I wake most mornings between 0430 and 0530, sans alarm. After awkwardly scooching out over the head of our triangle-shaped bed I start my day by heading to the galley to light the right-hand burner of our small gas stove and put the kettle on. While I am there I open the small hatch that is at eyelevel on the bulkhead just above the stove and take in the small, square view of the world. The first of my day.
With a quick glance I judge the position of the boat, the direction of the wind and, by observing the clouds, the general weather for the day. Then I let my eyes wander over the landscape, maybe noticing the way the fog hangs in a forested valley or how the soft morning sun sparkles on nearby wavelets or how an evening rain has muted all the colours. Many mornings I catch the first rays of warm light spreading across the dusky sky, other mornings I marvel at the rain drops splashing on the deck like tiny fireworks. Regardless of the weather, I have been preforming this ritual nearly every morning we’ve been onboard for the last 13 years. And, for the past 12 months I have been photographing it.
It started on a morning in July 2020 when I lifted my camera and took a quick snapshot. I was feeling a little low, both because of the crazy situation I was stuck in – on the hard in a boatyard in the Philippines without Steve – and because that particular day happened to be my birthday. I had been staring out that hatch at the same view every morning for six months, but there was something about the light that day that made me stop.
The thing about my usual view it that it is constantly shifting. Even at anchor Kate is never exactly still, so neither is the scene outside my galley hatch. I have gotten used to the ever-changing perspective that motion so generously provides. The sense of freedom and potential and momentum. In the boatyard there was none of that outside my galley hatch. It was just the same old mountain in the distance across the same old harbour on the other side of the same old fence. I felt trapped and leaden and inert.
That morning, as sun rose, and that beautiful light danced across the landscape in my tiny frame I started to see what I had been looking at all along. I began to appreciate what I had, instead of loathing what I couldn’t change. It was true that my view was stationary but that didn’t mean it was static. Each day was different, each moment was different, if only I took the time to notice.
So, I did.
Every morning since I have made an effort to stop in front of my galley hatch long enough to take a deep breath and to take in the view. Once a week I photograph it, usually on a Monday or Tuesday. Never waiting until the light is “right” or the scene is “interesting,” never editing the photo to make it more dramatic. Simply noticing and documenting.
I started posting my project on Instagram via Stories with the title “Morning Galley Views.” I like the transient nature of the Stories feature for this work – being able to share my fleeting view with the world, while at the same time the viewer must be quick to catch it. (Stories only features photos for 24hrs after they are posted, then they disappear. But you can see the whole collection in my Highlights reel.)
The weeks have marched on and my view has stayed the same but how I approach it feels different. Instead of mourning my stillness I have learned to look forward to finding the changes within it. Amid all the uncertainty and stress of the past 18-months, it has become a place to rest my thoughts and be in the moment.
It was Steve’s idea to install a hatch in the galley, just above the stove, only weeks after we moved onboard in 2008. It was a nervous project, sawing a giant hole in the side the boat, but his usual calm demeanour prevailed, and the hatch fit perfectly. Steve is still not able to return home, but he is here with me every morning as I stand at the galley hatch, breathing deep and admiring the view that he gave me.