the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


The past month has been marked by waves. Waves upon waves of sadness, though eventually the sets grew farther apart and now there is just an occasional light chop on my heart. But there have also been waves of joy. Water, life, they ebb and flow, bringing bad tidings and good, but ever changing. Knowing that a high tide will come and wash the tears, blood, muck, and hurt back out to sea makes the low tides of my days survivable. 

First things first, I owe you photographs of my beautiful new battery box. The wooden box was custom fabricated and epoxied. It holds my house bank of four 6V "golf cart" batteries and the black box in front is the group 31 dual purpose start battery. The bottom photograph shows the water pump relocated forward near the engine rather than laying loose atop the batteries as in the past.

I finally removed the stand-up portable air conditioner and returned it. It never condensed any water and just operated as a glorified fan. The boat is actually cooler without it! I have the window unit running over the forward hatch and it keeps the v-berth frosty and the rest of the boat comfortable enough. 

I had to finish sanding the brightwork on my own. It was both physically and emotionally tough to spend several days on a project that the Midshipman and I were working on together. I can call him that now, because, sadly, now that's all he'll ever be. The Mid had done all the parts that were easy to reach with the 5" orbital sander, so I was left with all the difficult portions that had to be tackled with a multitool or by hand. Here are snaps of the brightwork, before, during, after, and one of me after the final 8-hour day of sanding. I haven't finished the hatch, but can't currently afford the mural I want painted on it, so I figure it's better to leave what varnish is left as protection until I can tackle that project properly.

The new batteries and wiring didn't solve my engine problems, so the electrician removed the starter and took it up to Best Battery in Baltimore for testing. It failed the test so they did a rebuild. Before and after:

In the midst of all the repairs, the electrician had to disconnect and reconnect the water pump frequently to access the starter. Something must have jiggled loose at some point and the pump ran continuously, dumping half my water tank in the bilge. Below is the icky old automatic bilge pump that wasn't doing its job. Now there is a beautiful new automatic pump running well (donated by Doria, thanks!). It gives me peace of mind when I see the red light come on the electrical panel and the pump gurgle for a few seconds to clear the bilge (while my galley sink drains overboard, the head sink drains to the the bilge is always getting a fresh influx of water when I wash my face or brush my teeth, yuck.)

I received a lovely bottle of port from a reader. Thanks! (Also pictured a bottle of Italian red I haven't opened yet, a gift from a dockmate). 

The electrician installed the rebuilt starter and miracle of miracles, the engine started right up. Of course, I had 45 gallons of old diesel in the tank I was worried wouldn't cooperate, but I gave it a good dose of tank cleaner and haven't had a problem. (Knock on wood.) Friday the new starter went in and Sunday the boat was out of the slip for the first time since the end of February 2014. 

A friend came to help me on the adventure--a trip down to Thomas Point Light, anchoring out a few hours, and then the hardest part--docking! Coming out of the slip we had our first big surprise. I had the wheel hard a-port but the boat was heading hard to starboard. I freaked out, backed her back in the slip, and fretted a bit. My friend hopped off to look at the rudder and indeed, the steering had gotten reversed. Apparently when my old mechanic and I installed the new engine control cables a year ago and the chain slipped down into the binnacle, we lost the twist in the chain that is needed for the correct steering. We didn't let it stop us, though it made for stressful moments when dodging shoals, crab pots, other vessels, and when docking. 

We went almost to the lighthouse and then headed back north looking for a spot to anchor. Everything shallow enough to be feasible was a minefield of crab pots but we managed it. We anchored out for a few hours, had lunch, and enjoyed the sun and breeze. Enjoying some waves of joy getting my beloved Ambrosia away from the dock at last.

We took some decent waves right on the beam--unable to turn into them quickly enough due to crab pots-- which caused the mini-fridge to tip open and spill its contents everywhere. The fan on top of it tumbled to the floor, pulling the power strip and the computer monitor connected to it to the floor as well. Luckily, nothing was broken, but since every surface on the boat is cluttered, I have a lot of work ahead of me to clear all those surfaces and secure appliances and such with shock cord to prevent mishaps in choppy seas or when heeled over. This was, however, the first cruise when no cats puked. I put them together on a towel in a pop-up dog crate so they wouldn't be able to get sick in some remote locker unbeknownst to me, and so they would be safer from falling objects. It was a good plan that worked out well.

On the way back north we opened the jib and got an extra knot and a half. Naturally, the furling line got fouled beneath the drum rather than wrapping onto it, so I had to go forward and unwind it while carefully jumping back whenever there was slack since the sail would take the slack and fill, spinning off the furler with force. Yes, that is my lovely hatch A/C in the photo. It is too much of a hassle to remove it so we just let it be. And, yep, below you can see the ratty weathered bungee cords keeping my main halyard from slapping against the mast. Don't judge me.

Docking was a major challenge and I freaked out quite a bit. I really don't want to hit another boat so I get very trepidatious in close quarters maneuvering; this is a tight docking situation and a slip I'd never docked her in before. The reversed steering situation didn't help. Gratefully, the dock master was waiting on the pier to throw lines and give advice and we eventually made it in unscathed. But I think next time I will try backing all the way down the fairway and into the slip. I really need someone very experienced to come help me spend three hours going in and out of the slip over and over until it's in my muscle memory and my crocodile brain. But all in, a great trip, a huge relief to get out on the water, and some much needed waves of joy and relaxation.

Here's a nugget of truth to remember: bad tippers are bad lovers (and bad bosses, friends, ...). As soon as I saw that the Mid was a bad tipper I knew we would have problems. I should have heeded that right off the bat. People who are stingy and selfish in one area of life, like money, are often also stingy in other areas of life--in bed, with their affection, and with their time. The same goes for people who cut in line, cut people off in traffic, and generally seem to have missed the message about the Golden Rule.

I had been planning to end things with the Mid because he was more into material things than into me (or anything real) and, most importantly, because despite my attempts to gently coach, he would not make the slightest effort to meet my needs in bed. I did so enjoy his body, but I knew how to use it and I know my body well. But it was long past time to take it up a notch and he had no interest in making the effort. I knew he didn't care about me when he didn't even think about picking up my suitcase after my sleep-deprived sailing trip, didn't open doors, didn't carry groceries. Little things, perhaps, but very telling. So whenever I get sad and missing him I remind myself of him saying to me "you good?" and the incredible restraint it took not to slap him.

But despite knowing in my mind that I deserved far better, my heart was still wrecked when he left.  I was overwhelmed for some time with waves of sadness hitting me over and over. He had been the person I shared my day with, the first one I wanted to see in the morning and the last one I wanted to see before I slept, who I wanted the best for, wanted to take care of. Without someone to take care of, what purpose do I have? For a week I barely ate... running in the heat but only getting 600-1000 calories a day. Looking at some of my favorite dishes and feeling my stomach turn at the thought of eating. It took a couple of weeks before I could get through a day without breaking down in tears. But I was heartbroken over the idea of him, not the reality. All the promises and plans, sailing and anchoring out together, cooking au naturel, ample sex, a fearless team, I definitely grieved the loss of that, illusory as it all was. It makes me so sad to know that all the times I was making love to him he was just fucking me. That all the sweet nothings were just plays while it was convenient. He just didn't like me for anything serious. He liked the boat, the cats, he just didn't... and I cut him off before he could finish the sentence that he just didn't like me. It just wasn't what he wanted. I don't even know what it was or what he wanted. We never defined anything and he never shared with me after our first weekend together. What a complete change. That first weekend was with a sweet, sexy, funny, vulnerable, real guy who showed me some of his gooey insides and smiled when he saw me. The other times together were with a military robot, a shell of a man, only interested in cars, guns, and sunglasses.

The tragi-comic part of it is that I broke my "no military guys" rule to be with him. The last relationship I was in ended five years before I met the Mid. That guy is a Marine, like the Mid hopes to become. He was full-on crazy, discharged from USMC on a full psych disability, and psychologically abusive to the point I fled Maryland for Oregon (and yet still got back together with him).  I finally managed to end it when a co-worker said to me "You know how the orca throws the seal around for a while, not quite dead, bloodied, plays with it before the kill?" "Yeah." I replied. And he said, "You're the seal."  That is why I frequently write on the mirror: Be the lioness, not the gazelle. I have to get back to that, channel my inner strength and power. Because no guy should be able to make me feel like a gazelle bleeding out on the savannah.

It would be funny if it weren't so true: hippy mermaid seeks loyal, authoritarian stud to bring order to her world. I keep thinking that military guys will be like my father, have real character and honor. But that generation of military is long gone. It was a terrible setback for me, being with the Mid, but at least I've learned I probably cannot be with someone quite that young. Eventually they will want children I cannot give them; although I would've been a great mom I have a blood disorder that doctors said means I'm a high risk of bleeding out in childbirth. And I would rather have the freedom to travel the world with my partner than be tied down by children. But it would be nice to be an aunt again; perhaps someday. And so it's been another tough year, marked by three very regrettable one-night-stands and two months of long-distance sweet nothings during a twelve-night stand, the first three with an amazing guy with so much potential to become a great man, and the rest another terrible mistake selling my body, heart, and soul far short. Many waves of sadness, but eventually they have to lay down, right?

While I spill my insides all over the Internet here, the funny thing is how very edited this is. I've been told that in "real life" I have no filter.  Believe me, this is very filtered, and primarily to protect the guilty.

I needed to distract myself from the Mid somehow and made an OkCupid account. Within 30 minutes I was overwhelmed by messages and wanted to delete the account. But I decided I should sleep on it. I figured I should at least give it a try despite my horrible experience with eHarmony almost 6 years ago. But after too many messages, some of them snarky because I ignored the guy's messages, and with it seeming like more scammers and fake accounts than real potential matches, I disabled my account after nine days. The two guys I would most have liked to meet in person I never did meet up with though we did exchange numbers and text a bit. C'est la vie. The whole online thing is just too overwhelming and the reality is it is just too difficult to determine if there is any chemistry from online messages and a smattering of profile photos. It's much better to be out and about living life, going to the store, going to bars, going out for live music, and if a guy makes my head turn, then see if the chemistry is mutual. 

I've been running a fair amount, though not back up to my desired 30 miles per week. But I am trimming down, building muscle, and getting faster. Running is my meditation, my church. I listen to Matisyahu, take in nature, feel the connection of my body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by grief and have a panic attack and hyperventilate. But it happens less and less now. So many days I just want to stay in bed, don't want to head out on that run. But I always feel better that I did it, even if it was slower or shorter than my goal. I need to focus on taking better care of myself physically, emotionally, and financially. In a sense, my body is all I have and I have to make taking care of it, making it the best it can be, my priority. 

I started school this past Monday. It seems crazy to be going back to school yet again, but at least this path (massage therapy) feels like it has potential both as something I can do while traveling and that is actually in demand (which is not the case with law). And after many years of lawyering and hating it, it will be nice to do something that reduces the level of stress in the world rather than increases it. Law is just a soul-sucking endeavor and I feel like I need to do something with a far better karmic balance. And it turns out that colleges are full of cute, young that's not so bad, either. I am juggling only being able to get in 30 hours a week of legal work in DC, so that's a $1,000 a month less income when I need it most. So, I need to make a better push to find something local and lucrative that will accommodate the school schedule for this next year.

But more seriously, I am nervous about whether I will be any good at massage, because if I'm not great at it I won't succeed. But I am also nervous about getting through Anatomy and Physiology, which will be the toughest course in the program and I am taking right now along with Swedish Massage. I've been a professional student, had an amazing memory, was a test-taking machine. That's how I got through law school, an MBA, three bar exams, and into a couple Ph.D programs I abandoned along the way. But since all that I've had two serious concussions. My memory has never been the same. The effects of a traumatic brain injury are so cruel and unpredictable. There are times I look at close friends and for the life of me, I have no idea what their names are. So, more waves. Waves of sadness at the loss of a skill I was very good at, at the loss of memory, at the effects I may never shake, but waves of joy at the potential for a new life, at some new chance to find a purpose, meaning, bliss.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

scrapes and bruises

Although I came home black and blue from bumping into mast steps, low overhead spaces, handholds, and the list goes on, I made it home safe and sound from the Block Island to Annapolis trip. A friend of mine was the delivery captain and invited me along as volunteer crew. (A huge thank you Fred and to Eric as well!) We only had sails up and engines off for two hours of the trip, with most of the journey motor-sailing and the final push through Delaware Bay, the C & D Canal, and down the Chesapeake being straight motoring. The boat had AIS, so that made watches a little easier being able to find out about ships around us and where they were headed so we could adjust course if necessary. 

Lumpy seas off Montauk left us all queasy, amplified for me by the diesel fumes. But I spent several hours on lookout during the day and then took some motion sickness meds, which made my 10pm to midnight watch survivable, though it was a strain to stay awake. The morning watch back on at 4am was nice getting to watch the sun rise over the sea. 

The offshore portion of the trip was certainly simpler, with less traffic or depth to worry about, though we did get caught in a severe thunderstorm that pelted the guys at the helm in the face with hail as I hunkered down beneath the dodger. The anemometer registered 48 knots before snapping and hanging limp off the mast. Our other hiccups along the way included the engine overheating and needing to add fuel from jerrycans while underway. The fueling project took all three of us and we still could have used another set of hands to manage it, but it's a good thing we did it or we would have been a couple gallons short of making Cape May--right in the middle of the thunderstorm.

We docked in Cape May for a night and waited for the fuel dock to open in the morning so we could fuel up and head out for the final leg of the trip. I didn't sleep much or well and opted for an early morning shower and then breakfast at the luncheonette at The Lobster House while the guys were sleeping. The other patrons at the counter surely thought I was crazy when I exclaimed that it made my day that my rye toast had arrived buttered. That is absolutely as it should be, but unfortunately few restaurants still do it. Here's a snap of my huge omelette and home fries. I definitely recommend grabbing breakfast there if you find yourself in Cape May.

The most stressful part of the trip, but the most useful for me, was transiting the upper Chesapeake at night. Trying to line up the range lights, decipher the multiple marks, each flashing in a different sequence, stay as far to the right of the channel as possible to give ships a wide berth, but not come too close to marks, was all a definite challenge. We were on autohelm the entire trip and "steering" not with the wheel but with adjustments to the autohelm bearing. The autohelm was not linked to the chartplotter, so my friend was teaching me to look around, then make sure what I was seeing made sense in connection with what the charts were telling me, then make any necessary course adjustments on the autohelm. I'm terrible at spatial stuff and regularly mix up my right and left, so it was mentally tiring but such a great lesson and I will feel much more confident navigating at night (and by day) from going through that exercise. 

Here are my photos from the trip:

We arrived in Annapolis at 3:30am; it took twelve hours from leaving the fuel dock in Cape May to leaving the C & D Canal, and then another seven hours down the Chesapeake to Annapolis. Once we were tied up, hooked up to shorepower, and the trash had been taken ashore, I managed to get a quick nap before the guy came to pick me up a little after 5am. 

I wasn't going to be able to make it into work so after getting a few hours of sleep we seized the opportunity to head over to the Eastern Shore on a weekday with less traffic. I wanted the guy to see a shooting range I was pretty certain he'd like. Because that's the kind of girl I am--if I'm dating a gun nut (a term of endearment) I plan a shooting range play date. We made a side trip to grab lunch in St. Michael's, and stopped for slushy drinks at The Jetty before crossing back over the Bay Bridge on the way home, but it was definitely checking out the range (and learning that the owner's grandson is at school with him) that he enjoyed.

While I was gone, pup dog went to sleep-away camp, i.e., a friend's house, and the guy stayed aboard and looked after the cats. He's great with animals, so I know the cats were less stressed having him around even if they missed me and pup dog quite a bit. We stayed in touch via text and he seemed sweet and looking forward to my return. 

Unexpectedly, the guy jumped into some projects aboard, scraping and sanding a good portion of the chipping old Cetol off the brightwork while I was away. I want to believe that taking on such projects was a reflection of caring for me, nesting, investing in a shared space aboard. Unfortunately, I think he just wants to stay busy and tackling projects for and with me doesn't reflect any particular investment in "us," which is a shame and makes me sad. I hope I'm wrong about that because there's nothing more attractive than a guy building a nest for and with his woman, and I deserve that.

But we did make a lot of progress on the teak last weekend, even if I did add to my list of cuts and bruises and smashed some toes into a shroud and then a stanchion. Hopefully I can finish up the rest of the teak with a heat gun and scraper this weekend. There are a lot of places the orbital sander can't reach unless I remove the jib track (uh, nope). What I really need now is a multitool, but that is out of budget. Also on the chore list this weekend will be pressure washing. My dockmate who gifted me his old dink also loaned me his pressure washer, (many, many thanks, Tom!), so need to knock out that task and get the dink pumped up and off the rack. Naturally, the list of boat projects is endless but at least I am making some headway.

I tend to prefer the look of weathered teak and it is clear that varnish is too high-maintenance for me, but whether I let her go gray or apply a sealant, I am glad she'll no longer look like some cheap girl with chipping-off red nail polish. My beloved Ambrosia deserves better than that.

While I was gone on the delivery, the electrician fabricated a custom battery box, coated it with epoxy, and installed it in the engine room. What I saw looked beautiful, professional, and built to last. I haven't climbed all the way down to fully check it out and get photos, but that will be a top priority this weekend and I'll be sure to include some photos in the next post. He is done with the battery and charge controller installation together with new wiring to the engine, smart switch, and main panel. If you need an ABYC certified marine electrician in Annapolis I definitely recommend Bob Blood.

He also relocated the water pump further forward in the engine room, but we still haven't figured out why the galley sink is just a trickle while the head sink has full pressure. I actually brought the garden hose down into the galley to do dishes because the trickle was never going to cut it. I would swap out the faucet in case that is the problem, but discovered that only a mouse could get behind the sink to disconnect that faucet! I have no idea how I'm going to tackle that, though I hear they make special wrenches just for reaching behind tight sinks. But the electrician may have already fixed it--he texted me to try the sink when I get home! [Update: Looks like some kind of restrictor in the line had clogged and turned the flow to a trickle over the last several weeks but he removed it and now it's full throttle from the galley faucet; yay!]

The starter is stubbornly corroded in place so he wasn't able to remove it yet to see if the solenoid is the problem with getting the engine to start. When I arrived home it took a minute for me to realize what the smell was, then it dawned on me--PB Blaster! I had suggested maybe soaking the area where the starter was stuck with some to see if it would loosen it up. I did find a mechanic who may be able to come by next weekend and look at the engine, so fingers crossed. I just want her to purr again and get us out of the slip! 

These adorable ducklings we watched while grilling get to spend more time on the water than I do. But aren't they cute? 

I have been very much looking forward to sailing and anchoring out with the guy, but unsure it will come to fruition. The guy is so passionate about guns and cars, which is fine, but unfortunately if he has even half as much passion for me I don't hear about it. Now that he is back in the dormitory he'll likely become scarce. 

I wanted so much to believe him when he said he knows he's found a gem, that he's glad he's the only one. I sleep so well, feel safe and at peace, curled up beside him with his arm around me. People show their caring and affection in different ways, so I have been patient and tried to see the helping as an expression of affection. Me, I wear my heart on my sleeve and show my caring physically, in my cooking, and by orchestrating little surprises.

I enjoy being with him, whether tackling a project, spending the day in bed, or just walking the dog. Most guys bore or annoy me in short order. This one piques my curiosity. I want to know what makes him tick and who he really is; I want to protect him and lift him up. I have no interest in fixing him or changing him. I am done fixing birds with broken wings. But as much as I could invest in him deeply and passionately, he just doesn't seem that into me two months into whatever it is we're doing. What happened to the guy who chased me down on the bridge to ask me out? Who made my heart go all pitter-patter when he said he'd pick up all the dead things for me? Affection and attraction breed more of the same, but if you don't feed them they wither away. (In reading this article I definitely reflected on how I am re-bidding less often when he turns away or makes an against bid...). I'm not interested in being a fling or in being used (for a crash pad, parking space, or lay). I deserve someone who won't flinch at the danger of falling in love, someone who will consciously, willfully choose me every day, someone who is as crazy about me as I am about him, someone who won't put an expiration date on us.

I need a man who lives for danger, because I'm a girl who eats danger for breakfast. I need a man who is going to love me like his life depends on it because I'm a woman who gives a fuck. For the ballsy women and the men who love them, here's a good little read:

I'm used to being black and blue on the outside. Between being a klutz and a runner, I'm usually a little banged up here and there. But it's only the scrapes and bruises on my tender heart that really hurt. 

Monday, July 20, 2015


In case you haven't yet noticed, I'm a hopeless romantic. I was walking home the other night and needed to quickly grab something to eat so I stopped to get a couple of slices. One cheese slice and one spinach and ricotta slice, the same thing I was noshing on walking down Compromise Street at 2am the night I met the guy I'm sweet on. It only recently occurred to me that we met on Compromise Street, perhaps a fitting place to begin a romantic adventure. While I am unwilling to settle, compromise is different, and that willingness to give and take, to find middle ground or take turns now and then, is so critical to making a relationship work.

I need some other name for him than "the guy I'm sweet on." But I'm not ready to define him, don't want to limit his potential or how I see him or us. I want to know who he really is. Not what his parents, or the military, or society expect or want him to be. But who he is in his heart of hearts, when all those pressures and expectations are stripped away. I see his love of fast things and guns and adventure. And that is the framework in which he describes himself. But I also see someone so good with animals, curious about the world, and with a desire to help that extends beyond having been trained to do so as a middle child. When he lays there sleeping I can't help but lean over and kiss him, and when he wakes I can't help but want to swim into those cool blue eyes. The chemistry is palpable; Mother Nature's way of saying two people should be together. I never want to compromise for less than that. 

Life is short. None of us knows what tomorrow holds. Plans and age and all society's expectations and admonishments don't mattter. Any of us could die tomorrow, whether it's being hit by a truck, by a bullet, or by cancer. Why do people let what might be when they are eighty stop them from living life to the fullest, going all in, today? Because the odds probably aren't all that long that one lives to find out what eighty holds. Planning for the future is good, but you still have to live each day like it may be your last, because it very well may be.

Miracle of miracles, a marine electrician returned my call, showed up to assess the situation, and has begun work. The estimate will tap me out until two paychecks from now, but if I can get the boat running then some more belt-tightening will have been worth it. The electrician lived aboard and cruised for years, raising two kids homeschooled aboard, so he understands my needs as a liveaboard and empathizes with my urgency to get out of the slip. He's going to build a new battery box, epoxy coat it, add a charge controller between the house and start banks, and run all new 2 ott wire to the engine. The engine isn't getting enough amperage to start despite the new batteries, so I am hopeful the rewiring will fix the problem but if not I may need a new solenoid and/or starter. In any event, I'm thrilled to finally have someone out who knows what he's doing and will get the job done.

Here are some snaps of the crew. Max really likes to clean pup's ears.

Buttercup still isn't very good at selfies. Couldn't get a smile out of the smiliest dog ever.

Now I'm off for an adventure. 

Pup dog went to sleep-away camp. The guy I'm sweet on is looking in on the cats. We spent last night on a mooring ball and we just got underway to deliver this sailboat to its home back in Annapolis. It will be my first offshore sailing and my first time manning watches so I'm excited but nervous. I'll be out of pocket for the next day or two so I'll have to approve comments come Cape May. So off we go... 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

back to school

Yes, this pup dog is completely underloved and undersnuggled. Such a sad girl. Naturally, this is after I took her swimming at the little beach a few blocks away, she got to play with a bunch of little kids, had a nice long walk, then got a bath with her fancy John Paul Pets oatmeal shampoo. This dog actually likes getting a bath because anything that involves people touching, petting, or otherwise fussing on her is heaven.

When giving her a bath last week I found a weird lump in her armpit. Sort of half a golf ball bulging out. With one cat having had a malignant tumor, it definitely scares me to find any lumps on any of them. I still have to do some research in my Dog Owner's Veterinary Handbook and online, but I have a feeling labs are prone to benign fatty tumors as they get older. I just can't contemplate it being anything malignant right now.

The cats went for their annual exam. Although Hunter's ear looks great and no sign (knock on wood) of the sarcoma returning, he went from 13.3 pounds to 11.65 in only six months. The doctor ordered me to double their daily ration of wet food, weigh them weekly, and see if they are able to put and keep some weight on over the next two months. I still need to see if I can fit them in a little cardboard box to set on the scale since the doctor said using myself as the tare weight won't give us an accurate result. Hoping I can get enough weight back on them and avoid having to give them thyroid medicine.

The reefer is still broken and the dorm fridge went off one day and I had to toss all the chicken I had bought to grill up for the week's meals, plus a few other items. I had bought a 31-pound bag of dog food when I had a chance to use a car but then realized it didn't fit anywhere. I had to stuff it in a locker with my clothes until I needed to open it, lest pup dog find it and eat the whole bag in one sitting. 

The bin I have been using for years for dog food won't fit both the 31-pound bag of dog food and the cat food but then I had an epiphany: it should all fit in the currently unused reefer. Last boat show someone sat on the food bin and warped the fitting for one of the wheels, so it was always cattywhompus since then anyway so I think I will retire it to the storage locker to keep mice away from files and such.
It seems as if every weekend I have to "re-install" the portable air conditioner because the venting out a port light situation just doesn't work well and it always pulls off or the duct tape peels back or something that lets the hot air just vent right back into the boat. Miraculously, and despite the cheapest, most worthless duct tape that does not hold anything for $h!t, this last installation has mostly managed to work. I tossed the old Reflectix insulation I'd been using and cut out a piece of the same white packing material from the Hobie shop (that I've been using to keep rain out everywhere else), then I took two pieces of cardboard and cut them to fit the shape of the vent. 

The extra bulk and stiffness of the cardboard really helped to hold the vent closer to the screen and naturally I smothered everything with the little I had left of good duct tape, then the cheap stuff, then blue painters' tape. Around the dogs where hot air was seeping back in I jammed some little pieces of foam. Although it doesn't make the boat an icebox or anything, it is actually able to keep it a few degrees less than the outside air temperature, which is a big improvement. But I still would never recommend one of these portable style units aboard...too inefficient, too much hassle, too heavy, too costly per BTU. Live and learn.

The unit over the forward hatch has had steps forward and backward. When it rains heavily or sideways, rain is somehow finding its way under or through the unit and soaking the head of the bed. It isn't hitting where I usually sleep, but when the guy I'm sweet on is around he takes my usual corner and I end up in the middle...right where it's been getting soaked. So eventually, this will be a real problem. It dawned on me at some point that while the shape of the hatch should be directing the cold airflow down into the berth, and it was to a certain extent, all that glass and cast aluminum was a heat sink taking away a lot of the cold air before it could flow down into the cabin. 

Again I turned to some of that free and abundant packing material and made a scoop to direct the airflow downward before hitting the hatch itself. The results were immediate and dramatic. The v-berth has stayed comfortably cool and I have even been sleeping under my down comforter while it's in the 70s outside. I am going to add some more packing material to strengthen and lengthen the scoop and hopefully increase the chill factor even more. 

It's pretty dark in there so the photos aren't great, sorry.
Perhaps the biggest change afoot... I am going back to school. Crazy, right? Well, I do have half a million dollars in student loans in default that I have no ever-loving hope of repaying, but let's face it: school is the only thing I've been good at my whole life. B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, double major in History and Philosophy, a year toward a Ph.D. in Philosophy, law degree, top of my class with a Finance MBA, semester toward a Ph.D. in Marketing, and oodles and oodles of other undergraduate courses in business, psychology, natural science, hospitality, and on and on. 

Spoiler alert: my new-to-me dink
But here's the big difference: this is literally the first academic program in which I have enrolled that may have practical application. 29 credits and another winter aboard and come next August I should be in shape to get my license as a massage therapist. I wanted to do this program a couple of years ago but balked because it sounded like it took two years and I was so certain I would head south before that. Yeah, we see how that turned out. Because I don't need any college credits beyond the certificate program's 29 core credits, I can actually finish the program in a year. I officially started this past Monday in my first online class, and my first hands-on class, Swedish Massage, begins in late August, along with Structure and Function of the Human Body. This past month has been a whirlwind of registering for classes, getting my student ID (took three trips and still a terrible photo!), and trying to navigate the health record requirements, locate all my vaccination records, and set up appointments to get a physical, tests, and vaccinations as affordably as possible. But it looks like this is happening and while I am terrifed, I am also very excited. One of my best friends from high school has been a massage therapist her whole career and is very successful. She gave me a lot of cautionary advice that I am taking to heart since it is so easy with any new venture to only see the upsides and not consider or fully weigh the constraints and drawbacks. So, I'm not sure where this new adventure will take me, but in theory it offers many possibilities and I continue to believe that the best of my life still lies ahead.

And sometimes I am blessed by random acts of kindness. A dockmate has been trying to gift an old dink and it has now come to me. He said it holds air for a couple days, which is fine by me for now. 

I am hoping to make time this weekend to pull her out, hose her down, and pump her up. I won't want to pay for the space on the dinghy rack, but she should fit just fine on deck. I'm hoping the guy I've been sweet on will help me name her and help me get the pup dog out on the water in her soon.

Jerk weekenders leaving their trash behind
The main reasons I have wanted to leave this marina are the failure of the cleaning crew to clean the shower stalls and dressing area more often than every 8 weeks or so and the lack of privacy due to so many tourists and lookie-loos. 

However, I'm in a "devil you know" situation. Any place I move may be the same or worse. You never know until it's too late. But I've been paying the pricey transient dockage rate since April 1 to have the freedom to leave whenever I want. Somewhat laughable since I haven't left the slip since late February 2014. Ugh. So, having committed to the massage therapy program, I inquired about moving back to an annual contract. 

Happily, it turns out the slip I moved to (adjacent to my old slip) is less expensive, so I can save $900 per year over my prior slip and about $270 per month over the transient rate by switching to an annual contract. So despite all my ranting that never again would I do it... I am. 

Still, if you can afford to be transient, I would urge anyone to do so for the sake of freedom and flexibility. But being poor and currently carless, $270 a month is... my groceries for the month, or car insurance + eating out, or vet bills and haircuts. 

Disgusting, slippery algae everywhere

While my actual birthday kind of sucked, especially being the first one since I became of legal drinking age that I wasn't carded... these were my birthday dinner enchiladas. I convinced them to make them all with shredded beef but half mole sauce and half verde sauce. Delish! I had a nice, big glass of Rioja with dinner and flan for dessert. 

Scattered below are photos from a joint birthday dinner out with a friend the weekend before my birthday and after his.

Tequila Manhattan
Moving aboard is serious tough love therapy for a hoarder but I made some major progress this past weekend: I tossed 12 bras and 19 pairs of panties that were either too big, too small, or too raggedy to justify taking up limited space aboard. Let me tell you it isn't easy being a hoarder when you live on a boat. The lingerie collection is much smaller and still only the one fancy new bra fits "just right" but I simply have to commit to buying new lingerie that fits properly once I settle into a size with which I am satisfied. With hope that will not be too far off. 

This past weekend I managed to get in 20 miles running, plus two days of weights with the sling trainer and two days of yoga. My arms were sore for two good days after Sunday's workout with the AeroSling, so I must be doing something right. The current goal--and nothing to sniff at--is to fit into my dirndl by late September so I can wear it to the West Annapolis Oktoberfest. It means serious exercise and serious calorie-counting, but if I can pour myself into that hot little Swiss Miss outfit it will all have been worthwhile! 

I've been in regular contact by text with the guy I'm sweet on, but he does feel distant and less enthusiastic than during his first stint away when he was sweet and romantic and made my heart go all pitter-patter. So that does make me sad. Despite a large age difference, I feel we are on the same page in so many ways, but I was very hurt by what he said and did when he was here last and felt taken for granted. 

Several days after he left he made a comment about whether our age difference would be acceptable in a political career and I came very close to lashing out in my lawyerly melt-the-skin-off-your-face way, but managed to hold myself back. Still, I struck a bit, telling him I'm this amazing mermaid, not a dirty little secret, that he's so hung up on my age that he's going to miss that this amazing real woman right in front of him might be the adventure of a lifetime. He said he doesn't care about age and knows he's found a gem. I just hope he really believes that and shows me. 

I'm looking forward to his return though it's still some 9 or 10 days off. I think cooking together and sailing together will be interesting adventures. I want to know what makes him tick, what makes him smile. It's very hard to find someone with whom you can make a good team. Because that is really all that matters: finding that person who lifts you up, who you would do anything to protect and support, to take on the world together. As I told him on Independence Day, the only things that matter in life are freedom and love, but food, wine, and music make the journey more pleasant.

Here are some snaps from my way-too-rich pre-birthday feast.

Lamb chop appetizer with a cilantro cream sauce
A boneless ribeye; my first steak ordered medium instead of well or medium well, Loved the mashed potatoes with bacon.
Chocolate lava cake for dessert. And none of it went down my cleavage!