By Vanessa Moberg –
How much can go wrong during your first two weeks living aboard a sailboat? A lot. My husband, filmmaker Robert Moberg, and I made a huge leap in April, moving aboard our 34-foot boat we’ve named “For Good”. We’re on a mission to find stories of hope for the Earth in our tiny home on the big blue, a project we’ve dubbed Sailing For Good. We knew it wouldn’t be a life of sunbathing and sangria, but we didn’t think the challenges would be huge, immediate, and concurrent.
Our first priority was training. On our second day living aboard, the seemingly qualified instructor we’d hired took us out in very strong winds and lumpy seas. Our engine quit, rigging broke, and we lost the use of our mainsail, leaving us no choice but to head for English Bay with only our headsail to get us there, eight hours later. We had no gas for our dinghy’s outboard motor, so we had to row into Vancouver to release our “instructor” from duty. We were up half the night cleaning up the food, equipment, books, and clothes that had been tossed about down below. Lessons learned: watch the weather, vet your hired professionals, always have gas, and batten down the hatches.
Because of this first difficult day at sea, we spent an unexpected week anchored in False Creek, giving us a crash course in self-sustainability. Robert already had new solar panels, batteries, and an on-demand water heater installed on the boat, so this definitely helped. Even so, we seemed to experience one mishap after another. A leaky pipe in the galley left two inches of water in our cupboards. We ran out of propane (with the spare tank inoperable) leaving us without the ability to shower, cook, or heat the boat. We transported the tanks by dinghy to Granville Island then via cab to a propane station, but we ran out of gas for the outboard motor halfway back, leaving Robert to row his boat once again. The unseasonably low temperatures along with incessant rain meant condensation dripped on us while we slept, and we could see our breath when we awoke. Lessons learned: if the pump is acting funny, there’s a leak somewhere, have spare gas AND spare propane, and dry socks are underrated.
While Granville Island is a lovely place if you need imported licorice and artisanal leather, it became impractical for us to stay there. We decided to head to Gibson’s, but the strong winds – which were supposed to ease off – persisted as we got underway. Still insecure about our sailing skills, it was a harrowing high seas motor across Burrard Inlet into Howe Sound. With no anchoring skills to speak of, we were quite proud we when we secured ourselves nicely in Gibson’s Harbour. A mysterious sound had us up at 4:30 a.m. and, as a result, we slept in a bit. Thank goodness we did! That morning, around the time we probably would’ve already gone ashore, Robert noticed our boat was almost aground in the receding tide. He frantically pulled us out of harm’s way by hand while I took the helm. As we circled the harbour, Robert called the marina and got us a month’s moorage, giving us time to regroup and find proper training. We continued to lose sleep in Gibson’s as the river otters have taken a liking to running around on our deck at night, and we experienced our first overnight gale. Lessons learned: triple check the wind and tide reports and learn to live with sailboat noises.
Just in time for World Ocean’s Day on June 8th, Robert and I have finally realized our dream to live off-grid, at least while we’re not enjoying the respite of marina services. And while we do still need some fuels to get by, we largely rely on the wind, sun, and our own physical labour. Eventually, we’d like to invest in a better battery bank, more electric appliances, and even an electric outboard motor, but one step at a time.
We are now in charge of all our own systems – heat, light, power, transportation, fresh water, hot water, waste management, and sewage – meaning just hours into our new life, we were default conservationists to an extreme measure. We’ve found ourselves immediately grateful for the luxurious things we once called “the basics”. And we’ve found the courage to confront the challenges ahead because, let’s face it, most of the things that could happen to us already have.
“For Good” Conservation Tip: One of my best friends, a timber cruiser, kept water-filled spray bottles around her camper for washing her face, brushing her teeth, and quick jobs
in the kitchen. I’ve been doing this on the sailboat and it uses far less water than turning on the tap.
Environmental filmmakers Robert & Vanessa Moberg have embarked on the journey of a lifetime, leaving their home in Williams Lake, BC to set sail on their boat “For Good”. They intend to document stories of hope: the wildlife, coastal communities, and individuals all finding a way to survive and even make a difference despite the bleak realities of climate change and frightfully polluted oceans. To follow their mission: Patreon: patreon.com/sailingforgood, Facebook: @sailingforgood, Instagram: @sailingforgoodtv, Twitter: @sailing4goodtv, Website: sailingforgood.tv