May 11 – Living on the hard

Location: Santo Stefano Marina del Aregai

I wake with a vague feeling of disquiet. Something is wrong but I lack the motivation to wade through the mists of sleep to figure out exactly what. Instead I roll over burying my head in my pillow in an effort to stay asleep.

It’s no good. It’s as if I’m underwater, desperately wanting to remain submerged but unable to fight the physics causing my slow ascent. I slowly, reluctantly rise to conscious awareness, emerging from the silence of my sleeping brain into noisy, discordant sounds of several power tools being used in close proximity.

But that’s not what woke me. What actually woke me was the lack of movement. I remember. We’re now living on the hard at Santo Stefano Del Mare, the boat yard in Italy, having arrived and been pulled out by a giant crane, yesterday. And after a month of living permanently on water, my head is finding the stability of land a whole new world. I feel like I’ve forgotten something important, and have this surprising counter-intuitive slight swaying feeling, as if I’m now in a swinging hammock, not a stable bunk.

That aside, I sit bolt upright. How on earth did I sleep in? I never sleep in.

“Must be morning,” I hear Bill yawn.

I look down at him and can’t help draping myself over his body, kissing his turned cheek and resting my head on his chest as he gently strokes my hair.

“Feels strange to be still,” he says.

“Mmm…” I murmur.

“Then it must be time to move,” he says in a playful tone as he dumps me onto the sheets with one powerful shrug and starts throwing on clothes.

The view to Starboard from Caroline’s cockpit while she is ‘on the hard’

I groan and sit up. At least we can use the bathroom while we’re on the hard.

In Australia we’d most likely have to leave the boat and use the boatyard facilities, but here all boats are legally mandated to have holding tanks for sewage and grey-water.

The view to Port from Caroline’s cockpit while she is ‘on the hard’

Strangely, on Caroline, only the guest showers and heads empty into holding tanks. Our shower and head empty directly into the sea. For this reason we must use one of the two guest heads and showers while we are on the hard, otherwise our waste water and worse, would drop onto the concrete below.

After a full day of work and watching the sun set over the turquoise horizon while we eat dinner in the cockpit, we head off to explore. This is a luxury considering the part of our job description that requires never leaving the boat unattended. Luckily this doesn’t apply while we are in a secure boat yard.

There’s a little village about a kilometre up the road with narrow cobbled lanes lined with cluttered shop fronts. Bill buys me an ice-cream and we sit in one of the town’s two squares watching the locals as we eat.

Italy is quite different to France. In place of my beloved patisseries on every street corner, we now find ice cream parlours and shoe shops.

“How do you think the job is going?” Bill asks.

“It’s unusual,” I say. “So far, I’ve only been expected to keep the boat clean and the basic foodstuff restocked.”

“Mmm….” Bill says through a mouthful of ice-cream.

“Oh, and I bought some Tupperware containers for the fridge and freezer yesterday,” I volunteer, sounding like a 1950s housewife even to myself.

“The glamour of European cruising. Tupperware shopping,” Bill says drily, echoing my thoughts of just a few days ago.

Bill of course, has been seriously productive and busy—from replacing the broken throttle on the dinghy, to fixing rusted windlasses and cleaning and polishing the hull.

“I enjoyed getting stuck into the guest shower yesterday though,” I say, referring to the sanding I’d done. “And I’m looking forward to painting it tomorrow.”

“Is the paint water soluble?”

“Mmm…” I say. This time it’s my turn to speak through a mouthful of deliciously cold ice cream.

“If you thin it right down with water, and do multiple coats in between sanding, it will come up looking like glass.”

“Really?”

“Mmmm.”

“Do you think it’s weird that we’ve officially been on the payroll for two weeks now and Franco and Brenda have only dropped in for lunch two or three times?”

“Nope.” Then he adds with a smile, “But I do think the amount of food they bring is a bit weird.”

“I know,” I butt in. “All four or five courses of it. Then we cook it. Then we don’t see them for several more days.”

“Some people would call this job idyllic,” Bill says and I detect a touch of irony.

“It is idyllic,” I agree, “except that I haven’t been able to recognise a single meal they’ve prepared. Most of their ingredients look suspiciously like alien life-forms. What did you think of the pippies in spaghetti?”

“Lovely,” he sighs.

“Yes. Except I’ve never heard of, let alone seen a pippie before. And I’m not complaining but they prepare enough food for several boat loads of guests. Oh OK. I am complaining because do these guests ever appear? No. We end up having to eat everything, then just when I think I can finally start eating normal food again, they turn up with another lot of alien looking life forms that Brenda and I spend another afternoon cheerfully preparing for another non-existent crowd.”

Bill chuckles as he stands and stretches, and we begin wandering back to the boat. “By the way, when are you going to replace that walkie-talkie you drowned a few days ago?

“Shhh… “ I caution. “Tomorrow.”

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