I have moved aboard my yacht Mirrool and gone into self funded retirement from the money economy, to concentrate on making a transition into the natural economy. For this to succeed, I need to live modestly while I practice natural harvesting, bushcraft and seeking out others with knowledge to trade. Oh, and I wanted to have a fun time sailing in paradise all the while. I’m just too busy to go to work…
Mirrool is a 9.5m (30 footer) ‘Clansman’ fibreglass yacht with a simple sloop rig and she has been nicely set up for single- handed sailing. In fact she has twice crossed the Tasman with a solo crew in competition during the 70’s. As the first production Fibreglass boats to be built on the East Coast, when material was less expensive and also, an unknown quantity, they were laid up bombproof- thick and strong and I have no doubt she could last forever with a caring owner. She is over 40 years old and cost me $35,000 after hauling her out, painting her bum and adding a few other loving touches. Price of about $1000/foot seemed practical and eliminated the need for annual insurance premiums. Also annual maintenance can be estimated at about 5-10% of cost of the vessel when under 10 meters. There are still some more things to do but better to sail her for a year and then see what the list looks like.
When I was looking for a boat, the main priority was not pretty accommodation, clever drawer catches or lots of bright work. I wanted a tough, capable sailing vessel under 12 meters that reduced the engine to a convenience and with a seaworthy design proven by time- not a computer model. The Clansman yacht achieves this with a nice ¾ keel, a generous stern overhang, low free board and a pretty and fine entry at the bow. She has a draught of 1.34m and is 2.4m wide. Her lines are timeless and graceful and she heels nice and easy but that long keel provides excellent damping giving a very sea kindly motion under way and confidence to her crew- me. Her sailing pedigree is further proven by her tankage; 140L water to 29L diesel. By the way, 140L of water keeps me for about a month and that can be stretched by fortuitous heavy rain. When I have company this all goes out the window.
My energy budget is conservative. Cooking on my Metho stove breaks down to about $3.50/week. That’s a pot of tea and porridge for breakfast most mornings, often some form of seafood fried or turned into a soup for lunch and a rice/ grain based dinner. I found a small pot style pressure cooker in Mauritius and it definitely saves a lot of fuel. Also, I make use of Thermos bottles frequently to cook grains, store excess boiled water, store any refrigerated water and make my own yoghurt.
All electricity to run the Engel 12/240V 60L fridge, the navigation electronics, lights, computer, stereo, pressurized water etc. etc. comes from 160W of solar panels and a wind generator on the aft deck. I was unable to surrender my power tools, but thanks to a 1500W inverter, I don’t have to. So, the electricity bill? $0.00. Of course, the wind generator will demand new bearings and vanes sooner or later but they’re relatively common and inexpensive and any repairs are within my experience. Replacing the batteries shouldn’t be required for years yet but I prefer not to tempt fate. They are kept nicely charged and get distilled water to drink.
The diesel consumption for the trip along the Queensland coast from Cairns to the Whitsundays added up to 18 litres. This can be attributed to Mirrool’s nice manners and my pig headed insistence on sailing even when I got tides and wind wrong and was making 2 knots. In those times I sucked it up and vowed to work with nature instead of living oblivious to her rhythms. When my sister came for a visit, it was necessary to meet time deadlines that are usually banished from my existence and fuel consumption rocketed! We used 12L over 10 days.
Incidentally, the cost of food for the three of us over those 10 days came out at about $60.00 at the shops and the scoundrels ate about another $5-10 out of my stores in the form of honey, tea and sprouts. A small price to pay for my sister and her fella’s company. The sea provided the rest in the form of Tuna, Crayfish, Coral Trout, Oysters and other miscellanea.
Unleaded petrol for my 3h.p outboard is consumed in the greatest quantity. Since October, I’m half into my fifth 10L jerry can at the start of the new year. Again, when I had visitors, the oars got stowed and we recklessly burned up about 14L of that 50 over the ten days. The tender I chose for it’s rowability as much as anything else and if my destination is 500m or less and it’s a nice day, I’ll get some exercise. When I do use fuel, its usually to go for a fishing or gathering exercise so whatever I use, can be cancelled out by the food I bring back. An inflatable kayak is on the shopping list for reef spearfishing but useless while in crocodile country.
What about food? Well, when I left Cairns I blew a bit of cash. The fishing equipment I have on board is worth about $1000. I got a very nice quality cast net in the 12’ size and a 15kg overhead game reel and rod. I went a bit silly on lures and when I found and rebuilt an old Penn overhead reel, it needed a rod too. Also, I got a nice little 4.5kg eggbeater outfit to fish the shallows and creeks. I shattered that trying to catch a large Tuna and was compelled to replace it. The new one has since rewarded me with Squid and Flathead.
Cost aside, those rods have provided 5 Spanish Mackerel, 5 Tuna, 1 Cobia and several tasty little sharks and reef species; about 80kg of cleaned boneless product, all absolutely fresh. The tuna was processed Tanaguchi style- the same premium way as if it was on it’s way to the high end Sashimi houses of Tokyo. All of the equipment is still in mint condition and ready to catch more. I could have gotten cheaper gear but I find that mindset offensive. Resources that are non renewable shouldn’t go into crap products. I eat reef fish, lobster and/ or oysters as well as other molluscs daily and am beginning to enjoy different seaweeds. Groceries cost about $300.00 since October up till now and I could live on them without going shopping for about another month and a half. I may be out of chocolate by then but. My greens come from sprouting Chickpea, Lentil, Fenugreek, Mungbean, Popcorn, Barley, Almond, Sunflower, Pigeon pea and Wheat. The wheat is also ground into flour as needed or popped into a thermos flask with boiling water and Cardamom of a night for a quick breakfast the following morning. I have a hand juicer ready for when I can grow wheat grass, but I haven’t found the perfect soilless method just yet. The only canned goods are tomatoes. That will end once I make my solar dehydrator.
I use a lot of yoghurt- about 250ml a day so I make this on the boat. Powdered milk is cheap, stores well, is already sterile and has all the nutrition needed. Yoghurt goes in my breakfast porridge, is added to curries, marinates fish, gets mixed with honey and cinnamon for dessert- I could go on. Tea, sugar, salt and oils are bought in bulk as is rice and the wheat I get from farm supply stores for about $1/kg. I have a black plastic tray on the shopping list to get my own salt through evaporation and I sometimes scavenge some from shallow rock pools for extra minerals. Seasonings are a little expensive but they go a long way and I hate eating bland food. The fixings for Sushi rolls; I can justify the cost. I would sail without toilet paper before Wasabi. Vinegar is absolutely necessary though cheap, but I am investigating making my own white vinegar. I shall have to keep buying the Apple cider vinegar.
I eat a lot of coconuts and they are free- provided you are happy to climb up a palm to get them. I modified some climbing gear and now use that to get my share. Fresh juice from green nuts is beautifully tangy and almost tastes fizzy. A refrigerated coconut is perfect for when I’m out sailing and the weather is hot. I eat the flesh straight from the nut that I drink from, or save it to make coconut milk and butter. If I will stay in an area for a while, I do what the pacific islanders do and put mature nuts on damp ground to sprout. The inside of a just sprouted coconut is a delicious meringue that is packed with nutrition. It is used as a food for the very young, the very old and the ill due to its ready digestibility and mineral content. I live in fear of the day that some misguided environmentalists eradicate ‘The Tree of Life’ or ‘The most useful tree in the world’ from our shores as an invasive species. Only a supermarket mentality could think this way. My main vice is also the most expensive and not to found in nature nor easily made. I have a weakness for Single Malt Scotch whisky and a growing fondness for Irish whiskey. Heaven is to sip a shot glass neat every sunset. My tastes run from The Glenlivet if I’m feeling cheap to a nice Glenmorangie if I can find it. In theory, a bottle should last several weeks, but lately I keep running into friends and as you know- that demands a drink!
All of these things and more are part of my quest to live in the now, instead of the nostalgic past, or the future “once I make my money and retire etc.” In following posts I would like to share more of the ‘how- to’ with others as I go about my journey away from total economic reliance. A lot of information out there seems to be copy and pasted in a circular myth factory so some tried and tested techniques may just be useful out there for fellow sailors, remote travellers or just people who like good scotch and fishing!