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.

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