On Living Aboard
Living aboard can be trying. There are those who consider us to be homeless, although nothing is further from the truth. It’s gotten so we rarely admit to our lifestyle. To do so sometimes means the following half hour or so is spent answering questions. People have many assumptions about people who live full time, in either their boats or recreational vehicles. The most common is that if you don’t live in a house or apartment that you are destitute. There are, of course, homeless people in that category due to circumstances of their own making, or beyond their control. For some, it’s poor financial management. Other’s it’s a health issue. Whatever the reason, people seem to want to look down their noses if you don’t have a ‘permanent’ address. My wife, the Blonde and I were once invited to a party at a couple’s house that we had recently met. There were six other people there, obviously known to each other. We were introduced and then our host said with a chuckle, “These guys live full time on their old boat.” For the rest of the visit, we were the center of attention and were inundated with questions, some of them quite personal. We left as soon as we could. Some of the Blonde’s family looks down their noses at me due to the fact that I don’t have a steady job. They overlook the fact that I have done quite well investing in my retirement. I was offered the so-called golden handshake just before the last recession. As a software engineer, jobs were scarce at the time, so other than some freelance work, which I did from home, that was it for a while. We had a 35 foot express cruiser at the time that I ended up selling because I felt that someone with sporadic income shouldn’t own something that was not a necessity. Unfortunately, this makes some family functions quite uncomfortable, resulting in our avoiding the majority of them. Many of the issues we deal with as liveaboards on the water are shared with legitimate RV full timers. There are vastly more of them and some do push the envelope. My wife is an architect, with an undergraduate degree in structural engineering. She has been offered partnerships twice, but to have done so would have meant moving far inland, which would mean giving up our boat. No thanks. We found Patty O’, our delightful Huckins sedan cruiser and over time, have completely given her a makeover that completely fits our needs. There are, of course, those who live aboard who do fit the common conception of homelessness. I have seen liveaboard boats that haven’t moved in years. On some, it would be hard pressed to find the helm. We have a rule that we can get underway in fifteen minutes in summer, and thirty minutes in winter. Double that if the winter cover has been deployed. There are many marinas that frown on liveaboards. Some tack on a fee for that and some limit the time you can stay overnight. In our case, we try to be as transparent as possible. We have a good rapport with the yard we’re in. They see us as unpaid watchmen, especially during winter months. We keep Patty O’ looking good and we do spend a good portion of summer out and about. Among other things, I have a state issued electrician’s license and from time to time have done wiring work for the yard. After a slow start this past summer due to the damage caused when we ran over an unknown object. We got everything repaired and we have been underway every weekend since. We just haven’t gone very far, choosing to anchor out and enjoying whatever solitude we can find. In a twist about, I babysat my friend Ritchie McGill’s boat as well as his house and business while he and his wife took a long overdue trip to Europe for two weeks. He does the same for us when we feel the need to get away. He builds custom furniture as well as high end kitchen cabinets using exotic wood that he stockpiles in his barn. He calls me to help when the delivery is difficult, or if one pair of hands is not enough. For that, he allows us to keep Mustard, our little Century runabout in his heated barn in winter. I started making the rounds, checking his boat and walking through the house, barn and shop every two days. I was also charged with picking up the mail, but it was soon evident that every two days was not enough. I never imagined how much mail Ritchie gets. He had left me with instructions to open mail that had to deal with his business. He also told me there was no problem calling his cell phone if I saw anything that seemed to warrant immediate attention. Fortunately, nothing necessitated a call. They both looked rested upon their return. In the middle of that, the Blonde made two trips for work. As an architect, a good portion of her time is spent troubleshooting construction projects that are stuck due to design flaws. This time, it was to Boston for two days and then out west, to New Mexico for a week. There have been times, especially in winter when I accompany her if the destination is in a warm place. Having plenty of time to think while she was away, I realized that we haven’t been away in winter for a few years. With the wheels turning, I began an online search. Might turn into a nice surprise. Also, while the Blonde and Ritchie were away, I managed to put in a few days at the yard. It’s beginning to be the start of winter storage season, and one of the yard guys slipped and fell, resulting in a broken arm. It was, fortunately, a simple fracture and he was able to return to work albeit on light duty. The work didn’t require a lot of thought, mostly physical, pressure washing bottoms and rigging travel lift straps. Ray, the yard foreman even let me drive the forklift. I asked him if that meant a raise. I got one; his left eyebrow. When the Blonde returned, I treated her to a nice seafood dinner. Her birthday came and went while she was away. I could tell she was tired. It had been a particularly complex problem and she had put in many days with hours into the teens. She was taking the following day off to recuperate. Her spirits jumped up a bit when I mentioned a winter trip to the islands. The next morning, I gotPatty O’ underway while she was still asleep. Anchoring up on the north side of Fishers Island at a spot we frequent and enjoy, I had coffee made and I’m sure that it was the smell of the bacon that awakened her. Scrambled eggs and bacon are one of life’s easier meals to make, but are extremely satisfying. “I wouldn’t trade you for any of those guys. She said, gesturing toward a magazine on the table. “I know.” I answered. I knew better than to ask who the other guys were.