I half tipped, drenching 1 arm, but breathed a sigh of relief. I started to paddle and this time, she made a proper go of escaping, completely capsizing the kayak in the process. She took off and left me, drenched to the waist, to drag the kayak, full of water, back to the beach and to tip it over to get the water out. Not easy. It’s a 2 seater kayak and quite heavy at the best of times. Once back on the beach, I went after the naughty Doglet, but of course, she then decided that was a fun game, and took off through the car park. With no shoes and looking like a half-drowned crazy person, I gave up the chase and went back to the kayak and waited….and waited…

I decided to head back to the boat, rather than stand there and catch pneumonia. Then I could take the dinghy to shore and take the car around to the park with a torch as it was almost dark. As soon as I got changed, there was Doglet, on the shore, barking indignantly for me to come and get her! I was not amused.

lilpeagreen’s Blog

Follow the journey of The Adventurer and his family which includes a very understanding wife, 3 kids and a dog as they make a GFC change and live aboard a houseboat.

To give you an idea of the mammoth task this move was, we were moving from a 2 storey house with 3 bedrooms, lounge, dining, play room, and his and hers offices, into a 50ft x 20ft space with 2.5 bedrooms, lounge/dining and… no, that’s it. We had moved into this house from a 2 bedroom flat, but somehow everything exploded like mogwais when they get wet. In our case, everything had turned into crap not gremlins. So the move to the houseboat had to involve a serious downsize. Every cupboard was cleared into 5 different boxes representing 5 different destinations – houseboat, mother-in-law’s house, friend’s house for storage, charity, and rubbish. The Adventurer couldn’t quite get the hang of this system, particularly the rubbish box. Everything of his was vitally important to keep, that is when he was actually packing. He preferred to spend time on eBay buying things that we might eventually need, BUT DIDN’T NEED RIGHT NOW!!!

An example of this routine was a set of sensor security lights that run off your computer. “They’re amazing”, he informed me while I was scrubbing out the oven that was already that filthy when we moved in. “You’ll be able to log in while we’re out and see what the dog is up to on the boat.” I really don’t need to say anymore about that, do I? Except to say that when the lights arrived, many hours were spent trying to get them to work and now they are in one of the boxes of “vitally important stuff” that will never be thrown out.

Now, I’m not saying The Adventurer didn’t pull his weight. I’m just saying that some people do things gradually and methodically, while some just throw everything into the moving van as it’s rolling down the street. Each to his own.

Having a charity box was very community minded of me, I thought. I had some furniture that I hadn’t been able to find homes for, children’s clothes and toys, and bric-a-brac. I called St Helper-of-Movers and booked a time for them to come and pick up the goodies. Imagine my horror when they told me my trash was not good enough to be someone else’s treasure!!! I stood, appalled, as they rummaged through the boxes, dismissing this and that. I felt like one of the hopeful people on the Antiques Road Show being told that their heirloom is a fake. To rub salt into the wound, the younger one found The Adventurer’s old Nintendo Game, complete with original Mario Brothers cartridge, and said “Bargain! I’ll have this for myself.” I was feeling particularly uncharitable by that stage. When they left, I dragged all the boxes to the kerb, and our neighbours scavenged what was left.

Moving everything on to the boat was not an easy task, but was helped by the fact that there was no room for everything, and beds were already installed. Due to the local wharfs being quite busy during the day, we had to wait until night to make our move. Pulling a 50ft houseboat up to a wharf also means we have to watch the tides, the wind, and the rain. So moving furniture onto the boat was done over a couple of weeks due to these restrictions. Most nights there was no one around, but the night we had the most to move there was a group of teenagers hanging around a little gas stove in the park and fishing. We pulled up with the car and trailer and began unloading boxes, crates, pillows, quilts, and 2 red leather lounges. It was the lounges that got their attention. The looks on their faces was priceless. All they could manage was “What tha….?” I said “If you’re going to sit in the cold and fish you may as well do it in style”. My friend and I sat huddled on the couch, wrapped in a quilt watching episodes of Judge Judy on my iPhone while The Adventurer went back to bring the boat around. It was quite a sight.

Even funnier was when our 12volt fridge arrived. Not a little bar fridge, but full size. The Adventurer looked hilarious as he loaded the packaged fridge onto the dinghy and motored around to the boat.

It has now been 3 months since we first moved onto the boat. The boxes at the Mother-in-law’s house have all been sorted through, and The Adventurer’s rubbish has finally been thrown out. I can breathe a sigh of relief that we have actually finished the move.

Owl n PussWhen I first met my husband, his rather famous younger brother had written a book about their adventures, or rather misadventures, together. They love to fly, sail, travel, skydive, abseil and generally do things a little out of the ordinary. I, on the other hand, like a slightly more sedate life. One of the things I was fascinated by was the fact that they had lived on a boat together, twice in their lives. The 1st time was close to home – close enough to get a long range cordless phone to work in the days before mobiles. The 2nd time was on the Hudson River in NYC to save on accommodation expenses. After reading of their experiences, I happened to mention that I thought it would be cool to live on a houseboat. My then future husband immediately produced drawings and detailed plans of the type of houseboat he would, one day, like to build. It was very fancy – and enormous – and came complete with every gadget imaginable. I had opened a can of worms, I could tell. The courting continued. We honeymooned on the beautiful Hawkesbury River in NSW on a houseboat – quite a lot smaller than his fantasy sketches and not nearly as fancy. My interest was definitely peaked.

So how do you go from dreaming of floating along through life to making it a reality? And why?

My husband, I’ll call him “The Adventurer”, fancies a life not unlike his hero, Tristan Jones. Tristan was a crusty old salt who sailed around the world constantly with his 3 legged dog. Says it all really, doesn’t it! After The Adventurer’s divorce, he bought a 30 year old sail boat – a 34ft Columbia. The way he describes it, most people imagine something the size of the Titanic. Yes it sleeps 7, but only if you don’t have any need for personal space. One night we managed to sleep 3 adults and 4 children. Notice I said “1 night”. We spent many lovely days and nights on our “Cherished Wish”, however it is basically a large, floating caravan, and my husband has 3 children who live with us half the week. The dream continued.

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The GFC has been tough on everyone. For most people they have no other option than to tough it out and hope they can keep their heads above water. Many don’t. I didn’t want to drown in our debt. We had a particularly tough year. As musicians who work mainly in the corporate world, we discovered the corporate world rapidly disappearing before our eyes. We also had the added expense of trying to conceive a baby through IVF. You think children are expensive once you have one, but trying to make one from scratch is unbelievably expensive, not to mention the time off from work you need to take to actually go through all the procedures…..but that’s another blog! Needless to say, with all of that and paying $30,000 a year in rent alone, we started to sink.

This is where the natural thought process turned to boats. It’s the next logical step isn’t it? Well, it is if you’re married to The Adventurer. If it was just the 2 of us, I could have entertained the thought of living on “Cherished Wish”. It’s cosy. It has a reasonable kitchen and a bathroom – well, wet room – with a toilet. But with 3 kids currently aged 12, 9 and 5, I’d be needing a strait jacket, not a life jacket! After vaguely mentioning the concept of living on a houseboat, I swear it was a matter of minutes before I had a laptop thrust before my eyes to peruse the Boats For Sale websites.

The first boat we went to see had been a commercial party boat – it had seen better days. Now being fought over in someone’s divorce, it had not been looked after and needed quite a lot of work. For some reason, we were more than happy to look past all of it’s faults and make an offer. The God’s were certainly shining on us that day, as the owner had decided to take the money pit on water off the market, so we dodged that bullet.

We found the 2nd one that same day. It looked too good to be true from the ad. It was about the same price as the floating money pit, but looked amazing. Was this trick photography at work? It was built 5 years ago by the owner who loved it so much he never took it off the mooring. We headed up to Lake Macquarie, 90minutes away, to check it out. 50ft x 18ft, lounge, kitchen, fridge, 12volt and 240volt power, 2 double bedrooms, 1 single room with bunks, bathroom with shower and FLUSHING TOILET!!!! Could it be as good as it appears? According to the surveyor, yes it can. We put a deposit on it immediately!

Now for the next hurdle – convincing the bank to lend us money. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!

It took 5 weeks and the generosity of The Adventurer’s senior citizen parents for us to secure the loan. Nothing like the taste of humble pie to bring you back to earth.

So now we were the proud owners of an aqua green houseboat that can probably be seen from space. The problem now was getting it to where we actually wanted to live. This involved going “outside”. While the houseboat is built on catamaran hulls as opposed to a pontoon, it doesn’t mean it’s ready to do the Vendee Globe Yacht Race. It’s quite sea-worthy, but getting it to the enclosed, tranquil waters of  Pittwater meant spending about 5 hours in the open ocean. Too big to put on a truck and travel by road, it was our only option. The Adventurer was pretty keen to do this trip himself. Far be it from me to stamp out his dreams. But I said no anyway. We found a houseboat company that had drivers who transported houseboats from Newcastle to different waterways in the state, and waited. And waited. And waited for the picture perfect ocean day.

On March 6 2010, exactly 3 months after we first set eyes on it, our very own pea green boat floated safely into Pittwater to take up residency opposite a pub and beside a dog park.

This blog will document the ups and downs we have already experienced and the adventures I’m sure are yet to come. Join us on the journey.