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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

forty hours later... going ashore

Forty hours aboard without leaving the boat. Tide back to normal this morning and able to have Buttercup go ashore. She finally broke down yesterday afternoon and piddled on the side deck, but she wouldn't use the piddle pad I put down in the head or just "go" on the foredeck, despite my pleading. She was one happy puppy to have a nice long walk this morning! Training her to go on the deck will be a challenge, but with winter storms (and hopefully someday cruising) in the future, she'll really need to get comfortable with it.

Here's a photo of the crew snuggling yesterday. Clockwise from the top: Buttercup, Hunter, and Maximus. Perhaps they were just oblivious, but I'd like to think they are all very brave. None of them got the least bit upset about the storm

The boat appears to have weathered the storm well. Naturally, there are leaks everywhere from the boat not being maintained in recent years so I will have a lot of work to do to track down the sources of leaks and make repairs.

Walking through Eastport with the dog, we did not see much damage; mostly leaves and tree limbs being set out for pick up. Was relieved to see my car looking OK, no trees having come down on it. Here's a photo of the calm after the storm at a pocket park at the end of Horn Point.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

mental health break

Definitely needed to catch up on some Jenna Marbles videos and laugh a little. "Things Boys Don't Understand" hits the nail on the head; love it. Part one and part two

We all just want to be understood and appreciated for what we are.

I hear a fender getting smashed against the finger pier. About the last thing I feel like doing is bundling up and going out to adjust lines, but here goes.

charging the batteries (redux)

Kept watching the battery monitor hoping to see little green lights illuminating up to 13.8 or 14.4 volts but they just seemed to keep going lower and lower, 12.9, 12.6, 12.3, 12. I was assured the battery charger was still correctly hooked up; I checked and doubled checked the electrical panel to make sure the charger and all breakers were on (shouldn't have questioned myself, I knew I had these right). But did not see happy little indicator lights illuminated on the battery charger. Kept checking, hoping for a nice hum and some lights aglow, to no avail.

OK, deep breath. Even if something is awry, I should be able to charge the batteries by running the engine and I know I have a full tank of diesel. Nervous about starting up the engine when there isn't a traditional brake pedal, I got ahold of a friend and threw a bunch of unbelievably basic questions at him about the shifter and throttle. He patiently explained which control was which, where they should be, not to idle too low or the batteries won't charge. (Thanks, Phil, for walking me through all that, and a shore power cord loan to boot!) I envisioned the boat lurching backward into the dock as soon as I hit the start button. That fear was overblown since the batteries were too drained to even turn the engine over.

Adjusting lines in the dark, in cold rain, with gusts that heeled the boat over too far for comfort: I got that. Can't start the engine or charge the batteries: reduced to tears. I understand and respect Mother Nature. Those threats and challenges I can manage. However, I have no understanding of mechanical things or electricity; it's always the unknown we fear and loathe.

I was encouraged to check whether the other shore power outlet on the boat was the one tied to the charger. I balked because, quite frankly, it would be plainly stupid to wire it that way. I couldn't really imagine that someone would set the system up in such an inconvenient way. Battery charger on one 30 amp line and everything else on the other, so that two 30 amp lines (not available at all marinas or slips) is always necessary when docked. But--as I'm sure you've gathered by now--that is precisely what some prior owner did. I had had to disconnect that second shore power cord a few days ago because the increasingly bouncy weather pulled out the short 10 foot cable from the outlet--a very dangerous situation. (A pricey new 35 or 50 foot cord is now a must on the shopping list.) Borrowed a cord from a friend, and now batteries are charging and other 110 volt creature comforts (i.e., laptop, cell phone, music, and space heater) are operational as well.

Crisis averted. And while I want my creature comforts, they were not the crisis; the crisis was getting more rain in the coming days and lacking power to run the bilge pump. Yes, I also want to keep my beer, soda, and yogurt cold in my 12 volt fridge; but, fundamentally, I want to keep the boat afloat.

I hate that I am not self-sufficient on the boat. I never have an easy time asking for help because I want to be able to do everything myself and, more importantly, don't want to be a burden on anyone. By the time I am asking for help I've been investigating, trying solutions, and then hit a breaking point of frustration. I don't want to be helpless, so I don't want to ask for help. But I can't learn my boat's systems, or how to repair or refurbish her, without help. What I most want is for someone to patiently teach me how to do it myself; show me where necessary, observe and correct where appropriate.  Though I certainly have the ability to be that single girl batting her eyelashes to get things fixed on her boat, I don't want to be that girl, and it runs entirely against my nature. I'm a girly-girl and tend to get what I want, but I am fiercely independent and strive to take care of myself.

the worst has passed

Managed to get a few hours of sleep. Woke about 3:45am, tried to wake up a bit, listened for sounds indicating lines breaking or boat hitting dock or pilings, checked on bilge, interior leaks, and condensation. Crew kept snoozing through it all: winds whipping, boat rocking, gusts that heeled us at a good angle. They seem to have their sea legs.

Ventured above about 5:00am to check lines, pulled in some slack in bow lines to help keep me forward in the slip and off the dock. With high tide due to arrive at 6:00am, the water was just 3 or 4 inches below the dock.

Kept fingers crossed water would stay low enough that I would not have to disconnect shore power. Battery does not seem to be charging; possibly didn't get the charger back online right when installing terminal covers or perhaps I am drawing too much power between space heater, laptop, and stereo for the charger to send charge down to the house battery. (I really don't know enough about marine electrical systems yet, so just a guess.) My house bank was two big 4D batteries, but one is dead; replacing the dead one with a bank of a few smaller ones (that I can lift) is going to be a priority ahead of winter storms.

Grabbed another nap around high tide and headed out about 8:30am to see how the boat and docks looked in daylight. If I leave the boat I'll have a hard time climbing back aboard now that the water is level with the dock. Same for pup dog, so after trying to get her to "go" on the foredeck, I put a piddle pad in the head in case she really can't hold it until the tide subsides. (And I've been told winds will pick up again this afternoon, so she may have a narrow window to get ashore and back today.) Although I haven't left the boat, I did not see any damage to my boat or those around me as I walked my decks. Below are some photos of the water level.

My usual boarding spot, almost under water.
Relieved to see the stern did not hit the dock.

View of marina shore from the bow.
The storm really isn't over here, though the worst has passed. But some good lessons learned. Need to invest in a good set of foul weather gear. Headlamp was priceless for hands-free visibility adjusting lines in the middle of the night. (Thanks to Mike for picking one up at the last minute for me.) Need to have confidence in myself, take my time to get hitches right, let adrenaline kick in when needed. (Thank you Russell for believing I could do this, for sharing so much advice, and for helping me when I melted down.)

Looks like water is receding. I think we've made it through all right. Four weeks aboard; three faithful crew; cried twice; survived one tropical storm. Yeah, I can do this.

riding out the storm

Here she is Monday early afternoon, prepped for the storm. Bimini and dodger off, lines doubled up. I am pretty good at rolling with hurricane prep and stressful situations in general, but a few hours before getting her in this condition on Sunday I reached some tipping point between storm stress, 12 hours of throbbing pain from cracking my elbow into a wall, and pup dog making me nuts. I had my new dock lines, but when asked whether I had put them on I melted down that I don't know how to do the lines right by myself. Was told that of course I know how to do them and to have more confidence in myself. Probably true. But feel much better to have someone experienced do the lines and show me how and why to adjust them. But also glad to have been kicked in the butt a bit to have faith in myself.

Went out a few times to adjust lines (and cover the air conditioner with a tarp, which stopped the raining in the cabin below). Wish I had invested in a good set of foul weather gear. Even a few minutes on deck soaked me through. Hopelessly wet clothes are piled in the sink; things with potential to dry are hung in front of the space heater. Definitely need to have your wits about you heading into those winds on a slippery deck to try to pull lines in. I was desperately trying to get the boat away from the finger pier I use for boarding, but the wind was relentless and I would only get a few seconds when the line would slack and I could try to pull in as much as possible. A cold, wet, painful, frustrating half hour or so on deck trying to get the adjustments made, but I think I managed to do it.

All day I've been receiving messages encouraging (or pleading for) me to ride out the storm ashore. Only the boaters seemed to really understand that is not such a simple option. This is my home. If she sinks, I don't have someplace else to go. She is safest if I am with her to adjust lines as conditions warrant, to keep her off the docks, to keep her away from other boats. And my crew is aboard; they seem pretty confident in their captain, as they've been snoozing through the entire storm.

It's half past midnight Tuesday morning now. The eye passed north of us about eleven, so now we have to weather the back half of the storm. I've been told it might be quiet a bit and to try to nap an hour or two if I can.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

splicing eyes in my fancy new docklines (with photos)

With a hurricane bearing down and expecting panic to ensue, I was convinced to purchase a new set of docklines yesterday. Rather than paying extra to have them cut and eyes spliced into them, I got to learn how to do it myself. Having little to no artistic skill, I was worried about getting the braiding right, but with instruction--and a healthy dose of ribbing over my mistakes--from a floppy-haired sailor guy, I learned how to do it and I did at least one by myself. Tomorrow I'll need to get the new lines on and likely use the old ones as a second set for the storm. I also practiced lots of cleat hitches so I won't be so flustered adjusting lines during the storm and also learned how to tie a bowline knot (for those with a technical bent: the bunny goes down the hole, around the tree, and back out the hole). (Thanks for all your help Russell, it's been priceless.)

Now I will try to get a good night's sleep before final preparations and the storm.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

ok, it's safe to look now

Sparkly clean and ready for beer! Oh--the fridge I mean...I'm ready for beer but definitely still need a shower.

Cleaning the fridge was hands down the most disgusting thing I've had to do so far--in life, not just the boat--and that includes cleaning up after a puppy with worms. I had used an old knife as a dipstick to determine how deep the water was; measured three inches. Unfortunately, because the water was like black coffee, I didn't realize there was a shelf. Six inches. Three full bucketfuls of liquid mold. And of course I have a Shop Vac "Micro" so if I even turned it on for 10 seconds, the reservoir would start overflowing. So, I put an old t-shirt behind the Shop Vac to catch any overflow spray and every 7 seconds I would stop and dump the reservoir into a bucket. Thank god I had a good, thick mask on (rated for mold) and heavy duty rubber gloves. Once it was vacuumed out, I removed the two wood shelves, hosed them down on the dock, and scrubbed them several times with bleach solution. I will let them dry completely before they go back in. I still had to tackle the filth remaining in the fridge and freezer plate, so I sacrificed a roll of paper towels and a healthy amount of ultra-chemical Scrubbing Bubbles. The freezer plate needed more than that, so once the main ick was off, I scoured it with a paste of Comet and a Brillo pad. I'll let it air dry for a couple hours before I crank it up.

There's still no where to sit inside the boat, and lots of cleaning, organizing, and repairs ahead, but I am relieved not to have this little project hanging over my head anymore.


Lots of reading to do!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I finally managed to move enough stuff around within the boat to clear the counter area where the fridge is located. It is a top-loading fridge and while it does work, the previous occupant left it with food inside molding and three inches of disgusting black water in the bottom. The drain hose is plugged (not clogged) and I was advised not to remove the plug and let all that filth into my bilge. So I will have to wet-vac it out little by little. I get a little pukey just thinking about it. Removing the moldy ice cream and whatever was in a tupperware was bad enough. But I cannot continue to live with this icky hazmat situation growing there and having to buy ice for a cooler on deck.

A before picture is at the bottom of the page, so if you're eating or just have a weak stomach, be sure to stop scrolling after the next paragraph.

In other developments, the dog has been driving me nuts--she always has to be standing precisely where I don't want her and has twice in three days gotten into the corn-based cat litter (requiring frequent urgent trips ashore). She balks getting in and out of the cabin, but stands (for 30 minutes sometimes) smack in the middle of the hatch blocking my way. Right now I'm rather sick of being a pet parent. She's sulking and finally out of my way, so she apparently figured out how pissed off I was.  OK, here comes the photo of the icky fridge...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

life aboard: 3 weeks in

We moved aboard three weeks ago tonight. I am currently in the cockpit with a lovely glass of Shiraz (thanks Lane and Eli!), my adorable pajama pants, and flip flops. (In a week the ice skating rink will be open--that's Maryland.) The boat (and occupants) have come a long way, and still have a long way to go. I have only broken down in tears once so far, though I have sworn like a sailor plenty. While there are many frustrations, particularly with respect to things I cannot (yet) do myself or cannot afford to pay others to fix, I know that, fundamentally, I have made the right choice and was meant to be a liveaboard. The idea that this was a one- or two-year foray had actually never even crossed my mind until someone else asked. This is my home. And, yes, my life will never be the same.

Though early on in this journey, I have already met some wonderful people I will likely know the rest of my life. That, alone, is something I am deeply grateful for.

I took the helm for the first time on her maiden voyage. I learned how to pump out and how to fill my diesel tank. I still have a healthy fear of manual heads. I used the VHF for my first time (and thankfully not in an emergency--unless "pump out, pump out, pump out" qualifies). I learned the value of my boat hook in rescuing my wayward bucket knocked off the dock as I straightened the hose after washing the decks. I learned, (the hard way, with bruises to prove it), that boats are much smaller spaces for certain extracurricular activities.

I was used to deer and foxes passing through my yard. Now, the wildlife has changed. Last night I heard a splash and turned to find an otter crunching away at an oyster on the swim platform of the powerboat in the slip beside me. He paid no attention to me or the dog, and once he finished his dinner, slipped quietly back into the bay.

I am grateful for lots of advice and work I've received, gratis, as I explained by myriad challenges aboard to friends and acquaintances. While advice is oft-conflicting, I am able to gather and absorb the information, sort it according to my needs, the source, and my budget, and proceed in a manner that seems to suit me.

But, as they say, everyone has an opinion... this afternoon someone was miffed that I didn't want to shut up and quietly listen to his advice (though I never asked for it and he never bothered to actually listen to the fact that my problem was not what he was assuming). C'est la vie; I guess there are guys out there who will always think they know best, or at least better than some girl. He seemed to think it was some kind of "punishment" to tell me I could have had his advice free but now it would be $1 per minute. My only regret is that I politely ignored him rather than ripping him a new a$$hole; but there's always tomorrow. I mean, really, I'm a single girl who bought a project sailboat. That most assuredly does not mean I am a helpless damsel in distress; it means I have balls of steel and one hella lot of moxie.

Monday, October 22, 2012

stairs are not the enemy

For a few days pup dog had been up and down the stairs without my help. Then last night and this morning, she decides she can't go up the stairs after all. Naturally, it is always when I am in a hurry, sore, and generally not up for lifting a Labrador (even if a small one) up a ladder one step at a time. And when I just wanted one more hour of sleep I hear pup dog panting--which I know from experience means her tummy is upset and she really has to get outside. So, good morning at 4:49AM; nothing like hustling the dog out (really, she was just dragging me along running down the dock headed for some grass) while still wiping the sleep from my eyes. Return to the boat, feed all the pets their kibble, and within 30 seconds of inhaling her breakfast... I've got laundry to do to clean up the vomit. Ah, the joys of pet ownership.

Friday, October 19, 2012

sprucing her up

The water is off on my pier until tomorrow, (due to the marina hitting the water line when working on the electrical panel), so I was not able to get to washing the decks; however, lots of other cleaning up topsides and she already looks so much better! I was convinced to cut away the lifeline netting, which was gray at best and green often. Pulled off the coco fiber door mats the dog has been using for traction and replaced with strategically located Dri-Deck snap-together tiles (love!), hung excess line neatly from railings rather than having it bunched up on deck to mildew and collect leaves. Could certainly not have done it--or take the boat across the creek to get pumped out--without help from a new liveaboard friend, so very, very grateful for that. Next up: wash the decks and tackle the insanity below.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

and up she goes

We have liftoff! I had to drape the stairs with a towel (and my jeans for one), but after thinking about it a minute or two Buttercup scurried right up those stairs! First time without me having to lift step by step (not fun with a torn rotator cuff). I'm so proud of my girl. As she was looking up, then looking at me, and wagging her tail, I told her "you're a smart, brave girl, just like your mommy, and you can do this; I believe in you." And she did.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


This evening Buttercup got ahead of me headed for the companionway and put her front paws on the first step. I was rather skeptical that she would really go down them, but she was clearly contemplating it and her tail was wagging--a far cry from the shivering and whimpering of the first few days aboard. I waited a bit and encouraged her, but it looked like we'd still need our sail bag moon bounce improvised solution. I went below and she continued to look interested in trying to get to the next step down. I ended up draping a towel over the bottom three stairs for a more comfortable texture for her. She kept wanting to put her paw out farther than the step extended but finally got to that second step and then I think she just jumped past the bottom two. Granted, she careened quite a bit down the cabin sole, but she did it! Lots of praise and a few treats for my girl who is gradually getting her sea legs.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

oh $h!t

Harbormaster's pump out boat suffered mechanical difficulties and is out of commission for the season. How lovely. So nice for government to forbid overboard discharge (despite the sewage from land-based residences being the far more voluminous source of water pollution), and then make pumping out significantly more difficult long before any winter weather has set in. Love being in Eastport and walking distance to stuff; not liking being at a marina without a pump out cart. Bleh.

Friday, October 12, 2012

charging the batteries

Still need to re-charge my batteries, but at least now the boat's batteries are charging. Turns out the battery charger had been hooked up incorrectly, so while I felt it humming and getting warm the batteries continued to drain. Now the charger is correctly wired and the batteries are fully charged--an important development so I can run my 12V fridge!

Still many projects, some of which must be completed quickly for insurance purposes. Replacing various seacocks, and the expense of a haul out to do it, is the most financially daunting fix I currently face. Hoping to get the propane re-routed soon so I can actually use the stove and oven.  Finally found the coaxial cable for TV in the salon, but it is not at a location where I can fit my TV. Most of the projects are not too big in themselves, but when facing them all at once and trying to determine where to begin, the looming tasks become daunting. Was going to tackle washing the decks yesterday but my neighbor implored me to put it off so the spray wouldn't ruin the final stages of his varnish job, so inside I headed to battle mold and smells. Hoping by month-end I can have her cleaned up enough for a little boatwarming and renaming party.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Yesterday the pets seem to have attempted a mutiny. I took five minutes to go to the facilities ashore only to get a call from the local pub that pup dog had shown up there. She jumped right off the boat, strolled down the dock, and headed for a beer and fries at Davis' Pub. Trouble-puppy got a talking to! Not long after, Maximus twice hopped off the boat and ran down the dock toward the water (thankfully not ashore). He just wants to explore everything, but does not understand the dangers afoot in a marina or the outside world.

A pleasant surprise was setting up the makeshift sailbag moon bounce to get pup dog into the boat last night and having her run right down it on her own!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

poco a poco

Little by little, I think we will get settled in.

The stairs into the cabin remain a serious challenge for the pup dog. Friends got her below last night. I managed to lift her and give her a push up the stairs this morning. When steak chunks were not enough to tempt her down the stairs tonight I created a makeshift moon bounce down the stairs with my sail bags and then lifted her onto the first step to get her going.

A week at the marina and already a few days ago I began planning to find a new location. I love being walking distance to so much, so I hope to find something else nearby. Although I want to be in a marina with some other liveaboards for help and a sense of community, I dislike being docked right next to the other liveaboards. Coming from a house with a yard and no abutting neighbors, I would prefer not to feel so much that I have to be quiet and tiptoe aboard coming home late. Fences make good neighbors, and a couple of non-liveaboard boats between the liveaboards likely would serve a similar purpose. My major qualm is not being allowed to let the dog piddle on the grass. In the cold, rain, and snow, (or just any time really), it is very inconvenient to have to walk an extra block to get the dog someplace to relieve herself. And when she's got to go, she's got to go. It's not easy to keep her from using the first patch of grass she finds. For me that really is a deal-breaker in a marina; if it weren't there's a spot full of rules and regulations where my dockage would be half what I'm paying.

The list of projects is long and I am trying not to get overwhelmed. Feeling a small sense of accomplishment that I pulled the icky carpet out this evening, bagged it up, and put it out with the trash. The wood interior will be incredibly beautiful with a bit of cleaning and care. Tomorrow I will tackle removing cushion covers and evaluating whether cushions can be saved (one had to go today). The initial cleaning battles are mold and smells. Definitely must flush the water tank several times as the water has a color reminiscent of Mountain Dew; yikes!

Still, she is mine and I know that with some love and elbow grease she will be a fine boat and a fine home.

Friday, October 5, 2012

under way

At the helm on our maiden voyage from Kent Island to Annapolis. Thomas Point Lighthouse in the background.

trying to settle in

The move was a nightmarish fire drill trying to evacuate the house before the new tenant's arrival. After a brutal all-nighter, when the painters arrived I had to relocate my remaining belongings to the back deck, trying to cover them from the rain with plastic. Now I can hardly find anything, and my belongings are scattered in boxes (some) and garbage bags (mostly) among the boat, my car, and my office. 

October 2 marked our first night aboard. Feels like camping right now... very limited power until my shore power outlets are fixed, no where in the boat to even sit down until I remove all the junk and trash and do some serious scrubbing. I think I need to get some Vicks to put under my nose like a medical examiner, don my industrial-strength rubber gloves, and just scour every surface without mercy.

The cats seem to like the boat. Hunter is pleased to just hang out and snooze in the V-berth all day, and has not attempted to wander top-sides. Maximus is an explorer and always wants to know about every nook and cranny in any new place. Once he had mapped out the interior he made a dash out the hatch and took a stroll to the bow and back down the starboard side deck. Not long after, he summarily leaped from the stern across several feet of water and docklines and strolled down to the end of the dock. Since they are lifelong inside-only cats, his antics made me extremely nervous. I am less worried about a cat overboard incident than Max taking off on shore and getting lost or hit by a car.

Buttercup had a lot of trepidation about the narrow finger dock and getting on and off the boat.  Now that she has befriended the other dock dogs, she seems to have mastered hopping on and off and when a hind leg slipped overboard last night just kept going unfazed. Entering the cabin is another story. Buttercup dislikes stairs generally, and the steep open steps into the cabin are clearly no exception. The first night aboard friends helped me and we basically forced her down them. I had to drape the steps with a towel to get her back up them the next morning. She has refused to go back down the stairs since and has spent the past two nights sleeping in the cockpit. Last night I left her dinner sitting in a bowl at the bottom of the stairs but her fear trumped her hunger.

Monday, October 1, 2012

maiden voyage

Completed the maiden voyage yesterday and the boat is now in her slip at our new marina. A friend generously gave up a long 12 hour day to help me bring her across the bay.

The journey began with a rather nerve-wracking bridge clearance; the drawbridge was raised and waiting for us, but as we came within a few feet of the fixed bridge it seemed we would not clear it and abruptly turned about. These are the times you want to know the height of your mast off the top of your head! In the end we cleared it with a few feet to spare.

The weather was beautiful for a day on the water and some John Brown's Body jamming in the background provided the perfect soundtrack. 

Should have finished moving out of the house yesterday but all the loose stuff and kitchen remain to be moved out. It will be a long, busy day but tonight will be our first night aboard.