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On Living Aboard

January 31, 2020

When it’s time to change the oil in the three engines, two mains and one generator on our 1954 forty foot Huckins sedan cruiser Patty O’, it’s not decided by the calendar or hours run, but by the results of samples from each engine. These samples are sent to a company that specializes in this service. They do a chemical analyses of the oil and recommend what action to take. We have used this service since day one and it’s allowed in the warrantees of all the engines which were replaced soon after we decided that Patty O’ was going to become our permanent home. The important thing here is to remember to take the sample. It’s very easy to overlook this, and I must confess to having done that in the past. Now however, carrying around a so called smart phone, it’s easy to be poked in the side by any number of acoustic alarms reminding me of anything needing to be done.
The poke arrived on a Monday morning and I promptly added it to my ‘to do’ list for the day. I have found that the combination of smart phone reminders as well as the afore mentioned list keeps me out of trouble with the Blonde my wife as well as myself. Over the years of living this floating life style, I’ve gotten into a routine that not only gets things done, but keeps me from falling into the dangerous habit of putting things off until tomorrow. The current to do list contained several items due that week, and had enough going on to keep me busy, with little time for anything else. While in the engine room taking the oil samples, an inspection was made of everything that had the potential of needing replacing, like hoses and belts. I keep a spare for all these things so that in the unlikely event of one of them failing while underway, it won’t be a complete disaster. I say unlikely because during my inspections, if I see the slightest amount of wear on anything, it gets replaced at once, no exceptions. It was while doing this that it suddenly came to me: why don’t I do the same for the oil in our two vehicles?
The Blonde has a real job which  requires her to look good. Hence, she dresses in style and drives a Mini Cooper that always looks like it has just Been detailed. She is an Architect whose specialty is trouble shooting so she must instill ultimate confidence when she appears on a job. She also uses her own car which means the degree of reliability must be absolute.
My vehicle is a Toyota Tundra pickup truck that is quite a change from the Porsche I drove when I worked for a salary and wore a tie every day.
Calling the company that did the testing for the boat engines, they assured me that they could do the same for our vehicles and they were both added to the plan for not much money.
We have been living aboard for some time now and while many shake their head when they hear of our choice, it works for us. There are people who are of the opinion that we are homeless and live aboard a boat that’s old enough to collect social security, due to the fact that we have little income. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I was offered the so called golden parachute back when that was the fashionable thing to do when big corporations were looking for ways to cut their expenses. At the time, I was too young to completely retire so I busied myself doing freelance work with the idea that before long, I’d be back in the thick of things. Then, on a trip to Rhode Island, we stopped at a boatyard just because, saw Patty O’ and the rest is history. She was in fantastic shape and we are forever explaining that she is not the result of a restoration. When we decided to sell our condo and move aboard, many upgrades were done to bring her up to snuff. No more alcohol stove. No more ‘ice box’. We live year round aboard in the North East, so winter weather is a factor. The coal stove we used to heat with has now been replaced with a diesel furnace that keeps us snug no matter the temperature. It took years to engineer a winter cover that would not only protect the boat but could be put on and off in a reasonable amount of time. There are many days in winter that are a joy to be out on the water and we have a rule that we can get underway in fifteen minutes in summer and thirty in winter. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the goal. Patty O’ is not only our home, but also our boat and in season we spend as much time as the Blonde’s job allows bouncing around the North East. We have seen other boats that people live aboard which haven’t been underway in years. Sadly, that gives those of us that ensconce the lifestyle a bad name. We hope that someday we will be able to make the trip south to warmer climate in season but right now, for several reasons, that’s not an option.
It took one trip to the local auto parts emporium to collect spare hoses, belts and filters for the two cars. These were delegated  to the storage unit we use to keep seasonable stuff we don’t have room for aboard the boat. After thinking a bit, I added to each vehicle one of the new tiny units that can provide a battery jump in the event that would be necessary, ether for us or if we were to be good Samaritans. A small compressor was added to the list. You’d think I was preparing for Armageddon!
We haven’t had much cold weather this season as yet, so the air bubbler system that keeps ice from doing damage to Patty O’s hull still sits in the storage unit. Hopefully, it won’t be needed. I do, however, have to keep close watch on the water temperature. It’s not thick ice that does damage. On a wooden boat the thin, almost invisible layer of ice acts like a saw against the hull, right at the waterline. The system we have is far and away much more than we need to do the job, but when I got it, the price was right and I’d much rather overdo something like this. We tie up on the lee side of the gas dock in winter and the yard employs bubblers around the pilings there as well. That combination does a good job of taking care of business.
So far this winter weather has given us somewhat of a break  and we haven’t seen any ice yet. That could change in a flash, however. So it’s best to be prepared. While living aboard isn’t for everyone, it works quite well for us.



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