I recently happened upon a sailing magazine while taking pause during a downpour and killing time in a boating store. The magazine’s focus was small sailboats and pocket cruisers. “Look at this,” I said to Ben, my partner and fellow pocket cruiser enthusiast, handing him a copy. We loved the magazine! Finally, a publication that spoke directly to our interests and to captains of vessels like ours–small enough to still know that Poseidon will test the heart as he will, and utilitarian enough to still require baths be taken overboard! These are the simple sacrifices in safety and comfort traded for closer quarter with Mother Nature.
I looked to their website for more information, clicking on their “About Us” link. Again, much of what I read there spoke to me directly. But one thing there struck me as somewhat brassy.
One of the editors writes his opinion by stating, “A 14-foot mini-cruiser is minimalist. A 19ft is comfortable, and anything much larger than a 25 borders on ostentatious.”
This comment was followed up by a claim of being a “minimalist at heart.”
Yet being a minimalist is always and only resident in the heart. There exists no true metric for how big, how much or how many–nor some golden mean alerting us to when we may have strayed from such a set of supposed ideals. The reasons for which people own and enjoy their boats are as diverse as the owners themselves. One cannot look upon your things or your life, and taking measurements determine whether you are a minimalist or showboater. It is the conscious exercise to hold less, to have less, to desire less–this is what leads to needing less. One’s efforts to strip away the excess and thrive with the fundamentals, will differ from one individual to the next.
One can sleep in an open rowboat with a leaky tarp for protection, or make a bed out of an open canoe, or even build up a staunch mound of snow for shelter. I’ve been there–and enjoy those challenges. I can understand the beauty and authenticity offered by that way of life. But, after my week-long, or month-long, or much longer adventure I’ve always returned to a home with a proper bed and a hot shower awaiting me. I didn’t need less to understand the beauty of less. And yet I continue to wonder what lies over the horizon of that so-called minimalist life.
Now I live aboard my 27ft sloop Daphne with sparingly few things. It’s not a house, but it is my home. It is not a car, but I travel a blue road. And there is no flush toilet or shower, fancy navigational electronics, television, etc. But regardless of Daphne’s size (she could be half her length for this comparison), I still don’t call myself a minimalist. Somewhere there drifts always a smaller boat, always a lighter way to pack it.
Throughout my personal process of downsizing and reduction, I have come to understand that minimalism is a continuous process of the mill grinding finer and finer. I am still consciously attached to some guilty pleasures, but I have happily shed or stowed many. And so I continue to practice my brand of minimalism–an effort that is best described as a process.