Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Things they Don't tell you

 Ah the things that no one told us about becoming livaboards.  I was musing on this while driving back from our storage locker the other day.  Don't get me wrong, we love our life aboard.  It's just that there are a few things it might've been nice if someone had mentioned, like, for example:

1)  No, you're never getting rid of all the stuff you put in storage.  A lot of that is going to wind up being memorabilia, family stuff with no one to give it to, and things that are "too nice to get rid of" even though you have absolutely no way to use them right now.  That's why you got the storage locker, right?

2)  Your car is a closet.  It's an accessory wing on your boat, home to stuff you use occasionally but not often enough to be willing to trip over on a daily basis.  For this reason, the cars of most liveaboards look like homeless people are living in them, or that you just got kicked out of your apartment.

3)  If you can't find something, it's generally because of one of two reasons. A. It's such a large space that it could be anywhere or, B. Its under/over/behind something else.  Virtually everything on your boat falls into the "B" category.  All of the storage lockers on any boat are weirdly shaped.  Absolutely nothing is square.  The thing you're looking for is the thing that's behind those other two things that are currently wedged into that trapezoidal storage space. 

4)  Yes, it's going to get damp.  Wrap it in plastic.  Then you will have a damp thing wrapped in damp plastic.  It's just the way of things.

5)  Anything with "marine" in the name will cost 200% more than the same thing without "marine" in the name.  Hence:  brass bolt $.50, brass marine bolt $1.50.  This becomes more pronounced the more expensive items become.

6)  Yeah, that's damp too.

7)  You have plenty of room in the freezer/fridge/cooler for all the foods that you just don't feel like eating tonight, guaranteeing that they'll go bad by the time you do feel like eating them.

8)  There is, however, no room for the roast that you got on a bargain that you wanted to cook this weekend.

9)  Yes, it's damp in the cooler too.  Sensing a trend here?

10)  The night you desperately needed to sleep, the wind will kick up and slam you into the dock every six seconds for the next five hours.

11)  The boat will leak.  Not from the bottom.  Boats almost never leak from the bottom.  No, it will leak from the top.  Every rainstorm, the hatches, the deadlights, the place where the grabrail is bolted in. . .all of them will suddenly decide to leak.  You will never find where the water is actually coming from.  Slathering it with caulk is ugly and will work until it decides not to, usually on the hatch that's directly over where you're trying to sleep.

12). . . .which is now damp.

13)  The outside of boats get dirty, especially if near highways or cities.  They get dirty for no damn reason at all.  They get dirty just sitting there.  They get dirty and then they get algae growing on them.  That's because they're . . .well. . .damp.

14)  There is no way to avoid having to get up an move every time anyone else needs to get up and move.  It's a kind of weird ballet everytime anyone needs to get up in the galley to use the head.  The only one who won't get up on a bet to get out of the way is the cat.  We like to refer to him as "ballast".

15)  Look under the mattress.  For some reason, it's damp down there too.

All that being said, there is no place else we'd rather be living.  At least I don't have to cut the grass.


Friday, April 8, 2022

Ride 'Em Cowboy


Ride Em Cowboy

We've all spent those evenings at the dock or at anchor, when the weather, the wind and water, conspire to slam the boat in a whole host of interesting directions. The lines creak and then slam tight. The boat rebounds and bounces off the fenders. Wind howls through the rigging. It does NOT, you may remember, make for a peaceful, sleep filled night.

These happen occasionally to all of us, but of late, they've almost been more the rule than the exception here on the Chesapeake. I've looked over our logs for the last eight months or so and I'm hard pressed to find a single freaking week where there wasn't at the very least a small craft warning, and the number of Gale warnings has been truly epic.

Why is this? We've been at the same dockage for eight years now, and have seen the weather become steadily warmer, more erratic, and occasionally more violent. And, yes, it's climate change and yes, for all our denials, it's global warming. There's just too damn much heat energy in the weather systems and it's not going away any time soon. In fact, it's likely to get more pronounced and more in your face. Bearing all that in mind, I thought I'd do a bit of a review of how we deal with weather here at dock.

Here's the thing, every boater spends quite a bit of time tweaking the dock lines until they're just right, until the boat will ride true under most if not all conditions of tide, wind, and weather. Once we get them adjusted, most of us are loath to mess with them again. The trouble is, of course, that no tying of dock lines, however well conceived and executed, will ever do for every conceivable condition.

There are, of course, a few things you can do to make the lines more forgiving. Snubbers of various sorts can really help soften the blow when the boat suddenly hits the end of her tether, and banked fenders can help allow for wide tidal variations. Criss-crossing the lines at stern and bow will help keep the boat centered in the slip (though it can make exiting off the swim platform a bit of an adventure) regardless of tide conditions.

Ultimately, though, we have to get over the idea that there is a one-tie-fits-all solution for you and your boat. This will, of course, inevitably mean that there will be those inventive, leisurely, 3AM its-pouring-rain-and-we're-hitting-the-dock lurches on deck in your skivvies out of a sound sleep evenings.

So how to make that less than awful?

First things first. Find out—now--which lines are the most likely to need emergency alteration when the tides and the wind cease to play nice. It's likely that it'll be the same damn cleat you're addressing every time, so plan on that. Tape marks or loops tied in that line can help you let the line out or pull it in a predictable amount, regardless of the foul conditions, which can save you another trip. Putting in an additional spring line that can be easily manipulated from the cockpit is also helpful and can keep you from having to do a full-scale remake of how your vessel is moored.

Also, just for safety's sake, remember that these scenarios and a bunch of others may entail you charging onto a dark deck in the middle of the night in foul weather. The wise expedient of having decent deck shoes, rain gear, a working light, and a marlinspike easily available in a place that you'll remember without having to search for them can save you a lot of cursing, and, possibly, danger.

So, yes, the weather is getting worse, it's not your imagination, and, yes, we're all going to have to deal with it. Take some decent precautions and you'll find you'll sleep a lot better.

Don and Gail Elwell

And first Cat Magellan

aboard the MV TARDIS

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Winter into Spring. . . at last

Winter in to Spring. . . At last.

I'll be honest, these last two winters as a live-aboard have been, well, difficult. Winters are always somewhat of a challenge: Going anywhere can be a problem, and the weather isn't condusive to the usual sitting out on the docks and watching the world go by. These last two winters, though, have been a challenge. First of all, there was the virus. Usually in winter we can count on going out to our favorite pub to have a libation or a meal, do a bit of conversation and people watching, and then stagger home to the marina. It was almost a weekly ritual in the dark months. These last two years, though. . .

The Drinking Trees await

The virus closed most of the public spaces, places we took for granted, places we went to meet neighbors, to get a bit of exercise, to just get the hell off the boat for a bit. Those places.

Then there was politics. Places we loved before, places we always considered a home away from home, were suddenly hostile territory. We felt unwelcome. We felt unable to speak, to share, to even be there for fear of conflict, and who goes to a neighborhood dive looking for conflict?

I think these last wnters for most of us—regardless of our stripes—were a rather lonely and isolating time.

But this year, for all the international turmoil, feels different somehow. This year, the trees are budding out early. Our usual hikes through Marshy Point are already quietly met with the murmuring of frog song, the weather is warming fast ( a little TOO fast, but that's another issue ) and friends and fellow live-aboards are already talking BBQ, talking game night, talking road trips.

This year feels different.

We live for that first couple of days of spring, when we can sit in the cockpit, or up on the hard beneath what has been dubbed the “drinking trees”, with a glass of decent wine, watching the birds come and go and feeling the warm sun on our faces. It's coming, and I've already made my reservation.

There's always so much to do in spring, boat travel notwithstanding. Tarps come off and maintenance you've been putting off suddenly wanders to the front of the cue. The boat can finally get a good airing, paintwork gets done, and the cat discovers the dock again.

And we discover one another again as well. Our dock is a particularly convivial one, with live-aboards and boaters all of which have become good friends. Only now, we will begin to see each other on a daily basis, rather than just noting someone in a coat going by. Now there will be music and movies and games and . . .well. . .alcohol, and the warmth of community and friends as close as family.

Now there will be spring.

And we can't wait.