• By Gene Henson

On Living Aboard

It seemed like we just jumped into summer, bypassing spring completely. One day it was gloves, jacket and watch hat and the next was shorts and a T shirt. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, it’s just that I miss the nice, long segue from spring into summer that I remember when I was a young boy. The Blonde, my wife has been very busy at work. For a while, she was making a trip to Boston every other week. Once that was over with, she took on two different projects which, kept her in the office. In fact, she worked two Saturdays in a row, something unheard of not so long ago.

Patty O’ is in the best shape she’s ever been in and I mumble a bit that we are not heading off toward the horizon more than we have. But, the day will come, I know it will. One of the things I wanted to get done was to replace the door handle on the head door, the one that held me captive by grabbing my belt loop. It was funny but not really that funny and not wanting a re-occurrence of that adventure, we set out on a mission to find one. I have been married long enough to know that you do not undertake a mission like this unilaterally. So, off to the big boxes we went.

I foolishly thought that this was going to be one of those walk in, grab a door knob assembly and walk out. Firstly, it became quite evident that the people who make these things for houses are far removed from those who make them for boats. I had wisely disassembled the old one and had it with us so that there would be no doubt that we’d find one to match. We did find a couple that were ‘almost’ the same, but not quite, and it was obvious after a closer look, that none of them would do the job; they were for doors way thicker than Patty O’s.

After two Big Box stores, three different hardware stores, along with one cabinet shop, the Blonde said, “Why don’t we ask Ritchie?”

Why indeed.

My friend Ritchie is a cabinet maker by profession who specializes in high end, custom cabinets the cost of which can cause tears to form in your eyes.

We caught him just as he was leaving his shop to measure a client’s kitchen. I showed him the door knob assembly.

“Where’d that come from?” he said. I had planned on keeping the belt loop incident completely between the Blonde and me, but he was soon laughing hysterically as the Blonde told the story, embellishing it so much that it sounded like an episode from the old TV show Laugh In.

Once that was over, Ritchie took a good look at the assembly.

“I can’t imagine where they got this thing.” He said, turning it over. “It doesn’t have any manufacture’s name on it.” He took it apart and looked inside. “Nothing in here, either.”

He said he would do some research for me and had little doubt that we would find a suitable replacement. I offered to help him with his measurements. He assured the Blonde that he wouldn’t let me get into any trouble and that he would have me home in time for dinner.

The measurements didn’t take long with two of us doing the work. I couldn’t imagine cooking in a kitchen this size. There was no doubt that the square footage of this kitchen was in excess of the total living area aboard Patty O’.

Back at Patty O’, Ritchie wanted to take a look at the door that the funny knob assembly came from.

“It’s certainly not standard.” He said. “Is anything standard on a boat when it comes to things in the cabin?” I replied.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He said. “I’m thinking that someone changed out that door for whatever reason. Maybe the best thing to do is to just go ahead and make another door.”

“Sounds good to me.” I said. “Just as long as it has a door handle that won’t attack me.”

Ritchie left after measuring the door, and I promised that I would deliver the hardware as soon as we (read she) had decided on what was going to adorn it. We also invited him and his lovely wife Linda over for dinner. Patty O’ has a very nice grill clamped to the transom and I enjoy grilling just about anything on it in season, or out of season come to think of it. It works best when we are anchored out, but being careful, it does ok at the dock, too. If the facts were to be known, a transom grill is not supposed to be used in this yard, so when I do, I am very careful to keep a low profile.

Telling Ritchie that there was no hurry for the door was a given. Now that the handle was out of the picture there was little danger of being held captive by the dreaded door any longer.

The weekend after the 4th we made plans to anchor out at Watch Hill behind Napatree point. We have been going there for years. It’s a well protected anchorage, albeit crowded at times, particularly on holiday weekends. On the 4th, we usually spend it in our nice quiet boatyard while everyone is out having fun.

Ritchie and Linda rafted up next to us in their vintage 1970, Luhrs 32 sedan cruiser. Ritchie has been working on that boat longer than we have on Patty O’. He likes to call it a ‘work in progress’ and that is just what it is. With the original gas engines, it’s very thirsty and as a result, Ritchie doesn’t take it very far. Watch Hill, like this weekend, Flat Hammock off the north side of Fishers Island, and maybe once every other year, a trip out to Block Island.

It was a fun laid back weekend. All thought of time went out the window. Although I never wear a watch, Ritchie does and so does the Blonde. But they are still caught up in the time slot of everyday work. Ritchie less so than the Blonde. That was my lot back when I wore a tie to work. I wore a big watch; indeed, my day back then was divided into minutes between meetings, deadlines and trying to figure out who was putting the stick into whom.

We towed the little 18-foot Century runabout, Mustard behind us. She is such a delight. We found her in a New Hampshire barn where she had been stored for a long time after her original owner had died. Every year she goes through another phase of updating. I don’t like to say restoration, because that is not what we do. When we move about in Patty O’ the little boat becomes our car, much like a vehicle towed behind a motor home. Sure, we have a very dependable inflatable dingy with a motor that is as dependable as the tide. But in Mustard, we go in style.

On Saturday evening, the four of us hopped into Mustard and motored over to Stonington for a delightful seafood dinner. Of course, we could have made the trip in the inflatable, but in nowhere near the comfort. Hey, we’re all late boomers. We don’t need to show the world how tough we are.

On Monday, I met the Blonde after work at the second hardware store we had been to, looking for the new handle initially. She had been very disappointed that the one she had picked out didn’t fit. While we were there, we got matching hinges. Tuesday morning, I stopped by Ritchie’s shop with coffee and the hard roll he likes. He said that he had a nice mahogany door that he’d made for a client a few years ago. She didn’t like it and it had been sitting in his barn waiting for something like this ever since. We jousted over price for a bit, he wanting to give it to us and me telling him to stuff it. We settled on a number and he asked me to give him a hand later on in the week, installing a custom china closet for one of his wealthy clients.

“I’ve got to go to Dallas.” She said. “Whatever for?” I said. When I was in the rat race, I spent a lot of time in Dallas.

“There is a convention they want me to attend.I’m not wild about it, but there is some stuff being presented there that will help a lot. You wanna come?”

I looked at her. She was smiling, knowing how I, one, hate to fly and two, hate Dallas.

“I also told them that I was taking a week off after I get back. It’s time we get to enjoy some of this summer weather.”

Taking a sip of my coffee I answered, “In order, Nope on Dallas and yup on a week’s cruise.

I’ll check the charts.”

It was turning into a very good month.


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