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On Living Aboard

The mid-season bright work touch up started out like any other but there was a hitch. On Patty O’s starboard side, just about amidships, I found a soft spot on the shear strike, which is the topmost plank. A few years back, it had been replaced along with several frames due to rain water seeping under the teak on the side deck, and it looked like that scenario was about to be repeated. This, of course, put a stop to the brightwork project on that side. It looked like a consultation with my friend Ritchie, the master woodworker, was in order. He does things with wood that are unconceivable to us mere mortals. Thus, he has been involved in all of the major woodworking projects on Patty O’.

I knew better than to arrive at his shop bare handed so a stop at the local coffee emporium was in order. It would be near eleven when I got to his shop, and when I had called to say I was coming with coffee, he asked for a hard roll.

Sitting in his shop surrounded by a bevy of partially completed cabinets, I told him the problem. He sat with his head cocked twenty degrees to starboard while he pondered.

“Didn’t we replace that plank a while back?” he said. I knew from experience that he knew exactly when we had replaced that plank, and he also knew exactly how long it was and what we’d used for fasteners.

“I need to take a look.” He said. “But it’ll be a couple days or so.” He waved his hand around the shop. “I got this rush order to finish, and I was gonna ask if you could give me a hand.”

He already knew the answer to that. We store the little Century Runabout, Mustard, in his barn in winter. Plus, he has helped me innumerable times over the years. When he asks, I go. We settled on a day the following week, after the cabinets, with my help, would be installed.

Back at Patty O’, I decided that work for the day was over, at least the kind of work where you get your hands dirty. Heading for the refrigerator, there was a tall glass of iced tea on my mind. Opening the door to the freezer compartment, it was obvious that something was wrong. It was nowhere as cold in there as it should have been. And while the ice was still ice, there was a lot of water in the trays. Down in the refrigerator compartment, it was the same: far too warm. This was not good.

The refrigerator in Patty O’s galley was installed after we had ripped out the old ‘ice box’, soon after we had decided that Patty O’ was to be our home. It was duel voltage, 12, as well as 110 and It’s worked flawlessly for years, this being the first and only time it’s given trouble.

We have a rather large cooler and it was placed into use immediately, after a trip up the dock to the ice machine. Ray, the yard Forman graciously allowed me to move the frozen stuff into the freezer he keeps in the shop just for occasions like this.

Back at the galley, I cleaned and dried out all the shelves before sitting down at the desk and going over the manual to see if it could shed any light on the problem. There was a whole list of things to check. “If the refrigerator is not cooling, check the following. First, is there power to the unit?”

At the end of the copious list of possible solutions, it went on to state, “There are no user repairable parts therein.”

Enough of that; on to the internet. Once again, things like check the fuse, or replace the ‘regulating thermocouple’. Of course, there were no instructions as to where the afore mentioned thermocouple might be located.

After getting the food safely into something cold, I had helped myself to a coffee from the endless pot in the boatyard store. Now, I leaned back in my chair and took a sip. It was obvious that any repair on the refrigerator was going to be an ordeal. A comment on one of the forums was: “Remember: this refrigerator was never meant to be in continuous operation.”

Earlier this year we had changed out the propane stove as well as the oven, preferring to go all electric. At that time, checking on the internet, both live aboard boats and full time Recreational vehicle forums made mention of the same thing. That most boats, and virtually all RV’s were not meant to be permanent domiciles.

Many of the forums went on to say that they had converted to a residential refrigerator-freezer and were quite happy. There were even hints and ‘how to’ about keeping the doors secured while underway. “Why didn’t we think of a new refrigerator when we did the oven?” I thought.

I was a nice guy and cooked dinner and had it all ready when my wife, the Blonde got home from work. I listened patiently while she described her day. She’s an architect, with an undergraduate degree in structural engineering. There was some colorful language used describing a client who couldn’t seem to decide on a particular design for the renovation of his office, and kept calling with changes. Plus, he thought building codes were for other people. When she was finished, I told her about the refrigerator.

“Gee, maybe we should have changed it when we did the oven.” She said.

“Yup, my thought too.” I’ll do some research.

Then, I told her about the soft spot on the plank.

“I’m sure Ritchie is gonna be involved.” She said.

I told her about the cabinet job. Her next question was, “Is the boat going to have to come out of the water?

I hadn’t thought about that. If there is one thing the Blonde hates, it’s when Patty O’ has to come out of the water for any length of time. At work, she has to look the part, which means business attire, complete with totally unpractical shoes. She doesn’t appreciate having to climb up and down a ladder to get to her house. When we have to be out for any length of time, I spring for a Motel room. Cheap at twice the price for the domestic tranquility it provides. Ray, the yard forman, sets up stairs, every time we come out, even if it’s just for overnight.

The following day I managed to get the malfunctioning refrigerator unhooked and then muscled it out into the cockpit. Ray and a couple of the yard guys helped me get it over onto the dock where it was fastened to a large hand truck. Once on land, the problem of what to do with it had to be addressed. You just don’t put an old refrigerator in a dumpster. It cost me twenty bucks to get rid of the thing. Meanwhile, the search was on for its replacement.

The idea that it would be relatively easy to find a unit that would just slide into place will make anyone who has done something similar, roll on the floor in laughter.

Checking all the local big box stores as well as traditional appliance stores was an exercise in frustration. Most of the available units were nice, but I wanted to find something that was as close to the size of the old one’s outside dimensions and at least seven and a half cubic feet, which was the size of the old one.

There were, of course, several units that could be purchased via the internet, but the cost of shipping one of these things made that route highly unlikely. Finally, one showed up in the online inventory of a Lowes big box store, over in Rhode Island. A quick phone call to them and I was assured that the information gleaned online was true as read and yes they would hold it for me based on me providing my credit card number.

Although it was after three in the afternoon, I headed over there, not wanting to risk losing it just because I wanted to avoid lots of traffic. Calling the Blonde’s cell phone and leaving a voice mail message clewing her in, I was soon on the way east.

Traffic wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be and I made good time. Before heading to the store, I stopped at a discount tool outlet and bought two mover’s blankets. I already have plenty of tie-down straps, but I wasn’t going to risk scratching a brand new refrigerator.

The trip back to the boat yard took a lot longer than the trip east due to all the people who decided to take to the road at the same time as me. That, plus an accident that shut down one lane of the interstate. And once again I’m delighted that I don’t have to participate in this madness any longer.

With no one but the Blonde to help, there was no way the refrigerator was going anywhere that night. Covering it with a tarp, we decided that it would be a good night for pizza. There’s always tomorrow.

Next morning the yard guys helped me get the thing into the galley, and after removing a bit of wood, we slid it into place. Although nothing was said about it in the installation manual, I let it set for a good half hour before plugging it in. I wanted to give it a day or so to see if everything was going to work out before replacing the trim as well. That, and rigging something to assure that it was going to stay put when Patty O’ rolled. Once it was powered up, I retrieved the frozen goods from the yard freezer and packed them in the new one. One thing I really like about this refrigerator is that it has built in thermometers for both doors, it’s a side by side unit, so you know what’s going on inside. There is also an alarm feature which will tell you if either side exceeds user set parameters.

Spending the rest of the day peeking at the soft spot in the planking and thinking about how I was going to permanently secure the refrigerator, I decided that my long delayed glass of iced tea was in order.

Sitting on the sundeck, tea in hand I thought again about the traffic jam of the day before. Looking out over the harbor, I thought, “Yup. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

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