Thursday, March 27, 2014

Winter Projects Completed!

Well we narrowly escaped a late season Nor'Easter yesterday and though it was QUITE a bumpy, rolly night aboard we were so thankful for NO SNOW! Winds topped out with 55+mph gusts in the middle of the night but our crew was safe and feeling quite secure. So much has changed in a year, we've all become a lot braver and more comfortable with the sounds and feelings of big winds. Not too complacent because aboard a boat, complacency leads to disasters but we were aware and alert, and secure. 

All that being said this NEVER ENDING winter is carrying on - we've come up with a new vocabulary to describe our exhaustion, frustration and outright hatred for winter. We are hoping the temps will finally get above 45 (they haven't since October) this weekend so we can start to prep for our move south. We're hoping to burst forth from the bubble next weekend and get to work on prepping the engine, rigging the sails, scrubbing the decks and on and on. We're hosting our own 'Fare the Well' party under the bubble this Saturday so we can say goodbye to our fabulous Portsmouth friends. We're planning a make-your-own painkiller bar, chowder in the crockpit & many great friends packed under the bubble. 
Last year's Bubble Party - we topped out at 20 people under the bubble! 
We've also been checking some things off our to-do/improvement lists. Winter is a great time to accomplish those projects in the cabin, our living space because the decks and rigging are inaccessible due to the bubble. We had a few major things we wanted done this year mostly involving bathrooms and plumbing. Tim admitted that he never realized just how much plumbing he'd be doing living on a boat. 

First up...Aft Bathroom Improvements.

The aft head is right off of our bedroom and it's the main spot we use. I'd wanted to improve it since we moved aboard, make it a bit more personal and 'spa-like'. This was the first "improvement" project that we've done that was simply aesthetic. Up till now we'd done a lot of maintenance, upgrades, updates and necessities, this bathroom project was our first beautification project. I was the project lead and I had a very specific inspiration in mind. So here's the before...
Blah - all white and BORING! 

YAY for improvements! 
First we installed a bead board headliner on the ceiling
This was a big change for Tim who's typically the project lead on things, this was my job, start to finish and my vision. In order to paint we had to do a lot of wall prep. The walls were originally plastic and used to wick off water since there was a handheld shower attached to the sink. We have built a full shower in the front head(see next story) so we disconnected the shower operation in the aft bathroom. There was sanding, two coats of primer and then finally the paint. I'm not the most thorough or patient painter, lucky for me Tim is. He was just short of a pushy superintendent making sure I did everything perfectly, blue taped impeccably, didn't have any 'holidays'. Needless to say, there were some tense words while I crammed into a bathroom with a wet paintbrush and there may have been a schmear or two on someone, including a furry someone's tail. 

My vision...Sun, sand & sea...
Found these great turquoise Ball jars & used plumbers' clamps to mount to the wall 

We removed the old sanitary treatment controls
and it left a big hole, so I got some color coordinated
shells & a perfectly sized basket to fill the hole
New towel ring & painted frame of my sunrise
from Byron Bay, Australia 

New faucet, so much better than 2 handles
less scalding of faces! 
Perfectly coordinated bath mat & the best addition
a TP holder! Hadn't had any TP holder before
so dry TP is quite awesome - it's the little things!

My turquoise accent wall with a sea fan and sea star as decoration, late afternoon sun streaming in
Staying on the faucet/plumbing theme we were forced to replace and upgrade our fresh water pump. The system that takes the fresh water from the tanks and pressurizes it to come out of the faucets. It's quite clutch because without it we don't have any running water. The old pump was from 1983 - we were 3 years old when that thing was installed on Zephyr. The old pump was also incredibly loud, sounded like jack hammer and with Tim getting up every morning at 5:15AM a quieter pump was quite appreciated. 
This little pump holds a whole lot of power and necessity 

The tools & the plumber extraordinaire - another Saturday, another project!
Note the headlamp - key for any engine room projects! 
Another pet peeve since we moved aboard was our kitchen (galley) sink. It was another sink with 2 separate handles rather than one mixer. This led to water waste and often scalded hands from the hot water running before the pump turned on to pump cooler water. The mixer is key! One thing we learned...faucets AREN'T CHEAP! We couldn't believe how expensive these things are. Though the interactions with staff at Home Depot or Lowe's is always interesting when they ask where we live! We know new galley faucet isn't exactly important for sailing performance but it is something that makes living aboard so much better. 
Contorting  to screw nuts with multiple wrenches at the ready. 

The new sink faucet - the other pump to the right is a salt water flush system that we use when
cruising to save water while doing dishes and the other nozzle is our drinking water. OH -and HI TOBY!

And last plumping improvement...AN ONBOARD SHOWER! 
Since we've moved aboard we've packed up all our stuff into bags and trekked up the docks to the marina shower facilities. Though it hasn't been awful on those 2 degree mornings with slushy snow it's not the best. When we decided to build an on board shower we wanted to build something a bit more substantial than the typical boat shower which normally involves a hose with a small shower head coming out from the bathroom sink - so you shower over the toilet and soak the entire head. Though not terrible, for living aboard full-time we really thought we'd like to have something a bit more like a shower in a house. The more we can make living on the boat comfortable and soothing the less likely we'll grow frustrated and move onto terra firma and the shower was a serious part of that. 

The project started in October when we pulled out the forward bathroom's toilet, opening up more floor space for the shower stall and then the project doubled and then tripled in size. We ended up plumbing a full mixing valve with full shower controls. We had to buy a specially designed shower curtain tracking system and upgrade the sump pump (the drain that you push to function once you're done showering). We joke that this shower is approaching $1,000 in parts! But boy does it feel amazing to shower in your own home! To roll out of bed without having to put on boots, coats, hats, scarfs, to walk up to the shower is a thing of glory. Now, don't fool yourselves, it's not some luxurious spa like experience - it's still a "Navy Shower". Water on to wet yourself, water off, lather up, water on to rinse off, water off and you're done! Water conservation is still vital aboard the boat and only something that we have to get better at as we set off to go cruising. But you realize that you don't need a 45 minute shower to feel fresh and clean, 5 minutes is plenty. Just another awesome life lesson living aboard a boat teaches you - you CAN live with less - in this case, water. 
We still want to 'beautify' this space with some paint and teak accents 
The $75 shower curtain tracking system & "State of The Art" shower curtain

So now, the winter of cabin projects starts to come to an end the spring of sailing projects starts back up! There's NEVER an end to the work on a boat but we LOVE it that way! Constant challenge, continuous improvements and lots of satisfaction in our abilities. Next blog post - our Spring to-do list! Until's time to celebrate! 

Friday, March 7, 2014


The ushering in of spring not only brings about changes in the natural world around us - like snow melting (thank goodness) and leaves popping, but for us it's also time to change from a floating, stationary, plastic wrapped condo to a cruising sailboat! There's a lot to do to get Zephyr ready for her sailing season but this year, there's even more to the story. 

Zephyr and her crew are moving! Not just out the river and around the bend to New Castle like last year but we're moving to Boston! Tim was offered an opportunity of a lifetime to join a fantastic construction management firm in Newton - it was an offer that just could not be turned down. We did A LOT of himming and hawing and chatting and sighing but after all the numbers were crunched and the pros and cons were laid out the decision was quite clear. The biggest challenge to the decision was -- "is this a means to the dream or a potential dead end to the dream?". 

The dream is to take off to the Bahamas and the Caribbean while we're young and able bodied - i.e. in the next 3-4 years - and live the cruising lifestyle for as long as our love of it and the fun persists. Like my mom's bumper sticker once said, "if it's not fun, why do it?" When we bought the boat in September 2012 we'd thought we could cast off in 2 years, Fall 2014 is what we'd always told ourselves. The inimitable Bob Bitchin (right) from Cruisers Outpost (previously Latitudes & Attitudes) the magazine for and by cruising sailors once wrote an editorial about setting the date. He wrote that if you have a dream to set off into the sunset aboard your boat you have to move from the "some day" mentality to the "I will" mentality. It's important to set the date, that date might change, it might stretch out but the key is to plan the date, to move from dreaming to planning. Just dreaming will never help you attain the lifestyle you seek. Listen to Bob talk about this shift in mentality on his podcast - check it out - it's quite inspiring

So, as we grappled with this decision to move to Boston, this move to a 'corporate job' with 'perks' and 'benefits' and the hustle and expense of big city living we questioned whether this was going to lead us to the dream or cloud our vision. Did we really want to push our departure off at least 2 more years, maybe more? Was this the next step to the dream or should we hang up our bowlines and move to land to focus on careers? Could Jill really survive 2 more winters aboard in New England, really? How do we balance the natural, societal inclination to embrace success of career advancement with the atypical desire to leave it all behind to follow dreams? Were we the type to live to work or work to live? 

The whole process has allowed for a great opportunity for self-assessment and moments of true clarity. It's quite easy to fall into the path of making good money, buying more things, needing more money, etc. etc. And we wanted to be sure we were self-aware enough to at least know that could be a pitfall. But what it's ended up doing is given us a great chance to recommit to our dream and more importantly, to actively make that shift from dreaming to planning. 

The thing is for the last year or so we'd been feeling that since we bought the boat not that much had changed. We haven't really felt like were making headway on our goals or plans, we were in the same city, with the same jobs and same friends, but instead of living in our old duplex we were now just living on a boat. We were comfortable and content, which we realize now was leading to complacency. We were not feeling like the trajectory we were on, especially with our current incomes were moving us along the plan to fix up, save up and cast off. So, enter this opportunity for Tim and the need to shake up pretty much everything. That's the thing about shaking things up - it's only then that you can really start to instill change in habits. It's when you're most uncomfortable that that you are really starting anew. 

So, that's what we're doing - shaking it all up, recommitting to the plan (this time with far better financial prospects), pushing the date out to Fall 2016 and putting pen to paper on real goals month-to-month, sacrifices to make, projects to do and overall refilling our tanks with dream gasoline. Please don't think this was all rainbows and butterflies as I've written - it's actually been pretty downright challenging and emotional, but I think that too is a sign of just how committed to our plan we really are. If the decision to accept the job, move our lives, give up our sweet little Seaside city was easy then we'd know where our hearts were at but we understand this is a means to an end. Not to mention, the job, it's FANTASTIC! A phenomenal opportunity for Tim - dude's got his own extension! The positives of this career move for Tim cannot be understated, he's a very, very happy camper. 

Our new home for the next two years will be Boston Harbor. So on/around May 1st we'll cast off lines and head south to Boston. This summer we'll be living at the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina in East Boston. The view of downtown Boston cannot be beat! Plus Andrew (Dupree), Tim's brother and a few other friends live around the corner. Jill's closer to her family on the South Shore. The water taxi stops at the marina and can bring us to the entire waterfront! The T is only 6 minutes away and the marina itself is a wonderful space with good people and lots of areas to soak up the view. Who's interested in watching the 4th of July fireworks over the Boston skyline from the cockpit of Zephyr?! 
Pier leading out into Boston Harbor, slips are off on the left

Zephyr will be on the right hand side of this dock
The view of the Boston skyline! 

So we've got 8 more weeks to enjoy this wonderful little city of Portsmouth that we've called home for the last 7 years. It's going to be very hard to leave this place and the people we've come to love but we don't doubt that they understand this is for us to follow our dreams and we hope they'll still be around to hang with even if we are an hour south! The vacillations of mood that inevitably accompany big changes in life will no doubt continue for us but we'll try and remember...