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

Friday, May 31, 2013

a chill in the air (and some pet peeves redux)

We had a few mild, pleasant days over the holiday weekend, but the heat kicked right back in. The boat was back to 85 to 90 degrees inside the past few days and yesterday topped 95. I'm running an oscillating fan and I've had the forward hatch open plus port lights open along the sides of the boat to get some cross ventilation. Worried about rain coming through the port lights, I draped a tarp from the cabin top to the life lines, secured with bungee cords, to keep any rain from coming through the starboard port lights and put a towel down to catch any rain coming in on the port side. 

I was planning to head out first thing Thursday morning to buy a portable room air conditioner despite the painful $300 price tag. It would take up space in the cabin and need its vent hose run to a port light, but setting it up would be something simple enough for me to handle. My friends on S/V Octopussy urged me to let them take a look at my old air conditioning unit before spending money on a new one, so I held off. Yesterday evening, we disassembled and inspected, not finding any obvious failure right off. But it turned out the problem was an incredibly simple one: the unit was overheating because I had kept the cover on. The cover is made from the same blue fabric as my bimini and dodger, but has mesh panels in the sides and back to allow the unit to vent. I had put the cover on for the winter and had not had any problem running the heater with the cover on. But when I was running the heater it was below freezing, so the unit was not likely to overheat. We removed the cover and instead of tripping the breaker after ten or twenty minutes, the unit just kept happily humming along. Within a couple of hours the temperature inside the boat dropped from about 97 degrees to 70. I feel pretty silly that it was such a simple solution that I should have been able to figure out myself. But I'm grateful for good friends, cold beer, and the opportunity to look at the guts of the unit so I won't be as nervous troubleshooting it next time. 

Here are some photos of my lovely rooftop RV air conditioner. It may not be pretty, but it works.

Before getting the air conditioning back online, I did a few "loads" (read: buckets on the deck with a hose) of laundry and gave the boat her first wash of the season. I think it will take a couple more washes and a lot of elbow grease to get her really sparkly clean, but she definitely looks better. When I started washing the decks there were no bird droppings on her at all. Within a minute of finishing, a bird had shit on the deck. Seriously? But I cleaned up the cockpit and removed the various non-matching door mats scattered around for the dog to have traction because she hates walking on the non-skid. In their place I put down the cockpit cushions I inherited from my friends at Life Afloat Archives and pulled out my striped cushions that happen to match my robin's egg blue decks perfectly. Once I get the propane tank mounted off the rail (meeting with my handyman this weekend to get the job started), I can remove the blue tarp-monster and the cockpit will be back to seating several people comfortably for entertaining. 

A few minutes ago I headed topsides to take the photos included in this post. I had heard some people in the marina, which is uncommon at this hour on a weekday since I'm the only liveaboard. I saw a powerboat and dink in the slip recently vacated by my neighbors. The guy was getting out of the dink and when we said hello he asked if I live aboard. I said yes, and he mentioned he lives across the creek and what type of boat he's on. I'm sure it sounded really weird, but I blurted out "Are you [so-and-so]?" He looked at me askance and said, "Yes." "I'm RunningRabbit!" I proclaimed, "I replied to one of your posts asking for marina information in Annapolis." Yes, from the type of boat he lives on and the hat he was wearing, I was able to correctly identify this guy I've never met but have briefly encountered on the boating forums.  It's a very, very small world we live in indeed.

I just have to revisit my earlier "pet peeves" post here for a bit. I don't think I'm overly touchy (i.e., sensitive) but I do think others are overly touchy (i.e., hands-y). After my earlier post, another guy at the pub was touching the faded tattoo on my arm, even as I kept sort of stepping back to avoid it. Then a guy at another bar kept mussing my bangs and hair, which I had meticulously flat-ironed straight. If I'd have been alone I'd probably have dumped my beer on him, but my friend seemed mildly amused by him so I tried to tolerate it. Then at work a guy was poking my side in a tickling-like gesture and later grabbed my phone out of my pocket (as I was reaching for it to pause the podcast I was listening to). At that point I actually did melt down and yell for everyone to stop fucking touching me. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. I mean it's obvious that in having a great ass I am inviting every brother at a reggae show to grind his junk on me, right? Uh, no! Guys, if a girl wants you to touch her, she will make it very, very clear. Otherwise, keep your hands to yourself. I don't even pet a stranger's dog without first asking for permission. It's called basic etiquette. I also don't just "drop by" my friends' houses (or boats) unannounced. Before 3PM the likelihood I'm still in my jammies is about 95%. I guess I just value my privacy a lot more than most. Fences really do make good neighbors for a reason. At least I've got this huge attack cat to protect me.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

on watch

Hunter likes to survey the decks and stand watch. 

While Maximus is Chief Snuggling Officer. 

lazing around

The past few days have been cool enough that air conditioning was not a concern and I have been enjoying sleeping with the forward hatch open. I awoke at six this morning with little raindrops coming through the hatch and hitting my face. I hopped up and scrambled around the boat in the twilight to close up open port lights to keep the rain off of books and other stuff and then dropped the forward hatch. The morning has been a rotation of very gentle sprinkles, steady light rain, brief downpours, and dry spells. A friend may have found a used A/C unit to replace my current one, but a rainy day may not be the right time to play around with the largest electrical system on the boat.

I had high hopes for the holiday weekend. I planned to really get the boat cleaned up and company presentable, get the cockpit back to the relaxing environment it was when I first moved aboard. I got off to a good start on Saturday, starting to work my way through the boat with my new mold treatment: a solution of tee tree oil and water. Saturday afternoon I also fiddled around with the VHF radios, (though I never managed to get an automated radio check to work on the inside radio), and hailed the harbormaster's pump out boat. It was my first time using the pump out boat, and I'll enjoy the convenience of that service until it shuts down after boat show. The tank was not yet full after seven weeks.

I was off to a good start, but my Saturday night became more of a party than I had initially planned, and Sunday was spent trying to keep down ginger ale and Gatorade and nibbling Saltines. When I went topsides on Sunday there was wine spilled all over the deck and cockpit. I even found spots of red wine spilled on the dog--what a bad mother I am! (I wasn't actually the one spilling wine everywhere, at least). The kitchen counter was piled with shot glasses. I think a good time was had by all. Well, except my poor tummy, which can no longer handle red wine without a full meal and in small quantities.

Monday I ran out for a meeting midday and then rather than dive into all my projects I lounged on the boat napping and watching almost all of season two of Game of Thrones. Sometimes we all need to just rest and vegetate a bit, I guess this weekend was my turn to laze around.

The big event this weekend at my little marina was the departure of one of my dockmates, the Eleanor Q. Frank and Mary Marie have been preparing their beautiful Gozzard for cruising and have been living aboard her the past few weeks. Memorial Day was the day they finally shoved off and took the dock lines with them. Buttercup will miss Frank throwing a ball for her and following them both around trying to "help" with whatever project they may be working on. They are headed north first and then down to the islands. Check out their blog Voyages of the Eleanor Q. They were great neighbors and will be missed, but hopefully we'll shove off ourselves and run into them in the islands down the line.

I'm frustrated that the remote project I'd been working on since September did not work out. I had been hoping that it would be profitable enough to cover core expenses and allow us to take off and cruise. Unfortunately, it did not turn out to be as profitable as hoped, was plagued with delays and difficulties, and I felt I had to cut my losses rather than continue to bleed time into it. Right now I am not here because I want to be, but because I lack the resources to go. It's not that I dislike it here, but I want my freedom so badly, want to be able to cast off the lines and go wherever, whenever I please. I know, we all want freedom and almost all of us simply have to endure a life without it. But I do not want to surrender so easily, do not want to live each day just to get by.

Another liveaboard friend has started a blog, but not about living aboard. She is undertaking a project in which various of her friends get to write one-month chapters of her life--giving her challenges to test herself, delve into her weaknesses, and embrace personal growth in a very out-of-the-ordinary way. Take a stroll over to living chapters and check it out.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

late night sushi

Most restaurant kitchens are closed when I'm heading home and I'm generally not in the mood to begin cooking a meal nearing midnight. I'm pleased to know there is a late night sushi spot, and one without hipsters, where I can pop in for a quick bite of something less greasy and fattening than the few bar food options available. I love my avocado rolls and have a newfound fondness for red bean mochi. You are what you eat. I enjoy eating little pieces of art. I have to remember not to fall in love with a guy who doesn't want to share late night sushi with me.

When I arrived home last night the tide had fallen dramatically. I sat on the finger pier for some time before mustering the courage to jump down onto the boat. I considered going over to the club across the street to see if someone would "spot" me while I boarded--really just help me if I slipped and went in the drink. It's easy to hit your head on the dock or the boat and then drown. Although I managed to get aboard, there was no way the dog would be able to get to shore. She was a trooper and held it until this morning.  The tide was so low the dinghy was suspended mid-air by its lines. Here are photos of the dink and of the distance I had to jump down to the deck (the boat in the background is in the slip next to me; my deck is in the very low right corner of the second photo).

The tide was still extremely low this morning but I seized the opportunity before it fell further to get the dog ashore. We went for a nice long walk around Eastport and she played on the beach while I dug my toes in the sand. It was a long, scary jump down to the deck when we returned. And, yes, I walk all over Eastport in my fashionable flannel jammies, 'cause that's how I roll.

The tides won't be getting better for several days; the forecast looks like lots of NW winds blowing all the water out of the bay. We had really thought these low tide problems were behind us with winter in the rearview. On the upside, the weather will be cool for a couple of days, buying me a little time to figure out a solution to my air conditioning woes.

Friday, May 24, 2013

pet peeves

Despite spilling my insides all over the internet through this blog, I actually value both my privacy and my personal physical space highly. When I write I choose just what, when, and how much to share. Although I don't sugar-coat things here, I can leave out names and places to protect myself, the innocent, and the guilty.  Unfortunately, when confronted in person or by telephone, it is difficult to escape when others are on a mission to interrogate or lecture. I remember a guy cornering me at a bar and opening his interrogation with inquiring what I do for a living, where I grew up, and how many siblings I have. Wow. Things of no importance and that will not tell you one iota about me. This is why I consider dating to be a form of torture worse than waterboarding. A date is a surefire way to ruin a good meal. So, without further adieu, below are a few of my pet peeves about invasions of my personal life and personal space.

I don't write much, (actually not at all before this post), about work. Work is just not something I think of as particularly important. Work is not an end in itself. It is a necessary task to generate money to pay bills. A few lucky people get paid to do something they love. Most people work to make money, and their personal time and hobbies provide relaxation, fulfillment, and the like. What one does for a living is not who that person is and does not define their intelligence, talents, interests, or abilities. I don't care how other people pay their bills and I detest when people interrogate me about how I pay mine. For the most part no one really cares what anyone else does for a living. What people actually want to know is whether you are of the right social status, too rich or too poor for them, possibly how old you are. I guess I should resolve to just ask people why they want to know how I make money. If it's just to make polite conversation, then how about talking about the weather or sports? If it's to glean some other information, then how about just asking for it directly? Oh, right, because that would be rude.

Worse yet is the unsolicited career advice. Why so many people feel the need to encourage (often nag) me to spend my days locked away in an office doing something I hate, I really don't know. I think people go down the path society tells them to go down and when anyone else veers off, charts their own course, it frustrates the ones who have convinced themselves that working for the man is some wonderful thing in itself. There are so many actually interesting things to talk about, but people are so wrapped up in work and money and telling others they need to focus on work and money, that people don't know how to have a conversation about anything else. If someone is happy about their work/job/career they will probably chatter on about it without solicitation. If you're prying it out of me then you're reminding me of my least favorite things when I am trying to enjoy myself, socialize, and relax. Yeah, thanks for that.

Another longtime pet peeve... never, ever, ever touch someone's tattoos without an explicit invitation. It is shocking the number of people who do this. Complete strangers come up and touch my tattoos, sometimes moving my shirt out of the way so they have a better view. Jesus. I think at least in a museum people know they can't walk up and "pet" the Mona Lisa. Some creeper at the pub tried to strike up a conversation with "I really like tattoos," which is bad code for "I think girls with tattoos are sluts." The tat is extremely faded and obviously in the process of removal, but he asks if it has any special meaning. (Can you feel my eyes rolling?) The only spot where I can squeeze into the bar to get a pint and I have to be next to some old creeper.  Now I'm not going to fault anyone for looking at my tattoos, I put them there and I no longer suffer through trying to keep them constantly covered as I did when I lived in Miami. While it is rude to stare, at least stick with "look, don't touch." Would you walk up to someone with a bizarre birthmark or a prosthetic limb and touch it out of curiosity? I hear pregnant women encounter this same phenomenon with random strangers rubbing their bellies without permission. Where do these people come from? Until invited, a "keep your hands to yourself" policy was something I thought was assumed in polite society. Apparently not.

Well, I could go on and on. But the bitch fest of venting is done for now; time to get out for a run. I think I just have to stop being "polite" and say what I really think right when I encounter these situations. People will probably think I'm a bitch, and maybe that's just fine.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

sweat and tears

Yes, everything is relative. 85 degrees aboard, cranky and sweaty, seemed intolerable. But upon returning to the boat, expecting the air conditioning to be happily humming along after cleaning the filters, only to find the breaker had tripped again and now the boat was a sweltering 90 degrees, made me long for that relatively cooler 85 degrees we suffered earlier in the day.

I bought a fan at Sears while I was out. The knob that holds the fan cage and blade in place would not come loose from the body of the unit so I was unable to assemble the fan. Back to the store it goes tomorrow. I stood dripping sweat, in tears, drinking a Stella to cool off and cool down.

I dug out the weighted mosquito net that drapes over the forward hatch. Tonight we will sleep with the moon shining down into the v-berth.

Plenty of people live without air conditioning, ashore and at anchor. Our ancestors survived without air conditioning until relatively recent times. We become so accustomed to these luxuries in life. But crime increases with temperatures for a reason... tempers rise quickly when one is uncomfortably hot and sticky.

The pets got some respite from the heat. I took the pup dog down to the pub for a bit and then on a good long walk, including plenty of swimming fetching a stick off the little beach at the tip of the peninsula. When we returned the cats lounged on the deck after sunset to cool off. I found them snuggled together above the companionway, my guardian lions at the door. Pup dog, too, was on guard, barking repeatedly when she felt strangers or the fox were getting too close to our yard and her pack.

I am on guard these days, as well. Any day now I expect the floppy-haired sailor guy to be at the pub when I drop by. A few nights ago I dreamt I ran into him; he may already have arrived. I know I deserve better. Someone positive, someone who won't cut me down, someone capable of sharing themselves. But the prospect of running into him still opens the wounds a bit. I remember us on his boat, facing each other, sitting Indian-style, the song he played to seduce me, that first kiss.

A couple of weeks ago I happened to be sitting beside a cute young guy with some dark floppy curls that beckon my fingers to grab them. We've only exchanged brief chit chat, though somehow he knows the pup dog's name. I'm not sure if we have lots of eye contact or it is simply him noticing me noticing him.  A few nights ago I was headed to the pub, hoping I might run into him. As I walked briskly across the bridge I noticed someone passing. I mustered a smile and nod as I said "hey." He said something more, perhaps a "how's it going." But like a flustered high-school girl I was a deer in the headlights, muttered some "hanging in there" sort of response, but kept walking all the while. Naturally, 30 seconds later I was kicking myself that I am such a foolish, silly girl, that I didn't pause and seize a conversation.

Don't we all want that feeling? Not of being foolish and missing opportunities. But of lighting up when someone walks in the room. Of butterflies and goofy smiles, uncontrollable when the object of our desire is at hand. That tension, curiosity, anticipation.

Summer is still a month away. Plenty of time for crushes. Perhaps I'll even open myself up again. I'm ready for some fun and dancing and drinks on the foredeck beneath the moonlight. I'm tired of sweat and tears.

hot, hot, hot

As I write this it is 85 degrees inside the boat. The pets are sprawled on the floor trying to stay cool. I can tell they are displeased with this development. I am soaked through and should probably just put on a swimsuit and take sun on the foredeck.

I'll be heading out to buy some fans, do laundry, and grab some groceries, but would prefer to get some air conditioning up and running before I close up the boat in the heat with pets aboard. The trailer-trash-esque rooftop RV air conditioning unit installed on my aft hatch has been acting "fritzy." It now flips off at the breaker after running for about 30 minutes on the low cool setting. When away from the boat or not desperate for the air conditioning I have been running the fan only setting to at least keep some circulation going. I have now taken the cover off and removed the filters, which were completely filthy. I am hoping that the dirty, clogged filters were the cause of the unit's temper tantrums and that with them clean the unit will be happy and safe to operate again. The filters are currently drying in the sun in the cockpit.

I began looking at portable room air conditioners, but they are mostly priced north of $200 and require venting through a window. Venting through a window means issues with screens and the need to install port visors to keep rain from coming in the open window. I would like port visors anyway, but at $35-50 each (and with six port lights), the price tag is a bit painful at the moment. I would love to get rid of the loud and ugly rooftop unit, but if it can keep chugging along a little longer I would rather invest that money in other boat projects. I am glad I did some advance research about portable air conditioners because the less expensive units I might have been drawn to in a store are all evaporative cooling systems or "swamp coolers" and increase the humidity rather than decreasing it. With the condensation and mold challenges aboard the last thing I want is an increase in humidity!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

four years

Four years ago today all my worldly belongings had been packed up in a POD, I finished cleaning the beautiful Old Spanish house I'd been renting in The Roads in Miami, and I said goodbye to two gorgeous, sweet stray cats I'd been helping out. I loaded my kids (Buttercup, Max, and Hunter) into the car and drove north out of Miami. Although we had a temporary destination of Springfield, VA, where we could crash for up to six weeks, we had no other plan and little money. We made it to Melbourne, FL that first night. Savannah, GA the next.

With no idea where we would end up, the journey was (and remains) somewhat frightening. But the freedom has been priceless. Truly, it was an escape. One I should have made long before losing a decade of my life to a marriage that was nothing more than baby-sitting an alcoholic, living beyond our means, and being left in financial ruin. But after so many years, after countless nights of telling myself "tomorrow I will leave and file for divorce," I finally escaped. What a sad twist of psychology that we are often prone to remain in a horrible situation simply because it is known and predictable, our fear of the unknown outweighing logic and reason.

That first year we were nomads. We lived in Springfield, VA, then Bowie, MD, then Cottage Grove, OR, Eugene, OR, and Manassas, VA before settling in Annapolis three years ago. I may never find a place that feels like home, but at least now that we live aboard moving is less upending. In the end, "home" is not a city or other physical place. It is a state of mind, that sense of peace waking up beside one you love, the smell of freshly cut grass. Someday I will find my home.

Life, love, career, success have all slipped through my grasp or passed me by. It is hard living in a constant state of financial catastrophe. We can only sustain fight-or-flight mode for so long before breaking down. But I persevere for my pets who look to me for everything and keep me afloat with their unconditional love. I try to tune out all the unsolicited advice, steer away from the superficial, the drinkers, and the busy-bodies and try to just keep them politely at bay. Trying to stop picking the broken and defective men; trying to remind myself that I cannot fix them and deserve better.

In many ways it feels I haven't made it very far in these four years of freedom. But distance and bank account balances are not important measures of success. The real success is that I freed myself from the prison of my former life. If that is my only success in life, it will still have been a triumph.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

gone fishing

Last week I got to spend a day on the Bay during Rockfish "trophy" season. Other than a couple of forced fishing excursions during childhood, I've never really been fishing, perhaps mostly because I'm allergic to seafood. So, it might be strange that I'd drag myself out of bed at 4:30AM for a fishing trip.  Stranger still might be that I didn't actually know the guys I was heading out fishing with.

The invitation came from a friend from Cruisers' Forum, someone who has followed my adventure aboard possibly from before I had even bought the boat. He and his wife have a first mutt about the same size as Buttercup, so he's shared some dogs-aboard tips. We've swapped marina information, and he's answered repair questions and offered loaner tools. So, although we hadn't ever met in person, he was one of my friends I just hadn't met yet.

But even if I'm not into fish and fishing, a day on the water is always good and I knew it would be a good treat for Buttercup, who deserves plenty of spoiling with how busy I've been lately. So I dragged myself out of bed and promised the sleepy-eyed puppy she was in for a big adventure. She needed some help getting aboard and getting up the stairs to the flybridge, but then spent the day right at the feet of whoever was manning the helm...or whoever was eating something she thought she might catch crumbs of.

I got to learn how the planer boards are put out and assisted with putting out the many lines for trolling. At the helm I learned I needed to give plenty of space when passing other boats, since we had planer boards out and so did most of the other boats out on the Bay with us. It was useful to compare my sighting of a marker with my actual steering as revealed by the chartplotter. Eventually I'll get a better sense of the delayed-reaction in steering a boat and not overcompensate so much.

When the first line when down I hustled down to the deck to help. Little did I know I would be handed the rod and told I had to bring it in. I bellyached about my torn rotator cuff and it was no easy task cranking the reel, but I managed to reel in our only fish of the day, a 37" Rockfish. I am not a vegetarian, but I probably should be. I'm not a hunter, not used to killing things, and don't take pleasure in hurting living things. When the fish came out of the water and was about to go in the net I looked at it and said "I'm sorry I killed you."

Although we had over a dozen trolling lines out, our only other catch was a 14' tree branch that was a bear for the guys to bring in. Buttercup kept trying to grab the fish by the tail when I had to hold it up for the photo.

As I drove back home I glanced at the back seat and saw Buttercup deep asleep. A tired puppy is a good puppy. So glad to give her a good day on the water.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

dead flowers

Dead Flowers is my favorite Suzy song. And it happens to be on the best Stones album, Sticky Fingers, sandwiched between my two favorite Stones songs, Sister Morphine and Moonlight Mile. Crazy memories of crazy days.

Somehow in my many, many moves that CD disappeared and had not made it into my ipods. Yesterday I splurged and bought it. It's strange how some songs feel--like a baby blanket, strangely comforting, familiar, crossing the space-time continuum, seemingly entangled with one at a molecular level.

Seven months aboard today. I bailed out the dink and finally got "street legal" by putting my registration numbers and sticker on the hull. The port side looks, uh, not-so-great. But the starboard side looks pretty decent. I just need them on until I can afford to get around to federally documenting the vessel, then I can take them off and just display state registration stickers on the mast. But at least now I won't constantly stress that I'm going to be ticketed over it. 

Took a leap of faith and removed the microwave from the boat. It is incredibly handy for reheating food, but I only use it an average of once a week. The microwave took up a lot of space for such a lightly-used item. The galley feels more open without it and now I have more counter space to clutter with other things. And one less item demanding electricity. Some day I'll get off the damn grid.

How is it that I left the hardware store with one little bag, but the bill was over $70? Ouch. But I picked up paint for the salon, the boat numbers, some hooks and eyes, a new sprayer and quick-connect system for my dock hose, and--priciest of all--some 303 to re-waterproof my Marmot gloves and an old but beloved Columbia anorak. I did not accomplish as much as I would have liked today, but getting the numbers on the boat and re-waterproofing stuff was good progress. The anorak is huge. I get lost in it. I wondered what size it was and was surprised to see that I had bought a men's large. Then I remembered this was my go-to jacket in Miami's monsoon seasons. I bought one big enough to wear over my backpack full of law books to keep everything dry. I probably looked like a hunchback. I could barely keep my bicycle from toppling over because the books were so heavy, (I once lost that battle and have been scared on a bike since that wipe-out).

I considered continuing the boat-project day, but I am working the next couple of nights and wanted to pop over to a local restaurant to meet a fellow liveaboard. Ironic to meet someone living and working only a few blocks away, but who found me through this blog on the enormous world wide interweb. It's a very big world, but also a very small one. Particularly in the community of folks living aboard, whether docked or cruising. Philip and Sabrina are planning a southbound cruise; check out their blog Sublime Sustenance.

It's also nice to meet other liveaboards who are closer to my age. I have liveaboard friends of all ages, but we all have times and occasions when we want to connect with folks closer to our own age. Even the curmudgeonly floppy-haired sailor wrote me about how pleased he was to have Thanksgiving dinner with others heading south and to encounter three other under-40 sailors, which he said was a rarity heading down the ICW. My shore-based friends whom I party with, go out to see bands with, they are all in their twenties and thirties. My running friends are primarily, but not exclusively, in their thirties and forties, but many have young kids and, therefore, have limitations on their social lives that come with that stage of life. Although I plan to eventually cruise the Bahamas because I've been there some, because I know what islands I'd like to see and why, I get the impression it draws an older cruising crowd.

I have a feeling I will venture off to other islands, off the beaten path, chart my own course, make my own adventures. I've never been one to follow a guidebook. I traveled alone in Brazil before the Internet was available as a resource (or crutch), and years before I ever owned a cell phone. And perhaps as I wander I'll find a young, fit, adventurous, floppy-haired sailor along the way. But whatever happens and wherever my adventures take me, I'll always be sleeping under strange, strange skies.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

cooking with gas

I began wondering whether I was on the verge of running out of propane since I'd been cooking for a little over three months on the same tank. A couple of guys lifted the tank and said it felt close to empty so I dragged it over to the local hardware store to refill. It's a little smaller than your standard tank for a gas grill. The tare weight is 13.2 pounds and filled to 80% capacity it takes 11 pounds of propane. I was surprised to see I still had 5 pounds of propane in the tank. I may get six months out of it before it's empty. But the tank is old and lacks an overfill preventer, so the hardware store won't refill it for me again.

I somewhat covet a couple of aluminum tanks, though they are pricey at about $150 each for 6 pound tanks. Having two light tanks is nice so that one can be taken ashore for filling while the other is still hooked up. However, I think I am going to end up getting one larger fiberglass tank. The fiberglass will never rust and will be even more lightweight--a significant benefit for me being a girl and regularly nursing the torn rotator cuff that has plagued me for a few years now.

All winter I've had a large blue tarp covering half the cockpit because the propane line is running out of the port lazarette to the tank sitting in the cockpit. I put a coozie around the propane line so the lazarette would not smash the line or chafe against it. The tarp keeps rain and snow out of the lazarette, which leads directly to the engine room, and helped to keep more heat in the engine room this winter. Now that spring is here, I called my boat handyman to schedule a time for him to help me mount the propane off the stern rail. With a little luck, by the end of the weekend that project will be completed.

Even with a slightly jury-rigged propane set-up, I've been cooking up great meals aboard. I recently had friends over for my chicken and Italian sausage served with parmesan and white wine risotto and baby spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic with a touch of kosher salt. Delish! I may have to attribute the blurriness of that photograph to the cook having had a few bottles of Spaten while creating the meal. The rest of the chicken was cooked in lime juice and white wine with garlic, adobo seasoning, onions, orange peppers, and edamame; the lime juice gave it a lot of zip!

I haven't been experimenting with the oven as much as I should but am planning on making a nice whiskey-infused pound cake soon. I managed a large casserole of mac and cheese, (with a blend of sharp and extra sharp cheeses), and have some potatoes in need of roasting. Getting the oven lighted can be a bit of a challenge poking around the bottom of the oven with a long lighter and propane flowing. I was pleased to see that the thermometer in the oven and the temperature on the dial actually matched up. My lack of success thus far with pizza and biscuits appears to primarily rest with having used baking sheets which take up the entire footprint of the oven and, thus, inhibit air circulation. With only 11" x 17" to work with, it's time to find some baking sheets 10" x 16" or smaller so I can have my garlic cheddar biscuits before a long run and turn out some gourmet mini-pizzas for friends.