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

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!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

revolutions of the sun

I tried, but failed, to find a good YouTube version to share here of John Brown's Body's song 33 RPM, which begins with the lyric "33 revolutions of the sun," in honor of my tentative decision to maybe turn 33 today. 28 is my favorite Steppenwolf song, but these past few years being 28 have not been good to me.

Today I so miss my father. He once ordered everyone to gift me a bunny rabbit of some kind for my birthday because he was the only one who ever gave me bunnies, my lifelong totem. Even though I have failed at everything I have ever undertaken, no doubt he would still patiently and supportively listen to my trials and tribulations. 

This year for my birthday I got a once-in-a-lifetime gift: a leap second. I guess getting time is good, even if it is nothing but a man-made construct. Only humankind concerns itself with marking certain days like birthdays as noteworthy, a ritual that only sets us up for disappointment.

The moon tonight is bursting, bright, almost full, and slightly yellow like unsalted butter. I want to believe that somewhere on this planet my soulmate is also looking up appreciating that beautiful moon. It is probably a silly, hopeless thing to wish for, that there really is someone out there for me. But if this life is nothing but an endless struggle to eat, I don't see why anyone would want to keep playing. I want someone who makes me smile when I think of him, who makes my eyes light up when he walks in the room, and feels the same about me. I think that is what most of us want, though some probably care more about having the "right" person as far as appearance, social status, or religion. I don't believe you ever find what you need when you are looking, so I refuse to play the game and just go about the drudgery of my daily existence trying to hold onto a belief that fate will throw my match in my path when I least expect it. We shall see. Despite all experience to the contrary, somehow I continue to be a romantic, continue to believe in love and the power of that connection. I guess love is just a leap of faith. Pheromones collide, fairy dust gets sprinkled, and voila

But at least I am blessed with the love of my sweet, loyal dog and two devoted, snuggly cats. They don't much have a choice, but nonetheless put up with whatever crazy plan I put them through. They are the heart of my heart and keep me going through all these revolutions of the sun.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

just a number

The new 6,000 BTU window a/c
I broke down and added a second a/c unit. This one is a 6,000 btu window unit, which I installed at the forward hatch. It is keeping the v-berth slightly more tolerable for sleeping, but the boat is still an oven. I used leftover heavy-duty packing material from the Hobie kayak shop to create a hood to direct the airflow down the hatch and keep out rain, then I slung the canvas cover from the old RV HVAC unit over it. Both of the units I have now are probably just underpowered for my uninsulated, unshaded boat. Although I have managed to keep the rain out from the port light where the 8,000 btu portable a/c unit is vented, even the purportedly professional-grade duct tape sealing up that port keeps melting from the heat and lifting away--letting all the hot air being blown outside right back in. So I'm $500 into air conditioners and it's still 85 degrees inside during the day. Ugh

tried to get service techs out for the broken reefer, but now that I don't have the cash for a service call, they finally want to come. For the time being, I borrowed a dorm fridge from a friend. Not that I could spare the floor space but, hey, it's keeping things cold and I can make ice again. It won't be a workable solution if I ever go sailing because it would draw too many amps on the 12V system, but it doesn't exactly look like I'll be going sailing anytime soon.

After my last post the guy I'm sweet on commented that he's "just a side story." Admittedly, I only devoted a small paragraph at the end of the last post to him, but that is because while I spill my insides all over the Internet here, I appreciate that others may be more private. I told him I don't think he's a side story at all and had a nice bit of prose prepared to prove it. After three weeks of constant texting back and forth, including on some interestingly philosophical and heavy topics, I don't know why he'd think he was just a footnote to me.

I don't do casual flings. 
It's a body + mind +  heart package deal for me, and I can't really wrap my head around settling for less than that. I certainly deserve that and it's what I give. I go with my gut. I break my own "rules" now and again. I take people at face value. It's all quite naive and why my heart gets trampled underfoot. And while I always feel it's too rude to ask the personal, probing questions I may want to ask, I rarely if ever hesitate to answer the questions thrown at me. Without putting oneself out there, there can't be anything of value. I made it clear that my body is my temple and I take sharing that intimacy seriously.

Spoiler alert: "Before" chopping off the tresses
We seemed to be in sync and excited for adventures together to come during his brief return and beyond. The plans we made fell by the wayside, but I did get two nights of wonderful, deep sleep. It is so hard to find someone who is comfortable to sleep beside.

Yes, the age difference is dramatic, but I didn't really think much of it. I'm certainly the one on the losing end of it; my window for motherhood is about to slam shut so spending much of any time with someone who won't be at that stage for a while likely means giving up that option for good. That was the only way in which I held his age against him. But it is what it is; decisions I made long ago kept me from having kids when I should have and while I would have been a great mom, I have mostly, (but not entirely), accepted that I have lost that opportunity.

I may be a sex-kitten but I'm not a goddamn cougar
Unfortunately, I am just a side story for him. It was awful enough when he referred to me as a cougar; there is simply no context when the term "cougar" isn't an insult. But I tried to laugh it off since he's the one who literally chased me down to ask me out. Shortly after arriving, he was pushing aside plans for a long weekend together to try to fly straight home, but I foolishly shrugged it off. I focused on enjoying the weekend relaxing together, grilling, getting beaten at backgammon, and of course spending plenty of time in bed. Until I increasingly felt like I'm just a number. A number I won't put here because I am so much more--and less--than my age. I was just a novelty, this older woman to learn from, a conquest to brag to buddies about. But he clearly didn't want friends seeing us "together" and lied to his father to hide my existence. If you can't stand up to parental disapproval, if you don't care enough about me to do that, then you certainly don't care enough about me to be intimate. What a horrible feeling to be used rather than adored, to be nothing but a sexual object to be hidden away, not good enough for friends, family, or the big social events. Just a warm body and a sought-after parking space. So much for being grateful I let him in my temple. 

But I am a fool, always believing the sweet nothings only to learn every time that I am nothing to men; just a body, a number, disposable, fungible. And so the last night was sleepless and distant, the connection I had imagined disappearing like so much pixie dust. It makes me sad; I had so enjoyed those blue eyes and kissable lips, a guy who could hold a conversation, someone who could actually challenge and beat me at backgammon. But I'm not some little girl to be taken for granted or treated as less than a goddess. Someday I'll have a man who can man the hell up for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure with this untamed mermaid.
"After" the latest cut
As you may have gathered from the "before" and "after" photos, I got my third DevaCurl haircut. I had taken off 18" between the first two cuts in October and March, and saw how much the curls liked being freed of all the weight of long hair. I still need to pull out the measuring tape and figure out how much I've taken off in all after this cut.

Although I love the before shot above, it didn't always look that good and all that hair on my shoulders was hot and sticky in our humid summers here. The curls would also get pulled down by collars and backpack straps, got caught on the Velcro on my foulies, and took several hours to dry. I decided to take a leap of faith and make a dramatic change. The curls started picking up immediately, and a few weeks from now they will be even bouncier.

The guy likes to be helpful, which was sweet. He installed these grommets in the canvas on the dodger so we could tie it down for better shade and rain protection, but still lift it up to see through for sailing. The eisenglass was cracked and yellowed, so I had cut it all out, but that left the canvas with just a skeleton frame to hang on. I think I'll need to add a few more grommets to get the best shape, but it already looks and functions much better so I'm glad my plan worked well.

Since I didn't have time to re-do the center hatch sealing project and major downpours were forecast, I duct-taped a piece of packing wrap over the hatch. Gratefully, it kept the rain out even through some serious thunderstorms. We also adjusted the cover over the port light to have more of a scooped shape to let the air conditioner vent out more easily, but thankfully it still kept the rain out well.

I'm still trying to find a service tech to come set up the battery bank and get the engine running so I can get out of the slip. Now I'm broke and work is touch-and-go at best, so it feels like the same old thing, barely scraping by and never able to make headway. But for all my flaws, faults, and weaknesses, the one thing I am is resilient. I am bitter as hell, however, over guys who offer to help, who say they'll show up and do the work, but fail to do so once they realize I'm not going to sleep with them. I never hold that option out. I pay for boat work in cash, not on my back or my knees. What the hell is wrong with people? If the mechanic I was relying on had just told me 5 or 6 months ago that he'd never actually follow through if I wasn't sleeping with him, then I could've lined up the mechanics I needed and I'd likely have been sailing for the past couple months. Now I'll be lucky to get the boat running before another winter sets in. It feels as if all the world wants from me is sex and it's the one thing I won't barter with. I give it freely to a select few, and even then, it only buys me heartache.

On a lighter note, my zucchini are finally blooming and hopefully they will pollinate soon. Fingers crossed!

I caught Hunter munching on the mint, which seemed odd, but I guess it hides the mousey-breath from all his kills. I am so very lucky to have such a great, adoring, loyal "pack." It's us against the world.

I'll leave you with this galley find for the oenophiles afloat: this wine (pictured below) from South Africa comes in a lightweight recyclable plastic bottle. Pretty cool for anyone who is worried about weight and breakage aboard and wants something that feels a little more elegant than wine in a box. The glass pictured below is also lightweight plastic by GoVino. I have a set of small ones and a set of large ones. Just don't let them get near a heat source or they melt! (Learned that one the hard way.)  I still have lots of real glassware but expect it will break in short order if I ever get to do any real sailing. But as with everything, c'est la vie! You only get the one trip in this life, you may as well throw caution to the wind and enjoy it to the fullest.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

slogging along

Most systems aboard are still on strike but we're hanging in there and slogging along. I want so badly to reach a point where I am thriving instead of just surviving, but in the meantime I am grateful to be so resilient. 

Being carless is admittedly a total pain in the ass, but I make do. The overpriced farmer's market on Sundays at City Dock at least provides a spot to pick up a few things within walking distance. Here are the chicken sausages I grilled up: spinach and feta and white wine and herbs. Pricey at $11 for a pack of four, but they are tasty and chicken sausages are not as caloric as pork sausages.

I've been focusing pretty well on keeping within my calorie budget; I simply have to get slimmed back down this summer. But every once in a while I am so painfully bored at work that I give in to a bad snack. Skittles seem like a pleasant idea while I'm eating them, but half an hour later I always feel awful and queasy--that feeling you get when you take antibiotics on an empty stomach. And because there are more artificial food dyes in Skittles than actual food, the next day I always have an allergic breakout. Red dye #40 is in so many things and I always have a terrible reaction to it. So I have to remind myself that 20 minutes of sugared pleasure are absolutely not worth 4-5 days of crappy skin. 

As you can see from the photo, I like to organize my food. It is totally compulsive but I cannot eat Skittles without organizing them by color/flavor, and eating the icky ones first (the red ones taste like cherry Triaminic cough syrup--yuck!), and saving the best flavors (pink and purple, naturally) for last. One of my coworkers just swallows handfuls of Skittles straight from the bag, in a disorganized flavor chaos that I can't even comprehend. But he says I'm eating mine wrong, that I'm supposed to "taste the rainbow" all together. At least I can laugh at the silliness of it, even if I can't stop doing it. I even organize M&Ms by color and eat the ugly/boring colors first, even though they all taste the same. I attribute all this need to organize and match foods and clothes to being raised wearing Garanimals kids' clothes, through which it was emphasized to me that tigers and tigers go together and you absolutely cannot put tigers and zebras together because that would be fundamentally wrong and against nature. Hmmm. 

Here I am heading out on Friday night in one of my hippy-dippy wrap-100-ways skirt/dress thingys. It was appropriately artsy for the art show cocktail reception I was headed to, though I was a tad overdressed for the pub afterwards.

I was loving feeling sooooo tall in my ridiculously high 4" wedges. And, yes, I can run down the deck and dock in these babies like a pro.

But it's not all fun and games here on Ambrosia. I'm trying to make progress aboard and spent Friday bussing all over Annapolis running errands. Naturally the errands that I could have completed in 2-3 hours by car took over 6 hours by bus and walking. First stop was Cruisair Annapolis to pick up a new thermostat for the reefer. Scooped up a big set of screwdrivers, pliers, and a Robogrip on sale at Sears. Treated myself to a couple little cheeseburgers at Five Guys since I was walking all over in the heat and forgot to eat breakfast. Then on to Annapolis Opticians to repair my glasses since Lenscrafters couldn't handle anything as upscale as the frames I have. The service at Lenscrafters was so bad I was actually relieved to leave and bus over to Annapolis Opticians, who get five stars in my book: friendly, helpful, made the repairs I wanted on the spot for a reasonable fee, and a great selection of beautiful frames. Then I hoofed it a mile or so hoping to get to The Fresh Market, but there are no crosswalks near it so I would have been trying to Frogger my way across 7 lanes of rush hour traffic. Annapolis / Anne Arundel County is one of the least pedestrian- and disability-friendly cities I have seen. Very lame; pun intended I guess. I ended up grabbing a beer at Neo Pizza (good pizza, great prices on craft brews), braving Target for a few things, and then used a LivingSocial deal I had at All Tackle to get a couple waterproof tackle boxes. 

I really wanted to get to Trader Joe's for groceries, but succumbed to Whole Foods because it was right there and then I could catch the bus two blocks away. I really dislike Whole Foods; the yuppies pretending to be hippies sort of make me want to slap them, they very much earn their "Whole Paycheck" nickname, and while I admittedly don't know whether the allegations are true, it seems troubling that they get sued quite a lot for mislabeling items as organic or non-GMO when they hold themselves out as a high-end health food concept. But I endured and then managed to bus it home with my groceries.

Back aboard, there was work to be done. Here are the terminals for the reefer waiting for a new thermostat.

I got the old thermostat out of the little box and hooked up the new one. Hopes were high that the problem had a simple $40 solution. Alas, my hopes were quickly dashed. The reefer continues to jump to 5 amps, hang for a couple seconds, then drop to zero amps and never kick on. I've tapped out my ability to fix it on my own so now I'm in the unenviable position of trying to get a service tech out. As with my electrical and engine issues, no one returns calls or emails or shows up. It's incredibly aggravating and frustrating.

I took a deep breath and tried to calmly face a fourth installation of the portable air conditioner. The rains finally having stopped after a week of deluges, I removed the previous attempts to shelter the port light from the rain and used white duct tape to place a large piece of heavy duty shipping bubble wrap stuff over the opening but with the bottom open for the hot air to vent out. Inside, I used Reflectix insulation taped to the gasket and frame of the port light and with a surgical incision for the vent. I neatly and methodically smothered it with white duct tape. Miraculously, rain did not come through the past two thunderous days and the interior tape has only gapped open once, so I added better coverage in that spot. The bungy cord looks tacky (well, tackier than the rest of it) but is critical to keep the vent from pulling away from the window since the hose is about 2 feet shorter than what I really need.

Hunter enjoyed some time snoozing on deck and quietly guarding the boat.

Next up, the center hatch problem. Here's the plexi with a bunch of white 4200 that didn't adhere to the plexi at all. Gobs of rain came through in last week's storms, though not as much as what was easily 5 gallons of rain that poured onto the settee from the port light the air conditioning had been venting out of. Ugh.

I laid on the deck and used a box knife to cut away the 4200 and then gave it all a light sanding after vacuuming up the dust. As you can see, Max thought he was being a helper-kitten. The not-quite-big-enough piece of Reflectix taped up from below is to cut down on the sun beating down into the boat and heating it up. Down the line I plan to sew an interior curtain that will snap on to shade it. But, you know, baby steps, since I still haven't used the sewing machine I bought for my birthday about 10 years ago.

I decided to go with the four centrally-located screw holes in the teak to give the best hold to the plexi to get a good seal with silicone. I patiently sat in the cockpit and drilled four holes in the plexi, using 14 drill bits on each hole to gradually build up to the needed 1/4" diameter. Getting to the largest two bits got a little dicey and needed a lot of TLC to avoid cracking the plexi, but I did it. Success! 

You can imagine my disappointment when I tried to drive in the screws and they would only sink halfway. Alas, the holes I had chosen had countersunken screws and were likely previously covered with bungs or silicone. I tried to use some bungs to hold it down but they were too wide. All that patient and masterful drilling was for naught. Sigh. But I needed to cover the hatch before the rain expected that night or soon thereafter, so I decided to just go with the silicone and hope for the best. But lesson learned: one tube of silicone, sealant, adhesive, whatever, is never, ever enough. I was desperately trying to make the tube go all the way around the hatch, but clearly needed more than I had. But it was Saturday evening and I had no car, so another tube of silicone wasn't an option. I did the best I could and while it did leak from yesterday's rains, it wasn't nearly as bad as before. So, I'll be taking a Mulligan on that project in a couple weeks and make it work one way or the other. Likely lots more black silicone and some new holes to put a few screws just to keep things taut.

Despite all the frustrations, there is still beauty all around and I have an odd or unexpected sense of peace.

This guy I'm sweet on won't be back for another 10 long days. Even my friends commented that I'm smitten. It makes me smile to think of him. Naturally, I'm hesitant to put myself at risk, and yet I can't help it. Either the universe is rewarding me for all the good I try to do, or I'm doing something very bad and I'll have hell to pay. I'll probably end up getting my heart broken, but I'd always rather choose the risk, the adventure, of putting my heart on the line than live a sheltered, safe, guarded life. Rules and hearts are meant to be broken now and again, right? You can't find something real by just playing not to lose; you have to play to win. But whatever the summer or other seasons may hold, I think we are both looking forward to anchoring out together, staring up at the stars, and being rocked to sleep by the sea.