4 Ways to Scratch Your Creative Itch On Board

9 April 2009 By Rubi McGrory

If you’ve got the artistic urge, chances are that rearranging the throw pillows or chamoising the deck (again) doesn’t really scratch that itch. Even if you merely dabble in creative endeavors, life as a crewmember on a yacht rarely affords you time and space to stretch your creative muscles. Who has room in their cabin for watercolors and sketchpads, let alone an easel holding an in-progress oil painting?

The answer is that with a little bit of creativity, it is easy to exercise a lot of creativity. Here are a few ways to get started.

  1. Snap Some Pics. The most convenient medium for this on board is photography. Digital cameras have released the photographer from the darkroom and the photo lab. All you need is a camera, although a computer is helpful as well. Since you are most likely to be in beautiful places, there will be plenty of opportunities to take stunning pictures, or better yet, interesting ones. You can really push your camera to the limit and play with capturing images of the radar screen at night or water washing past the hull.
  2. Etch a Sketch. For all of its ease, however, photography doesn’t provide the same hands-on experience that other creative endeavors do. When you are sketching local trees or flowers, not only are you more likely to notice more small details about the flora, but you also can smell it; you can hear the insects buzzing and birds flapping their wings. If you're painting, you will be so aware of things you may take for granted like colors – the blue of the sky vs. the blue of the water, the green grass, the color of the earth.
  3. Blog in a Log. If your chosen medium is a journal, keep a daily account of your adventures and you’ll wind up with a record you can refer to in years to come. A glue stick and a marker can work wonders when combined with pictures and little bits of paper collected from your forays ashore.
  4. Scratch that Itch with a Stitch. “After dinner every night, I would spend a half an hour or so working on a needlepoint,” said chef/stew Emma. “It isn’t a very sophisticated technique, just a way to wind down and relax. It was an image of the [sail]boat I worked on, and it kept me busy for a long time without taking up too much room on board. And now I have a really beautiful pillow.

Even if you can spend just 15 to 30 minutes a day, you’ll be giving yourself the gift of play time. And who knows, you may get much more out of it than that.

Stew Staci admits, “I was hired on one boat because I listed that I like to knit on my résumé. One of the other crewmembers did as well, and she wanted to have a playmate. We even bought cheap yarn at a Euro store in the Azores and knitted for the rest of the delivery. By the time we got to Malta it was cold, but we each had a scarf.”

Feel like making something but don’t know what do? For not much money, you can make your own art kit. Start with a small blank sketchbook, a glue stick, some colored pencils and markers.

Deckie Craig likes to combine an evening beer with sketching. Shy about his pastime, he finds neighborhood pubs and captures the local faces in pencil is his journal.

Mate Andy recalls a chef he worked with who was so desperate to have her bag of paint and pencils with her that she had to sleep with it on the foot of her bed. “She only had two drawers and there was no other place to store it. She made beautiful watercolor postcards of places we’d go and sent them to her parents. That is so much cooler than taking pictures or buying postcards.”