Winter She is A-Comin’

After visiting family for Thanksgiving, we arrived home last night to a storm. Just as we were unpacking the car, the raindrops started. They were intermittent, but then the wind picked up. Winds at 15-20 mph with gusts up to 30. I tried to step onto the boat with my hands full but couldn’t. The boat was moving up, down, forward, back; every which way. The fenders were doing their job but watching it, I was concerned they might burst as the boat was really slamming against the dock.

Rick gallantly went to get the balance of our things while I stayed on the boat to start unpacking. I was being thrown off balance at every turn. My suitcase, full size, filled to the gills, and heavy as hades, was impossible to navigate down the stairs. Our neighbor ran out to grab her aft deck pillows before they were lost to the sea. The docks were moaning up and down the marina. The waves slapping at the boat hull.

Because we are “transient” we have to take the slips that are available when we arrive. We also have a very tall boat so that tends to place us on the end of the docks with no cover overhead. What that means is we get the brunt of any bad weather or rolling seas. In addition, it was super cold. We generally pick destinations with warmth, but our circumstances (see previous posts) forced our hand. The heating on Nautical Dreamer is in zones. The main salon has heating controls, the main cabin has one, the forward cabin has one, the aft deck has one. Only one of those is temperature controlled to shut off and turn on based on the temperature you set. The rest are more like an old timey car heater. You regulate the temperature and the force of the fan, but it will only turn off when you physically turn it off.

On most winter nights I lounge at night in my footed onesie pajamas (so cute with little ducks on them). Recently, I have taken to wearing them to sleep as well because we keep the heat off in the bedroom (we both have serious sinus issues with the dry heat). So cool room + warm bed = good night sleep with no morning sinus headache. Lest you think everything is all cozy here, let me say this. My “outfit” includes thick winter socks and a t-shirt with the onesie over it all. Here’s the thing. I’m old. I need to get up a couple times at night for a bathroom break. Although under the covers in my onesie is warm, it’s not so great pulling it all down and sitting on an ice cold toilet. The T-shirt is coverage for when the onsie comes down but its flimsy coverage at best and the action necessitates top coverage only. It’s awful. It’s a wonder I’m able to go back asleep. It’s also a wonder I don’t have nightmares that I’m sitting on an iceberg waiting for a polar bear to come eat me. Don’t judge me by my strange dreams. And don’t judge me on the socks. I’m a woman and it is my experience that women tend to have colder hands and feet (my mom always said, “cold hands mean a warm heart” and I will take it). My point is, I am no exception to the cold extremities rule. So the socks stay on at night during the winter. But last night…ugh! I laid in bed unable to sleep. I curled up my hands in the blankets because I couldn’t face looking for my mittens in the cold dark. The blankets warmed my hands fairly well but my feet were icy. I laid there balancing the warmth of the covers/cold feet with getting out into the cold to put on my slippers. The slippers won and I spent the rest of the night in the warm bed with the slippers on wondering what kind of disgusting gunk I might have picked up on the bottom of my slippers that was now in my bed. (After all, we live in a construction zone most of the time.)

Eventually I fell asleep for a few hours. But I did wade into the frozen tundra twice to go to the bathroom during the night. And I woke up with a sore throat. The easiest solution would be to turn on the heat. So I think we will leave it off and travel to someplace a little warmer, ‘cuz that’s how we roll.

Side Note: Lest you think all I write about is negative, there are many wonderful things about living aboard Nautical Dreamer. The freedom. The ability to change your circumstances they don’t appeal to you. The camaraderie. The side effect of a tan without trying. The boat gently rocking you to sleep. On and on…


Need Some Help There, Girly?

I was sanding a closet door that was heavy with old glue. It had held a repugnant, dirty, old mirror the other day and would soon have sepia tone photos of our grand-kids in the mirror’s place. After first attempting to heat gun and scrape the glue off, we realized I needed to sand it off. Since we purged most of our things prior to moving onto the boat, we no longer had a belt sander. I was using a drill with a sanding attachment. A man working on his boat walked by to get into his storage locker and we nodded to each other. A short while later he came up to me toting a belt sander, offered it up, and asked if it would be helpful. I politely declined because it felt odd to think about using someone’s tool when I didn’t even know his name.

Several days later, I was STILL sanding those stinking doors. (In my defense there were four of them and I had completed the first two by scraping, sanding, spackling and priming.) Our mechanic walked up to me and asked if I wanted a better sander. I said I didn’t think so. He insisted on showing my how much easier it would be and offered to do it for me since it would be SOOOO quick. It wasn’t. The glue was just heating up and moving around, not actually coming off. So then he said he knew exactly what I needed, grabbing a tool off another worker who had been using the thing a few minutes before. I wasn’t sure he was done with it, but I guess he was going to have to be now. Anyway, as he is showing me how to use it; it’s obvious that it’s not the easiest thing to control. So he says to me, “You just have to be careful and hold it firmly.” He walks away and I try it. It was, of course, bucking wildly in MY hands. So I reverted to my way.

My point here…what was my point? Shoot! Oh, neither of those guys had to offer to help.  But as a group, “boat people” are really terrific human beings. Across the board. I will grant you they are mostly men and the older ones tend to call me “girly” or “girl” which irks me to no end. (Seriously. How? What? Aargg!) Being in a boat community, though, reminds me of being on the playground as a child. You know. Back in the day. You shared. You were polite. No one really worries about their “stuff.”

“You need to borrow my stuff? Here ‘ya go.”

“You need a ride to the store? Sure.”

“Let me help you with those ropes.”

“Why don’t you try this?”

“We already took that trip down river. You need to look out for ‘x’.”

“Can I help you carry that?”

“Here take these charts. I’m not going to use them again.”

Everyone is willing to share their knowledge, their tools, their good humor. Even those who live on their boats but are driving to work each day are more at ease than those workers I know with houses or apartments. Does the water relax people or are more relaxed folks attracted to boat life? Personally the water has relaxed us. Sure, I write all the time about the stresses of living on Nautical Dreamer. But compared to the stresses I HAD, I feel like a wimp talking about my issues now.

No doubt there are dashes of frustrating things and some are more harrowing than others. The whole marina debacle that landed us in a boat yard sanding closet doors in the first place, was pretty stressful. In case there is anyone out there that hasn’t heard the tale (and we have told it many, many times), here’s the story in a nutshell. We left the Rockwater Marina in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, to head down river. I was on land headed over to the refueling dock to grab lines while Rick headed over in the boat. All of a sudden he stopped dead in his tracks. I thought the engine died; it didn’t. He had run aground. In the marina. This isn’t supposed to happen. Being on a river, the area needs dredging periodically and apparently they hadn’t done it. So he backs off to get away from the area and backs into what turns out to be a concrete block that used to hold a buoy as a warning sign that it was shallow in that area. Thanks. We figured it out on our own BY RUNNING INTO IT. Sheesh. He attempted to move away from the block and couldn’t. He was stuck. I still thought there was something wrong with the engine and was worried he’d drift into the shipping lane with no way to escape oncoming traffic. I was panicked and my phone was on the boat, so no communication other than his shouting unintelligibly at me. Then all of a sudden, the beast holding him let go and he managed to get over to the refueling dock where we called the owner of the marina. He realized he should have told us about that low area. When he arrived to check things out he said that, of course, he would make it right (a huge relief).

We contacted the mechanic that had done some work for us earlier. He instructed us to make our way, if we were able, to the Little Rock Yacht Club where they had a lift and he could check us out. He felt any damage was already done and it wouldn’t harm the boat additionally to drive to the yacht club. Plus, it was a pricey prospect to tow it. Even though the marina owner was paying, we didn’t need to run up a bill. We pulled away from the dock and ran aground again spitting up rocks even though it was in a different area of the marina. As we headed out of the marina I kept hearing this clicking sound back by the propellers; but we kept our fingers crossed as we limped through a lock and up river to the yacht club.

They pulled it out the same day and OH. MY. WORD. Visualize this. Better yet, just look.


Our "tied up" props.
Our “tied up” props.

img_1115Attached to the concrete block was 9-feet of half-inch round metal cable that originally held the buoy but now was just a hazard. When Nautical Dreamer hit the concrete, it snagged the cable in its propellers. The cable immediately wrapped around the propellers since they were in motion. As Rick tried to escape he eventually snapped the cable but the damage was done. The clicking I heard was the cable moving around with the propellers.

Both propellers were damaged and one of the drive shaft struts was cracked. The mechanic was concerned the drive shaft might be damaged. In addition, there was water leaking in through the rudder shaft packing seals that needed to be repaired and dried out. The closest shop that could recondition the propellers was in Florida, so we were in for at least two weeks of waiting. We couldn’t stay on the boat, so we went in search of a hotel. We also needed a car since the yacht club was out of the way and using Uber every day would be a $40 round-trip. We had just stocked the freezer and refrigerator and although we ran a line to keep it running, all the fresh fruit and veggies went bad. We had to eat out every day. This was unexpected to say the least and totally messed with my dietary needs. We contacted the owner to give them the estimate for the repairs and let them know our hotel and car expenses along with food to be determined. They offered to put us up in the “nicest hotel in Little Rock” but we had already prepaid through Hotwire to get a good rate.

Since we were stuck, we worked on a few projects while we waited and lumbered back to the hotel at night. It stunk. But the people. The people were terrific. Every day we would meet someone new. It usually went like this. “Good morning! I’m so-and-so. You’re the ones who had that trouble at the other marina?” “Yeah, that’s us,” we’d reply. Then we’d talk for a while, explain what happened and how great the owners were being. Eventually, offers of assistance in some form would be thrown out, which we appreciated and we’d part ways. If nothing else, living on a boat is renewing my belief in humanity.

The boat is in the water now, but we had plans to travel to see family for Thanksgiving so we haven’t moved yet. Besides, we missed a window of opportunity to go through the lock at Lake Pontchartrain by New Orleans. It’s closed for repairs right now. So we decided to wait it out rather than going around it, which adds 300 miles. So here we’ll sit. Little Rock does not want to let go. That’s okay. We’ve been invited to the annual potluck holiday party at the yacht club. Cool beans.