The move from sailing through the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico up to the snowy peaks of Alaska seemed, at first glance, like quite the extreme shift. Although this shift in 40 degrees of latitude certainly has transformed our views and our landscapes, our lifestyle is actually remarkably similar. No, I suppose we weren’t gallivanting around on helicopters, hiking on glaciers or standing under 200’ waterfalls while in Baja, but we do have some parallel concerns from day to day.
One of the most profound experiences we felt while sailing was simply being aware of the resources we use every day. Everything that came aboard Selkie was hauled on our backs, then rowed across the sea and stowed meticulously: water, food, tools, etc. Then, all of that stuff eventually had to get back off the boat…in one form or another. Basically, resources were hard to acquire, hard to transport to our home and hard to dispose of. There is no out of sight, out of mind on a sailboat.
One of the biggest daily concerns we had, as most people on this Earth can relate to, was water. That beautiful, life sustaining elixir of life was scarce in the Sonoran desert and our wee little boat carried about 50 gallons. We regularly lasted 4 to 5 weeks between provisioning due to very regulated use and conservation (i.e. limited hygiene and a severe state of dehydration).
Here in Alaska at Tutka Bay Lodge, we have a freshwater spring on the property which is akin to a fountain of life. It is our only source of water and the lifeblood of the Lodge. This importance means that we are constantly monitoring our water system, with a complex system of tanks, pipes, valves and switches. We have a 44,000 gallon tank that we can see, and what’s in there is what we’ve got. There’s no main line back to the city that we can tap into. Once we use it up, it’s gone until next year.
Likewise, we also have to schlepp gray water in five gallon buckets up the hill, every aching muscle in our backs reminding us of the physical limitations of septic systems and the finer details of waste disposal.
We do have electricity imported in via the power lines, so that convenience is always there, but those wonderful electrons that make our coffee every morning are the most expensive electrons you can buy anywhere in the United States. So again, we are reminded of the true value of this resource and we encourage conservation as best we can.
We’ve found that we enjoy living this way, still with the conveniences of flowing water and flowing electricity, but fully aware of how wonderful and precious those things really are.