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.

Wednesday, August 20, 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 (I got an awesome special parking permit to get through the gate security for that one), 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.

Your Honda

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Politician Who Gets It!

image from here
When I first started blogging for the Capital in 2008, (wow, have I really been at this for six years?) I was a girl on a mission.  I wanted people in my adopted hometown of Annapolis to understand why people would want to live on a boat, and that we're not all weird rebels and dropouts and losers or one step above homeless and a threat to property values or safety.  My very first post alluded to this, in fact.  I profiled several liveaboards at the Gangplank marina in Washington DC who were also trying to get this message to their community.  I defended liveaboards and anchored vessels when the question of restricting anchoring in Back Creek came up a few years ago.  I even wrote a piece for a CNN series on small-space living about what its like to live on a small boat.

So I was really excited to read a story in the Capital last week about a tiny house being built by students at Key School that was featured as home of the week. I've been following the Tiny House movement because of how much it has in common with living on a boat.  I think the house was/will be pretty cool but my favorite line in the article was the reaction from Governor O'Malley: "He pointed out the Annapolis area is already full of tiny houses. They’re called “sailboats.” " Someone in power who gets it? Oh, YESSSSS!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Boatyard Work List

Our stairs, at present, come forward into the cabin by almost 2 feet more than the designer originally intended, to make space for the air conditioner and accommodate the different dimensions of the new engine. Note the huge landing area, top step, 4 (mismatched) teak boards wide.  Also note the bottom step, with one corner cut away.  This is mostly to provide at least limited access below the nav station, but it also provides great entertainment as unwary visitors miss this step and take a tumble!

So, if you're like most of our friends, you're wondering why we're in a boatyard, again, getting ready to shell out some major coin for boat work, again.  Also if you're like most of our friends, you're too classy to ask directly, just in case the answer is embarrassing (don't worry, it isn't).

About 10 years ago we replaced our boat's then-25-year-old, sadly mistreated Westerbeke diesel engine for a new Yanmar (love it ever since!).  The Yanmar, however, was a bit taller than the old eingine it replaced.  The installer told Dan to cut down the stringers in the cockpit so there would be room for the new engine along with its recommended vibration-dampening engine mounts.  Dan did the work, slowly chiseling out fiberglass by hand, in winter, upside down below the cockpit sole.  Only to be told by the installer, "oops, never mind, we measured wrong, it won't fit after all, fill it back in, we'll just use regular engine mounts, you'll have a bit more vibration but it'll be okay.  After all, its a sailboat, you just run the engine to get out of the slip, then hoist the sail and turn the engine off and, you know, enjoy the wind power."  Yeah.  Uh-huh.

Well, we're no longer just weekend sailing the Chesapeake Bay, we're motoring up and down the U.S. East Coast and crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, running the engine sometimes for 8 hours a day or overnight.  The engine works (awesomely, I might add) but at certain rpms you get a vibro foot massage while standing in the cockpit.  And it turns out that over time, that vibration not only makes your feet tingle, but adds unnecessary wear on the engine and transmission.  So we're (finally) getting a do-over and correcting the installation.

At the same time, we have an opportunity to correct the air conditioning unit the previous owner had installed.  Can't blame her for trying; she lived aboard year round on the Texas coast -- can you say, "hot and humid?"  She needed a/c!  But the location has always been problematic.  She put the a/c in front of the engine and had a carpenter bulk the companionway stairs out into the main living space, making going below decks a bit awkward, but tolerable.  After we repowered, however, the location of the stairs shifted even further into the living space, making it that much worse -- virtually guaranteeing bumped heads for the uninitiated, and making access to service the engine challenging.

So the plan while we're here, is to replace the engine mounts with proper vibration-dampening ones, and while we're messing about in that area anyway, relocate the air conditioner.  In the past, I'd considered that latter project an aesthetic one, and it never made it to the top of the "do" list; our list always prioritized (1) make the boat safer; (2) make it sail faster; (3) everything else.  But as we age and become less agile, well, realigning that access is a safety issue, if not yet, then in the future.  At least that's what we're telling ourselves, because we're both pretty enthused with the prospect of getting this finally done right.

You know what the hardest part is, though?  We've been living on this boat for 12-1/2 years.  And while we're pretty careful about acquiring material possessions, you pick up a t-shirt here, a book there, an extra bottle of hot sauce somewhere else, and pretty soon every locker is packed as fully and efficiently as can be.  We're losing two lockers to this project, which means their contents have to go somewhere.  Good thing its a dreary rainy weekend, as we contend with sorting, re-sorting, and re-stowing our possessions.  Amazing how much we've accumulated (and secretly grateful for the incentive to weed things out.)

A straight-on view of our existing stairs.  Compare it to the designer's original intention, (next photo).

The stairs as originally intended, note the top step is only two boards wide.  This is a photo from another CSY33 that is for sale on Yachtworld.  (Note that I'm neither recommending, or not-recommending, this boat; merely that it is one of two sisterships to ours that is presently for sale.)

Ah, and in my fantasies, the replacement stairs would be as gracious as these on El Galeon Andalucia, where we were volunteers last winter.  (and hope to be again, next year)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Back to Annapolis, Just for a Visit

 Car-centric.  What's wrong with this lovely sunshiny photo of downtown?
Kinda hard to see the buildings for the cars, isn't it?
(Photo "Annapolis street" by Rdsmith4 - Own work.
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - link here)

While our boat was at the boatyard awaiting major work, we took advantage of our borrowed car to return to Annapolis for two weeks.  I have to admit that I faced the trip with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.  I had always claimed that Annapolis was "home," the place I want to come back to when our traveling days are done.  But what makes a place, this place, feel like home?   After a year away, would I come back to Annapolis, fit right in where I left off, and heave a giant sigh of relief, “ahhh, I’m back!” Or, after traveling and comparing it to other places I’d been, would I see the flaws and make a sound more like “eeeuw, I’m ba-ack!”

The official reason for the trip was practical. We call it our "medical monitoring marathon" -- the annual check-in with the doctor, the dermatologist, neurologist, eye doctor, etc.  (Cause for celebration, BTW, there is no longer an annual check-in required with Dan's oncologist, because Dan is medically boring.  After eight years with no sign of cancer recurrence, Dan now gets an MRI every year but the doctor said he has no need to spend an office visit on a perfectly healthy man like Dan, and wants instead to spend his time "on folks who actually need me.")

In between appointments, there was plenty of time for other things.  We spent a fair amount of time and reflection just revisiting our remembered favorite spots in town.   We had spent most of the last year carless, and now, having a car again, I was aware of the way the pedestrians and the vehicles coexisted.  Our first drive through downtown was troubling. Had the city always catered more to cars than people, or was I hypersensitized?  Streets, widened from their colonial proportions to accommodate more cars and parking, extended until they butted up abruptly within inches of the doors of historic buildings and homes.  In other cities we’d seen in our travels, the downtown waterfronts were grassy parks and boardwalks and park benches, a few shops and restaurants, historic structures and educational plaques.   There was no comparable grassy area at City Dock, though; boasting an excellent view of the beautiful Chesapeake was … a parking lot.  Really?

The things I found comfortable about living in Annapolis were still there, though.  It was handy knowing where things were without the need for a map.  It was easy to pick up boat parts and services -- Dan scored a great half-price sale on a good quality foul weather jacket at Fawcetts, and the replacement canisters for our water filter were an off-the-shelf item instead of special order.  Our favorite food items, both ordinary and quirky, were available at Trader Joes or Whole Foods or Giant or Fresh Market.  Politically, we stand rather to the left of the current U.S. average; we fit in well here.  I love the wonderful sailing and gunkholing possibilities.  I love the museums and the cultural opportunities and the college influence. I liked our doctors and my awesome physical therapist.  But. Boat parts and grocery stores and doctors do not alone make a place “home.”  Comfort alone certainly does not make a place home.   If you're flexible, you can find (or create) comfort anywhere.  And doctors retire and boat parts are available by internet.

Even friends aren’t enough to make it home.  Visiting friends was equally important, in our minds, as checking in with doctors. But we knew that the loose but large gang that we hung with at the marina had shifted and scattered in the time we'd been gone.  A few friends moved to other cities for their jobs, three sold their boats and moved ashore, two others retired and sailed away. That’s the way it is with boat people, we’re inherently mobile. We could make new friends, of course.  But, as Dan pointed out, the community of boating friends I remembered as such an integral part of my mental picture of what I loved and missed about Annapolis no longer existed. We couldn’t have had that any more, whether we had stayed or gone.  So, with so many of our friends gone, would it still feel like home?

Several good friends remained in town though, and we were lucky enough to spend some time with each of them.  I met my BFF Karen and her husband in college.  Forty years ago, we speculated on our future careers in late-night dorm sessions; last weekend, we strolled through a great sculpture garden and speculated on retirement.  It amused me to realize how much of our life cycle we've shared!  We also spent a few days visiting fellow blogger s/v Octopussy.  They live in one of the historic homes on the Naval Academy, so in between appointments we had a great opportunity to catch up on life news and swap stories over (several) glasses of wine, enjoy some military parades, and revisit the wonderful U.S. Naval Academy museum at Preble Hall. The few days we spent with them exposed me again to the very best of Annapolis, and restored my faith.

So, is Annapolis “the one?”  My personal “best place?” I didn’t come to any answer, nor do I need to yet.  We have many years of travel on the boat ahead of us.  For now, our best life involves migrating north and south with the seasons, enjoying many cities, rather than settling down in just one.