On Living Aboard
Although we have had several nasty storms already this season, one of which arrived on the anniversary of Super Storm Sandy, which did a lot of damage on October 29th, 2012. This latest storm, while strong, was nothing like the one in 2012 for us. In 2012, we lost the winter cover, but this time everything stayed in place. Among the things we do as normal maintenance every year is change out our dock lines. We have two sets that are used, and another in reserve. When we move to our winter location, which has always been at the gas dock, we make up new lines and dispose of the old ones. This year someone saw me throwing the old lines into the yard dumpster and wanted to know what was wrong with them. “Hopefully, nothing.” I said. “It’s just that I like to be sure that there will be no failures this winter.” I went on to explain that we were full timers and that Patty O’ stays in the water year round. Like most people, when they find out that we live aboard, he had what seemed like a million questions. But the fact that I was throwing away, ‘perfectly good dock lines’ just blew him away. He asked if I’d mind if he took the old lines. “Sure.” I said “Not a problem.” I’m sure that some of you reading this will wonder at my insistence of replacing what appears to be perfectly good line every year. However, the rotation goes like this. We maintain three sets of dock lines: One set remains on the dock when we get underway. A second set is kept in a cockpit locker for when we arrive at our destination, in case we are going to be dockside. A third set is kept in abeyance, if any of the others fail, or if we feel the need to double up our lines in the event of a strong storm. When the season is over, we consign the ‘summer’ lines, which were also last year’s winter lines, to the dumpster. They may look good on the surface, but close inspection will show signs of chafe and wear, plus there is unseen damage from sunlight. The underway mooring lines take their place, and the spares move to the cockpit locker. A new set is then made up. Our permanent dock lines are set up so that when we come into our slip, all that’s necessary is to drop the eye over the cleat on the boat and we’re done. When we tie up elsewhere, the eye is placed over the dock cleat and a turn is taken to secure it. The other end is kept aboard and adjusted as necessary. I prefer to make up the lines myself, mostly just because I can, although made up dock lines are readily available at most marine stores. For ours, I weave a twelve inch eye in one end, and do a back splice on the other. After the first few times you do it, splicing becomes very easy, and a perfectly tapered splice looks very nautical. I use 5/8th three strand nylon, mostly because it’s easy to work with and because it has some stretch. Each line is 25 feet long, which gives me plenty of room to play with. The biggest enemy to dock lines however, is chafe. Talking to friends who were forced to leave their boat on a mooring in Marathon, Florida during Hurricane Irma, they said that most if not all the boats that broke loose from their moorings did so because of inadequate, or failure of the chafing gear. Sometime ago, I don’t really remember exactly when, I came into possession of a roll of canvas fire hose that was declared unfit for its original use. I don’t remember what I paid for it, but I doubt that it was a lot. It lives in our storage compartment and once or twice a year I cut off a length of the stuff to be used for preventing chafing on our dock lines. That’s another part of the fall ritual. The winter lines receive a double layer. The hose is fastened to the line by weaving twine through the strands. Nothing short of a knife will cause it to come loose when done this way. The little Century runabout, Mustard is snug in her winter hibernation in my friend Ritchie McGill’s barn. While I wouldn’t want to have to sleep in there, it is heated, albeit to forty degrees. Ritchie stores a great deal of exotic wood there and he says that it wouldn’t do to have it sit in freezing temperature. Nonetheless, Mustard’s engine is completely winterized. It was the failure of her previous owner to drain the coolant that lead to her original engine suffering a cracked block. There are a few projects that I want do on her before the season begins, but that can wait till early spring. I want to add hydraulic steering and replace the fuel tank. While Mustard, as well as Patty O’ , looks pretty much the way they did when they were new, however, there are many changes to both boats that are unseen. While we love the look of vintage boats, neither myself nor the Blonde, my wife, would want to live full time in the comfort of 1954. Firstly, as I’ve said before, I’d much rather be blown to kingdom come by propane then driven crazy by a stove using alcohol as fuel. And the thought of feeding an ice box brings tears to my eyes. It would be like living at a permanent tailgate party. Patty O’ has a very nice refrigerator-freezer and the propane stove we used for years has been replaced by an induction cooktop. Welcome to the 21st century. When we first upgraded the galley on Patty O’ , the year before we moved aboard, we chose a Coleman Marine refrigerator-freezer that ran on 12 and 120 volts as well as propane. It was not an easy installation. I followed the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) recommendations to the letter, and as a result, never had an issue. The same with the propane stove. These appliances, however, were never meant for continuous use, regardless of what the brochures say. Last year we upgraded the galley, and while I wondered about the induction cook top at first, all three appliances we upgraded have performed flawlessly. The last was a high end toaster convection oven. No more having to refill the propane tank stowed on the sun deck. We have enough battery power to run the refrigerator for several days if necessary. The 2.5KW power inverter will handle the induction cooktop as well, but not indefinitely. Our generator is very quiet, and when we are in an anchorage, little more than a slight hum is heard. While it can be clearly heard aboard, especially when below, it’s certainly not offensive. Every few years we try to escape the ravages of winter and spend a week or so in a warmer latitude. This was supposed to be the year. However, due to the nasty hurricane season, just about all the destination places on our list are still digging themselves out from under the mess. St. Thomas was our first choice, and while the resort where we had planned on staying is open for business, I cannot imagine enjoying gazing at the destruction still in evidence. The Florida Keys also were on the list, however, we will not go there for18 the same reason. There is a distinct possibility that we will just stay here and postpone the winter get away until next year. Another option is to accompany the Blonde when she attends her annual architectural conference in Phoenix, AZ. It might be fun to wander around the Arizona desert for a few days. While we don’t eat out often but when we do, we like to make it something special. My choice has always been seafood and when the Blonde made the suggestion, mentioning a new establishment that recently opened in Westerly, Rhode Island, I jumped right on it. “Sure!” I said. “Wanna invite Richie and Linda, too?” “It’ll be a blast!” She replied.