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 mildew...it 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! 


  1. Do you have to "install" a dehumidifier? What about one that plugs in? Can you leave something plugged in and running on a boat? I'm still confused on how you get electricity, etc on a boat. City girl from the South is confused... big surprise.

    I used to have a dehumidifier in the silly little cottage I lived in in SoFla (the one that didn't have central AC in the most humid place on earth...) and it worked wonders! I came home to find mold in my closet and cabinets one day. After cleaning up the mold I got the dehumidifier and never had any problems again!

    If a plug-in dehumidifier isn't an option, maybe installing one is worth the investment. They work wonders!

  2. Massive amounts if the stuff the put on the roads to de-ice in a big metal colander nestled in a stock pot. Much cheaper than damp rid and the same material.

  3. Hey Carrie - it's not so much "install" as mount because floor space is so limited and we are rocking and moving everything has to be mounted securely. Plus we want to get one that we can drain into a sink. But yes, we can plug stuff in - here's a little lesson...the boat's system is 12 Volt (remember JB's song?) and normal power appliances are rigged to run on a 120 Volt system. We have a big plug that we plug the boat into on the shore and then we switch our systems to energize our 120 volt outlets. If we're not plugged in the outlets won't work. As long as we're attached to the 'shore power' while we're in the slip, which we'll be in all winter, we can plug in anything we'd like. Once we start sailing and taking cruising trips next summer we'll stow all the plugged in stuff.

    Marc- that's an awesome tip - thank you! We have literal PILES of the de-ice stuff here in NH!