Monday, August 27, 2012

Oooh, Shiny!

August 23 was the fifth anniversary of my dad's death.  He was an engineer and a materials expert, fascinated by new gadgets and processes.  Somehow it seemed very fitting to me that that day was also the day we got 4 coats of the wonderful copper-epoxy bottom paint we've been so excited to try.  I don't know whether he would have thought the concept of adding copper powder to epoxy to repel barnacles and other marine growth brilliant or wacky, but I'm sure he would have had an opinion!
First they added powdered copper to two-part epoxy and mixed it up, then rolled it onto the hull.
The first coat went on frighteningly thin, but by mid-day, there were 4 coats of paint and we gleamed like a new penny.
Oooh, shiny!
The instructions were emphatic that we had to make sure the paint was DRY for 48 hours, no rain in the forecast.  Thursday and Friday were perfect for this, perfect 82-degree temps and low humidity, just what a summer day should be.  But the forecast for Saturday was uncertain and the forecast for Sunday was downright scary.  The paint crew decided to protect us using shrinkwrap plastic to keep the potential rain off.
Protected - high and dry!
Talk about timing: at 49-1/2 hours after painting was completed, the rain started.  We were mighty glad for that plastic tent protecting us below the waterline!  (Yes, I know, there's a crazy discontinuity there, as the parts of our boat normally above water in the ocean got wet, while the parts normally below water stayed dry.  Whatever.)  By Monday morning, parts of eastern Maryland had gotten more rain than hurricane Isaac had dumped on southern Florida over the same time period!  They still need to move the jackstands and paint the parts of the hull that they couldn't reach with the stands in place.  Then finally, finally, FINALLY, we're back in the water.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Square Peg, Round Hole

Well, actually, triangular hole.  The designers of boats our size are faced with a dilemma – how to effectively use the space in the bow.  Constrained by the shape of the hull, it doesn’t have sufficient headroom to stand up in, and it comes to a point. The most common solution is to make it sleeping space, generally referred to as the v-berth because if there is one bunk on each side, their toes come together at the point of the bow, making a “V” shape on the floor plan.
The layout of our boat, from the original advertising brochure.   

Here’s what our v-berth looks like in person.  We’ve added a trapezoidal cushion to turn the two separate bunks into one triangular king-size bed.  It works great, plenty of space, and because it spans the hull, you can’t fall out of bed even in bouncy conditions.  Except.  The average American bed sheet is rectangular.
V-berth, looking forward

Inspired by some instructions found on the internet, we decided to take advantage of our time here on the hard to custom-tailor a set of sheets for our unique application.  We’re not sleeping in the v-berth anyway because the air conditioner we’re using here is not powerful enough to cool the entire boat.  It can (barely) keep up with just the main cabin, so we’ve been sleeping on the foldout settees there (pictures here).  We took the v-berth cushions out of the boat and laid them on the floor of our marina’s party pavilion, then laid a set of regular king-size sheets on top.  Even though our first attempt was on a set of old sheets that would need to be replaced soon, taking a scissors to the material was daunting!  The actual project went pretty easily, and we learned enough on the first part of it to be positively cheery about cutting and sewing the second set of sheets.
Laying out the sheets over the triangular cushions was easy, but making that first scissors cut was daunting.

I once read a story of a woman who was a very poor housekeeper.  She was given the gift of a beautiful lily.  She brought the flower home and put it in a vase.  But in contrast to the perfection of the flower, the vase appeared smeared and dirty (which it was).  She thought, “I cannot have that lovely flower’s beauty dimmed by that dingy vase,” so she cleaned the vase until it sparkled and put the flower back.  “There,” she thought, as she stood back to admire her effort.   “A vase worthy of that pretty blossom.”  Then she put the vase and flower on the table.  You guessed it – now the bright flower in the shiny vase made the dust on the table all the more visible by comparison, so she cleaned the table.  The table in turn inspired her to clean the rest of the room, and the room, the rest of the house.

Similarly, as long as we were working on the bed, we decided to clean the now-empty v-berth, and take off the cushion covers and wash them as well.  Really not for the faint of heart; when we got the covers stripped we found a cringe-worthy growth of mold on the foam.  Fortunately neither of us are allergy-prone.  Three laundry loads and half a bottle of Amazon Amazing Mildew Away later, we were ready to reassemble our bedroom.
"Uh, babe? You don't want to see this ..."

Here’s what we learned: It really is a lot easier to make the bed with custom-fitted sheets.   On the other hand, it’s crazy-challenging to try and fold the darn things to store them.  Now, I think I’ll head off and cut myself a bouquet of lilies.
Reward time!
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Forward Progress

As you probably know if you’re a regular reader, our boat is on land now, waiting for the hull to dry out enough to apply new bottom paint.  And it’s humid summertime in the Chesapeake, and a thick-hulled old boat that has been in the water for many years, adding up to very slow progress.  We’ve gotten lots of suggestions for how to accelerate the bottom drying.  Some are really quite clever: making a tent of plastic below the boat’s waterline, blowing hot air on it, using a dehumidifier.  Some were meant in fun just to make us laugh (and goodness knows, laughter is needed right now): Put the boat on a truck and take it to Arizona! Get all your friends to save all those little desiccant packets that come with new electronics! The one that cracked me up the most came in an email from Tom and Karen D:
Karen writes:
Tom and I have some experience with drying out items; our eldest (and somewhat absent-minded) grandson often wears his clip-on cell phone right into the pool.  You could adapt our method to speed along the drying.  First, get a VERY big bowl and fill it with uncooked rice ... ;-P

Tom writes:
Ahem.  I have some reservations about the scalability of Karen's solution ...  although when you are finished you could throw a stir-fry party for the entire marina and then some.
Last winter someone decided they needed our extension ladder more than we did, so they stole it. We usually used that ladder when our boat is out of the water for service.  The marina loaned us this lovely set of stairs instead, one of many comforts making our life on the hard a little easier.  Every time I climb down these, I'm either the first female president of the US coming out of Air Force One, or a famous movie star arriving on location in some distant and exotic spot to film the next blockbuster.  What can I say?  I lead a rich fantasy life.
We really needed the laughs, because Monday was just a crash-and-burn kind of day, that ended with us sitting in the cockpit of our “condo on the hill” as our friends have dubbed our boat that’s still not back in the water.  We were sipping on (warm) rum and water, seriously discussing the possibility of moving off the boat until the project was complete.  The little air conditioner we’d bought to take the edge off the heat couldn’t quite keep up.  Our little fridge was too wimpy and too little – we were commiserating with friends Liz and Matt, who are also on the hard for an extended period of time waiting for their boat to dry, that after a while without refrigeration you just start craving leafy green vegetables - which of course are the hardest to store, and hence the first to go, without a fridge.  And granted the air was pretty warm so our water tank was too, but we hadn’t had actual hot water since early July.  Where would we go?  Probably some extended-stay motel, anyplace with fully powered air conditioning and a working toilet and the ability to take a shower without packing a tote bag with towel and shampoo and walking across the party pavilion area to the marina bathhouse.

Everything was breaking on Monday.

We were coming back from running some errands when our aging Audi stopped running.  Just right in the middle of the road, with no warning.  Fortunately, that loyal vehicle had waited until we were only about 100 yards from our home marina.  Dan was able to coast it in to a safe location, and we walked the rest of the (short) way back to the boat.  We’ve been hoping to make the car last one more year until we head out on our next cruise – when of course we won’t need a car – and replace it when we come back.  Were we asking too much?

The other thing that broke on Monday?  The holding tank.  Eeeeuw.  Not to go into too much detail, but the thing was meant to work on a boat in the water, not on land.  Without being buffered by the water, the temperature in the tank got too hot for the little enzymes to do their waste-digesting function; and without being agitated by the motion of the ocean, solids gradually settled until the bottom of the tank contained a thick layer of stinking sludge too viscous to be lifted by the pump.

But you know what?  None of that mattered, because we’d also had a long conversation with the marina service manager and a series of emails with the manufacturer’s rep for the new bottom paint, and our wait is over!   As schedules and weather permit – since it would hardly do to paint and then have an afternoon thunderstorm wash away the effort – we can continue with our bottom paint project and get back in the water.

PS: The problem with the car turned out to be the fuel pump, which we had just replaced last June.  The Audi dealer here in town, Criswell Audi, is replacing the pump at no charge, even though it was out of warranty – thank you guys for your integrity and customer service.  And John, the manager of our marina ship’s store,  suggested a great new product to address the holding tank issues.  So life really is getting good, here on the hill.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Clothing and Laundry - Afloat

When we first moved aboard in 2002, I knew I had several more years to work as the skipper of a LMD (large mahogany desk) in Washington DC.  Washington was a place known, if not for conservative politics, certainly for conservative clothing styles.  And at home I was going to have one small locker, room for 11 hangers plus 5 shelves about 18 inches wide, to hold all my “stuff” except shoes and underwear.  The new job didn’t faze me, but dressing for it was going to be a challenge!

I’m an engineer, so I seriously overanalyzed my wardrobe in preparation, and made myself some rules.   Some of what I learned was boat-specific, and some could be useful for any downsizer.

I wanted to make sure I had enough outfits to get me through a week or two of work.  Then I wanted to be prepared with clothing for other likely events in my life: something to wear for a fancy evening or New Year’s Eve party; something for “lunch with the girls;” something for a wedding.  It felt more like I was packing for a long trip, than for the next 7 years of my life.  And indeed, when I was done, everything fit into 2 carryon bags.

I selected twice as many tops as bottoms -- who remembers your pants, anyway, or whether you’ve worn the same pair twice in the same week?  I was counting on making a bigger impression with what I said, than with what I wore.  Who knows?  Maybe the constraints of the clothing pushed me to greater professional achievement hoping my comments overshadowed my style!

I embraced high-tech synthetic fabrics.  Almost everything was hand- or machine-washable and didn’t wrinkle.  I had fewer pieces than when we lived on land, therefore could spend a bit more on each.

I picked one colorway, and stuck to it.  That first winter, it was black – white – red, and shades of these including gray, pink, burgundy.  Every top went with at least two pairs of pants, every pair of pants went with at least two tops.  I was the mix and match queen.  By sticking to one range of colors, I only needed one set of accessories – shoes, belts, socks, purses, briefcase – in black/gray; I didn’t also need brown and also need navy blue.  I made it work with four pairs of pants (black, charcoal gray, winter white);  eight or ten tops - sweaters, shirts, blouses, a mix of styles and fabrics, mostly solids but one or two with patterns, again in that same limited range of colors; three blazers; several scarves that took up almost no space but could jazz up a look.  For dressy, I had a pair of slinky bronze pants and an ivory lace shirt, and a black halter top and black skirt that I could put together to make a little black dress, or mix the black halter with the bronze slinky pants, or the white shirt with the black skirt and one of the blazers or a scarf.  Weekends were jeans and t-shirts and turtlenecks and sweatshirts.  Then the shoes: three pair of everyday shoes (can you guess? Black flats in two different styles, gray pumps) one pair of strappy sandals with rhinestones for dressy events, tennis shoes, sea boots and deck shoes and hiking boots.  Summer was the same drill, only in white and tan and a soft green.  The system served me well for the 7 years I continued to work.
My clothing locker.  Honest, it's not staged! But I did want to show that (a) I really do keep everything in just one set of colors; and (b) it really is small!

Fast forward to my retirement date of 9/9/09 – I hung up the phone on my last-ever teleconference and we prepared to head out.  I showed up at Goodwill to donate armloads of business clothing in dark, somber colors.  Now I could wear turquoise, and orange.  Together.

We’d been warned not to bring cotton t-shirts and jeans on our voyage south because cotton held odors, took a lot of water to wash and took forever to dry.  So our cruising wardrobes consisted largely of nylon Hawaiian shirts and quick-dry shorts, along with some SFP-50 sunblock long-sleeve shirts and long, lightweight pants.  Also along for the trip were one nice outfit for going out and another for looking respectful when meeting customs agents, a complete set of polar fleece long underwear, tencel underwear, and several swimsuits each.  Everything could be hand-washed in a sink using very little water, and hung dry.  We had no washing machine on board, so for towels and sheets we pretty much needed a laundromat.  Where we could, we supported the entrepreneurial spirit of one of the local people who were only too glad to wash and fold our laundry for just a few dollars.

This little gadget is wonderful for drying small pieces in limited space - here, our dive booties.   And, it stores flat - perfect for the boat. I'd never seen these hangers in the U.S.

Then, we got into historically-accurate reenacting with a focus on maritime,(photos, for example, here ) and all my careful wardrobe logic went totally out the window porthole.  Of course there was the storage issue: this stuff wasn’t exactly used very often so the space we were devoting to it was a big luxury.  The real news, though, came in the actual wearing of these clothes; we relearned what our forefathers knew.  Loose, light, natural fabrics – in this case, our linen shirts and sailors’ slops – are fantastically cool, easy to move around in, and durable.  They surprised us by beating the most high-tech of our modern clothing for comfort.  And check out the washing instructions that are sewn right into the label!  
Laundry instructions on my linen 17th century sailor's shirt: "Dip in creek.  Beat on rock.  Hang in tree to dry."

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Waiting Game

July 18: 22%

July 25: 21%

July 31: 19-1/2%

The numbers scrawled on our hull in black marker tell a story.  The fact that they are declining, that’s good.  The fact that they are declining very slowly, that’s not so good.  These numbers represent the moisture meter readings that the marina is taking every week to determine when we have dried out enough for the paint to adhere properly.  Since we’ve been living aboard, the boat has been in the water year-round for ten years, so it’s hardly surprising that it’s wet.   But here’s the thing:  In the manufacturer’s happy world, the hull would dry to 10% or less before we applied the new paint.  At this current rate of decline, that would be … let me think now … November.  How does November sound?  Have we got anything to do between now and November?

We’ve settled in for the long haul, here on dry land.  Our air conditioner and refrigerator both need seawater to work properly; we’ve invested in an apartment-window-type air conditioner unit and a dorm style fridge.  Both are smaller and less powerful than what we’re used to, but they’re helping to make life on the hard a little less like camping out.

What do we do?  Read, write, socialize, take day trips, work on boat projects (when it’s not too hot; in fact there are some projects best done on dry land.)  In short, other than the obvious exception of sailing, we do pretty much whatever we’d do if we were in the water.  Which is as it should be, because in fact we are at home, same friends, same community, just our home has been temporarily relocated slightly.  And the other thing we do?  Wait.  I’m pretty certain we will work to find a solution that doesn’t involve sitting on this hill until November – when it would be too cold to paint anyway.  I’m not so good at waiting.  I’d rather watch paint dry.