Living on a Sailboat – Keeping Quarantine at Bay

Picture of By Emma C. C.

By Emma C. C.

It’s 3 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. I’m scrolling through my phone in my Amsterdam apartment. On the other line is my closest friend Arianna, who is looking at a whole different landscape.  Instead of rain and concrete, a light blue sky and waves crashing on a golden shore. Not paradise, but somewhere close to it.

In early September, Arianna decided to embark on a journey with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend, exploring the idyllic bays of Greece. Rather than being quarantined at home (like the rest of us), she chose to “sail the seven seas” on a one year long adventure. Last week I decided to pick up the phone and check on how she was doing somewhere along the coasts of Greece. The following questions are what stuck with me from my conversation with her. 

What is the main difference between living on land and on a sailboat?

“I think the biggest difference is the unsteadiness. At home, when it’s windy or there is a storm, you just close the blinds and forget about it. Here you have to listen carefully and pay attention that every part of your “floating house” is holding up. You are never truly still, even when the sea is calm. You sort of get used to the motion, so much so that when your feet are firmly on the ground you still feel dizzy (my mother calls it ‘earth-sickness’).

Also, your life becomes suddenly interesting, not just for you, but to other people as well – as soon as you get close to even the smallest harbour, people begin staring and pointing. The moment you berth, they start circling the boat asking questions – it makes you feel really weird.

But I think the most important difference is how mindful of sustainability you become. First of all, you can’t waste food because you are not the only one to eat and money might be scarce. Also, you can waste neither electricity nor water, especially when you are on the move and can’t reach a port where you can plug in or fill out tanks (sometimes from public fountains). That’s why we try using as much saltwater as possible to wash the dishes, the boat and even ourselves (obviously we use fresh water to rinse everything).

I thought it would be bothersome to always be careful but it’s actually making me realize how much I wasted when I was at home and has now made me more attentive to my impact on the environment.”

Arianna’s house on the waters – Source: Arianna Squarcina

What is it like to live away from a steady internet connection, as we now live in such an internet-dense society?

“I think living almost completely internet-free is a blessing in disguise. I spent a month using my mobile just for one hour daily and adapting to it was an arduous challenge.

At first, it felt awful. I had this constant feeling that I was leaving something undone, I kept thinking about social media and the fact that I wasn’t posting enough. I had this sort of anxiety in the back of my mind telling me that I was missing out on things. After a few days, however, I realized I could cram all my anxiety in one hour of binge internet use (every bar/restaurant here has free Wi-Fi).

As I started slowing down on the internet, I found I had extra time to do more productive things, such as reading books, hiking, playing card games, cooking and even learning new languages! Just like that, my days flowed by half at sea and half on board.

At the end of the month, I had the opportunity to use my phone for a day and, sadly, I immediately went back to my old habits. I spent hours on my phone and it wasn’t until 2 am that I decided to call it quits – I put my phone on airplane mode and fell asleep, only to wake up with a media hangover.

To sum it all up – is it worth being internet-free? Yes and no. Yes, because you will finally find the time to do all those things you have been putting off for so long, and to fall in love once again with old stuff you had forgotten about. However, I would also say no, as by now our internet addiction is far too strong to be able to completely unplug. Plus, we need some of it. We need music, updates on news, to know how our friends are doing, we need some entertainment too. For this reason, I would not advise on detoxing as much as on parsimony. I just think we should limit the time we waste scrolling down a feed by drawing a line between what’s the right amount of internet and what’s too much.”

What are the biggest benefits and the biggest downsides of your new life?

“The biggest benefit of living on a boat is that the moment you reach a port you feel a sense of community. Everyone is willing to lend a hand or some insight regarding any problems you might have. You encounter so many different people with so much knowledge and who tell you so many amazing stories you could fill a book. Another upside is the realization that you don’t really need that much to live and be fulfilled. My life now fits in a travel bag and I am not mad about it – I even gave up books for e-books and pdfs.

I have also come to appreciate the value of time. Nowadays it’s so hard to stay still because we think we always need to do something and feel restless when we can’t.

Living on a boat teaches you that sometimes, there are forces too big to fight and your only option is waiting for the right moment.

It might be unnerving at first, but your body and mind will thank you for the rest you gave them.

Obviously living on a sailboat is not always an idyllic experience. For every beautiful bay you get to see and every dive you get to take, there are hours spent sailing and the sea isn’t always forgiving. Sea-sickness hit me hard and left me in agony for days, even though I never suffered from sea-sickness before!

Arianna’s place of paradise – Source: Arianna Squarcina

The worry – that is something that never really leaves you. Everything must be working perfectly all the time and you need to be aware of every little valve and safety system. Your life now more than ever depends on the outside world, you can’t leave anything to chance and that’s very scary.”

As Arianna tells me, boat life is definitely not for everybody. However, if you’re up for it, it can truly be the adventure of a lifetime. If I had to be honest, part of me is envious of Arianna and of how every day she gets to wake up to a different blue sky and crystal-clear sea. However, the other part of me knows that I’m the epitome of a city girl – I prefer to keep my feet on the steady ground!

Nonetheless, I am incredibly proud of her for accepting this challenge and going on this adventure, and I can’t wait to see where she will sail to next.


Cover: Emma Chiaratti, courtesy of Arianna Squarcina

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