Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Week Ashore

We are back aboard after a week house sitting for some friends in New Castle, our old 'hood. This was first time since we moved aboard in September that we'd spent longer than an overnight off the boat. Jill was just coming off of some the most stressful, busy weeks at work she's ever had and Tim had just finished a BIG project deadline so needless to say it was a welcome respite. Not to mention over the course of the week we both got colds and were sick so having a big couch, a pellet stove and a big TV was nice. We also had 6 chickens to tend to, homemade egg nog to shake and a fish to feed. We decided we would blog about what it is we missed about land life and also what it is we missed about boat life while on shore. 

What we missed about Land Life:

  • Toast/Having a Toaster: on the boat a toaster is just too much counter space and eventually when we're cruising or on anchor it will also be too much power. So we do without. But it sure was nice to have a toasted English Muffin or slice of bread on the way out the door in the morning. 
  • A shower in the next room: it was quite nice to be able to fall out of our bed and stumble into the next room for a shower. At the marina we choose to use the showers up at the marina building to conserve water aboard and to keep the moisture introduced in the boat to a minimum to reduce condensation. So it was nice to be able to shower in the next room rather than get all dressed in clothes, jackets and hats and trudge up the dock. 
  • A full kitchen: The boat's galley is small, it's workable, but it is small, including the oven. It was nice to have a full sized oven to roast a chicken in. We liked the front loading fridge with french doors, rather than the 'bottomless pit' fridge we have aboard. It was nice to have counters to put things on and a dishwasher! That was a real treat! 
  • A couch: It was nice to have full sized, wide couch to lay out across, especially being sick. The boat's main salon has 2 benches or 'settees' and they are OK. They are meant to serve as 'couches' and as 'berths' while at sea. The current set up is something that is on our list to fix because the cushions are really stiff and the general flow of the salon is overall cramped. Tim's woodworking brain is scheming all the time for our plans. 

We want to push back the couch to flush up against the shelf to allow wider sit space. 
And though these few things seem so trivial, we love that life aboard a boat has allowed us to appreciate these trivial things and to be grateful for them. That's probably the best part of this whole experiment - it reminds us daily to appreciate life and most of all to be thankful for it.

What we missed about Being on the Boat:
This is mid-tide, the ramp is sort of steep

  • Rocking to sleep: Our aft cabin bed is so cozy and the gentle rocking of the boat in the water with the sound lapping against the hull is so soothing it lulls you right to sleep. 
  • Knowing what the tides are doing: Every time we come home to the boat you can't help but notice what phase the tide is at. The ramp that leads from the shore to the docks is either flat when it's high tide or STEEP when it's low tide or somewhere in between. We didn't even realize what the tide was when we were ashore and we missed that. 
  • Knowing what the weather is doing all the time: Same as the tides, we live in the weather, from the sound of rain on the hatch, to wind wooshing through the stays, to ice crystals coating the deck in the morning - we always know what the weather is up to. In the house we often found ourselves hardly ever looking outside to see what the weather was doing. We truly missed being connected to the environment around us. 
  •  Being surrounded by our dreams: The boat is the physical manifestation of our shared dreams of travel, adventure and freedom. We love sitting aboard and thinking about the places we'll go, the things we'll see, the projects we'll do to get ready. Living aboard the boat intimately connects us to our dreams and never allows us to lose sight of them. Being in the house we were disconnected, we felt less inspired, less excited. 
  • Living a life less ordinary: Though the boat comes with it's fair share of challenges (as I type this Tim's struggling with a drinking water faucet installation that is testing his perseverance and patience - another blog will have more detail, minus the expletives) we (almost) always love the challenges, we love the feeling of conquering the challenges, whether its learning how to cook dinner or how to stop a coolant leak, and in turn learning something new. While most folks write Christmas lists full of stuff, we can't. We don't have space for stuff. Our lists are full of the practical, the utilitarian, and experiences, rather than stuff. 
We don't doubt that some day maybe we'll move back ashore and be land dwellers once again but we'll have a  new sense of gratitude and until then we love living out a life less ordinary out here in the Piscataqua River. 

The chickens were a constant source of entertainment for Toby 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Decking the Halls (ah, Decks?)

One thing that I was worried about missing moving onto a boat was the feeling of a warm, toasty home decorated for the holidays. Our old Duplex had a fireplace and every year Tim would scavenge for greenery to decorate the mantel. Last year we did the whole cut your own Christmas tree and strung big, bright colored lights on the tree out front. I made a "spray" for the front door and a dried fruit garland. The fire would roar, the Christmas lights would twinkle and we'd cozy up on the couch. I was worried that being on a boat would mean all of this would go away...but like everything throughout this experience, it's not gone away, it's changed form. 

This past weekend we made it our mission to outfit the boat for Christmas. Our boat neighbor Trolf (tee-rolf) had strung lights up his mast, then our neighbor Justin did the mast plus his lifelines, there was beginning to be a 'light war' at Badger's Island. We were inspired, especially since we own the only ketch in the marina we thought, we "have string lights from the mizzen mast to the main mast and highlight our girl's attributes!". So off we went to Walmart to buy 7 strands of LED white lights, 4 strands of LED colored bulbs and a little, mini Christmas tree. 

Bringing the Christmas tree down the docks in the
dock cart - the wood was used to build a front door
for our shrinkwrapping which is happening
this week - and yes, it was snowing. 

Our girl has her support beams up for her shrinkwrap, loving the snow! 
As Tim built the frame for our new 'front door' out in the snow I dug through our boxes of decorations trying to see what could fit on our little Charlie Brown tree. Back when I lived on Cape Cod I had no money and so I made all my ornaments out of shells, those simple ornaments were PERFECT for our little sailor tree. Add to that the fantastic stockings made out of sailcloth I bought from my friend Alex at Nautical Notions and we had the best little nautical Christmas display I could ever have imagined. 

We also strung lights all around our main salon (aka living room) and we (finally) hung our photographs & artwork (thank you Velcro, no holes in the boat), polished & hung our barometer and boat clock and our living room is now so peaceful, cozy and yes, VERY warm - thanks to West Marine box furnaces. We love coming home to this peaceful scene. 
Yes, Toby especially loves it! Notice his gray coat? It's his "Thunder Shirt" - look it up, it's a game changer for nervous puppies!

After Tim successfully installed the door, frame and sill we took to stringing the lights outside the boat. We were again reminded how much more fun doing things on boats is than in a house. As we worked, water was lapping against the boat, we were fussing with halyards and boat hooks, figuring this, engineering that and a seal popped his head up as we worked! It was a blast, a challenge and the reward was AWESOME! 
Fussing with halyards

Stringing up the mizzen

Figuring out the Main mast - Navy Yard aglow in the background 

Holding all the lights so they don't end up in the drink with the seal! 

Badger's Island Light Wars - Ours is on the left & our neighbors are on the right 

All aglow - above and below deck -- you can see the new "front door" Tim mounted! 
So like I said, the experience of decking our decks was different but no less full of cheer and joy. This week (maybe today) the boat will be getting shrink wrapped and a whole new phase of life aboard will begin - life in the bubble. 

A Boaty Carol...for us Live Aboards
Sing to the tune of 

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Gone away
are the bat rays
Here to stay
is a nutcase
In slip 34
He’s the sloop next door
Livin’ on a dock by the bay

Seagulls open fire
Bombadiers here for hire
Hey do me a favor and
Poop on my neighbor
Livin’ on a dock by the bay

Who says every liveaboard is crazy
On the lam or maybe on the dole
Not all of us are whackamoles or lazy
Or psychopaths out briefly on parole

Later on we will have some
Margaritas or buttered hot rum
Pretend we are cruisers ‘stead of
Slip-bound losers
Livin on a dock by the bay


Monday, November 19, 2012

Where have we been?

Well, it's certainly been an eventful fall for the crew of S/V Zephyr so eventful that our blog has fallen behind! Don't you hate when work gets in the way of fun things like blogging? That's pretty much been the case these last 4 weeks. Jill's work is VERY busy right now gearing up for a major conference on Dec. 7th and the release of a big environmental indicators report that she has helped to author. Add to that a hurricane, a Nor'Easter, a couple of nasty head colds and moving the boat to Maine and life's been pretty hectic and fun as of late. 

Since we're of the mindset that a picture is worth a thousand words we'll share quick snippets and some pictures from the last month to give you a slice of life for the crew.

Moving the Boat to Maine (Attempt #1) Attempted to move the boat to our winter marina in Maine on Sat. Oct. 27th pre-Hurricane Sandy. As we were entering the mouth of the Piscataqua River our engine overheated and the entire engine room was full of smoke - NOT GOOD. We shut her down, raised our sails and called Sea-Tow. We sailed back and forth at the mouth for a few hours as Sea-Tow gave us the runaround, eventually telling us they could not make it to us that day. We decided to just turnaround and head back into the Wentworth Marina knowing that we could sail almost all the way in without having to use too much engine. We coasted into the fuel dock and let Mr. Perkins (the engine) cool down. Seeing that a hurricane was bearing down on the East Coast things were quite busy at the marina. The engine issue wasn't going to be fixed quickly so we gave up on the idea of making it to our winter marina and arranged to get a slip at the far interior of the Wentworth Marina so we could begin our storm preparations. 

Happiness moving the boat - pre-engine overheat

When we change tacks Toby knows where to go to stay out of the way of the winches 
Toby really loves when the engines goes off & all there is quiet breeze & the sound of the sails. He's a natural!

Hurricane Sandy
On Sunday, Oct. 29th we stripped all the sails, we took down the canvas enclosure, we lashed down all halyards, put out extra fenders and did our "web" of dock lines taking tips from all the other boaters who were feverishly doing the same thing. We hadn't seen this much action at the Wentworth since we moved in! Monday late morning the 3 of us checked into the Wentworth Hotel just before noon high tide. The water got high, very high but Tim went down to the boat to check on it and all was OK. The breakwater was topped and the waves were rolling into the harbor but luckily being on the most interior dock were were very well protected. The boat was only a 2 min. walk from our hotel room so Tim was able to go down and check on it throughout the afternoon and night. Stay tuned for video! 

We fared just fine, no damage, no scratches, didn't even lose a dock line! We feel VERY blessed that our first hurricane aboard was so kind to us as we know those to our south did not fare nearly as well. 

The overheating engine ceases to be a problem (hooray!)
With the help of our boat neighbor Tom in the mega yacht (90') next to us and his captain Tim our Tim was able to fix the coolant leak problem and the overheating engine was no longer overheating! Tim learned the awesomeness of 'boat neighbors' as Tom and other Tim and our Tim crowded into the engine room one afternoon all putting their heads together to figure out where the leak was. Tips were exchanged, tools were borrowed and Tim ended up successful! Next blog post: "How to Clean Coolant from Your Bilge" 

Moving the Boat to Maine (Successful albeit defeated)
Since we still weren't totally trusting the engine the following weekend we finally got Sea-Tow to come get us at the Wentworth and tow us upriver to our new home at Badgers Island Marina. Though we felt a bit defeated to be arriving to our new home by tow boat we were excited to check out our new 'hood and meet our new neighbors. 
The old Portsmouth Naval Prison on our way upriver

Our new marina home, a lot smaller
Our new "backyard" the awesome & mighty Piscataqua River!
Life in Maine 
Life aboard at the new marina is going great. It's fun to have a new neighborhood with different restaurants and stores to explore. The marina is a lot smaller, only one dock and  almost every boat is a liveaboard so it's a lot more of a community/neighborhood feel. It's definitely A LOT rockier than the Wentworth. Our new neighbors Kristen & Bob live at the Wentworth in the summer and Badger's in the winter and they describe the move as "going from country to the city". There's a lot more boat traffic on the river and so the wakes are a lot bigger, plus the current of the river RIPS through the marina. Mostly 6am and 4pm are when its the bumpiest as the fisherpeople go out and come in. But the view is spectacular - we get a great view of the Portsmouth waterfront & the sunsets are far better! Plus there's a shuttle (due to the Route 1 bridge being rebuilt) right to downtown Portsmouth so if we imbibe too much one night we have a free ride home. The crew is loving our new digs and preparing for the next adventure - getting shrink wrapped!
Fantastic sunset over Portsmouth's waterfront - you can see the half built bridge overhead
BIG boat coming up river, Toby watching carefully 
Toby and Tim hard at work - or lunching

Typical scene at 6am when the boat is rocking 
Our first snowfall! 
Love the sunlight streaming into the main salon, the teak just glows....
New beautiful throw pillows for the settees, nice addition

Toby's "security" blanket, helps his nerves 

The FANTASTIC new stairs Tim built for safe embarking and disembarking of our home - the driftwood sign is from our wedding! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Reasons Why Wednesday: One with Nature, One with Eachother

Reason Why #8: The Connection to Nature

"You hear that? It's raining."
"I love how I can feel the wind pick up because the boat gets rocked in her slip and then just like that it dies off."
"Is that frost on the hatch?"
"My towel won't dry in the cockpit, the humidity is up."
"Oh the sun's out - open up the porthole in the head, it needs to air out."

Life aboard a boat is as close to nature as you'll get outside of being in a tent in the woods. Our awareness of the outside world is heightened daily because we're out in it with just a layer of fiberglass between us and the rolling sea, a rope of nylon protecting us from currents and tides trying to pull us out there. We hear the first drop of rain on the vinyl cockpit enclosure and furiously run around closing hatches and putting the tarp over our bed (fixing the leaking hatch is on the fix-it list). Our halyard starts to slap the mast and we know the winds have gotten up above 20 knots. The shorebirds caw at night and we know its a mild enough night for them to be fishing for dinner. Toby crawls up on us during the night we know...well, that happens every night so who knows what's up!

This is from her listing - we've MUCH improved since then
But it's funny how the connection to the outside world which seems so interwoven into our lives also breeds a wonderfully warm and welcoming inside world. Our 'main salon' is comfy, the warm teak interior reflects the light and creates an ambiance that is so welcoming and comfortable. The little galley has its share of frustrations (you pretty much have to be double jointed to get a pot out from under the oven). But meals taste better when they come out and the smells from sauteing garlic or baking bread fills our whole living space. We live communally - like it or not (mostly love it) - we are literally always around one another. We do at times trip over each other or each other's belongings (Tim Feet) and it's a great lesson in patience, life aboard is a continual lesson in patience. There's no frills or foyers, no sitting rooms or verandas - when you enter our boat, you enter our lives and we really do love it (so far...)!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"You'll Learn"

I'd love to say the reason we haven't written in a while is because we've been too busy sailing the high seas but the reality is life has been VERY busy! Work commitments, family commitments, friends visits and a 32nd birthday for Jill have all been taking up our time. Not to mention life aboard as the temperature is dropping and the fall rainy season commences has been QUITE the learning lesson. The marina is thinning out around us, every day there's less and less boats and people. This past weekend was full of folks off loading their boats gear for winter storage - long faces of folks who are sad to see the season over. 

For us, it's just beginning. With the arrival of fall means the arrival of the need for heat aboard and with heat comes the dreaded word that is the bane of every liveaboard's existence - condensation. You may remember this concept from high school physics - when the air temperature outside is colder than the air temperature inside and heat rises and creates moisture it will create condensation also known as rain inside the cabin! Boiling water for pasta, moisture in the bilge, even Toby panting (which he does a lot since he's rather nervous when the boat sways) can add to the problem substantially. 

Now we'd been dealing with the dripping windows above our bed for a few weeks now (nothing like waking up to a cold drip on your face at 4am), naively thinking it was just wet at night and then it would dry out in the day once we opened up hatches - silly us! Because what does condensation cause when allowed to fester in closed spaces? MILDEW! This weekend as we were preparing the boat to go sailing on a GORGEOUSLY warm sunny Saturday we lifted our aft cabin mattress to find horrendous mildew stains, Jill's bottom pillow was 50% black with mildew, the walls around the window hatches had spores of had attacked us! Granted it had rained for 6 days straight, we'd been forced to keep hatches closed and we were heating at night causing warm air AKA condensation. But still it wasn't good. We quickly realized this had to be dealt with and fast. Jill's allergies + a dank smell + just plain nasty = a Saturday spent bleaching, airing out, sunning, bleaching some more.

The contents of our bed laying out in the sun drying

These now appear in every corner of our boat
This is when we realized the rub of being liveaboards as opposed to just owning a recreational boat. If we had a house to go home to then upon realizing we had a mildew problem we'd say, "Well, let's go out for a sail and we'll deal with it later." And then happily we'd go sailing, come back in, work on it some then go home to our non-mildew bed and come back the next day and work on it some more. BUT as a liveaboard we don't have another 'non-mildew' bed to sleep on, we don't have a 'non-mildew' kitchen to cook in, what we have is all we got - a stinky, wet boat that has to be dried out and bleached. We must have spent $50 in quarters at the marina laundry washing and bleaching all the covers from the cushions and another who knows how much in buying "Damp Rid" buckets and bleach. 

We have been posting and reading the volume of opinions and tips on the message boards - as I said this is the bane of every live aboard's existence. The options range from completely gutting the boat to install insulation between the hull and the inside walls to setting off a "mold bomb" and vacating the vessel for days. 

What we have realized is that it is an intricate combination of insulation, moisture prevention AND ventilation. The boat needs to breathe! And like it or not it truly is a constant battle. Quick fixes like opening the companionway hatch when we cook and lifting up the mattress off the bed when we get up in the morning to more involved (read: expensive) things like installing a dehumidifier and mattress mats are now in the works. 
Bought this book today
Our mantra the last month (it was 1 month ago today that we arrived home to New Castle in our new home) has been, "You'll learn". We say it to each other as we rub the new egg on our head from bumping the passage way ceiling, neighbors say it us as we practice docking, we say it to Toby as he struggles up the companionway ladder. It truly has been our mantra. And this experience with the dreaded M-word is no different - we will learn! 

But there's something great about that - it seems like in modern adult life it's often rare that we are learning something new ALL THE TIME. Or rather we don't give ourselves the chance to do it, we don't allow ourselves the vulnerability to try something new, something we're not good at, something that we struggle at, something we could risk failing at. We are trained to master everything - our positions at work, our skills at home, our abilities in life. We don't often open ourselves up to failure but it's in inviting that vulnerability that we end up succeeding far more than if we hadn't. So Tim and I have really opened ourselves up here, we are very much living life with the "trial by error" mentality and hoping it doesn't result in disaster or frostbite! 

Any condensation tips? We are sponges right now - both literally & figuratively! 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Life Aboard - the first 3 weeks

 The other night we realized we'd been living aboard for over 2 weeks now, today marks 3 weeks! We moved aboard in Portland and haven't looked back. Little by little the boat's become a home. We've done a lot more purging, giving a lot more of our "stuff" away (all totaled there were 8 trips to Savers AKA Goodwill including the return trip we had to make when we mistakenly gave away a box that had all our winter mittens, hats and gloves - wishful thinking?). 

We held onto a few select things here and there to move aboard to make the boat comfy and feel like home and the other night as we settled in we both said, "we love our microliving life - this feels like home!". Today we bid adieu to our old land based apartment "The Dupe" and the new tenants were already moving in. It was bittersweet but like I've continually said throughout this process - you have to let things you love go to make room for new things to love. 

So I thought I'd give you a little taste of life aboard our first 3 weeks. It's been FULL of visitors - from family to friends to co-workers to fellow boaters. Everyone wants to see this new boat of ours. Some come to investigate to see the how he*l 2 adults and a dog could possibly fit, some come to check out the design, some come to sit on the aft deck rum in hand and soak up the lifestyle. It feels awesome to have such incredible support for our dream out there...thank you to all who have come aboard and shared our happiness with us! Now, you all have to promise to come back in February - OK? OK?
Capt Tim & first mate Toby
Capt. Molly at salute!

A Sunday afternoon Pizza Party with The Farrell Four
Madeline & Mommy in the cockpit
Commuting to work - not bad!

The walk home from work

Our new "front" yard off of our aft deck

Our new neighborhood

Moving "stuff" aboard - where will it all go?
The weather board by the marina office

A typical boat scene - Tim in the engine room, Toby lounging on the bed

Toby lounging on the bed - again. 
Happy Toby in the Sun

Hanging in the cockpit

Life Jacket - he acts like a weirdo when he's in it
A little tour of the boat set to Guns 'N Roses - is there any better soundtrack? This is for Catta!
We've made a lot of updates since this video

So tonight's our first night aboard without anything else to do (i.e. move out of our old house, work commitments, visitors, etc.) and it's raining...Oh Well! We have a full cockpit enclosure that we'll be rigging up so happy hour in the cockpit will still happen - besides we have been gifted A LOT of rum the last 3 weeks, it's got to be enjoyed :)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Anniversaries & Firsts

Today, September 18th, is our 2nd Anniversary. Thinking back to where we were and what we thought for our future life 2 years ago is so interesting. I was STILL in graduate school and inching closer to graduation. We had taken our first real step towards this dream of moving aboard a boat by looking at our first potential boat on Labor Day weekend before our wedding but the reality of the dream was not yet close to clear. But we were excitedly joining our lives together forever and our dreams became intertwined.

Our wedding was perfection - Home grown and so full of love. A tiny chapel in the woods and BBQ in the backyard complete with pies rather than cake. In our vows I vowed to Tim that I'd never stop coming up with crazy ideas like buying Volkswagen buses or sailing to Fiji. I vowed I'd never stop mixing life up with him and building stories we could tell our grandkids. So far, so good. 

At our reception my brother Pete gave us a toast and gifted us two books: 
"How to Sail Around the World" and "The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat". He told everyone in the tent about our plans and it was in that moment that the reality of our dream came into focus a bit more. All those who were there, who love us, now knew we were on a path and it was up to us to follow through - thank you to Pete for giving us that much needed and greatly appreciated accountability. As Pete says, "You've got one life, Live it." We love you more than you'll ever know Pete, thanks for being our first and best supporter. 

And now here we are today, September 18th, 2012. We own our dream sailboat, we have moved aboard, already faced some technical challenges (i.e. water and lights), had many a laugh and thanked our lucky stars for our safety plus had a nice rum drink or two with friends and family aboard. And now tonight we are facing our first, real New England storm moving through. I came into work today to this alert from the local news station:

Issued at: 3:27 AM EDT 9/18/12, expires at: 12:00 PM EDT 9/18/12

Wind advisory in effect from 6 pm this evening to 6 am EDT Wednesday, The NWS in Gray, Maine has issued a wind advisory, which is in effect from 6 pm this evening to 6 am EDT Wednesday. 
Winds, south 35 to 45 mph with gusts over 50 mph. 
Timing, early this evening through late tonight. (NO SLEEP TONIGHT ABOARD) 
Impacts, southerly exposures, especially near the shoreline (OUR MARINA) and along hilltops, can expect the highest wind gusts. This will down tree limbs leading to some power outages. (GOOD THING WE RUN ON A BATTERY)
Precautionary/preparedness actions,
A wind advisory means strong wind gusts of 46 to 57 mph can lead to damage due to downed tree limbs and scattered power outages. 

So we will secure another couple lines to the boat, add a fender or two, stow what we can, batten down what we can and hunker down for what will be a very bumpy night. Toby will sleep on top of us I'm sure as he'll be very scared and we'll ride out this night and see what Mother Nature can throw at us. There's no doubt we'll never forget this 2nd Anniversary - isn't that what marriage is? Riding through the storms together? That's never held more meaning...