Updates Galore

So, it’s been “awhile,” eh? We’ve been holed up in Wilmington, NC, for MONTHS and will remain for a few more. I had multiple maintenance doctor appointments and Rick needed rotator cuff surgery. So, we were prepared to hang out, but we both have the itch already, with two months to go while he completes physical therapy. Even though we aren’t on the move, we have been busy.

Prior to the surgery, we wanted to get as much work done on the boat as we could. The aft deck ceiling was nearing completion, but we had to get the light-embedded cross beams installed, which meant electrical. I grew up with a healthy fear of electrical work. My dad would tackle just about anything around the house. He built and installed a gas fireplace, created a built-in fish tank/TV/stereo/storage unit, and even sided the house on his own.

WARNING: Approaching Side Track. In fact, one of my most traumatic life events happened after the house was re-sided. While driving home with Mom’s car, and upset about some boy (eye roll), I missed the garage opening (yes, the big ass two car opening) and hit the side instead, totally mangling the new aluminum siding. In my defense, the driveway was curved into the garage, I was still a new driver, and downshifting was not my forte. I was terrified to tell my parents and was sure I would never be allowed to drive again. As I inconsolably cried to my grandma, she offered to take the fall for me. Tempting, but I copped to it anyway. As it turned out, they were just concerned I was okay; still, it was traumatic.

Now, where was I? Ah, so my dad did good work and was pretty fearless. Except when it came to electrical. He would not attempt ANY electrical. Jump to present day and Rick’s attitude is “no problem.” He’d say things like, “as long as the electric is shut off” or “as long as I don’t cross these two wires…” everything will be fine. So it was, as I held up the cross beam so he could connect the wires that would allow the electricity to flow to the lights. The moment of truth never arrived. Let’s just say if he hadn’t been so angry about it, it might have been funny. The aft deck originally had three lines of lights that were controlled by four switch boxes, one of which was a dimmer. He had tested prior to taking out the old overheads and knew which switches controlled which lights. Should have been an easy swap. Well, they didn’t work. We tried every combination of wires and switches to no avail. He had tested the lights prior to installing them in the cross beams. He had tested the old lights. We now tested each line to be sure there was electricity there; there was.  Phone calls went out. Heads were scratched. Things were discussed. It was decided among all that Rick was correct in action, but it wasn’t producing any results. Sigh.

As often happens on this boat, it was time to set that aside and work on another project. The hope was to finish the aft deck and install the tile and composting toilet in the aft head prior to leaving for our anniversary trip (which was prior to the surgery). The aft deck lighting took longer than expected, so the tile needed to wait. We did want the new toilet in so we could stop using the tank for waste, and alleviate the stench.

Rick ripped out the old toilet and hoses leading to it. Nasty business. Or so I’m told. As is typical of this type of thing, I stayed as far away as possible from the worst of it. I think at one point I may have had to hold a garbage bag open, but I’ve blocked it from my memory. As he read the instructions, he found this excerpt on how to properly use our new AirHead. Apparently, you have to be a certain kind of wacky to work in toilets.

Instruction for the AirHead.
Instruction for the AirHead.

The new toilet was quite lightweight and from my perspective went in easily. Using it is a little…different. (It occurs to me that, once again, I am talking about toilets. How does this keep happening to me? I’m a nice girl. I was brought up proper. Well okay, Dad was obsessed with fart jokes, so who am I kidding?) Let’s see, where to start? The paper doily? The crank? The no-flush system? The brick of coconut bark?

So, you have two types of uses for the toilet, as everyone is aware. As you saw in the photo, you use the toilet like any other for your fluids, but then you walk away. No flushing. The silence was deafening for the first few days. Then, I kind of learned to appreciate it. No more “announcing” what I’d been doing with a flush.

The “solid” use is a little more complex. A stash of doilies was included.  Actually, they are commercial sized coffee filters, but that image is too much for me to bear, so I deemed them doilies. You place a doily at the drop point and proceed. Once you have provided the “donation,” (their word not mine), you press a handle down and the whole shebang drops into the composting chamber. Next, you turn the crank on the opposite side of the toilet once. Its best, I’ve found, to close the lid prior to leaning over to crank. In fact, this is one of the upsides to this toilet, as women have no fear the men have left the seat up.

I was a definite skeptic when it came to the “no smell” claim. But it’s true. At least so far. It’s been a few weeks already. The compost tank holds about a month’s worth of deposits along with the accompanying compost block. Once it’s full the idea is that it may be used as fertilizer for gardens. As we have no yard, I’ve offered it up to friends and family. Their blank stares tell me all I need to know. Contact me if you have an interest.

Sure, it sounds bizarre to live with a composting toilet, but I actually appreciate having it. No smell is a beautiful thing.

Our sweet smelling new toilet
Our sweet smelling new toilet

After the toilet installation, it was time for our anniversary trip. 25 years, people; 25 years. Since we live on a boat, it makes sense that we would take a cruise, right? We got a screaming deal on a Royal Caribbean trip out of NY to Bermuda, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and their private island in Haiti. We’d traveled on many cruise lines but never Royal Caribbean. I’m here to say, we will never travel on them again.

Our first mistake was going on the second largest cruise ship in the world. 4,800 passengers. Ugh. Sure, it was cool they had bumper cars, rock climbing, roller skating, blah, blah, blah. But try getting a chance to do those things. They also had fees to try the surfing pool (several hundred dollars), several of the additional restaurants, and even certain foods on the main dining room’s menu. It stunk. Even though there was an “adults only” pool area, there were 4,800 passengers. We had to claim a lounge chair at 5 a.m.

Although they had two beautiful, state-of-the-art theaters with truly fantastic casts, the shows were horrendous. I spent my time looking around for an escape. My “favorite” was a time-travel piece (took half the show to realize this, however), where an old man learns from some time-travel dude, his son has resented him ever since he didn’t fix his bike when he was ten. So, he gives him a new bike and we get to see the son do tricks on it. Yay woo. Best I could gather, the guy who was the musical director on that beauty did double duty in one of the bars playing piano. He did all the songs in double time. If you’ve never heard “Tears in Heaven” at a tempo you could fast dance to, perhaps you’d like to book a cabin. I yearned to request Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle”, the Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” or even Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” just to see how he’d handle it. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay long as there were no seats, because…4,800 passengers. Did I mention that already? This was all amplified by the fact that half of the nine days were at sea, so we were surrounded by it most every day.

I don’t want to forget to give a shout out to the hand washing Nazis. Any area with food was guarded by staff that would force you to either wash your hands at the hand-washing station or use sanitizer. I understand why, but when I’ve just come out of the bathroom (where I washed my hands) and am just getting water, do I really need to soap up again? I witnessed one guy finally lose it, ranting at the Nazi that he refused to wash his hands and she couldn’t make him. Oh, and one last negative. All other ships we’d been on had stations for getting water, lemonade, and perhaps iced tea. The second largest ship in the world had none. To get water at any time, you had to either sit down to eat in a restaurant or walk all the way to the one location where they had a water spigot. Oh, or purchase the “water package.”

The ports were terrific, however with just a few hours in each, we barely scratched the surface. The shore excursions we chose were loads of fun, though. Normally we don’t do excursions, but these were out of the norm. Since we’d been to St. Martin a few times, we signed up to do a version of the Amazing Race through Tri-Sport Eco Tours. We had to partner with another couple to form our team. She was an assistant superintendent at a small school district so we bonded over bottled water. She became our leader. We elected her even though she said she was “bossy.” Yeah, boy, she was.

Our first challenge was to fill the cup with ocean water. I took the easy route, rather than running to get water.
Our first challenge was to fill the cup with ocean water. I took the easy route, rather than running to get water.

But it worked for us. We won the race and had a blast.

The winning team!
The winning team!

The other standout was the world’s longest over water zip line in Haiti. Although Rick had a jolt to his still injured shoulder on the trial run, the actual zip line was exhilarating!

Back in NC, we used Uber to get to the surgery center. I wanted to rent a car, but Rick thought I was being silly. We were able to get the prescription ahead of time, so I went along with the Uber idea. Rick debated over shorts or pants but ultimately decided they’d make him remove them anyway, so it wouldn’t matter. Or so he thought. When I finally was allowed back to see him pre-op, he was a sight. The gown. The shower cap. But mostly the support hose. Now, he had had support socks with his other shoulder surgery. They went to his knees. These went all the way up to his crotch. Bright white support hose. He had to wear them non-stop for 48-hours. Everywhere. Doing everything. On top of them were those sucky surgery socks with the “no slip” tread on the bottom and no heel so they spin around your feet placing the tread on the top of your feet. They were a grey-blue.

Needless to say, we were a sight for the Uber driver that brought us home. I had my beach bag filled with books, computer, and various snack items to keep me entertained while waiting. Plus, I had my purse, Rick’s shoes (he wasn’t allowed to wear them), the case for the tins device that hooked him up to electrodes to help with pain, and a big honking foot by foot cube with attachments for cold therapy. Rick just had himself, but he was still on pain meds and had his support hose and socks still on. Walking from the car to the boat, we ran into a few people, to which Rick announced “I look ridiculous in these socks.” I’d explain he just came from surgery. They’d smile and say something to him that sounded like they were talking to a kid. Then we’d move on. I was quite worried about getting him up the stairs and aboard, but he handled it like a trooper. The only issue he had was the following day when he took a header down the stairs. Apparently, the support hose slipped inside the tread socks and he flew down the stairs. Luckily only three. Luckily landing on his back rather than his arm. Pretty purple and yellow bruise there now. Sigh.

For now, he is convalescing in between PT appointments and I’m trying to keep up with aiding his washing and dressing while making sure I feed us both and clean up afterward. Now I know why I never had a baby. Too exhausting! Or maybe I’m just ancient—I sure feel like it. How pathetic is that? I’ll end on that note—I need a nap.