Friday, June 29, 2012

How Do We Beat the Heat?

The sky is more whitish than blue, and the sun is more glaring than shining.  We're experiencing the dreaded HHH (hazy, hot, humid) weather of Washington summertime, with temps in the upper 90s for the next several days.  Dan loves summer warmth, but this is definitely too much of a good thing!

So how do we keep our cool on the boat?

You'd think we were in the ideal place to keep cool in summer.  After all, what's the first thing you think of for a hot sunny day?  Going to the beach, right?  And we basically are already there since we live on the water all the time.  For much of the summer, we do in fact have it better than folks who live in the city.  Temperatures are a little bit cooler here at the shore than in the concrete jungle of downtown D.C., of course, and there's nothing to block the light breezes that the Chesapeake in summertime is famous for.  So when it's "sorta hot" out, our favorite strategy is to get away from the dock and swing gently at anchor somewhere peaceful.   That, of course, and many pitchers of iced tea or lemonade.

But when it's this hot, with 14-plus hours of sunlight beating down on that fiberglass bubble we call home and outside temps of 95 degrees as I type this, the outdoors doesn't seem so appealing.  A house might be shaded by trees to keep it cooler in summer; obviously we don't have that option.  But we can - and do! - make our own shade by tenting over our boats. Some of the tents are elaborate custom-fit affairs, while others are more impromptu, and still others are downright lumpy; but all at least help to mitigate the solar gain for a boat at anchor while keeping the breezes.  

Some tents:
Quick and easy tent made from a tarp

The one on our boat was a hand-me-down from a bigger boat,  modified to fit (okay, sorta fit) us. 

A bit lumpy, but I suppose it works
 Boats, of course, can be air conditioned.  Boat air conditioning is a little different than land-based; it uses seawater for cooling instead of blowing hot air out the back, and is generally quite efficient.  Keeping air conditioning while at anchor, however, requires either a continuously-running generator, or a heckuva long extension cord.  For me, though, just like our friends with houses who are more comfortable staying indoors, I'd just as soon keep the boat at the dock, plugged in to shore power running the air conditioning.  

Today, though, we have tented over our boat and even with that assistance, the air conditioner is challenged to keep up.   I'm tempted to wait out the heat wave at the mall, but the best solution of all is the solution my friend Melissa has employed.  She's got her boat in northern Canada for the season.

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I owe you guys a photo of one of the custom boat awning tents I'm referring to; the boat I'd intended to photograph for this piece isn't in its slip right now.  I'll update when they come back or I find another example.  Meanwhile, stay cool, and thanx for reading!

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Sailabration! Tall Ships in Baltimore

We toured 4 ships before we ran out of time and energy.  The ships represented various navies - Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Ecuador - and generally had double missions of training and cultural exchange/outreach. 


This ship was built in Spain in 1982 for the Mexican Navy.  I think it was the most beautiful of  all the ships we visited; lots of glossy varnished wood and brass detailing.

Even the tenders were beautiful and traditional

The officers and crew (265 people) were gracious and super friendly.  We didn't get to learn as much as we would have wished because of the language barrier.  

The ships dwarfed the buildings of downtown Baltimore!
The ship was built in approx 1953 in Germany; but the intricate wood overlays are pure Indonesia!

This was really fun.  The Brazilian ship was docked next to the one from Mexico.  There was a bit of a friendly rivalry stereo war going on as each navy tried to outdo the other in playing their own national music over their ship's speakers.

The "Cisne Branco" (White Swan)
just wondering how they keep track of the many lines


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Etiquette Rule - Factoid of the Day

Pirate "Dangerous Dan" below decks in the mess hall of the Bounty. The sign on the wall next to him explains that the rule against eating with your elbows on the table originated in the days when press gangs roamed the taverns looking for men to kidnap for the Royal Navy. When at sea, you'd keep your food from sliding off the table when the boat was struck by waves, by corralling the food in the crook of your elbow, so the habit of eating with your elbows on the table marked you as an experienced mariner. An obviously experienced mariner was a prime target, so was MORE likely to get kidnapped again than someone who was visibly a landlubber. Thus, being seen with your elbows on the table was bad luck. (Note also the ropes hanging the table at the outer edge. When the ship was heeling, these could be adjusted as the precursor to gimbals.) 

Never Turn Down an Opportunity to Play

Most of the tall ships are in Baltimore this weekend, but the HMS Bounty is right here in Annapolis at City Dock. (photo: Aboard the HMS Bounty. Skippers from Errol Flynn to Marlon Brando to Johnny Depp have stood at this helm ... and now, we have also!)  Along with “Jack Sparrow,” we're going to be there on and off, most of the weekend, posing for "get your photo taken with a pirate" pictures for fundraiser to help the ship's educational mission.
Okay, so we thought we were just going to visit the Bounty, docked at City Dock, for an hour or so. Nothing too strenuous as Dan was still pretty fragile after surgery. And because we wanted to get some photos, we went in garb. So the adventure began. 

First, on our way toward the ship, we met friend Cindy with her kids, and a couple of her friends with their kids, sitting under a tree. They had just come back from visiting the ship, and we chatted a bit. And posed for photos. Which (as it always does) led to some other folks asking for photos. And then we got a bit closer to the ship, and got stopped again, this time by a group of parents with a group of girls, who asked questions (Why are your shoes made out of rope? How big is the ship?) And - of course - posed for photos.

So next thing we knew, someone in a logo t-shirt from the Bounty was by my elbow, and the first thing I thought was that we were horning in on their show, or being "impostors" of City tour guides - are we in trouble? Quite the opposite! Seems they were short-handed, and needed someone to do the "get your photo taken with a pirate" gig, fundraising to help the ship's educational mission. We're there!

We had an absolute blast, marred by only 2 things. We just didn't know enough about the ship to answer questions, and of course, Dan was still tiring easily. After 3 delightful hours we promised to be back on Sunday; and when our Saturday previous engagement canceled, decided to come back Saturday as well. A bit of internet research helped us learn a bit more about the ship, so we feel better on that front. Free, fun, and for a good cause ... can't beat it!

[photo of Bounty at sunset by Donna Cole]

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hobbies Afloat

Historical reenacting is a somewhat unlikely hobby for someone who lives on a boat,  but there's an obvious link to nautical history and education.  Little boys, though, are all about the swords! (Photo by Cindy Wallach)

You can learn a lot about someone, when you learn how he/she spends his/her free time.

Living and traveling on a boat, much of our time is spent navigating, looking at the natural world around us.  Or exploring port towns we stop in.  Or doing boat chores, oiling the teak or trimming the sails or scrubbing the bottom.  Still, not all of our time is spent on the business of everyday (boat) living.  There’s still plenty of time for hobbies.

I read about this fun blog hop: once a month, a varied group of liveaboard bloggers agree to write about a given topic so readers can get multiple points of view on a subject by visiting the blogs.  I enthusiastically agreed to participate without the faintest idea what I was going to say.  Sailing was my “hobby,” but now that we live aboard a boat fulltime, it’s my everyday life.  Is living in a house a hobby, for people who live on land?

The hobbies one can take up on a boat are limited by the fact that you’re in a very small space that moves.  Could you imagine having a pool table aboard?  Even if you had the space to begin with, the motion would be an issue.  You just get that perfect shot lined up when you get hit by a wave that shakes or tilts the table.  Right.  For the same space and motion reasons, model trains are out, as is gardening.  What hobbies do I have?  What the heck am I going to write about that doesn’t seem incredibly obvious, or that doesn’t make me sound like a dilettante?  When we lived on land in Colorado, we hiked and backpacked and canoed and cross-country skied.  Well, we don’t exactly have room to store a tent and a canoe and boots and all the associated gear, and snow-based recreation is certainly a non-starter – our whole living on the boat thing was predicated on getting away from winter, not seeking snow.  We used to enjoy making things with stained glass – but glass breaks on a moving boat.  We used to brew our own beer – but the beer needs a quiet dark place to settle, not a constantly-moving platform.

So I’m mentally doodling about what makes a good hobby afloat, and what, exactly, do we do when we have nothing to do?  Drinking rum or checking my Facebook page are probably not the pastimes I want to emphasize here.  Um, yeah.  People aren’t going to learn anything about living on a boat from that; people already know all about being a couch potato on land.

What do we do?  We read.  A lot.  Sometimes paper and sometimes on an e-reader.  I love learning about the places we visit and what makes them unique, about the historical and geographic factors that shaped them.  When I retired I promised myself I’d read one non-fiction book a month, to keep my brain from turning to jello, and I’ve mostly kept that promise, with books about science or history or sociology or nautical topics.  Reading (on an e-reader) is a good boat hobby, as are writing/blogging and digital photography.  Thanks to modern technology, those take up virtually no space.  Which is probably why almost all the people I know who live on boats include those on their list of hobbies. 

Okay, those are the basics that a huge percentage of liveaboard sailors do, then what?  Hobbies afloat can’t be equipment-intensive or create things that take up a lot of space.  One boater I know is all about bird-watching.  Now that’s effective!  Bird sightings are the only thing I can think of that you can collect without taking up space for your collection.  And while I like watching the birds (and vegetation, and fish, and shorelines) near the boat, I’m not inspired to study any of these in detail.

Sheesh!  My deadline’s coming up and I have nothing to write about!  What ARE my hobbies?  I’m gonna sound like such a boring dork in this article.  Worse, I got into this blog-hop thing trying to get more visibility.  Great.  MORE people, reading my stuff for the first time, their first impression of me is gonna be, she’s bor-ing.  Note to self: do NOT volunteer  to write articles when you have no clue.  Hobby?  Hobby?  I don’t knit – why make warm sweaters when we (and most of our friends) are trying to live in endless summer?  Music?  One of my neighbors plays the guitar – a special smaller-than-standard one that stores more easily on the boat and is much welcomed at our happy hour gatherings – but me? The only musical instrument I can play is the iPod.  Art? When we moved aboard I brought a rainbow of colored pencils and pastels, imagining quiet evenings at anchor sketching, inspired by the natural beauty around us.  The beauty was there alright, but the inspiration never really struck.  I think to be an artist at that level, art would have to be something you can’t *not* do, an image bursting to get out.  Or, as artist and silversmith Brenda Radjkovich put it in a profile I wrote last year “art isn’t what I do, it’s who I am.” I guess, art’s not who I am…

We’re vegetarian, so we don’t fish.  When we’re somewhere with clear warm water, we swim and snorkel and scuba dive, but those activities don’t quite have the same appeal in the murky Chesapeake, where we’re located now, as they do when we’re in the crystal Caribbean.  We love to cook and, within the limits of our vegetarian diet, explore the unique ingredients and styles of the places we visit.  Except for a few gadgets, cooking is another hobby that doesn’t create things that take up space (except at the waistline, and the exercise we do to get rid of that is a separate story).  Lots of fun, but it’s still – cooking is what you do to sustain your body, it’s not what I think of as a consuming hobby approaching a passion.  Passion.  You know, the thing you’re doing when you lose track of the time, passion, that kind of hobby.  

Uh-oh, at this point I have about 1,000 words written and I still haven’t figured out what this article is about. <* Sigh*> Recently our interest in learning deeply about the places we’re visiting has gotten us involved in historical reenacting.  We can dress up as period-correct sailors or pirates, and even have taken swordfighting lessons to complete our characters.  Gives us a great opportunity to introduce kids to an interest in history, and make some points.  We tell them, Disney is cool and pirates are popular right now, but you know, real pirates are the bad guys, right?  And the reenacting thing is fun and educational and we’ve met some fantastic and thoughtful people.  Given our tendencies, though, it’s all too likely this is just a fling rather than a long-term interest that will grow and expand.  Before this, it was classic board games, and before that it was Sudoku, and before that it was counted cross stitch.  And after this? Surely there will be something else, but what it is?  Who knows?

And that’s when it struck me.  We really don’t have any one great consuming passion, but we explore many different things.  I was once at a gathering with a group of people who were talking about their family histories, one whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower; another one whose great-great-grandfather had a store in New York; or Dan’s family that has farmed the same part of Kansas for five generations.  And I remember saying something to the effect that it was weird sitting here with them and having no stories to contribute, because my family escaped Russia with almost nothing when the Communists took over and they didn’t bring their file cabinets with them, so much of their history was lost.  And one of the guys at the table turned to me and said, “But Jaye, that is your story.”  In the same way, maybe not having a hobby, but exploring many different things, is our story.  Just like living on the boat and traveling, we sample many different cities, but don’t have any one home.  “New” is our hobby.  “Change” is our hobby. 

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