Friday, January 6, 2017

It Was the Best of Offices, It Was the Worst of Offices

I took a wonderful break from the duties of the science life over Christmas, when we were anchored at Cayo Rosario. Long beach walks with the family and lionfish spearing with Elias and endless games of Risk with the boys were the result.

Even before New Year's Eve I was back at it, though. Whatever you might think about scientists (Vanguard of an international conspiracy!), they do work harder than nearly anyone. Over and over I'm impressed at what an effort is required to make a useful contribution to our knowledge about the world.

The working title for the contribution to knowledge that is currently in prep (as we say in the business) by myself and a group of academic colleagues is "The End of Regime Biology in a North Pacific Ecosystem". However useful this contribution may be, I'm making my part of it from our traveling boat where I have no permanent office and am always sharing limited space with our boys.

This arrangement ends up being particularly hard on Eric. When I am concentrating ever as hard as I can, and he engages in some annoying behavior that is the cultural right of six year olds, I can find myself getting annoyed (that's why we call it annoying behavior, after all) to the very end of my tether.

That, and there are the endless interruptions of boat life. The propane tanks need to be changed. We need more water. The stuffing box is unaccountably leaking to the point where the bilge pump is turning on. All of it requires that I lay down my train of thought and lay hands on the boat to make things somehow better.

The days go so fast, as do the years, and I can have so little to show at the end of them in terms of finished work. In my darker moments I make tortured appeals to Alisa about how much easier it would all be if I just had an office somewhere and could separate work life from family life.

But, then! The boys take the PE break in their morning of school, jumping off Galactic and clearing cob-webby heads, and I jump in with them. Or, I take a break before dinner and swim into the beach to play baseball with them for an hour. Or, I step into Elias' schooling as he and I read The Old Man and the Sea aloud to each other. Or, after the boys are finally in bed, Alisa and I repair to the gentle tropical breezes of the darkened cockpit to enjoy a rum drink and each other's company.

At these moments, it is obvious that I have the best office in the world.

Any of our sailing friends would jump at the chance of having my income while they were sailing. But I don't think many of them would sign on for the amount of work that is involved.

And I'll admit that when I daydream about our second decade of living afloat (inshallah) I daydream about doing it without working as a scientist.

But there is also the essential joy of having an active life of the mind while we're off in obscure parts of the world, having a life of adventure. And having that science life, and the income that it gives us, has been a great way to have both things.
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!

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