• By Gene Henson

On Living Aboard

I recently found out the hard way, that if you’re going to carry your phone with you at all times, you need to take precautions. A couple months ago the Blonde, my wife, had chewed me out quite thoroughly because she couldn’t get in touch with me when she had a family emergency, due to my phone sitting on the salon table at the time. Ever since, I’ve been carrying it in my pocket. Bending over to tie the bowline from Mustard, the little Century runabout that we use as a car while on the water I heard a noise. The splash wasn’t loud and it didn’t dawn on me for a minute what caused it but a poke to my pocket revealed the truth. My long-suffering cell phone was sitting at the bottom of the cove. For a fleeting moment, I thought of diving in, in an attempt to salvage it, but then I realized that nothing was to be done. I’d just came back from a ride up the river just because I could. The cool breeze coming over the top of the windscreen was comforting. I’d been redoing the teak deck on Patty O’, our 1954 Huckins’ cockpit and after the second coat, I knew that I had better start doing something else. Glancing at the weather station, I saw that the temperature was just about to tip into three digits. Grabbing my water bottle, and jumping aboard Mustard, I was soon feeling better. And then, getting back, I tied the boat up and heard the splash. Stopping in the yard office, I asked to use their phone to call the Blonde and tell her what happened so that if she tried calling me and I didn’t answer, she wouldn’t have a repetition of the trauma from last time. “Hi, this is Jane and guess what? I’m not taking calls right now. You know the drill.” I do indeed and left her the message. Then, it was off to my cell provider to see what I could do about a new phone. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. The guy, clearly on commission tried his best to get me to upgrade to something that I obviously didn’t want. After a much longer time than I thought I’d be there, the result was a new phone exactly like the one sitting at the bottom of the cove. Next, was a search on line for something to prevent it from happening again. The result was an enclosure that was reputed to be water resistant. Added to that was a tether, which most likely would have been enough. It took a while to get the whole thing set up but when I was finished, I was confident that a repeat of the morning’s adventure was unlikely. Fortunately, the phone had been backed up not long ago, so it was a relatively simple matter to get it up to speed. By now, the afternoon was waning so gathering up my tools, and cleaning up the mess I had walked away from earlier, and making a large glass of iced tea, I sat on the bridge thinking of the several hundred dollars the afternoon had cost me. While I was doing that, the object of my musing rang. “Hey Sport.” She said. “Is this the drowned one or something new?” I explained about the guy at the store and how it had ended up. “How about a celebration?” she said. “My treat.” While we do eat out a fair amount of time, it’s not usually on a Thursday, but what the heck. “That’ll work.” I said. “but I need a shower first”. We settled on pizza, which was a good choice because the heat of the day lingered on into the evening. The Blonde saw a couple she knew from work and chatted a few minutes with them. It was a good meal and I was able to wind down and enjoy myself. The next day, with the forecast a mirror image I was up early and, before the heat got too oppressive, managed to finish the teak coating in the cockpit. Everything had been put away when I heard my name called from the pier. My friend Ritchie was on his way back from his preferred hardware store and stopped by. There was a big pitcher of iced tea and we sat in the shade of the canopy and attempted to solve the world’s problems. Failing miserably at that, Ritchie mentioned what I suspect was the real reason for the visit. “Guy out in Indiana has a few pallets of Purpleheart planks that I could use. Would you be interested in a trip?” “Indiana?” I said. “How far we talking?” “A tad under a thousand miles.” He said. “I figure maybe a day and a half.” Thinking about what we had going on in the next week or so, I couldn’t come up with anything that needed my attention. It would, of course, have to be run by the Blonde. One of the things that keep life good for us is that there are no surprises. Of course, living in such close proximity, that is a given. “I’ll run it by the boss and let you know.” I said. Ritchie makes his living building and installing high-end furniture and kitchen cabinets. I help him occasionally when the installation is difficult or when there is a lot of lifting. For this, he lets us keep Mustard, the little runabout, in his barn in winter. He keeps his supply of exotic wood there, and is always on the lookout for more. The temperature in the barn never goes below forty degrees in the winter, so it’s a win win situation for both of us. After consulting with the Blonde, it was decided that the following Monday would be a good time. We figured on driving continuously, making use of rest areas and fuel stops for basic needs. Having done this several times over the years we were both well aware of what we were getting into. But then on Sunday, I looked at the weather forecast. “Strong thunderstorms, with possible dangerous winds.” The guy said. Bringing up my favorite weather app, it was evident that he wasn’t overreacting. I called Ritchie. “Have you seen the forecast?” I asked. “Not really.” He replied. Like most people, the weather, unless it’s going to be extreme, is usually just another news item for him. But when you live aboard a boat full time, weather is a very important part of your day’s information. “They are predicting severe thunderstorms.” I said “And there is the possibility of some tornadic activity. Can we put off the trip for a couple days?” He was silent for a full minute, and I knew that his head was tilted to one side as his mind analyzed all the information necessary to make a decision. “I’ve got a job on Thursday In Rhode Island.” He said finally. “If the weather is ok by then, maybe we could leave that afternoon.” Inasmuch as we were planning on driving straight through, it wouldn’t matter what time we left. “That’ll work.” I said. “I’ll keep a close watch on the weather and if anything changes I’ll let you know.” “Sounds good.” He said and we ended the call. This has been an awful year for thunder storm activity. Already we’ve had several tornados this season, and while they’ve been in the northern part of the state, that’s still far too close for me. People are always talking about hurricanes hitting the north east. But with hurricanes, you know far in advance the probability of one visiting. Thunderstorms, on the other hand, give maybe an hour at the most. Not that I could do much if one decided to hit this boatyard, I still feel far better being around my people and stuff when something like that is possible. That evening I brought the Blonde up to date on what was going on. “I saw the weather report.” She said. “I figured that’s what you’d do.” We did get one particularly nasty storm on Wednesday, but while the wind was reported to have gusted over sixty knots in places, I doubt it was close to that here. I’d taken the precautions of dropping the Bimini top over the bridge and doubling lines, but that’s all. One of the sailboats had its roller furling jib come loose, and I helped the yard boys get it secured before any damage was done. I hope the guy appreciates our efforts. As planned, we headed West at seven in the evening on Thursday. There were no storms forecasted for the next week, with temperatures forecasted to moderate. Getting to the address in Indiana, the man who was selling the wood was parked in his truck in front of the warehouse. “Hi, I’m Ritchie McGill.” Said Ritchie, introducing himself. They chatted a bit and we all went inside to look at the wood. “I’ve been hording this stuff for what seems to be forever.” He said. “But now, I’m beginning to slow down a bit, and quite frankly, I can use the money. Anything else in here you might be interested in?” There were maybe fifteen pallets of wood, carefully wrapped in plastic wrap. “I keep the place heated in winter and cooled in summer so the wood won’t spoil.” I chuckled to myself. Sounded just like Ritchie. He, (Ritchie) looked around and finally said, “Nope. I’ve got pretty much what’s here, but thanks anyway. With that, the guy fired up his fork lift and set the pallet in the back of Ritchie’s box truck. Ritchie pulled out his wallet and handed the guy a roll of bills. “Good doing business with you.” He said shaking the guy’s hand. The trip back east was just as uneventful and boring as the trip out. It was late when I got back to Patty O’. I’d driven to Ritchie’s house because I knew it’d be late when we got back, and I didn’t want to alarm anyone with the sight of a big, box truck coming into the boat yard in the middle of the night. Not that it wasn’t a legitimate thing to be doing, but better safe than sorry. Trying to be a quiet as possible, I tiptoed into the forward cabin. “Is that you?” came a muffled voice from under the covers. “No.” I responded. “It’s the boogeyman.” “Oh. Ok.” Came the response, followed by the regular breathing of someone fast asleep. And all was well in my world.

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