Lessons on a Yacht

Chocolate bar

Loading supplies in Puerto Rico before we set out for the Pacific. Where do you put it all? We spent US$2000 on food there in 1984 and the boat settled four inches into the water. Yet we only had one giant bar of chocolate on that last voyage from Fiji to Aotearoa.

The last leg of our sail on the yacht Hornpipe from Europe to Aotearoa was from Fiji to Opua. Claire and Brad, an American couple we met at the Royal Suva yacht club, came with us to help crew on the 10 day voyage south.

We explained as best we could the restraints of living in such a small, isolated space. But land-based habits of excess die hard. After one of the first nights, when we had each kept a three hour lone watch, we discovered that the one giant bar of chocolate has disappeared. When confronted Claire nonchalantly confessed. “So, I ate it!”.

“That’s all we have,” we said.

This was a new concept to her: she had always had plenty at her fingertips—she could just pop down to the corner store to buy more if she ran out. The finite nature of our supplies had never registered with her.

Comparing the microcosm of a tiny yacht to the macrocosm of our planet is something of a cliché. But it is still potently apt. This is all we have and once we have eaten all the chocolate there will be no more.

I still carry all those lessons I learnt in that nautical life, such as instinctively not running the tap the whole time I am brushing my teeth because our fresh water tanks were limited . . or enjoying a nibble of chocolate instead of the whole bar.

Claire was understanding. But I fear that too many people in the developed world have been brought up like Claire, to the point now where having that plenty has become a right more than a privilege. And no one reacts kindly to having what they think are their rights taken away.

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