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On Living Aboard

November 7, 2016


She left for Phoenix on Sunday afternoon. Driving her to the airport, the traffic on interstate 95 towards Rhode Island was relatively lite for a change. We got there with plenty of time for her to submit herself to the trolls’ in TSA. Her flight was to get underway at three thirty, which would make her arrival after dark. But she had been to Phoenix before and she knows the city as well as anyone who travels there on a regular basis, so there wasn’t much chance for disaster.  Getting back to Patty O’ a bit after six, I made a grilled ham and cheese sandwich for dinner, rejecting any thought of the greasy spoon diner.  Relaxing after for a bit with a book I had been trying to finish, it was going to be an early night. And a busy day tomorrow. 

I had arranged to have Patty O’  hauled first thing in the morning and I was sitting on the rail of the travel lift well, with Patty O’  tied to the finger pier when the crew came to work. Having done this many times before, I knew the drill pretty well. There are many yards that are reluctant to haul large wooden boats on a travel lift.  The reasons range from not knowing the proper way to rig the straps, to the fear that once a wooden boat comes out of the water there is the chance that she may never go back in. In many boatyards there is a section, usually way in the back, where derelict boats end up. It’s a sad sight to see a once proud boat sitting there, rotting away, awaiting the chain saw.  There is no fear of this where Patty O’  is concerned.   Ray and his crew have done this many times and very few spoken commands were necessary. There are notches in Patty O’ s spray rails where the travel lift straps are placed. Ray does his best to see that she spends as little time in the straps as possible so as to reduce strain on her hull. From the time she cleared the water until she was sitting on blocks and the poppets placed was just a bit over twenty minutes.

It was a little after nine when I met Ritchie at the diner across from the boat yard.  We talked about what was going to be needed on the job, and listened to the wags at the counter pontificate about everything from the coming election to the way the city had responded to a tree that had come down across the road in a thunder storm the previous week. Back at the yard, we saw that Roy, the yard Forman had rigged the stairs alongside Patty O’ , in spite of my telling him that it wasn’t necessary. For the few times in past years that atty O’ has been out of the water when the Blonde, my wife was around, Roy had heard first hand her displeasure at having to climb up a ladder to get to her house.  If the boat is going to be out for any more than a day, and she is here, I spring for a motel.

Getting right down to it, we had the plank off, the deck lifted and were looking closely at the frames along the length of the void.  There was a bit of dampness along there and one of the frames looked like it would have to be treated and sistered before the new plank was fitted.

About this time, the owner of a thirty something sport fishing boat walked by. He was known as something of a blowhard at the diner, due to his insistence that his way was the only way. He was retired, and obviously had done well for himself.

Stopping opposite our work area, he looked over at us, and with hands on his hips said “I can’t imagine why you keep fussing with that old wreck. I mean, it’s probably all rotten underneath.” Shaking his head, he went on, “It’s a miracle it hasn’t sunk at the dock. Is that why you’re always around? It’s a mystery to me why they allow boats like that in the marina.”

He shook his head again, waved a hand in dismissal and walked away. We looked at each other, both speechless.

Roy, who had witnessed the whole thing from the door of his shop came over.

“Ain’t he sumphin?” he said. “When he came in here back in May, he saw your boat and wondered why we allowed what he called ‘trashy old wooden boats’ in here. I mentioned that yours was probably one of the better maintained boats in the yard. He’s had a couple run ins with folks, ‘an he drinks a little more than he should. I doubt he’ll be back next year.”

I was impressed. Roy is truly a man of few words and for him to say  all that at once was truly amazing. 

Patty O’  looks like what she is: a 1954 Huckins sedan cruiser in excellent condition. Her lines are a bit abrupt when compared to her more modern sisters, but she looks pretty good to us and a lot of other folks, thank you very much. 

Covering the open area with a tarp so it would dry out completely, Ritchie figured we could finish easily in two days except for painting.

Linda, Ritchie’s wife had invited me to dinner so after a nice long shower, I made the three mile drive over to their place. In the meantime, there was a call from the Blonde and she was quite happy to receive an update on the project, especially since she wouldn’t be effected by it in any way.  She was enjoying the conference and had been brought up to date on a lot of the new stuff in her field. Like most men, when she’s happy, I’m happy.

It was about ten the next morning before I was comfortable enough with the temperature to finish up.  Ritchie arrived and together we made short work of the soft rib, infusing it with a product that restores the affected area to its original strength. There are several products on the market that are capable of this, however most of them have an odor that is very unpleasant and because Patty O’ is our home it would not do to saturate the inside with something that would make her uninhabitable.

Next, with Ritchie’s help the new plank was shaped and primed before it would be fitted the following morning.  The rest of the day was spent scrubbing the bottom with the help of the yard’s pressure washer.  While there are times that it doesn’t happen, I do prefer to scrub the bottom twice a year. If the paint looks good in the fall, a good cleaning is all that is necessary.  Sometimes a coat of bottom paint is applied.  When it looks like the paint has built up too many layers, a complete stripping job is done. There is no schedule for this, it’s done when needed.  Once the slime and the few barnacles had been removed It was apparent that this was all that would be necessary this year.

We started early the next morning. The goo in the frame had cured and by noon the new plank was in place and painted. Hunting up Ray, I told him that we were ready and if he had time we could go back in this afternoon. He looked at the sky and said that it would be the last job of the day.

Patty O’ went back into the water with all the ease that she came out with. No fuss, few words, everyone knowing just what to do, no wasted movements.

It was nice to kick back and devour a pizza in the cockpit.  The Blonde had called and gaven me her flight number and the estimated time of arrival.  She would be landing at about six the following evening. She also mentioned that there was a storm brewing in the Caribbean and that there were some predictions that there was a possibility of the thing going into the Gulf and sucking up some warm Gulf moisture and becoming a hurricane. They had also mentioned that there was a chance that it might turn back across Florida and reenter the Atlantic.

I’ve always been a weather nut, which is a good thing to be if you live full time aboard a boat. I’m usually on top of these things but this time she’d scooped me. The work on the boat the past few days had kept me out of the loop a bit. I rarely watch television, preferring to read my news on line.  Of course, this time of year it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on out there. My weather app of choice is one called ‘Storm’, which is run by the folks at Weather Underground. It’s not free, but there are a lot of ways you can customize it to your particular needs. It will even allow you to choose the display to be on a marine chart. 

I know lots of folks use the Weather Channel as their go to source for weather information, but for me, they bring a bit too much drama to the weather.

We have a storm plan that’s been thought out very carefully. Notice I don’t call it a hurricane plan.  The big storm that did so much damage in 2012 started out as hurricane Sandy and when it became a ‘post tropical cyclone’, no matter what Madison Avenue title they wanted to hang on it, it was still one big storm.  We don’t care where they come from, or what they are called. They all, hurricane, nor’easter, or severe thunder storm, have the potential to do great harm to our floating home.

If there is going to be a large storm surge, or wind from a direction that can cause us problems, we will move. We’ve done that several times before. It’s a judgement call.  Although we have been called foolish, we have never left the boat. Not that I wouldn’t if I felt that there was any chance of personal injury.

Hurricane Hermine did as the prognosticators said. He blew into the Gulf of Mexico, became a hurricane, pounded into the Florida Panhandle and gathered strength once he was back in the Atlantic. Meandering up the coast, he provided a drill for preparations, but as we know, he just petered out providing some gusty winds and a bit more water at high tide. 

Her flight was almost an hour late so the reservations I’d made for dinner were out the window. But no matter, there are a lot of neat seafood places on the Rhode Island coast that aren’t packed on a Wednesday night at the end of summer. I brought her up to date on the repair job, and she told me all about the conference.  When I mentioned the guy who called Patty O’  a ‘trashy old boat’, her eyes flashed a bit and then she laughed. 

“Guy must really have an inferiority complex.” She said.  “Ya gotta feel sorry for people like that. Are you gonna eat all those scallops?”

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