The fine art of doing nothing

Fall 2023

By Mike Camarata

The author and his wife and co-captain Carol Zipke enjoying yet another quiet moment. Photo courtesy Mike Camarata

My wife and I are full-time liveaboards. We cruise south in the fall and return to Southern New England in the spring. The question we get asked most about this lifestyle is, hands down, “What do you do all day on a boat?” Well, under ideal circumstances, when things are more or less going according to plan, the answer is “nothing.”


Let me explain.

Last fall on our way south we had a scheduled haul-out in Pasadena, Md., which is up near the top of Chesapeake Bay. Having arrived early, we had plenty of time to kill. The upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay are a terrific place to waste time, and we intended to waste it well.

A great place to waste time is in Georgetown, Md., where we stayed at a new-to-us marina that gave us a slip at the cost of the mooring we requested. Quiet. Sit at the pool. Do nothing. Take a low-speed walk to explore. Find nothing interesting. Take a shower. Relax from that busy day of doing nothing.

Another very short passage found us at Worton Creek, also on the east shore in the upper bay. We have anchored here many times and knew what to expect. Nothing. It is beautiful and well-protected and we were going to seriously get into doing nothing. Because we got underway much later than normal, mid-morning, from the nearby Sassafras River, it was near lunch when we arrived. Lunch is a good start for doing nothing. Followed by a nap. Naps are good.

Now, there was a little bit of reading before and after the nap. So, we were not, in fact, doing nothing. But close. Usually, dinner is the highlight of the day. But today it was hearing an eagle chittering nearby. When you have lots of time to waste you learn the difference between the calls of hawks, ospreys and eagles. You also learn that these birds all have different territories; they rarely fly in the exact same area. They know their boundary lines. On our mooring in Old Lyme, Conn., we are lucky enough to have all three of these birds of prey near us. Watching them hunt is a great way to waste time.

After several days of listening to the wildlife surrounding the Worton Creek anchorage, it was time to leave the whispering trees that surround the place and move on to the Magothy River. The Magothy River is on the west shore of the Bay, south of Baltimore, north of Annapolis. It is also very close to our haul-out location in Pasadena. The mouth of the Magothy River where it flows into the Chesapeake is more like a wide bay with many creeks running into it. There are also several smaller bays that make great anchorages all around the main river. We chose northern Sillery Bay. The entrance to our chosen anchorage, above Gibson Island, is a narrow passage called Magothy Narrows. You go around Holland Point and get into a very protected, beautiful basin between Holland and Purdy Points.

When we are at our home moorings in Old Lyme, Conn., or Marathon, Fla., we always have things to do. Visit friends and family. Go to volunteer jobs. We have medical visits, sports and exercise activities. We do our regular boat maintenance.

In the Magothy River there is nothing for us to do but kill time. This is Maryland horse country, and the north shore of our anchorage is a horse farm. It’s a beautiful rolling hillside and it is interesting to watch the grazing and occasionally frolicking of the horses and ponies. This takes time. Lying on our deck and watching the small puffy white clouds drift by also takes time. Sailors/boaters often monitor the clouds and wind for what they may portend, but it is also great to just lay there and watch them drift when nothing is going to happen. Nothing, except for the occasional gull or tern soaring past your field of vision.

With puffy clouds above there are also clouds of nettles below. They are a jellyfish that’s all too common in the Chesapeake. They can ruin a swimming area quickly as their sting is painful. They are pretty, however. You can waste a lot of time watching them. Also, when it is calm you sometimes see the many fins and tails of baitfish breaking the surface in groups between the nettles. Peaceful.

A brief, but breezy, front came through in the middle of our idyll and brought with it rain that lasted nearly all day. This meant no lounging on deck, but plenty of time for reading inside. Even when we run out of new-to-us books we always have several special books permanently on board for re-reading. Many places we go through have free book exchanges for cruisers. We have seeded and harvested these mini-libraries up and down the U.S. East Coast for many, many years.

For people who live on land – dirt dwellers – it’s easy to do nothing. Yes, there is mowing the lawn, or housecleaning, or even cooking, but not necessarily every day. Even cooking is an option, with a run to a takeaway restaurant possible. Not for cruisers: It is much harder to do nothing on a boat. It takes effort. But we’re always willing to put in the time.

When the time for our haul-out arrives we’re well-rested for the work period and the trip afterwards to Annapolis. There we met the remnants of Hurricane Ian, which gave us five days of miserable weather before we could continue our voyage south to Florida.

Fortunately, by then, we were experienced and prepared to do nothing.

Michael Camarata and his wife and co-captain Carol Zipke are full-time liveaboard cruisers whose home is the 44-foot catamaran, Infinite Improbability. They have been boating for more than 35 years, and, Mike says, “No longer do we own any dirt-based property.” They are both Senior Navigators and Past Commanders of the Waterbury (Conn.) Power Squadron of the USPS. Mike is also one of Waterway Guide’s Cruising Editors (Northern Edition).