Author: Judy Barlow, Citizen Journalist
Life on a boat isn’t all halcyon days and starlit nights. You can’t just curl up with a good book when you’re far from port while a raging storm is screaming down on you. Yet many people choose life on the water.
At 15, Grade 9 Stelly’s student Tristan is a seagoing veteran of ten years. He and his dad live on a 40 foot retired naval flagship in Brentwood. “Living on a boat is really nice when it’s not stormy” says Tristan. His favourite part of living aboard a boat? “My bed.” Tristan adds, “It’s really fun having a boat, but it’s hard work.” Youngsters learn responsibility quickly on a boat.
If you shop in Thrifty’s in Sidney, Lelania has probably checked out your groceries – literally. She lives on her dad’s 40 foot Chinese junk; has done since she was five. Except for one brief flirtation with shore life that “just didn’t feel right.” Lelania’s biggest challenge? Finding space for everything. “It seems we always have to move something to get to something else. Dad always has a project on the go. He wants to install radar, but before he can do that he has to finish the wheelhouse; he’s replacing the tiller with a steering wheel. You have to really know what you’re doing to take on a project like that.”
Sometimes Lelania just doesn’t feel like talking to people. “I think lots of people are afraid to be alone and quiet – to be introspective. Most people are very social, but I cherish my solitude. Sometimes I wish people wouldn’t . . . rush to snap judgments. If I’m quiet I’m not being unfriendly. I just need my space. I like the quiet and solitude at sea.”
Ross can relate to that as a liveaboard anchored offshore in Shoal Harbour. At 63 he’s seen it all and probably done it all. After a stint in the military and decades as a gardener and migrant farm worker, he’s still in the habit of rising before 3:00 in the morning. He wouldn’t want to miss the sunrise. It’s a spiritual as well as physical awakening for him. Says Ross, “People often ask me what it’s like being alone, but I don’t consider myself alone.”
What does he consider himself? “A man of peace. I don’t understand killing and people who want to hurt each other. I believe in Karma. Your past will catch up to you. It might take a while, but you always get what you deserve in the end.”
Ross isn’t ready to retire yet. He doesn’t get work every day, but he takes whatever he can get. If you have work for him, you can usually find him making the rounds at the Beacon Community Thrift Stores. He’s not a big buyer. He just likes the people there. Or try his favourite place – the library. He is a big reader. You’ll recognize him by his shoulder-length golden hair and vivid orange jacket. But catch him early – before nap time.
Increasingly stringent regulations make life harder for liveaboards. In a Press statement Jillian Glover, Transport Canada’s Senior Communications Advisor stated that “there are no restrictions on liveaboards, including the length of time they are permitted to anchor out,” but noted that in the absence of such restrictions communities are free to pass their own bylaws. Marinas may also set their own regulations and are within their rights to refuse space for liveaboards. The end result can sometimes be the uneven treatment of liveaboards depending upon the community.
According to the BC Nautical Residents Association there is a shortage of slips for liveaboards in BC. Often there are so many US-owned boats in marinas there’s no room for locals.
The sea is unforgiving with sailors who make mistakes. Saanich author and motivational speaker, Kieran Harrop, turned his seven year sea-going experience into a book, Voyage to Destiny. Kieran says, “Life on a boat is magical. Living on the sea is not like living on the land. You learn quickly to set an anchor you can depend on; otherwise you’re up all night when the wind blows making sure your home is not dragging onto the rocks.”
Today Kieran’s feet are firmly on the land, but for those liveaboards for whom the call of the sea is irresistible, he sums it up perfectly. “Happiness is a safe harbour and the promise of a good night’s sleep.”
Kieran Harrop: http://kieranharrop.com or www.voyagetodestiny.com
British Columbia Nautical Residential Association: www.bcnr.org