On Living Aboard
For whatever reasons weather this past fall and early winter have been squirrelly. Thunderstorms following thunderstorms. Temps far above the norm. Not going to get involved in the politically correct debate on climate change or whatever you choose to call it. Bottom line, the weather lately has been different. When you live aboard, you do tend to follow the weather closely, much as farmers do.
We have friends who also live aboard, but in their case, it’s in a forty foot motor home, which they bought new in 2002. We met them a few years ago, and they have been on the road for about the same amount of time that we have been living aboard Patty O’, our forty foot Huckins sedan cruiser. She was new in 1954, and we are her third owner. The two previous owners took very good care of her. Many people assume that she is a restoration, but that is not the case. Outside, she looks just as she did when she came from Huckins, 66 years ago. All the changes we’ve made have been done to make life easier for us. Our friends travel around the country following the sun, personifying the term, ‘Snow Birds’. Over the years, we’ve had many discussions on the merits of each other’s lifestyles. Sadly, we have not been able to pursue our dream of heading south in winter and someday making the so-called loop, to the great lakes, down the Mississippi and back up the east coast. Still on our bucket list, though. Due to some family issues, our friends were late heading south this year and we enjoyed a wonderful weekend dinner together. The discussion soon turned to the differences in our lifestyles. There was a time when they were able to just ‘wing it’, stopping at various RV parks at the end of the day, and having little problem finding a spot for the night. Not anymore. We have heard the same thing from cruising folks we stay in touch with. Our friends also mentioned that when they call for reservations, more and more they are asked the age of their rig, the reason being that units over ten years old aren’t allowed. Their motor home does not look that old; they are as meticulous as we are in keeping things up. So now when asked the age of their R/V, they give a year ten years back, and once arriving at the inquiring facility, have never been questioned. It’s easy to understand why many parks have instituted this rule. An R/V that looks ratty easily puts off many people and parks do not want people avoiding them due to unsightly rigs. And now, that is beginning to be the case at some marinas. There are many boat yards that have a spot on the hard for boats that either are in horrible shape or have been abandoned by their owners. It’s a big problem for them. When we bought Patty O’ she was ensconced at the rear of the Rhode Island yard where we’d first laid eyes on her at the end of the season the year before. Her owner had suffered a fatal heart attack just before deploying the winter cover. We had seen her for the first time hours before that unfortunate event. Due to his demise, and having no contact from his family, she had been moved to the back of the yard, where she sat uncovered over a nasty New England winter. When we inquired about her we were told that, “She’ll most likely be cut up this summer.” Getting the name of the widow, we met with her, made an offer that she at once accepted. It seemed she was relieved to have Patty O’ off her worry list. Most people have a misconception about wooden boats. When FRP or fiberglass reinforced plastic hull boats began to become popular and cheaper than wood, the quality of wooden boats fell off and most of the later ones ended up a victim of the chain saw. The result of this was that wood got a bad rap. Truth be known, a wooden boat, properly constructed, requires no more maintenance than boats constructed of any other material. In spite of the uncooperating weather, we did manage to get the winter cover deployed without any major hassles. Since we’ve been using the so called 100 MPH aircraft type duct tape, we’ve had very little problems getting the cover secured, and we’ve not had any problems with wind. Our winter location in the yard is inside the gas dock. That puts us on the lee side of the dock when the vicious northeast storms arrive in winter. We also do a quick in and out to give the bottom a pressure wash and to see if there are any issues that have to be addressed, as well as any potential ones. Meanwhile, the yard is very busy getting everyone hauled and put away on the hard. We are the only boat that remains in the water over the winter. Docks are rafted up. We then wait a bit before we employ our bubbler system around Patty O’, preventing ice from forming. When the yard gets behind, there are times when I’m pressed into service as a grunt, pressure washing bottoms and lugging stanchions around. Although a pass card is needed to enter the yard from the road, there is no way to prevent unwanted access from the water. There are, of course, surveillance cameras all over the place. And then there’s me. In winter, I walk around the yard several times during the day, and sometimes at night when sleep eludes me. To make the Blonde, my wife somewhat comfortable with that, I wear an alarm necklace and a PFD that deploys automatically if I should have the bad taste to fall overboard. I do this because I want to and receive nothing in exchange. The two times I have had to call the authorities since I have been doing this resulted in one false alarm and one arrest for trespassing and attempted theft. Meanwhile, our little Century runabout is quite comfortable sleeping on her trailer in my friend Ritchie’s heated barn. His barn is maintained at fifty degrees to keep the exotic wood he collects which he turns into high end cabinets and furniture on consignment. He lets us keep Mustard in there in exchange for me helping out when he delivers furniture in difficult locations and installs cabinets. It works out well for both of us. Although we’ve been invited to several seasonal get togethers, of both family and friends, we have mostly declined, except for the Blonde’s workplace. She’s an architect and does mostly trouble shooting for her firm. It’s one of the few places where we are not Inundated with questions about our choice of living conditions. We are accepted for who we are: a talented architect and her engineer husband who retired early. Truth be known, I occasionally do some work for them. Not too long ago they were whacked with a ransomware attack on their computer system, and I was hired short term to get them back up to speed and install software to insure it wouldn’t happen again. Plus, I periodically check things out to see that everything remains on the up and up. Some time ago, we added a hot water heating system to the boat and it has proved to be a good choice for keeping Patty O’s cabin comfortable on cold days and nights. Previous to this we depended on a coal fueled stove to keep us cozy. While the stove worked well, there were times during extreme weather when it was seriously lacking, to the point where a couple of times the Blonde had to flee to a hotel for the night. In her job, she does have to dress the part and it’s hard to do that when the temperature in the cabin is in the mid-forties. Hence, the expensive onboard furnace. The venerable coal stove is still around, mainly because it looks nice. To tell the truth, it is rather nautical looking. Another downside was the coal it burned. It was expensive, and to keep the cost down, we bought it a ton at a time. Then, there was the problem of where to store it. The furnace draws fuel from Patty O’s port diesel tank. On another note, we have been giving some thought to a winter getaway to somewhere warm this winter for a few weeks. We’ve done that in the past and it’s a nice boost to the low morale that comes with short daylight and cold, snowy weather. Not sure where, but it’ll most likely be ‘Saint somewhere’ to paraphrase the singer Jimmy Buffett. It’s going to require a bit more research now due to damage many of the more popular spots have suffered from the nasty hurricanes that have wreaked havoc down there. Of course, there are always the southern states as well. We have been to the Florida Keys before and enjoyed ourselves. However, the keys are recovering as well and a little research showed that if you want to spend some time there, you’d do well to make plans early. We try to eat out at least once a week, and while we have our favorites, we do like to try new places. One of The Blonde’s co workers raved about a place on Providence’s Federal Hill that served some of the best Italian food ever. So it was, that on a chilly Saturday afternoon we headed east on I-95 toward Rhode Island to enjoy what they had. That it was our anniversary helped. “Think I’ll keep you around a while.” She said. “That works for me.” I answered.