Boating or Camping? You Decide!
If you think there’s a world of difference between boating and camping, you’re likely someone who goes home when the sun goes down. As far as I’m concerned, sleeping on my 19-foot catboat is an exercise in advanced survival camping.
At six-feet, six-inches, my boat’s two bunks are long enough, but as each narrows down at the foot, two sleepers need to lay head to toe. Such intimacy is quite okay if your mate is your spouse — I have no trouble snuggling with her head inches from mine. However, any sudden ardor quickly cools due to the presence of the centerboard case. When passion arose on our first overnighter, I ended up wedged between the case and the bunk. My wife was laughing so hard I lost the urge.
Bunking with a nonfamily member brings on different sets of problems. Some people feel quite uncomfortable being that close, and I’ve discovered the hard way that all my male friends snore. Lying stretched out in such close proximately to the sawing ZZZs brings on a heightened sense of agony (earplugs are now mandatory for all hands below deck).
Alas, you can’t even think about using the head at night. It sits snugly between the two bunks, quite close to sleeping heads (the human kind). One night I just had to… and managed to be discreet until it was time to flush. My crewmate woke up with such a start he banged his head on the ceiling, then thought the gurgling sound he heard meant the boat was sinking. Then again, he’s someone who fell overboard one night when he leaned too far over the side to relieve himself, another peril of boat camping.
When the usable galley space in your boat is about the size of an embroidered pillow, food prep can be a real hassle. I freeze perishables at home to prolong the ice in the cooler; one trip I had brought along a couple of prime steaks (at a cost of $10.00 each). To save space, I put the chilled steaks out on the deck to thaw. About a half hour later I heard squawking at the companionway, and came to watch, helplessly, as a gull took flight with one of my steaks in his bill!
Another time we dined on stew scraped off the overhead after the pressure cooker exploded. In my recollection that wasn’t quite as bad as the time one of the crew discovered an ice cream sale at a nearby convenience store. With no way to keep it frozen, the three of us were compelled to consume an entire gallon of ice cream in one sitting.
Another of my quasi-wilderness sailing experiences took place in a fancy setting. One night, we tied up at a posh yacht club, right under a big picture window in the club’s dining room. Having been denied admittance to said dining room because our attire lacked coats and ties, we stayed aboard. As we were enjoying our evening cocktail — wine in plastic cups — a yacht club steward appeared dockside and requested we remove our drying underwear from the foredeck. Boy, I wish I had mooned that crowd of stuffed shirts!
The author is the Division 5 – Staff Officer Public Affairs, First District Southern Region, for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the all-volunteer, non-military arm of the Coast Guard, teaching boating safety education and conducting search and rescue operations. Visit http://cgaux.org/ to join the Auxiliary or for class information.
By William C. Winslow