Sunday, September 21, 2014

Project Progress Week 5: And the Boom Times Continue

We were so demoralized by the rain that stopped our progress, and looking forward to a weekend of gazing wistfully at the settee that should have been finished, that we asked the carpenter Ken if he'd give us the pieces of wood so that we could dry-fit them, see how the rebuilt settee was going to look, and cut and pin the upholstery cushions in their new size.  So just at 5 PM as the rain was letting up a little bit, he handed us a bundle of beautiful teak pieces.  If we'd had a tablesaw, and if we'd had a supply of good wood, and most of all if Dan's hand wasn't still healing from the surgery, this would be the kind of project we could do ourselves over the weekend, relying on old expertise from our kitchen design/remodel business.  But we didn't, and we hadn't, and it was, so we were reliant on others.  Turned out just as well; Ken's work was exacting and the wood he supplied was gorgeous.

Before we got to that, though, there was some playing to do.  Remember I described this place as a "front-porch kind of town?" Well, it seems the town event planners think so too. They called it an "Ol' Front Porch Music Festival" -- local musicians of all genres set up on the front porches of the historic houses in town and gave free concerts.  Historic homes walking tour with a soundtrack, and there was no way we were going to miss this novel concept.

Country music on the porch of one local shop.

There's a group in town who get together to play the ukulele, purely for fun. 

Bluegrass at the old hotel.  The guy in the black shirt (2nd from left) is our carpenter Ken. Man of many talents -- and as I commented before, half the fun is seeing people in their alternate context.

Small-town America, children and puppies -- just as wholesome as it gets. And I don't mean that in a snarky way; this town really is just that sweet.
Sunday we did dry-fit the pieces into the modified settee and were glad to have the extra time to fidget with the fit.  Between the time we had given them our measurements to cut the wood, and the time we received the pieces, we had misplaced our copy of the pattern in all the construction chaos, and couldn't remember the details of how we'd envisioned them going together!  We figured them out fairly quickly, though, which was fortunate, since we never did find our notes that weekend.

The "Boom Times" in this post describe not thunderstorms, but the intense pace of work this week.  Starting Monday morning, we had someone working on the boat 8-5.  Ken final-fit, nailed, screwed and bunged the settee, and while he was at it, attached and bunged the fiddles on the table.  We had taken them off to refinish them just before Dan got sick and higher priorities prevailed, then more-or-less forgot about them.  Once we left Annapolis we no longer had the tools to reinstall them even if we had remembered.  But fiddles are handy for keeping dishes from sliding off flat surfaces while in rough conditions, so we were glad to have them back.  Then the relocated diesel heater was re-plumbed and after a few tense moments with Eric, Dan, and me all poring over the error codes listed in the user guide, primed and running.  Finally, now that we had good engine access, we were ready to tackle the guts of the job, the thing that had brought us here in the first place, changing the engine mounts to reduce vibration.  That job is being done by Tim, Ken's brother.  Yeah, small town and all that, I find it cool.  I think almost everyone who works in this yard has done at least something on our boat.
Ken again, showing the insulated ducting he's using to route the cold air from our relocated a/c. There are other improvements too -- instead of gravity-draining the water that has condensed onto the coils into the bilge, there is now a clever device that uses the Venturi effect to suck the condensation water out of the pan and discharge it overboard.  

The engine hoisted up a bit, suspended while the old mounts are replaced with new vibration-dampening ones.  Why do we need to do this?  Long ugly story, the short version is that when we replaced the old Westerbeke engine that was original to our boat with the present Yanmar about 10 years ago, the installer asked Dan to cut down the stringers so there would be enough height for the mounts.  Dan did so, laboriously, in the unheated engine room, in January, with hammer and chisel.  But when they then went to install the engine, the installer said, "Oops, never mind, I measured wrong, it won't fit after all, fill it back in and we'll just use regular mounts.  It'll just be a little more vibration, that's all." Well, of course it was more than a little vibration, and all that vibration equals more wear and tear on everything.  The change-out was going to be expensive, and in the meantime the boat was running okay, so we delayed.  Until now, when we had both money and time to do the job.  Plus, we would get to redesign the stairs to a more ergonomic style as a side benefit.  This year I had a decade birthday (the big 6-0) and we're both thinking ahead to be able to continue to live on the boat for many more years.


We think (hope?) next week the project will be finalized and we'll begin our trip south.  The engine mounts were half-finished by Friday afternoon, they should be complete Monday.  Then it's alignment, a regular engine service, some tweaks to the rudder, a few more details, a sea trial (or river trial, in this case) and we head south.  Just in time, too -- the sticky steamy still air that has been sitting over the town is gone, replaced this week with perfect temps and lively winds from the north.  Beautiful, but also reminders that in a month, those winds will feel chill and blustery instead of warm and lively.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Project Progress Weeks 3 and 4: Frustration, Then Cautious Optimism ... Then BOOM!


Week 3: Frustration When we got here, we told the boatyard not to make us an urgent priority because we couldn't go too far until hurricane season winds down.  They appreciated our schedule flexibility, but I don't think I had really internalized what "not going anywhere until hurricane season winds down" was going to feel like.  This week, the frustration level was bad.  We had a fun Labor Day weekend in town but as for progress, nothing.  Here's part of  a very long, very whiny email I wrote to some friends who I thought would be sympathetic:

So this is the downside of our living on a boat and traveling.
We've been living in a construction zone for the last month.  Our bedroom (v-berth) is trashed, full of displaced possessions from the lockers in the areas they are working.  So is the starboard half of the main cabin where the air conditioner is going.  We are living in what is left -- rather less than half of our already tiny living space, about 70 square feet, (6.5 square meters) sleeping on the equivalent of a foldout sofa in the living room, and we can't even go outside for relief, it's just too hot.  The air conditioner works, but it's sitting open in the main cabin and it's a constant noise in the background, we can't play music without having it at stupid volumes, and have to raise our voices to converse. We haven't had hot water since April, our "hot" water is the temperature of the harbor water we sit in (glad it isn't January!).  Everything is chopped up, torn apart, disassembled.  I am going crazy.  Once the boat projects are further along, there will be lots for us to do, sewing, and modifying the sofa cushions, and finding storage space for the things that were displaced for the new air conditioner location.  But right now there is nothing but waiting.  Dan can't do much either, he had surgery on his hand while we were in Annapolis in July and he's not allowed to use it for six weeks after the stitches have come out.  He's frustrated too.  We got snappy at each other, and thought we were drinking way too much.  We stopped drinking anything stronger than lemonade ... and we were still snappy at each other.  Dan pointed out, it's not about the alcohol, it's about our restlessness and frustration.  I told him I wanted to go home to Annapolis, or rent a cabin in Michigan, or buy an RV and go back to Colorado.  
Frustration: It feels like everything is cut up, torn apart, corroded, or broken.  

 Meanwhile, we're just living our everyday lives, slowing down our pace, and hanging out in a small town.  When you get down to it, this isn't a bad place to be stuck -- the town is very friendly, safe, and nice.  It reminds me of Northport, Michigan, our hailing port, or of a small town in the 1950s.  The cost of living is low and the produce in the local grocery store is very fresh ... but I just didn't understand what it would feel like to be in a cute small town for the entire summer.  It's about a 1-mile walk from the boatyard to ... anywhere: the grocery store, the little downtown, or the local beer and pizza hangout.  Not that we're walking anywhere real soon, its sticky hot and humid (low 30s C; 90-ish F) and my back has flared up again so I can't walk too much, nor can we use our scooters until my back calms, so we're pretty much trapped.

This is the best quality boatyard we've ever worked with, anywhere.  And when I look back at what we've gotten done so far, it's clear that things really have been happening, Week 8 that the boat has been here, Week 3 of project work.  The A/C is moved to its new spot, but the enclosure isn't built so its basically sitting in the middle of the living room, where one of the settees (sofas) is supposed to be.  The engine is accessible for the first time since we've owned the boat (big big BIG important improvement) and the stairs are moved to a new more ergonomic location, so we can continue to live on this boat well into our 70s.  A new, much better and safer fuel tank has been added for the diesel heater, which has also been relocated.  A new, small table or box has been added to house the air conditioner outlet. Still to come: fixing the hot water heater, adding ducting for the air conditioner, rebuilding the bench it's hidden under (can't be done until the ducting is in place), changing the engine mounts to reduce vibration, finishing the heater (currently scheduled for Monday).  Then we have to modify the upholstery, and re-stow all the possessions in the storage shed that were displaced in the move.

The upside is, we've become friendly with several of the boatyard guys.  There are nice people, and people you can learn new things from, everywhere.  And its always interesting to see people in another context, meet their families and see what they do in their spare time, see them around town, view them as whole people and not just boatyard workers who exist for our convenience. Steve, the refrigeration specialist who worked on our boat is from Boston and is restoring a classic old boat in his front yard, we're meeting him and his wife in town for coffee tomorrow morning.  Eric, the guy who has been doing spectacular work on the heater and will be working on the engine is a new dad (we met his 6-week-old daughter Cora earlier), plays in a local band and does a killer Johnny Cash cover, and breaks into a genuine smile every time he sees us around town outside of work.  The rigger introduced me to his girlfriend.  She's from Wisconsin, the opposite shore of Lake Michigan from our Northport; she in turn invited me to join the group of boating women who meet every first Friday for wine and potluck.  And not just the boatyard guys; we've gotten chatty with the guy who roasts coffee and sells it at the Saturday morning farmer's market, who calls his company "Nahala" (Inheritance) because it was started with money from his parents.  He told me they said they didn't want his dreams to wait until after they died, so they were giving him his inheritance now, sweet story.  We've gotten the rhythms of the town, know that Wednesdays are good for listening to live music, Thursday is the best day to visit the fishmonger Buddy, and Tuesday and Friday are the days fresh produce arrives at the local grocery store (which everyone calls "Ruth's" because they know its owner personally, rather than "the grocery store").

This town is lovely, the pace is predictable and relaxing, these people are so sweet and generous, all of this is nice. But we live on a boat because we want to be mobile, to travel and explore and see new things and be surprised and feel free. Instead here we are, trapped in one square mile.  Last week we got the dinghy in the water again and Dan took it out for a test ride, he came back saying, "even the dinghy thinks it's time to move on, it tried to go up on plane and sail across the river!"

So my whiny email continues:
This is the worst its ever been for me, in 13 years on the boat its the closest I've ever come to wanting to give up.  I won't, I know myself, and I know that even good lifestyles have bad days. "Counting my blessings," and posting gratitude challenges on Facebook, and reminding myself that others have less than me, and that "It's soooo hard getting good timely service on our yacht" really counts as a first-world problem, none of that works for me.  Knowing that we're in good hands, and we're doing smart things to make our boat better, works for the long term, but not for right now.  Just posted a photo of a glorious sunrise over Lake Michigan on my Facebook page.  Deciding that the good times are so good that they are worth the bad times, yeah, that works for me.
Okay, rant over.  Other than Dan, only you would understand.  Thanx.
What keeps us going, remembering the good times are so good they are worth the bad times.

Week 4: Optimism, then BOOM  My moods have been cycling wildly, and Week 3 they were definitely at low ebb.  But you know what happens after low tide?  That's right, the tide turns and rises again.  Low points are just that, low points, and after that things get better.

Week 4 started progress again, and my mood totally changed. The first priority ... we have hot water again, yay!  It took the better part of a day and the old element that was removed from the hot water heater was scarily corroded.  We always wonder, when parts like that are designed to be easily replaced, is it because the manufacturer knows they are going to fail?  What does that imply? Each day we saw more progress.  Next the diesel heater that heats the room air when we're at anchor was (mostly) connected, still waiting for one part. The ducting went in, and we could finally begin to put the starboard settee rebuilt and back together, and reclaim the cabin.

As the week wound down, I started to believe we'd be done with this chapter of the work, and we could spend the weekend modifying cushions and rearranging the main cabin. We had a pretty good idea of how we thought the settee could look and sketched out a list of dimensions of wood.  Mid-afternoon on Friday, under gray skies, the carpenter headed off to cut teak pieces with our list in hand.  I was even more optimistic, it didn't look like it would take long to put the pieces together and yes, we're going to make it, we'll finally get this part of the job wrapped up this afternoon in time for the weekend, then ... There was a massive BOOM of thunder and crack of lightning and it seemed almost as much rainwater above our boat as there was saltwater below it.  The rain was pouring down as we've seen in some waves.  Yard work was stopped.  Safety reasons if nothing else, can you imagine a guy working at the top of a mast in a lightning storm?  Or painting?  The rain would soak fresh-cut raw wood.  But ... but ... No! I can't believe it!  We were so close! Now the project was delayed until Monday! My mood came crashing down again.



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Becoming Less Invisible

Anchored boats near Miami


Lots of chatter recently about Florida anchoring restrictions.  (A great summary of the first round of meetings was provided by SSCA, and Waterway Guide describes coordinated next steps)  There's a claim that the restrictions are about derelict vessels and local control, but it's pretty blatant pandering to a few wealthy waterfront property owners who just don't want boats to block their view.  (Scuttlebutt has it that one of the waterfront homeowners behind the pressure to ban anchoring told his congressperson that he was worried that the boats anchored behind his house were peering in his bedroom windows with their binoculars.  That's the kind of ridiculous defamation I want to educate people about.  Cruisers and liveaboards aren't all dropouts and losers and sketchy characters; in fact educating people about liveaboards was the original focus when I first started writing this blog for the Annapolis newspaper.  Most cruisers are no more likely to peer in your bedroom window than anyone else.  Less, really, because we have so many more interesting things to look at, like birds and fish and sunsets.)

Abandoned boats are a legitimate issue, and not just in Florida, although it does seem that Florida has some of the worst of it. The further north you go, the more the weather weeds out at least some of the marginal folks.  Sometimes well-intentioned boaters simply have a run of bad luck, but "Oops, my boat sank and I don't have the money to deal with it, so I'll walk away and let the taxpayers handle it" just doesn't cut it.  I've grumbled and blogged about anchoring rights before.  I've tried to explain that people who choose to live on boats often are ordinary people who do so because they want to live an unconventional life in touch with nature and the sea, with a series of profiles of liveaboards in Washington DC and Annapolis.  I've also wrestled with the fact that in trying to find a balance to address the anchored boats issue, there can be no perfect law that fits all cases.

A community that says, an anchored boat might become abandoned, and cleanup would be at public expense, therefore let's ban all anchoring, is anything but balanced.  There are better ways to protect waterways while encouraging maritime commerce. There are laws already on the books, and at least some cities are taking a tough stance, as recently happened to a boat owner in Annapolis who now is appealing a sentence of jail time if he doesn't address his sunken boat. In the Florida case, similarly, laws already exist that could be used; not to mention the dubious legality of claiming control over public waterways for the benefit of (who or what, exactly?) as is articulated in this* great letter to the Florida FWC from a lawyer who also happens to be a liveaboard boater.  Further, an analysis of available data on derelict boats in Florida suggests that most of them are unlikely to be cruising boats, and in fact a good percentage of them are abandoned in marina slips and not at anchor at all.

With all this contentious background, I had a fascinating e-chat with a cruising friend last month.  She told the story of someone she knew who was just starting out cruising, who wondered whether to skip Florida altogether, due to all the hassle of anchoring regulations.  The new cruiser's idea of skipping the state sparked an idea. "What about a total boycott?" my friend wondered.  What if it was organized by a big boating group, and had lots of media attention and a letter of intent that says none of us are going to spend money in Florida with our boats until you get some balance on this anchoring issue?  How would the retailers react if they didn't have the winter money coming in?

"My fear about a boycott is that even if it was conducted perfectly, it still wouldn't have much impact," I responded, and she sadly agreed.  The cruising community is really tiny compared with the total tourist economy.  And we're a bit of a captive audience, there aren't a lot of warm sunny options on the East Coast without passing through Florida.  But here's where her conversation led me full circle, right back to why I started this blog.  Boycotts are about customers you have taken for granted suddenly deliberately becoming invisible. "Maybe the opposite of a boycott,"  I wondered.  "What if we were all very visible?  Merchants, other than boatyards and marinas, don't realize that some of their customers are cruisers, because we just look (and are) like everybody else.  What if we tried a little harder to let the people we encounter while we are spending money (restaurants, bookstores, wherever we go) know that we are visiting by boat?  This serves two purposes: it helps them realize that most of us are just ordinary, polite customers, not rebels and dropouts and vagrants as portrayed by the homeowner with the dubious "Peeping Tom" fears, and it helps them realize that they are getting more money from us than they think?"

So that's what I'm going to do.  Make sure that, in the course of spending money in town, I chat with merchants, and waiters and service people, and if I can work it naturally into the conversation, I'll let them know that we're visiting by boat.  Be more visible, not invisible.  Side benefit, if I have incentive to chat with more strangers, who knows what other interesting people I'll meet?

PS: Of course, the other thing I'm going to do is comment to FWC and my legislator.  You can submit comments to FWC here.

PPS: The very articulate letter I mentioned above isn't (yet) available anywhere I can link to, it's only on SSCA's Facebook page, so here it is in its entirety (reprinted with permission):

To: Captain Gary Klein, FWChttp://myfwc.com/.../senior-staff/contact-commissioners

From: John R. (Jay) Campbell, JD, 

Dear Captain Klein:

I am a Florida Licensed Attorney, with over 25 years of practice in the State. I have owned many residential properties, including waterfront property in Tampa, as recently as 2013 when my wife and I moved full time on to our boat in Palmetto. We reside at a Marina, but often cruise Southwest Florida and Southeast Florida, anchoring as is prudent, dictated by weather, tide, travel schedules and the need to rest.

I have read and completely oppose the proposed FWC restrictions on anchoring in "concept 2" related to establishing setbacks from residential property. These proposals seem designed to benefit only a few wealthy landowners at the expense of the public's right to use and enjoy these waters, as established by the federal public trust. The proposals do NOT set forth any concerns or problems the proposals are designed to address, nor do they note any review done by the FWC to ensure the setbacks are a reasonable response to any such problems. Therefore, the proposed setbacks are not reasonable encroachment of the public rights, and are illegal. 

Regarding the set back proposals, I note the following in support of all boaters, and voters, who also oppose these proposed restrictions:
1. Where are the studies FWC has done or reviewed to support the proposed 150' or 300' anchoring set backs?
2. Where are the concerns, set out in writing, that FWC is attempting to address with these setbacks?
3. Where are the legal opinions that these proposed setbacks are lawful, and not an illegal encroachment on the federal regulation of waterways as a public trust?
4. If the concern is derelict boats, or stored boats, why doesn't the proposal state so, and tailor a proposal to this more narrow concern, rather than prohibit EVERY boat from anchoring?
5. If the concern is the potential discharge of sewage, why doesn't the proposal state so, and tailor a proposal to this more narrow concern, rather than prohibit EVERY boat from anchoring?
6. If the concern is a reasonable amount of unencumbered room for landowners to use near their docks and access channels, why doesn't the proposal state so, and tailor a proposal to this more narrow concern (for example, using a common standard of 1 1/2 times boat length from the protected structure) rather than prohibit EVERY boat from anchoring?
7. Regarding the proposal to return regulation, in part, back to small local governments, why does this proposal suggest that FWC should administer a program which will allow every municipality to apply for and create it's own anchoring rules, thereby turning Florida into a patchwork quilt of regulations without a sound basis, or statewide enforcement?

The proposals seem to be unlawful, poorly thought out, against the interest of Florida citizens who are boaters, against the interests of Florida businesses which cater to boaters, and in support of ONLY a few wealthy landowners, represented by legislators who control the FWC funding. This is not how laws and regulations should be developed and implemented to support the public interest. - Jay Campbell, JD

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Score at the End of Week 2: Team Cinderella 4, Entropy 0 (But Who's Counting?)

The "Black Box" Theory (image modified from Stanford.edu)
There's a theory that boats are like karmic black boxes:  every time you do maintenance or repairs before they're crises, or practice your sailing skills, or go the long way 'round to cut yourself a bigger safety margin, you have put "good energy" into your black box.  Every time you have a near miss, or narrowly avert disaster, you have spent some of that energy.  So the more preventative maintenance you do, the fuller your black box is, and the more resilience you have when things go sour.  And the more you let things slide into disrepair, get a little rough around the edges, delay doing things you need to do, then the less buffer you have when you need to count on the boat taking care of you.  At least, that's the theory.

Progress was slow last week, or at least not very visible.  We had the air conditioner in its new location, the big exciting part of the project, now it was time for the behind-the-scenes work to actually make it function properly there.  We had to route new ducting, make a new through-hull for cooling water, and modify the settee where the drawer used to be.  Dan spent the better part of a day scraping rust and painting the base of the a/c with special rust-preventing paint, and another day routing wires and hoses under the direction of Steve, the refrigeration expert here.   It amazed me the way Steve casually moved the unit around, telling us it was "only" 40 or so (bulky, awkward) pounds that he was reaching over and locating into its new locker. Thankfully we're in a boatyard that allows owners to do some of the work, which helps keep our costs down.  We were unlucky enough to do this work the week we had a heat wave, temps in the mid-90s and humid.  Reminded us of why we love air conditioning in the first place! We're still waiting for some parts, but at the end of three steamy hot days, we had lovely icy-cold air blowing over our sleeping faces.

And while we were doing this work we found several scary situations just waiting to bite us. Each of them could have become a disaster had we not discovered it before it had a chance to unfold -- our black box!

Here's the first: The diesel heater we rely on when we're at anchor in the wintertime had been installed ... get this, by the factory authorized so-called professional ... with the wires zip-tied to the air conditioner coil.  Huh?  Securing a loose wire to a working part of another piece of equipment?  A part that gets hot during use? The protective covering around the wires had melted.  Glad we found that one before it was too late!  You know what ticks me off most about this guy?  I had asked him to wire the unit to an electrical breaker, and he insisted that instead it be wired directly to the battery with a fuse so it couldn't be shut off by someone accidentally bumping into the breaker while the unit was in use.  Never mind that his approach was seriously messing up my energy management program.  One day we run the boat off one battery bank, and the next day we run it from the other.  Having the unit hard-wired to one bank, of course, did an end-run around that scheme. It meant the heater would always be drawing power from Battery 1 even on the days that we were intending to run the boat off Battery 2.  I was thinking about the installation that would be best for the boat as a whole, while he was thinking only about his little system, and a rather unlikely possibility.  I detest people "protecting" me from myself ... especially people who clearly aren't clever enough to know that you don't tie wires to things that will get hot!  When we rewired the electric panel, the electrician did listen and do it my way.  He put a simple safety cap over the breaker to prevent accidentally bumping into the breaker and shutting off the heater, while still letting me manage the batteries.

The second disaster waiting to happen was at least equally serious. There's a thick pin connecting the autopilot arm to the helm, and somehow the small retaining clips holding that pin were gone, and the pin itself had slid almost all the way out.  Had it completed its slide while we were underway, it would have dropped into the bilge. And the arm could have jammed the rudder hard over and stayed there, giving us no steering at all -- or rather, going nowhere, steering in big circles.  Ouch.

There was a third "find" that escapes me at the moment, but I can tell you about the fourth unexpected find adding to our score, which unlike the other three wasn't an averted boat disaster.  We had to install a bracket that required relocating the autopilot's compass, mounted in the locker that has held everything from Dan's shoes, to exercise equipment, to shrink-wrapped rice, beans, and protein powder.  While we were grumbling about having to relocate this part, and stressing over whether we had enough control cable for the new location, which could not be near anything magnetic that would affect its compass, I reached behind a flap of insulation and found a small stash of $20 bills, left over from the sale of our van a year ago, that I had totally forgotten about.  Instant payback from the black box!  Yes, we're getting frustrated with the slow pace of progress and anxious to sail away, but finding some problems before they occurred, and some party money, certainly took the edge off.
A simple fix: protective cover over the breaker in the lower left corner keeps the unit from being shut off accidentally while preserving our battery management scheme integrity

Addendum:  I finally remembered what narrowly-averted-disaster #3 was.  Battery bank 1 was not holding a charge.  The batteries were 5 years old so we weren't too surprised to need to replace them.  What did surprise us was discovering, after we moved them out to bring back to West Marine for recycling, that one of the cases was split up the side, and the innards were exposed.  So that was my birthday present, since we discovered them on August 11 -- a new pair of AGM Group 24s.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

33333 (The Project 333 Wardrobe Challenge, on a 33 foot Boat)

Developing a 33-item list

About 17 years ago, before we even owned a boat, much less thought about what kind of radical downsizing it would take to live on one, I met my friend Krysty Anne in an online message board devoted to simplifying your life.  So the two of us have been chatting about redefining your relationship to your possessions, and how mainstream society has evolved in this, for a long time. Even though she is an old hand at this streamlining possessions game, when she pointed me to this minimalist challenge called Project 333 she told me she envisioned that it would be hard: dress with 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes, for 3 months.  The website gives you a few exceptions; the 33 items doesn’t include your wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to work out). In her email to me, Krysty Anne said that when she saw the challenge she thought of me immediately, given the space constraints of our boat life.

“Sure thing!”  I thought to myself.  “This is gonna be easy…Krysty Anne is right, this is just my ordinary life, given how tiny my clothing locker is.  And besides, everything I buy I have to be able to hand wash using limited water, and air dry, if we're away from civilization for a while so my selection has always been limited.  I bet if I simply listed what I own, right now, no preparation at all, it wouldn’t be much more than 33 items.  I just don’t have the space for more, haven’t since we moved aboard.  Watch me breeze through this so-called “challenge!”  Let me show you how it’s done.”

So I went into my clothing locker with pencil and paper and started to make a list. I got to 27 shirts alone and my cocky attitude evaporated.   Maybe when we first moved aboard almost 13 years ago,  I had started with only a few carefully coordinated outfits per season, but over time, I’d pick up a t-shirt from a festival or got a scarf as a gift, and pretty soon the locker is crammed to capacity and the 33-item limit is receding in the rear-view mirror.  Maybe this would be a good challenge for me to do, a bit more humbly than I first thought!  It’s apparently time to purge my lockers again, and maybe get some insights.

Sixteen tops, seven pants, and ten shoes, accessories, and other items would bring me to 33 pieces to wear for the summer.  I got my list of 27 shirts and started numbering my favorites in order.  Number one was easy -- a dark teal drapey v-neck; number two was a gray Hawaiian shirt with dancing dolphins, and number three a t-shirt that proudly reads “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”  I continued and when I got to sixteen I looked back over the list, and at what didn’t make the cut.  Hmm, not too bad: I have 3 nice tops, 2 sun-protective long sleeve shirts for sailing, one Hawaiian shirt, and ten tees (three with printed messages or logos from festivals, six plain slim-fitting v-neck ones for every day, and one long sleeve.)  And they are all things that I find fun to wear, or that have sentimental meaning for me, and that I think I look good in.

After I finished with the tops, I started on bottoms.  According to my list I had thirteen pants and shorts in the locker (I never wear skirts) so I had plenty to choose from – or so I thought.  I started ticking off my favorites, as I had done with the tops.  Number one was the great pair of jeans that were a hand-me-down from my BFF Karen, numbers two and three were lightweight gray everyday pants and black dress pants, number four was a cute pair of gray shorts (another Karen hand-me-down, the girl’s got style), number five was … um, um, err… I had written “old” next to the entry for “khaki twill pants;” their hems and pocket edges were frayed.  I’d written “NQR” next to the brown shorts, the black shorts, and the white pants.  NQR: Not Quite Right.  Too baggy in the hips or too tight in the waist or too short, these were more or less placeholders; I needed a pair of white pants in a hurry for some reason, or they were on sale, and though they weren’t perfect they would get me by until I found a better one, but I never bothered to shop for that better-fitting one, and never felt great wearing the one I had.  I had written “H” next to the jeans with the sparkly pockets; H stood for “hanging out at home only, do not be seen in public in these. Yes, they make your butt look fat, LOL.”

Clearly if I only was going to wear seven pairs of pants for the next 3 months I’d like them to be ones I felt good in.  But I only had four that made the cut.  Four! And this was the first advantage I gained from the Project 333 challenge – it had pointed out to me that I was wasting my very limited space on nine pairs of pants that I didn’t like.  I sort of knew something was wrong when it was laundry time.  I would have to do laundry because I had “nothing to wear.”  But the locker wasn’t completely empty, so how could I have “nothing to wear?” I didn't have "nothing to wear" -- I had nothing I wanted to wear.  BIG difference! Now I could quantify it – nine of 13 – almost three quarters – of my pants, were items I didn’t like.  Time for some simplifying, and a shopping trip. If I was going to own fewer pieces, each one was going to work harder, and I could spend more money for each one for the same overall clothing budget.

The last ten items were the easiest: purse, 3 pairs of shoes (yes, those same black and bronze ballet flats I wrote about before made the list), hat, raincoat, sweatshirt, belt, sunglasses, and earrings.

I’ve said before that keeping things all in one colorway was critical for fitting my business wardrobe aboard, so that I only needed one set of shoes-socks-belt-purse accessories (not black and brown and navy blue, for example.)  So I looked over my final choices paying attention to how each worked with everything else in my newly-streamlined clothing locker.  I looked over the collection and got my second startling revelation after learning that I only liked four pairs of my pants.  Six of my shirts were pink! I don’t do pink!  The color looks decent on someone of my ethnicity and skin tone, but there’s just flat out too much cultural baggage for me, child of the sixties, one of only two girls in the advanced math class from my school, and all that.  Pink – how the heck did I end up with so much pink? Chalk it up to another insight from this project.  I feel like I need to apologize and make excuses and explain, give you the backstory on how each of these came into my life just to prove it wasn’t on purpose, that I wasn’t collecting pink: for example, the Washington Cherry Blossom festival shirt is pink because, well, cherry blossoms are pink, so what other color could a festival celebrating them possibly be; and the one with marbleized swirls was a gift from Karen that she said reminded her of an art project we did in our sophomore year in college (she’s right, it does); the “well-behaved women never make history” shirt was only available in that one color, and frankly because of the cultural association of pink wouldn’t have quite as much impact if it were any other color like green or black; and so on.) So there you have it, “it is what it is.” Oh, and when I pick out my 33 items for autumn?  Count on it – I’ll be looking for gray, or orange, or blue, or brown … anything but pink! 

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Details for those also in the Project 333 challenge:

We drove to Annapolis for a two week visit in mid-July, and the overwhelming value of this challenge became apparent, because I didn’t have to think about what to pack. I merely gathered my 33 items and put them in one (small) duffel bag, and I was done.  Perfect!

I gave myself 3 exemptions.  The first was for sailing related items, like my sea boots and sailing gloves; and swimsuits.  Another was for the grungy, its-okay-to-get-paint-on-them clothes I wear around the boatyard or for scrubbing the bilge.  The third was for historical reenactment garb.  Because, really, it’s not like I’m going to wear my sword to the grocery store or sea boots to a restaurant.  Those specialized items just don’t work for everyday street wear!

After about six weeks, I realized that I wasn’t missing my packed-away clothing at all.  Thirty-three items was plenty.  What I was missing was variety in jewelry.  I have a long, narrow face and earrings really liven me up, you’d almost never see me without two in each ear.  I had started the challenge by choosing a pairing that I thought I could wear every day: a small diamond stud above a modern black onyx and silver swirl that I had bought on vacation last winter.  I love the combination, but it was getting old.  To keep things fun, I decided to cut myself a bit more slack than the challenge technically allows, just on the earrings.  Besides, living full time on a 33 foot sailboat is all about storage space, and gemstones just don’t take a lot of space (insert smiley face here).  I had picked one set to wear for the next three months, but so far all that had done was make me grumpy with no real gain in understanding my storage.  I wasn’t going to bring all my jewelry back, however.  I wasn’t abandoning the challenge that much.  So in the spirit of the 333 challenge, and my particular challenge in my space constrained life, I limited myself to what would fit in a single tiny fishing tackle box with six compartments.  I ended up with the diamond studs, pink crystal studs, silver hoops, malachite arcs, scrimshaw anchors, and crazy silver wire squiggles made by silversmith and fellow liveaboard Brenda.   And I noticed that I didn’t choose the onyx and silver swirls that I thought were my favorite at the start of the challenge. I had burned out on them – score one for self-knowledge gained by trying this crazy adventure.

 Sixteen tops.  I can tell you the stories behind many of these, from the one I wore to my father’s funeral that still reminds me of him every time I put it on, to the one my BFF Karen said she bought because it made her think of an art project from our sophomore year in college, but … where did all this pink come from?
Three pairs of pants and one pair of shorts that made the final cut, and a pair of NQR khaki pants that'll do until I get something that fits better, because I needed something to tide me over until the next laundry day (and now I'm inspired to seek a better-fitting pair).  Even with that concession, I'm two pants/shorts under my plan. 

You get an exemption to the 33-item limit for jewelry that you never take off, and this necklace came with a story.  My grandmother had a pair of diamond earrings, and two sons.  As each young man met the woman he wanted to marry, grandma gave him one of the earrings to have reset into an engagement ring; my dad presented his to my mom in 1950.  Some years later, my mom replaced her ring with an eternity band, and had the diamonds from the engagement ring reset yet again into a necklace. I have photos of her as a young mother in a white shirt with this pendant dangling from her neck, posing with baby me.  She passed the necklace on to me, along with its story, in 1995, and I’ve worn it ever since.
I finally cut myself some slack for earrings, but demanded that they all fit in this tiny case.  (The black and silver swirls on the bottom outside the case are the ones I thought I could wear as my "only" ones for the 3 months of the challenge, but I burned out on after 6 weeks.  The silver squares on the upper right were removed so you could see them better, folded, they fit into the empty compartment in the case, )




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Project Progress, This Week

We've spent the last several weeks in design and prep, and waiting out bad weather and many of the marina staff being sick, possibly with the same nasty summer cold that has plagued us since early July.  And I'm glad for the delay, because the extra thinking time has definitely resulted in a better design for the project than we had before.

The first bit of prep required us to empty virtually every locker on the starboard side of the boat.  Now we have a pretty substantial list to port. Our home tilts to the left -- that's not a political statement, just gravity.  And with the v-berth filled with things we have nowhere else to put, we are sleeping on the port side of the main cabin, which makes the listing even worse.  Feels like we're sailing on a starboard tack and heeling. Shows how much "stuff" we have! One of the lockers we emptied is the pantry.  I discovered 7 jars of kalamata olives, 7 cans of mandarin orange slices, and 6 cans of chopped green chiles.  Hmmm.  I attribute the over-stocking, in part, to never knowing where our next opportunity to find [whatever favored ingredient] will be. So if it's something unusual we have to grab it when we see it, and if its heavy or bulky, when we have a car. Of course the other cause for overstocking is that its hard to see everything that's in these lockers due to their odd shape and limited access. Or we'll buy things because we've gone on a particular food enthusiasm, from Thai to paleo, and then when the phase passes we're left with partial bottles of exotic condiments that are so specialized that they aren't useful for whatever interest comes next. It's good to have a project like this one that forces us to clean out and inventory the pantry from time to time. In addition to the overstock, we found some forgotten gems like a partial jar of Nutella from 2012, and a bottle of lime juice with a 2009 expiration date.  It used to be round but some kind of chemical reaction must have occurred over time because it was collapsed into a squarish shape.  BTW, we considered a donation to a food pantry for our unexpired surplus, but they generally need, you know, actual food, like chili or tuna fish, and not weird sauces or single ingredients.

Anyway, once that was done we could get on to the actual moving of the air conditioning unit.  Most of the space under the starboard settee is taken up by a 25 gallon diesel fuel tank.  Beyond the tank, there is (er, was) a single drawer that we were willing to sacrifice. This is where the air conditioner would go.  Intake water was routed from the old intake just in front of the engine, and we would install a new seacock in the side of the hull for the discharge water.  Previously, the water discharged at the transom; this hole would be plugged.  Here's the story in pictures:

The air conditioner is behind the square vent panel below the top step; it's new home is under the bolster on the left.
Same settee with the cushions removed.
Here's a closeup of the space at the aft end of the settee.  The drawer has been removed, this is the "box" that it slid in.  Look at all the unused space around the outside of the box.  Inevitable when trying to fit squares and rectangles in the irregular curves of the hull, but wow -- empty space is like gold to us longterm liveaboards!

Behind the stairs.  Can you see the boat's engine?  We can't either.  But it's in there.  It's behind the air conditioner -- awkward to access.  Thank goodness we haven't needed any major repairs while this system was in place!

It just looks like a jumble of parts, but here it is moved into its new location.  Before he left Friday afternoon, the boatyard's ace refrigeration/air conditioner mechanic Steve made sure the system was running so we'd have a comfortable weekend.  This obviously isn't its final configuration but it's in there, and working.   Our bottom pan was horribly rusty so he set the whole unit inside another, larger, plastic pan so that if our old one leaked it would be contained.  No ducting or vents yet, that will be done on Monday.  The mechanic didn't have time to install the drain for the condensed water so just for the weekend we have to bail it out of the pan with a turkey baster.  (Small price to pay to be cool and comfortable, I think!) We pulled out about 7 cups of water from the pan in the first 4 hours ... a good illustration of just how much the human body produces while breathing.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

If Cars Could Write Letters Home

Having wheels has made such a difference for us while we're in the boatyard this summer!  (BTW, the car is for sale available at the end of the month; 2010 Civic with only about 35,000 miles for $13,500, message me if you're interested and I'll put you in touch with the owner.  I can attest that its in excellent shape and drives great!)

Dear Mom,

When you told me you were going to loan me to some cruiser friends for the summer, my first thought was an eye-roll.  Oh, joy.  I get to make endless trips from some dusty boatyard, to the hardware store, grocery store, West Marine.  Bor-ing!  Mom, how could you? I’d have a lot more fun spending my summer back here, hanging out with my sister and brother, the other cars in our family.  But okay, you asked me to do this favor, I’ll do it, it’s only two months, here we go.

You know, Mom, in American society, cars are pretty much taken for granted.  That’s one thing about cruisers, my new temporary humans know what it’s like to not have a car (or a washing machine, or sometimes a microwave, it’s like voluntary poverty, anyway) so they appreciate me.  They said I really, really, enhanced their lives.  That I make them feel like grownups in the US because they have a car just like everyone else, that people who live on land automatically assume everyone has this ability to get around wherever they need to, whenever they need to.  After being so long without wheels, they think I’m wonderful.  I feel so special!

And you know, a lot of my time is spent just as I expected, shuttling groceries and boat parts.  Just yesterday I moved two brand new heavy batteries, there’s no way they could have done that without me.  They had to empty some lockers in order to access the parts of the boat they were doing work on, so they rented a small storage unit to hold the stuff they had , and I was mandatory (again!) in getting their possessions to safety.

In among the boring day-to-day boat life errands that I’m so important for, I’ve also taken my temporary humans on some adventures. Un-be-lieve-able!  I was stuck in the biggest traffic jam I’ve been in for a while outside of Washington, DC (that part wasn’t so fun).   And I got to visit the Naval Academy, and Annapolis, and Dragon Boat races, and a pirate invasion in Beaufort, and a girl’s night at a neighboring marina.  I also spent a few happy hours hanging outside of the local bars while my humans were inside.  One of their friends works at the boatyard and owns a silver Civic just like me, but a couple of years older, and we’ve become buds when we hang out in the parking lot on weekdays.  That is, on the days he doesn’t ride his bike to work.

Here’s a photo of me in my regular parking spot in the boatyard.  Not too shabby, eh?  I went to the "spa" for an oil change last week and we almost got lost -- embarrassing, we drove up and back on the main highway because we couldn't find the shop, but (obviously) we finally got there.  I’ve even got a car cover for really hot days, like my very own portable garage.  I can’t believe how quickly this summer is passing.  In just a few weeks it’ll be the end of August and I’ll be back home, with LOTS of stories to tell my sibs.  My temporary humans will be done with their boat work (we all hope!)  They won’t need me when they’re sailing on the ocean, but I’m glad I was able to help when I did.

Love,
Your Honda