Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reasons Why Wednesday: A Front Row Seat for History in the Making!

An interesting part of living at Badger's Island Marina this winter is the fact that the bridge over the Piscataqua River that looms over the marina is gone. The Route 1 bridge, called the Memorial Bridge in honor of World War I was closed to all traffic Summer 2011. The Memorial Bridge was a lot more than a mode of transport over the river to most of us in Portsmouth. It was a symbol of our great seaside city, the city with 3 bridges. Our good friends even named their new yoga studio 3 Bridges Yoga. It was the backdrop of many a fantastic time at Harpoon Willy's and the Portsmouth Decks and summer concerts in Prescott Park. 
Sunset from Prescott Park 
A great grey afternoon at Willy's with the Bridge's center span going up behind us 

The old bridge floating out to sea (well, Quincy, MA where she was scrapped out)
On my birthday 2011, the city even held a "Farewell Party" for the bridge with a beer garden, commemorative t-shirts and an AMAZING fireworks display over the bridge. The whole city came out to send the bridge off in style. The following April she was floated out by barge and people lined the shoreline to see her float by. 
Something's missing in the heart of Portsmouth! You can see Badger's Island Marina on the left with the shrinkwrapped boat under the bridge. 
Fast forward to this fall and winter. We move into the Badger's Island Marina and have been lucky enough to witness the engineering miracle of building a new bridge in the 2nd fastest tidal current river in the world. Don't get me wrong, the pile driving at 2am did not make us feel 'lucky'. But to see the construction workers day in and day out through rain, sleet, snow, to see what one day was a wooden structure turn the next day into a concrete piling, is pretty neat. To know this structure will far outlive us and our kids and to know we lived there the one year it was gone and witnessed it being rebuilt is VERY cool. To walk down the middle of Route 1 because there's no traffic coming over the bridge and know that this time next year it will return to being a major American highway is a unique experience a once in a lifetime period of time to live where we are living. 

At 9am Tuesday this week was first major event of the bridge rebuilding - the float-in of the southern span. We'd watched the span being built up river and it was very cool to see it all come together and then yesterday morning it was floated down river to be placed on the new concrete pilings. They had 40 minutes and 1/4 of an inch in which to operate. Tugs from Moran, the US Navy and the Coast Guard were all deployed out in the river. Once again the whole city lined the shoreline in Prescott Park, and lucky us, we made fresh coffee, walked to the end of our dock and had a front row seat for history in the making! 
This is the bridge coming down river, that barge in the foreground is fixed in the river to assist in the building process

Here it is moving through the navigable channel that's still open for traffic - HUGE 200' tankers go through there, it's quite a sight! 

Being pushed into place by the tugs

A helicopter circled above helping the tugs site the barge carrying the bridge

A picture taken from the helicopter  courtesy of Archer Western Contractors

The new Portsmouth skyline 

 And just like that the skyline of Portsmouth is forever changed, again. Our view of Portsmouth is  forever changed and we're all one step closer to once again being able to walk over the bridge into downtown Portsmouth. Life at the marina in the winter can be challenging but it's times like this that we feel privileged to be where we are - it's exactly where we are meant to be! 

**If you are geeky and fascinated by these engineering marvels like we are, check out the Memorial Bridge Project Page - lots of great info, photos & schematics of the future bridge**

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Who is Zephyr?

Tim and I have an affection for modes of transport that are older than us. 

OJ in the Cape Cod sunset 
OJ the orange VW bus was born on July 4th, 1975. We only know a small portion of her story that we learned when we bought her from the hippie in Maine. He bought her in California, drove her cross country, lived out of her in downtown Boston, drove her up to Rockland, Maine where he was a lobsterman.  The day he sold her  to us we bought him a Greyhound ticket south since he'd sold his home and was moving on to the next adventure. We love to think about all the adventures she's been on through her years. The families who camped in her in California in the 70's. The concerts she went to - did she get to see The Dead? The roads she traveled, the memories she made for people. We love building our memories upon the ones she already has. She shows her age sometimes, especially if we try and push her above 55 MPH. But we love her and we always 'pet' her dashboard when she gets us to our destination safely and without major incident. 

Zephyr's specs & history is contained in these binders
When we bought Zephyr we thought, "Well, she's younger than OJ!". Sure, it's only by 3 years and yes, it's still older than both of us but in the same way we love life moments in OJ, we felt we would love life moments in Zephyr. We know a lot more about Zephyr's past due to some very loving and meticulous past captains who kept copious notes and records. When we bought Zephyr we were gifted with 4 MASSIVE binders of maintenance notes, users manuals, ship's logs, past records, hand drawings of chain plates, detailed instructions of rigging - you name it, it's in there somewhere. 
A hand drawing of the refrigerator compressor
My favorite has been reading the past owners' cruising logs (green spiral book). Detailing where they sailed, who joined them, secret little general store where they ate breakfast, games they played aboard in the rain, swimming holes along the coast of Maine. It's both bittersweet and completely exciting knowing that we will get to do all that soon enough too! There's also great things to learn about Zephyr contained in those pages. What wind conditions she's her best at, what ground types her anchor holds the best in, anchorages she's the best suited for. We feel very grateful to have these records to learn from, it's like all her past captains knew that two young, new cruisers would one day have her and would desperately need these resources! Thanks to all who loved and owned Zephyr in the past! 

So here's what we know about Zephyr's life:

  • Designed by V.S. Lazzara; Berthed August 1, 1978 in Tampa Bay, FL (for more details on the history of Lazzara and the Gulfstar Yacht Company check this out).
  • First owner named her Testa Rosa and she sailed the waters of Florida Bay
  • At some point she was sold and renamed Dulcinea and hailed from Cape Coral, FL somehow she made her up to New England to Warwick, Rhode Island
  • April, 2000 - Capt. Jim & Judith Reed bought her 
  • This is the survey Capt. Reed had done on her in 2000 when he purchased her
  • Capt. Reed & his wife renamed her to Summer Time she was moored in Hyannisport, Cape Cod and sailed her extensively all around the Cape, Islands, Narragansett Bay and even in the annual Figawai Race from Hyannis to Nantucket. 

    The entry of our boat on the Gulfstar Owner's Website.


In July, 2008 Burleigh and Deb Loveitt bought her in Newburyport, sailed her north to South Portland, renamed her Zephyr and enjoyed many wonderful years cruising all along the Maine coast. 

A very Grateful crew!
And as you can read in past postings of this blog we found her in May of 2012 and purchased her in August of 2012. We are still deciding if we'll change her name or not, she's been very good to us as Zephyr and we know there are some serious things one must do in order to change a boat's name (think virgin & bow peeing). But the one name we keep coming back to is Grateful because that's the feeling we continuously find ourselves feeling. Grateful for the experience, grateful to the boat for being so stout and sound, grateful to past owners of our boat, grateful to the weather for not (YET) causing us any serious damage, grateful to Mother Ocean for her kindness thus far, grateful to our parents, family and friends for their support, grateful to our bodies and minds to be able to take on this huge life shift, grateful to be able to live in a society that allows us to follow our dreams...the thanks are endless. Oh, and we're also giant Grateful Dead fans! :)

So Zephyr's story continues with us and it's up to us to keep good records, logs and provide the fodder for many more stories. This is why buying something older is the best - your stories with that car, boat, house only serve to build upon the growing narrative of the story that was begun long ago by others. Boats especially have a soul to them and we're so grateful to share Zephyr's soul. 

Ol' Joe's got a Boston whaler
he bought in Key Biscayne
He swears since the day he's got her
she's been nothing but a pain
when the sun's at his back
and the winds in his face
it's just him and the wheel
he wouldn’t take a million for the
way it makes him feel

vessels of freedom
harbors of heeling

Newport is where John hung his hat
til he lost his wife Jo
now forty feet of sail and teak
is where Ol' John calls home
he watched his life pass before his eyes
in the middle of a hurricane
came out alive on the other side
that’s where "the other side" got its name

vessels of freedom
harbors of heeling

twenty years of a landlocked job
was all that Tom could take
sitting at his desk
all alone and depressed
says this just cant be my fate
went home that night and told his wife
you can tell all of your friends
it's been real but it ain't been fun
gonna get us one of them

vessels of freedom
harbors of heeling

vessels of freedom

-Kenny Chesney "Boats" off Lucky Old Sun

Friday, January 4, 2013

Deep Freeze and The Deal With The Heat

  By far one of the most common questions Jill and I get about life aboard is, "What's the deal with the heat?" This question comes from worried moms and dads, friends, boat neighbors, and even others who can not seem to mind their own business. It's okay though because we love telling just about anybody about our rag-tag-jury-rig of a heating system.

  Good news first because good news is better than bad news. We have air conditioning! This is very useful in this frozen wind swept river where waves crashed six feet high over the docks last week. I honestly wonder if we'll ever use it. It came with the boat and is part of a non-existent heat system that was supposedly part of the boat as well. The previous owner did mention he never used it. It is basically a heat pump manufactured by a now out of business, Eastern Marine Manufacturing. The heat is extracted out of the ocean water...I think. It's been a few months since I tried to fire that bad boy up and investigated any potential solutions. The bottom line is there no heat coil in the heat pump nor is it wired to the controls for heat. So bum deal there...but there is AC and we're able to run the fan on the system for air circulation. 
  With this great news...Jill and I started looking for alternate heat solutions throughout the fall. Apparently an Espar heater is like the Rolls Royce of heaters. Does anybody else have a Rolls Royce in their basement? Seriously? We got quotes starting at 8k and it just seemed liked a huge investment given our cruising plans (i.e. places where the bathing suits never come off and they put an umbrella in your drink)  They are nice and they are the best...but just not in our budget...not this year!
  We had an old Lasko electric heater from our old house. This got us through the fall pretty good on those cool nights, but knew it could not handle the deep freeze like we find ourselves here in January. Enter the world of balancing electric loads on the boat's 125v/30 amp shore power service. I could bore you all talking volts and amps...but here's the the quick version...volts is potential energy and amps is the energy being used. 
  I bought 3 West Marine electric furnaces  all 1500 watts. I still do not know what a watt is, but I was able to convert it to 12.5 amps. 
                 Okay folks...quick math...3 heaters x 12.5 amps = 37.5 amps
And we have 30 amps available to us...again good stuff here Jill and I are learning our first winter. After blowing a few breakers and talking to anyone who would talk to us, we got this all figured out. We can only run two heaters. We still needed to have power to run a the fridge, cell phone chargers, TV, computer, etc. Note, we actually have to unplug one heater to run the coffee pot in the morning...once cruising the coffee pot will most likely be deep sixed(sent overboard) in favor of something more efficient. 
  The heaters work well and surprisingly keep up with the demands of this harsh environment. We have one in the main salon/galley and one in the aft cabin. They switch between a heat and fan setting and have a heat selection dial for low-high settings. Do not let their size fool you, they crank some serious heat. 

  Finally, we picked up a propane "Mr. Heater Big Buddy". Besides the heat, the surly looking camper on the box is the best part. We use this to help the electric heaters catch up and for heat during my nightmare scenario of the power going out. This is pretty new, so I will keep you posted on how it works out. 
    We miss our fireplace at the old Dupe, but our boat is warm and cozy even as we head through our first deep freeze aboard.

  Does anybody know what the #1 most common question about living board is?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Stormy end to 2012

I'm not sure what the old adage is for December, I know April showers bring May flowers and March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb but since we're in New England I'm going to venture to say no adage truly fits anyways. The adage for our first December aboard is December winds bring sleepless nights & nervous frights. The past 2 weeks brought lots of good cheer, holiday celebrations, family time and LOTS OF WIND, SNOW & COLD. Within a week we were slammed by two big storms. One wasn't even named and it was BAD! The other was a 'classic New England Nor'Easter'.

The first storm struck on Friday, Dec. 21st. The winds were directly out of the south/southeast which means the winds were funneling up the river and churning up the waters of the Piscataqua. The winds and waves caused our boat to "hobby horse":
Though when a boat does it it's not nearly as fun as a this 2-year old. It's more like the boat CRASHING back and forth and every time your heart ends up in your throat and you question the strength of those nylon dock lines. For whatever reason our boat got the brunt of the waves and wind. 
This video was taken earlier in the day on Friday and doesn't barely do it justice. For the first time since we've moved aboard both Tim and I felt a bit queasy and seasick. As you can tell from the video, Toby wasn't digging it either. We left the boat for a while (saying our prayers to the dockline gods), had lunch with old friends who were in town, did some food shopping and when we returned around 3pm things had progressed far worse than earlier. 

Our boat stern is marked by the smaller mast after the white wrapped boat

The waves were MUCH bigger and were crashing up over the docks, slamming on the stern of our boat. Tim and I were SOAKED from waves almost sweeping us off the dock as we ran down to check lines. It was too dangerous for Toby to go down on the docks and we had some laundry some do (and for full disclosure, we weren't too keen to go back aboard a hobby horsing, crashing boat) we took refuge at a friend's house who was away on vacation (Thanks Needles!). All ended up OK. The docklines held, the boat was ok and our neighbor Toralf clocked wind speed at 45 knots. It's still amazing to us how our 'neighborhood' can go from frightening, dark, unsafe one day to calm, beautiful and peaceful the next. 

Our boat is on the left with the 2 masts of lights

We enjoyed a wonderful night of wine & cheer with our boat neighbors the night after the storm. Amongst them they have over 35 years of liveaboard experience. They wanted to know how things were going for us on our first year living aboard and we all laughed at their first year experiences. Our neighbor Tim said, "you wouldn't believe the stupid stuff we did our first year - don't worry, you'll learn!" It was fantastic to share our stories with them, get roused for bailing in the storm, get advice, tips and laugh about it all. 

Christmas was spent with our families down in South Shore Massachusetts, it was lovely and very special as we don't know where the seas or life will find us next year. It was full of great, utilitarian, boat gifts, including a wrench set, head treatment and a grill for the stern pulpit (SWEET!). 

No sooner did we arrive back aboard then we were walloped by a Nor'Easter. Luckily the winds were coming from the Northeast (hence the name) and so the hobby horsing did not occur this time. But the winds were STRONG and the sound of the crashing halyards and the wooshing through the stays, the jerking of the boat off the docklines is just too unsettling to sleep. The three of us clocked a max of about 20 minutes of sleep that night. We were at the ready for any lines snapping or fixes that might need to be made. This we're told is pretty typical for boat life so we are anticipating many more sleepless nights. 

We were proud of ourselves for riding out our first Nor'Easter and allowing the fear to come in and deal with it. We awoke that next morning tired but victorious in our own resolve to continually gain more comfort with our boat, with our dock lines (till one snaps) and our own capability to handle whatever might come our way. 

This week is the first bitterly cold period we've faced. Last night it was down to 9 degrees. We were still warm and toasty aboard Zephyr thanks to our little heaters and a new electric blanket. 

As we welcome 2013 we are so grateful for this opportunity to live a less ordinary life, we're thankful for brains that are like sponges constantly open to new things and learning new ways of living, we are proud of what we've learned so far, we are excited about the future of this dream and...yes, we are dreaming of tiki drinks, beaches and warm summer breezes filling our sails! :)