We’re here. In the Caribbean with Papageno. I’ve been thinking about starting this in the best way, but to be honest, exhaustion has cracked about every single one of my bones to a point I’m even tired to type.
We arrived with excitement and adrenaline pumping in our hearts. Seeing Papageno was one of the best moments in my life. I didn’t care about the burning sun crackling down on my skin. I didn’t care about the dehydration clawing at my throat. All I cared about was reaching out- just to touch.
She was ours.
And I was here with her finally.
I’m sitting here currently, my skin stinging with dirt, sweat and the redness of being in the sun for too long. Of course. It’s typical- I’m English. And I’m just trying to figure out what to do. I’m trying to figure out how I can be strong enough for the both of us and make sure this project is a success. Because I feel as though if it fails- it’s my fault.
The responsibility is mine.
It was my idea to buy Papageno. I bought her. I chose her. She called to me and every day, despite the problems we face, I tell her I love her. I tell the people that pass how beautiful she is. I see their expressions when they hesitate, their eyes flickering over the rusted side, the bent rail, the broken masts and the filthy hull and the scruffy inhabitants inside.
“Oh yeah… she’s nice…”
But I still see her beauty. Her story. Her ability. Her potential.
I will not back down on the project. Not for one second. We have done our best with finances, making sure we’ve done all the work ourselves. We’ve been very fortunate to have made friends in the yard who pop by and watch us as Edouard attempts human Tetris to get to the tiniest spot in the engine room.
We’ve been very lucky to have been able to solve the problems we have faced so far.
Today, everything has been a struggle. Edouard has been working so hard, and I’ve been doing my best to split my time between earning us enough money and sweating alongside him.
This afternoon, I needed to walk away from the boat and write. It’s almost an impossibility to work under the midday sun as we’re covered in grime and dirt from Papageno, trying to find the oil leak, trying to fix the fifty year old electrics, trying to fix the reverse gauge, trying to figure out how we can make our bilge pump work, as we don’t want to pay over $200 for the new ones they have available here.
We’re trying so hard every day. We go to bed around 8:30pm each night because we are exhausted. So, when the evening comes when someone offers to buy me a drink and take me away from the boat, I feel so grateful.
Yes! Let me escape!
My enthusiasm hasn’t died for her. It’s strange to think of when we first arrived.
With her main cabin locked shut and the key nowhere to be seen, we went to the bar instead and swam in our joy, our success, our disbelief that we were here in the Caribbean with our new home.
We had made it.
All of that trying, that hard work and sleepless nights had amounted to something.
We had achieved this.
And then we started working on her. Once we cracked open the cabin and tentatively crawled in, the stench of hot, mouldy and dirty belongings blazed out at us and imbedded into our very pores. The sun was baking us from all sides as Papageno towered above from the ground on the hard. Sweat was soaking the base of my back, and all I wanted was to throw myself in the pool.
But I carried on gathering armfuls of the past owners’ possessions, throwing everything that used to be their lives into fifty bin bags. We threw everything, keeping only the electrical items that whispered that they could still work.
The shelves were black, mould growing from around the windows, and the carpets underfoot were caked in grime and sand. The navigation desk was full of tools and nails, so when she had fallen on her side during the storm, the entire contents had skidded across the floor and into every nook and cranny of the kitchen.
But I wouldn’t complain. I was happy. I was lucky, I was honoured to be spraying every inch of this beast with bleach. I was privileged for my hands to come out in blisters, for the splinters, for the blackened finger nails, for the endless days getting up at 7am and working for 14 hours.
We arrived with pretty much no money. Let’s be honest- I was never going to wait until I had a bulk amount of cash. I was going to do it with the monthly income I earned doing my day online job. So we did everything ourselves. Scrubbing, throwing, lifting, fixing, and anything else that required being covered in filth. We were content to pee in a bucket for the first 11 days. We were so happy to receive the leftovers from other cruisers who were leaving their boats and had emptied their kitchen cupboards for us.
We were content in our struggle. It felt good to work, to be tired, to be fighting for something.
We spent our first night sleeping in the blackened cockpit. I spent the evening staring up at the sky, too excited to wait for the dawn to creep. Too excited to begin. To bring Papageno back to life. I was surrounded by the stars as the cockpit hid us from view, the palms and rigging from other boats hissing in the wind.
All the bedding but two skinny single mattresses had to be thrown. We cleaned out the forward cabin as much as we could to make her habitable to sleep in, finding at least some haven in all of the rubbish that surrounded us on a day to day basis.
We were working hard to get her in a state fit enough to start the anti-fouling stage in the boat yard. We were paying $600 a month in storage fees for her. We had nothing to cook on, so were grabbing cheap salads and making warm sandwiches from the shop on the resort. We were doing our best. Moving into the boat yard was going to cost us $70- an added charge on top of that because we were going to do our own work as well and not hiring anyone (please don’t ask me, it’s all very complicated.)
I cried when she moved into the boat yard. Sitting after 9 months, it felt like a huge achievement after working on her for 8 days. Three days later, she was in the water, ready to head to the marina. And then I cried even more. Not because of the $40-something a day fee, but because I was so overwhelmed with happiness.
So many people told me I wasn’t going to be able to do this. That she was too big a project. That is would take six months or two years.
We had her in the water in 11 days.
And I know I need to be proud of that. I know I need to hold to that. We did so much.
We’ve been in the marina now for a week and it’s incredible to wake up each morning with Papageno gently rocking on the water. Just to be able to walk down the docks instead of jumping over broken pieces of masts, paint and puddles of chemical liquids from the yard is a joy.
But this afternoon?
Things are hard.
Very hard. Nothing seems to be working and everything is a struggle. The simplest tasks have trials, tribulations and we need this part to fix this part and no, we don’t have that drill, or that screw- and crap! What’s that thing over there? Is that plugged? How much is this? How much? You can’t be serious-
Despite all of these tests against our sanity, I have no doubt that she will sail. And yeah, we haven’t got the masts or rigging yet, but that’s another story. I have no doubts that we will make this. Of course we will. We’ve gotten this far, haven’t we?
She will defy all the odds.
And I will too.
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