The Way of the Wolf: More With Less

I work a few days per week for a company that, as part of their service, raises and recycles/disposes of sunken pleasure craft. A couple of weeks ago, our divers brought up a sunken wooden sailboat that went down in a big windstorm here on the West Coast one month earlier. The 32-foot boat was at anchor out in the harbour and in distress, taking on water. The owner of the craft was actually on his way to see if he could save his boat when he suddenly died in his vehicle en-route. With no one coming for her, the ship sank to the bottom.

It was brought into the boat yard and plopped down on some stands, mast and mostly everything still intact. She was an older boat, built in 1951 of wood with bronze fittings. They don’t make them like this anymore. As they say, though, the only thing permanent is impermanence.

Having been saturated in saltwater almost everything on board was more or less ruined… and there was a lot of stuff. I mean a LOT. The boat was jam-packed with a lifetime of accumulated bric-a-brac. Sifting through the layers was like doing an archaeological dig… books, fishing rods, diving gear, socks, tools, pots, pans, cutlery, clothes, toiletries, rope and other common items were mixed in with more personal items like pornographic DVDs, condoms, sensual body paints and a vintage 1971 Led Zeppelin concert banner. There were often multiples of the items… notably seven anchors distributed throughout the boat.

As I tossed out and recycled the items so I could get at the hull of the boat itself, it dawned on me how absolutely useless all of it was, how tied this person could have been to it, clinging to all of these items that, ultimately, someone like me has to get rid of when all is said and done.

I eventually chopped apart the kitchen, the head (bathroom), closets, cupboards, deck, rails, helped pull out the engine and more until nothing was left of it. This took days and days. I became immersed in this person’s life—in their things—and it made my soul feel heavy.

I’ve never been drawn to sailboats or yachts (not that I could afford one) and this reminded me why. There is just too much stuff involved—lines, masts, engines, electrical systems, plumbing, steering systems, and on and on. There is simply too much that can go wrong with them, and too much space inside to fill up with more stuff. Physical clutter is mental clutter and you get lost in the convoluted mess of it all instead of enjoying where you want the craft to take you. It’s little more than a floating RV, something that separates you from the natural environment you are theoretically wanting to be part of.

To keep myself separate from the pall of this stuff that I was digging through and discarding, I thought often of the of the clean simplicity of travelling in a canoe or kayak. With these ultra simple crafts you can roam for months on end, camping and enjoying Earth’s natural surroundings rather than faffing around with a yacht full of stuff. Doing more with less rather than less with more is the key to truly enjoying wilderness travel. A yacht separates you from that experience, while a canoe or kayak immerses you in it.

As humans we are genetically built to move nimbly through rough terrain, to be burdened with little more than a pack or watercraft that we can carry on our backs. One shiny bauble leads to another, and then another, until it becomes an unwieldy pile that owns you rather than the other way around. You can’t buy your way to happiness; in fact, it will have the opposite effect.

Streamline your life, bring only what you need when you venture outdoors, and embrace the experiences and people that you encounter along the way. In the end, that’s all that counts.

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