All the ‘comforts’ of home?

I like small living spaces. I grew up in a 3/4 cape, then lived in a dorm for 4 years, then a series of small apartments, and then bought a one-floor ranch-style house. Moving onto a 44-foot catamaran seemed reasonable; she is quite roomy, for two anyway. But boy, does this boat get small on a cold and rainy day with four aboard stuck inside this tiny salon! Unfortunately for us, that’s been about 70% of our weather these past three and a half weeks. Large portions of this trip have not been what I would deem ‘comfortable’.

So I ask myself, what makes me ‘comfortable’? A hot drink and a place to curl up with a book or movie makes me ‘comfortable’ on a cold or rainy day. I find sunny days with temps above 65oF to be comfortable, but I don’t like it too hot or too humid. Being dry is comfortable. Being able to have a regular exercise routine makes my body hurt less, which makes it easier to be physically comfortable. On an mental/emotional level, time with family and friends alternating with time alone is important for my comfort. Having enough joy to offset the challenges provides me with a sense of balance in life, and therefore a type of comfort. Planning gives me a sense of order and control which give me comfort.

Now how do I attain this sense of comfort onboard now rather than holding out for the elusive ‘comfort’ once we reach warmer climes? I am finding this challenging.

Weather impacts my mood, which impacts my comfort level. I can’t do anything about the weather. All I can do is keep myself as physically comfortable as possible by wearing the right clothes and gear, drinking hot beverages and using the space heater when it’s cold, being outside when I can. I am a bit more acclimated to the current temperatures, which is helpful because I don’t feel as cold as often. I have to accept the fact that I and the boat are going to be damp frequently, at this time of year due to condensation, in warmer climes it will be due to humidity. We just open her up when we can to air her out and regularly clean the forming mildew. I pretty much have to suck it up when it comes to weather.

Balancing together time with alone time is important for my mental/emotional comfort and I have been struggling with this, especially because the weather has prevented us from spreading out on the boat. One method I’ve adopted is to just get out of bed once I realize I’m not going to fall back asleep. Instead, I get up and do something alone, like working on my blog this morning. The 30-45 minutes of alone time helps center me. As it gets warm enough, I’ll carve out time each day to do yoga up in the bow, even if I have to put on an extra layer I wouldn’t need at home. I can say that I’m not bored, and there has been much joy on the trip- joy in the company I’m with, joy in the activities we’ve engaged in in the places we’ve explored. Balance between joy and challenges- ✓.

I like to plan things out, and I like for the plans to work out as, well, planned. While planning is extremely important when living aboard, trying to have a plan is like beating one’s head against a wall. Planning for safety is necessary, and we do this all the time. We plan around marine weather forecasts in order to travel from place to place safely. We plan safely navigable routes. We plan to have enough food, water and fuel aboard for times when we can’t get to them ashore. We planned home-like ‘comforts’ before moving aboard. I made quilts for each cabin. We made sure we would have reading material and movies for entertainment. We provisioned foods we enjoy eating, and brought aboard kitchen aids and gadgets that make cooking enjoyable. We ensured we could easily keep in touch with family and friends back home. For warmer climes, we have what we need to dive and snorkel. Still, the deeply rooted ‘planner’ in me finds it stressful to not have a more detailed plan, like knowing exactly where we will be going and when and exactly what we will be doing and exactly what we will have for supper. (Okay, yes, at home I plan out the week’s supper’s before shopping for groceries. You can stop laughing now). Stress does not lead to my being comfortable. The rational part of my brain acknowledges that trying to generate these types of plans on board is pretty silly, but it hasn’t yet convinced the other parts of my brain of this.

What I really need to work on is becoming comfortable ‘going with the flow’. I’m going to start practicing now. We’re going to dub our way down Long Island sound, stopping where we can when we can, and I’m going to be okay with that…I hope.

For now, everyone is up and in the salon. The sun is sort of out, it’s not too cold, and the bow is dry. I’m going to go do some yoga- alone.

 

What to do with a sunny day?

Sunny days have been rare, and we were looking forward to a sunny day at Cuttyhunk Island after a three-day streak of overcast showery days at Martha’s Vineyard. We got our sunny day, and it started out well enough. We were able to enjoy breakfast out in the cockpit (wearing our fleece, of course), the sun was warm and the wind was just a breeze. We planned to go ashore to explore the town and walk the beaches. Perhaps we tempted fate by having a “plan,” because that’s not quite how the day turned out.

Shortly after breakfast, Dave discovered that the freezer was not at temperature; it was too warm. He and Dad spent the better part of the day trying to trouble shoot it, first themselves, then with some tech support they were eventually able to reach after several redirected phone calls. They finally decided we needed to replace something expensive and for which we did not have a spare on board. A couple more tech support calls later, it was decided we needed to replace the controller (thankfully not the compressor, or worse, the whole system). After a little online research, we decided to delay our Block Island stop and head to Newport the next day to pick up the part that was fortunately in stock one town over. In the meantime, they turned our fridge into a freezer. It tends to freeze stuff in some spots at its normal setting, so Dave just turned it down more. We moved the fridge stuff into the freezer with our bags of ice to serve as a cooler.

And while the boys were taking care of the freezer…

While making the bed in the morning, around the time Dave noticed the freezer issue, I discovered a water stain all along the outer edge of the fitted sheet that had wicked water up from under the mattresses. Further exploration of the cabin revealed that two weeks of condensation had left its mark. So while the boys worked on trouble shooting the freezer, Mom & I stripped my bed, attempted to wash the water stain out of the new quilt I made, then hung that, the mattress pad and the fleece blanket outside to dry in the now considerable (20-25 knot) wind and sunshine. Dave & Dad hauled the 3” memory foam mattress topper onto the cockpit table to air out, and I lugged the mattresses onto the tramp to dry in the sun and bake the mildew on the bottom dead. I also discovered that the two large wicker baskets I bought for the shelf in our cabin were wet and starting to mildew on the sides and bottom where they were in contact with the boat and thus the condensation, and that their fabric liners were also damp. So I emptied those, hung the liners outside and put the baskets in the tramp to also bake in the sun. Turns out one of them is dyed wicker, and it stained purple the shelf it had been on. I’ll live with that. Then I wiped down the walls, and we opened all the portholes and hatches in the boat to dry her out a little.

We did break for lunch around 1pm and went ashore for a couple of hours to enjoy a walk in the sunshine and to talk with a few very friendly locals. They told us there are only about 20 people who stay on Cuttyhunk through the winter! They’re busy now getting ready for the summer season that starts around Memorial day, when the island population swells to about 400 and their harbor sees about 4000 boats over the three months.

When we got back from our excursion, I reassembled our cabin and put on the spare set of sheets (fresh sheets!). Then we relaxed with a good dinner and a funny movie. We were too fried to play games.

Vacation or Lifestyle?

We’ve been at this for 10 days now, and I’m wondering at what point it will start to feel like a lifestyle rather than a vacation. Our primary reason for choosing to do this was to explore other countries and cultures, which is what many of my favorite (adult life) vacations have been about anyway, so it doesn’t really feel any different yet.

During our month-long shakedown cruise last July, we dealt with procuring groceries while aboard, keeping the boat clean, and doing laundry. I even did some consulting work last summer and I will be publishing a monthly newsletter for our boating club throughout this year and into 2020, and Dave still participates in conference calls for the STEM Guitar program. We’ve certainly had to do repairs (it is a boat, after all). We research and plan routes to our destinations, decide if we’ll anchor, moor or dock (and keep check on our finances). It is always an adventure, which is what we wanted, even though we’re still in the USA. Maybe this is what the lifestyle will always feel like, just with varying challenges based on location. I suppose we’ll see.

At any rate, we have been exploring. We have through August to get to Chesapeake, VA, so we are not lacking in exploration time!

Since my last post we have spent time in Scituate harbor and had two friends aboard, one for an overnight. We got boarded by the Coast Guard just as we were coming up on the Sandwich Harbor in the canal. It was a routine safety check. We were pretty much the only boat out there, and it looked like they were doing some training. We passed with only a warning about our horn which apparently decided to stop working sometime this past week. So now we have another thing to fix, but did purchase an air horn in Sandwich as a backup; so we’re legal now. We spent and afternoon at the Heritage Museum in Sandwich and one night at the dock in the harbor. We had a half tranquil and half adventurous ride to Oak Bluffs harbor at Martha’s Vineyard. We saw only two patrol boats in the canal, no commercial or recreational traffic there at all. All was smooth until Woods Hole where the current was screaming against us. It appeared to be about 5 kts as we were making only 2 kts headway under full power. After Woods Hole, the predicted 2-foot seas were choppy, built to 4-5 feet and we had a 2 kt current against us. The payoff? It’s off season here, so we’re not being charged for the town mooring we are on for 4 nights. Score! We’ve dubbed around Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and Vineyard Haven doing the tourist thing. Tomorrow looks like we’ll be stuck aboard in the rain, but we’re about due for down time anyway, with a day of movies. A very friendly nearby hotel is even letting us boost their WiFi, so we watched game 4 of the Bruins vs. Blue Jackets on Thursday and are abot to watch game 5 tonight.

But now it’s time for dinner- homemade pizza!

 

The Adventure Begins

It was a decently warm April afternoon when we boarded Indigo Lady Wednesday. Our cousins, Bob, Jo, and Adrianna came down to hang with us for a bit and wish us a bon voyage, which was very sweet! That evening, we four intrepid travelers (me, Dave and my folks) had a delicious filet mignon dinner aboard, courtesy of “chef Dave.” We woke Thursday morning to gorgeous sunshine, clear skies, and relative warmth (at least in the sun) for a late April day. Bob came back with our full propane tank from home, because one of our two on board went empty while Dave was cooking dinner. Thanks for the save, Bob! We topped off our fuel when the marina opened, and then started our journey. First stop- Gloucester, MA.

It was a reasonable trip down, but got chillier and windier around Cape Ann, so the boys had to add layers to keep warm. Mom & I hunkered down in the salon in our layers and eventually fell asleep. Around 4pm we picked up a rugged town mooring just off a park with a small beach, about a mile from town.

That was the sunshine and roses part. But this is an adventure, and adventures are unpredictable. Plus, this is April in the northeast and it ain’t boating season, folks. So here’s our current reality.

Here in the harbor, air and water temps are in the mid 40s, and the winds have been southeast at 10-15 kts with gusts up to 30kts. Overnight the winds shifted southwest and are still gusting close to 30 knots. Yesterday there were off and on rain showers. Today is actually partly sunny, which is cheery, but my goodness is it windy! The forecast for the next several days, however, looks like mid to upper 40s with a chance of rain each day. Oh goody. We should be able to travel tomorrow, probably to Scituate, but we’ll likely be stuck there a couple of days. At least in Scituate we will be able to get ashore and to town much easier than here. Of course, this is all subject to change, depending on whether or not the marine forecast changes.

I’m still getting used to the new sounds, so I haven’t slept well. Fortunately, I can nap during the day. Nobody slept through last night. It wasn’t the winds gusting around 35 kts that woke us; it was the waves they generated slamming into our bridge deck that woke us repeatedly. Boy is that loud! [Translation: bridge deck = underside of the boat between our hulls, right under our beds.] Thankfully we avoided the thunderstorms, lightning and hail my friends & family in NH and southwest ME got yesterday evening!

The rain and bone-chilling wind kept us inside most of yesterday, but we did go ashore for a bit between rain showers to walk around the park. That was enjoyable and invigorating! Just what we needed on a gray day. It was also damp inside and out, with condensation coating every wall and window inside. This morning there was less condensation, and we cracked open all the hatches and portholes to clear out the rest. It worked! Then it got more blustery, so we closed them up again. The sun and space heater are making the inside warm, but despite the sun, it’s still quite cold outside in the wind. We’ve been battling the chill & damp with a little space heater in the salon (60oF never felt so warm!), and eating hot, yummy food. I’ve also been drinking tea nonstop. I wear my wool hat to bed at night to retain my heat (45o water = 45o cabins, although our bodies warm them a few degrees). It reminds me of winter cabin trips with the Outing Club when I was at UNH.

Today we are taking advantage of the sun and wind to dry some towels and rags out on the lifelines. I hope I used enough clothespins! Dave also rigged some lines inside between our ceiling handholds for things we’d rather not have accidentally blow overboard. We may try to go ashore a bit after lunch, but at the moment the boys are trying to trouble shoot a faulty float switch in one of the shower box sump pumps. It’s always something.

Remember you can follow our adventures here, and/or on Facebook, twitter and instagram. Follow buttons are at the top right. I will blog at least once a week, but will post pictures and quick updates to the others more frequently. Choose your preferred method(s) and thanks for following!

Loading Lady

This is getting real, folks.

Lady has been cleaned, the cabins made up, the clutter put away, and we just loaded all the non-perishable food items and paper goods onto her, along with a lot of stuff we bought for our floating “house.” The fridge and freezer are at temperature and early this week we will be moving the freezer items aboard, and eventually the refrigerator items the day before we actually set out. I continue to be amazed, every time we load her, at how much storage space she has!

We’re doing a bunch of last minute shopping both locally and online (thank goodness for Amazon Prime!). We’re eating down our own refrigerator and pantry, and starting to prepare the house for its temporary vacancy.

I’m finishing up those sunshades. Dave is finishing up several boat projects. He got the WiFi booster working, but the single sideband is still being problematic. Through ongoing online consultation with an expert, the current hypothesis is that there is too much “noise” in the marina, so we have to put solving the SSB issue on hold until we are in open water away from said “noise.” We will replace our leaking galley sink faucet once the new one arrives. Normally Dave would  just fix the leak, but replacements for the failed rubber seals are no longer available. Besides, our new faucet has a sprayer option that will be handy.

Believe it or not, my biggest challenge has been packing clothes. Despite Lady’s generous storage space, precious little of that is for clothing, and we sort of need two very different wardrobes, one of which we’ll only need until we get to Virginia waters. I think we’ve settled on bringing what we are sure will keep us warm, plus our Caribbean attire, and we will store whatever we don’t immediately need in vacuum storage bags. Ultimately, the cold-weather clothing will come back with us to New England (to stay). Once we’re actually in the Caribbean, we will mostly need only summer clothes with one or two “warmer” pieces for the occasional cool night (mostly north of the Caribbean in FL and Bahamas).

Dave tells me we’re at 13 cart loads of stuff being shuttled onto Lady (those wheeled carts marina’s provide). I wonder what the final tally will be. 

A Clean(er) Boat

Yesterday brought the first truly warm day this spring, even down on the water at Indigo Lady’s winter slip, and the breeze was light and from land (ergo, warm!). So we started the process of cleaning her. About 4 hours and a hundred Chlorox (non-chlorine) wipes later, all four cabins and heads, including all cabinets and lockers, were cleaned of mold & mildew. We also installed the rain gutter I made and marked it for final tweaks. Dave installed the windshield he made. We celebrated with rum & coke in the comfort of our cockpit in the late afternoon sun (sigh of pleasure). More pictures on Facebook

The salon and galley are currently strewn with equipment Dave is still using to troubleshoot the uncooperative single sideband and WiFi booster, so we can’t clean those areas yet, but soon. And we can at least start the process of getting stuff on board. In fact, Dave just took off with a first load of bed cushions and spare parts.

I will spend a significant chunk of time this week buying provisions and staging them for getting them aboard. I will also be doing some advanced food prep for freezing (a luxury we won’t have once actually living aboard). Dave will hopefully solve the SSB and WiFi booster issues and meet the guy who is supposed to recalibrate the temperature sensors on our engines (we’ve been after the company for a year to get this done!).

It’s gonna be a busy week!

 

 

More time for more boat projects

Another advantage to delaying our departure is the ability to complete more boat projects before we set out, rather than doing them while underway. I’m not sure how much of an “advantage” this is, because now I feel (self-inflicted) pressure to complete these projects in the next 2.5 weeks, along with all the other items that were already on the to-do list.

I finished the two quilts in the picture. There will be one for each cabin, so I have one more to go, but seeing as I haven’t chosen a design (or created my own) I think that will have to wait until we’re home again in the fall.

I am currently working on a “rain guard,” for lack of a better term. Our roof is in two sections with a 12” gap between the halves and a raised walkway above that gap. This reduces the lift of wind on the roof, and allows for a great breeze in the cockpit (hello Caribbean breezes!). This also means that now rain can come into the cockpit from above, which it couldn’t do when we had a Bimini top before the rebuild. The rain guard is meant to reduce rain entering from above by redirecting the water forward over the cabin and aft off the stern. I’m making it out of marine grade Sunbrella fabric that will attach by Velcro to the aluminum roof supports on the underside of the roof. I’ve just completed fitting a muslin mock-up as a template. I didn’t want to risk messing up with the $25/yd Sunbrella. It was a good decision! 

Indigo Lady came with roll-down sun shades for the aft part of the cockpit, but nothing for the sides, so I am making the side panels. I’ve completed a muslin mock-up for one of those as well. (Note to self- remember to reverse it for the other side when I make the real ones!) These will be made out of Phifertex fabric  (thanks for that tip, Mark & Deb!). It is a marine grade fabric, highly resistant to UV and it blocks 70% of the sun. Working with this fabric requires the largest needle and thickest thread my sewing machine can accommodate. I’ll be pushing the limits of my little Singer, but I’m sure it can handle the job. (No way I’m using my good quilting sewing machine!)

Dave has a couple of projects, too. He’s trying to troubleshoot our single sideband, and set up a WiFi router/booster system (lets us reach WiFi signals that are far away on shore while we’re at anchor). Of course this is never as simple as plug it in and turn it on. He also decided to make a windshield for the helm station. Nothing keeps rain or spray from heavy seas completely out of the cockpit, but a windshield will reduce the amount of water that hits us in the face while cruising in those conditions. Definitely a bonus.

And we still have to prepare all our “ashore” things for our extended absence… and provision… and replan our route and stops… and deep clean Lady… and get everything aboard. Yikes! I need to stop typing and get to work!

 

 

How well do you speak Boat?

Boating has its own special language which, like learning any new language, requires practice. I like practicing Spanish; I don’t like practicing Boat. This is problematic when Dave and I need to communicate about the boat, whether we’re on her or not, but especially when we’re on her. For example, take an interaction between us today.

I went to Lady (Dave was already there) to confirm measurements for a Sunbrella fabric panel we will mount on the underside of the gap between the two halves of the roof to reduce the amount of rain that enters the cockpit. To orient those who don’t speak Boat, we were standing in the cockpit (from where we steer) at the back of the boat (the stern) facing the front of the boat (the bow). The fabric panel would be running from just over our heads towards the bow, and I needed to know where it should stop.

Me: “So where should the front edge end?”

Dave: “In front of that crosspiece.”

Me (pointing): “Here?”

Dave: “That’s not in front of.”

Me: “It is from my perspective.”

Dave: “On a boat, ‘in front of’ means towards the bow.”

Those of you who speak Boat are probably laughing (at me). If any of the rest of you are confused, well, that helps make my point. If Dave had said “forward of that crosspiece,” I would have understood him immediately because I only use ‘forward of’ when speaking Boat and associate that with being closer to the bow.  I tend to apply my evolving knowledge of Boat language only when I feel I need to, and for this sewing project I didn’t feel the need.

I’m still at the translating stage of learning Boat. Dave says, “there’s a seal off our port” and I have to translate in my head, “port is left so I need to look this way.” You should hear the monologue in my head when I’m driving the boat and have to decide which side of a navigational aid I need to steer. [Inside my head: “Red, right, return. Okay, return means from the ocean, but we’re heading to the ocean, so I need to keep that red can on my left not my right- quick, turn!”]

I wonder how long it will take me to become fluent. I better get practicing.

One of the cruisers I’ve started following (I would credit them if I could remember who it was) shared this article the other day: Boating Terminology: Parts of a Boat and Common Phrases to Know as a First-Time Cruising Guest. In case you want to learn Boat, too 😉

Going to Plan B…

I was so focused on the trip down the eastern seaboard and getting to warmer climes that I neglected to really think about the trip from FL to Trinidad (south of the hurricane belt), where we plan to leave Indigo Lady when we return home for a few months in the fall. That is one long trip, about 1500 miles (after 1500 miles from NH to FL)! Our original plan was to go from FL through the Bahamas, along the northern coast of Hispaniola, the south coast of Puerto Rico, through the Virgin Islands, and then down through the Lesser Antilles to Grenada with a final jump to Trinidad.

Then we listened to an SSCA Webinar on Tuesday by a guy who sailed from FL to St. Martin (about halfway to Trinidad from FL). He put up a summary slide of just travel times. It took a month. That doesn’t include waiting for weather windows, or stopovers to actually see some sights. Then if finally sank in- we’d be traversing the Caribbean, within the hurricane belt for 2 months of hurricane season (July 1- Nov 1 for most insurance companies)! Dave had planned for 100 days of travel in a 150 day window from early April through August to get from NH all the way to Trinidad. I should have paid more attention. I panicked. Poor Dave.

So I posted our plan on the SSCA Facebook page and within 24 hours had 20+ comments all pretty much telling us it wasn’t a good idea. My risk tolerance is much lower than Dave’s, and although I’ve done two transits, neither was during hurricane season, and we had remarkably good weather each time. Oh boy, time for a plan B. To be fair to Dave, his original travel plan was based on criteria I had set- I wanted to be home from sometime in September through New Year’s Eve, and I didn’t want to leave before April because I didn’t want to freeze my butt off between NH and VA. Those “non-negotiables” suddenly became negotiable once I realized the risks they introduced this first season when we have to cover 3000 miles.

So we spent a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon considering the pros & cons of various options (note the image above), and arrived at Plan B. We will now depart later in April, probably the 3rd week, and leisurely wend our way from NH to the head of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) somewhere between Norfolk, VA and Elizabeth City, NC (this is north of the hurricane belt), where we will leave Indigo Lady for September & October while we return home.  This will allow us to explore Chesapeake Bay on the way down, and we won’t have to do any overnight, offshore cruising. In November, we will return to Lady and spend the month taking her down the ICW to the West Palm Beach area of FL where we will again leave her for December. We will rejoin her in January and have through June to get to Trinidad before the start of hurricane season. This will allow us to actually visit our FL family and also spend some time in the Florida Keys (two things I would have nixed if we’d stuck to our original plan), and we will be able to enjoy numerous stops along the route to Trinidad. This will be a much safer and relaxed trip, which is what this is supposed to be about.

Perhaps things would have worked out differently if I had participated in the travel plans earlier, but my head was not in the game earlier. I think part of it was avoidance, but mostly my mind was on other things after I retired in June. First it was our July trip, then it was preparing for the craft fair (which is very important to me), then it was my boating class on top of other commitments I’d made for the same time period (too many in retrospect). Once I finally felt able to shift gears to mentally prepare myself for the trip it was pretty late in the game. Fortunately, as former teachers, we were able to tap into our problem solving skills to evaluate our options and arrive at a good place. Dave is a little bummed that we won’t be in the Caribbean this year, but I suspect he’s glad he won’t have to worry about me literally jumping ship on him.


 

Whether the Weather

My brain is so busy with wrapping up stuff in my NH life and preparing for our trek south, that I don’t have a clear focus for a blog this week.

So thanks to Jack, a boating club friend, for thinking of us when he sent this. Unbeknownst to him, I’ve been very concerned about being cold between our home port and mid-North Carolina. We depart the first half of April and the boat is not heated. I hate being cold. I might have mentioned that before 😉