Training for Boat Life: Go Spelunking!

I love spelunking. I love crawling through dark caverns, slathering myself in mud, squeezing myself into spaces barely wide enough to accommodate my clavicle.

As a kid, my dad (who belonged to the National Speleological Society, and who, as a young man from Chicago, spent weekends caving in the limestone along the Mississippi when he was a kid) would load us into the van and head to the Anza Borrego Desert in Southern California. We’d clamber through mud caves in dry heat, dirt caking on my little-girl clothes and working into my hard-hatted ponytail.

Texas Hill Country hosts a number of great deep holes in the ground: Natural Bridge Caverns, Cave Without a Name, Longhorn Cavern, Inner Space Cavern.... So now that I call the Lone Star State home, I’ve got plenty of opportunities to slither into rocky chasms. (Many of these caves offer “wild-cave tours,” excursions off the comfortable “show cave” path that give visitors an opportunity to sample spelunking and ruin their clothes in the mire.)

All this muddy scrambling has a practical application for a person who favors life on a boat. Boat repairs often involve tight spaces and contortions. And head lamps. Getting to the failing widget generally entails cramming one’s head into confined cabinetry, and as I found this weekend, it can involve spaces not at all hospitable to articulating elbows.

Caving thus provides great training for boat life. This past Sunday, a friend and dockmate asked if my narrower shoulder girdle would be willing to slither under a sink and fix up a new macerator pump. Head lamp installed on my brow, I shoe-horned myself into the cranny and somehow figured out how to use tools despite a lack of room to use my joints. Eventually, the sweet sound of a grinding macerator chimed victory, and my buddy rewarded me with a luscious hot chocolate.

Gotta admit: while a nook beneath a boat sink may not present quite the same adventure as a stalagmite-boasting cave, getting that pump fixed in place did pretty much rock. Especially with chocolate at the end.

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