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

Friday, October 25, 2013

another one opens (project: fix companionway door part two)

Having an actual working door feels like such a luxury. I keep trying to grab it and pull it out like when I was using it like a dropboard. We're getting fancy-schmancy over here now.

Having given the plugs a few days to set in the epoxy, yesterday I roped my friend Mike into helping hang the door on its hinges. The first step was sawing off the protruding portions of the wood plugs. Once I did that, Mike then sanded them smooth. I set the hinges in place and we jiggled them around, discussing the best angle. We held the hinges where we wanted and I marked the door where I would drill the pilot holes. The new holes are pretty far from where the old ones were, which makes me wonder if poor placement of the screws before put unnecessary pressure on the wood and that is why those screw holes didn't work out.

I'd love to get all that old Cetol off the door and frame, but since I didn't do that before the big epoxy patch job last fall, there will always be Cetol trapped under that epoxy. I'll probably just leave it alone for now. Down the line, it would be nice to sand all that Cetol off and either teak oil the door or paint it. Maybe I could get someone to paint a nautical mural on it... hmmm... we'll see. For now, I'm just enjoying the luxury of a door that opens and closes and isn't going to blow away.

We were feeling sporty and I had just borrowed a heat gun from a fellow liveaboard. I've never used a heat gun so Mike suggested he show me how to use it and how crazy hot it gets. The project: removing the old non-skid glued to the companionway steps. It is hard and the dog doesn't like to step on it. My plan is to make braided rope mats that I will tie or nail to the steps. The varnished steps are slippery if left uncovered, so the rope mats will function as non-skid, but softer on paws and bare feet and--fingers crossed--will be prettier, too.

The heat loosened the glue very quickly and the non-skid peeled right off. What remained were these big patches of rubber cement. I rolled it off and very little residue is left behind. A little dish soap and a gentle scrub with a Dobie pad should clean it right up. We also learned that the smoke detector works: the fumes from the glue kept setting off the alarm, which both beeps and says "Fire! Fire! Fire!" Now the pressure is on for me to make some Marlinspike Sailor-style rope mats and see if the dog will finally tackle the steps on her own.

Winter aboard has definitely arrived. The cats are cuddling together to stay warm. I slept with a heating pad under my back since the v-berth is the coldest spot aboard. When I took the dog out this morning it was only 36 degrees and there was frost on the marina lawn. Fingers crossed the tides are high enough to get in and out of the slip on Sunday for a crisp fall day sail.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

when one door closes (project: fix companionway door)

When I bought the boat the door was actually broken into two pieces. Gluing them together was my first little epoxy project. Although it isn't pretty, that repair has held fast despite the door being blown out of my hands and thrown across the cockpit a few times by high winds. However, after over a year I still hadn't gotten around to hanging the door back on its hinges. Most sailboats seem to have drop boards, but mine has a hinged door which I mostly treat like a big drop board. No one else can ever get it seated quite right, and if I rent the boat out to go have an adventure, I think the door ought to be properly installed.

What's the problem? The holes for the hinge screws had been worn out and someone else's prior attempts to fill and re-drill were beyond their useful life. The plan has been to drill holes quite a bit larger than the hinge screw diameter, then fill them with epoxy and wooden plugs. I bought 3/8" plugs which are 1 1/2" long. I wanted enough new wood for the screws to bite, but didn't want to drill all the way through the door. I used a hack saw to cut the plugs in half. Thirds probably would have been just right, but tough to do with a hack saw and hindsight is 20/20.

Above are photos of the upper and lower holes before and then the upper one part-way through the process. I used three different drill bits, working my way up to 3/8" as I drilled out the old holes. This was my first time using my new Dewalt cordless drill that was a gift from my Amazon wish list from a very supportive reader and friend. There are a lot of drills out there to choose from, but I really like this one because when I had used a similar one it was smaller than most drills and so a better fit for my smaller hands and for fitting into tight spaces aboard. A big, heavy drill may be fine for quick projects, but for jobs like removing the old boat name, that took several hours a day for several days, having a smaller, lighter-weight drill made a big difference in comfort for my arm. I bought a titanium bit set, so I should be able to drill through anything but concrete!

I have some standard West System epoxy kits--small batch sets of resin and hardener--but had already opened some West System G/Flex when trying to patch the dinghy, so figured I should use up the G/Flex. It mixes in a simple 1:1 ratio. I used the empty yogurt cup from breakfast for a mixing bowl. I put a dollop of epoxy into each hole and then used a wooden hammer for cracking crabs to hammer in the plugs.

I still had a lot of G/Flex I could use and--always looking for a way to put off my 16-mile training run--decided to tackle the dry-rotted threshold that I dug out last Thanksgiving and had planned to seal with Git Rot. The gaping hole had simply been covered with blue painter's tape all this time, but once I had dug out that dry rot and taped it over, the leaks onto the nav station and galley counter during rain storms had stopped. I poured a bunch of epoxy into the threshold and then decided it really needed to be thicker. I added thickening powder to get a more peanut-butter-like consistency. There was a through-and-through at the starboard side of the threshold, so I smushed as much epoxy that way as I could and then cut a couple small pieces of fiberglass cloth and painted epoxy over them to create a patch.

When I stuck my head back inside the boat I noticed big globs of epoxy were dripping from the threshold and onto my printer at the nav station. Oopsy! If the rain had been getting in that way, I guess the epoxy would too. Wish I had thickened it up more from the outset. I cut a couple more pieces of fiberglass cloth and used them to create patches along the leaking seams. Once the epoxy began to set, the dripping subsided and the patches sealed up.

I didn't realize that the hardened epoxy drips would be razor sharp. I sliced the back of my hand when reaching below the threshold to flip breakers on the electrical panel. I'll go back over them with a file and sandpaper to smooth them out. The repairs may not look pretty, but if they buy me a few years before having to replace the entire door and frame, I'll be thrilled.

I'll want to fill the rest of the hole at the threshold with something. I'm still thinking about whether that will be more epoxy or some other sealant. Of course, it would be nice to cut a piece of wood to fit into the space and not just have some random hole there. But for now, function is more important than form.

Function and fun simply outweigh form and formality. It will likely always be that way in my world. I've never been much of a housekeeper and doubt that's going to change any time soon. But my bar tends to be well-stocked and good eats are a-plenty in my galley. I think good food, drink, and conversation far outweigh fancy cushions and spotless varnish.

Just be careful when you reach to flip the breakers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

bundling up

The marina thermometer: Brrr....
Friday held a few "firsts" of the season. First time this fall for donning my Uggs, wearing gloves, and turning on the oil-filled radiator space heater aboard. Pup dog had curled up in a tight ball on the settee and gave me a plaintive stare with those big brown eyes. "Okay, fine. I admit it's cold in here; I'll put on the heat!" It was 60 degrees inside the boat and only about 45 outside. And that wasn't even the overnight low. The heater brought it up to a cozy 65 or so. As friends can attest, I keep the boat a pretty chilly 55 to 65 degrees. Since I have metered electric, I am cost conscious and opt to bundle up inside rather than face enormous electric bills. The space heater is also running off the main shore power line, so it takes about half the total amperage I can run on that line at once. Running it on high around the clock may trip a breaker, (or much, much worse fry the shore power cord and lead to a boat fire), so I try to run it at a lower heat setting and not use it 24/7 if I can avoid it. I know "winter" technically doesn't start until after mid-December, but to me "winter aboard" begins when one needs to turn the heat on. Friday I also hailed the pump out boat and was told the boat would be out of service for the next five days or so for repairs and maintenance. I sure hope that's all it is and they aren't taking the boat offline this early like they did last year. Fingers crossed the harbormaster keeps the boat running at least weekly through the winter. Further proof that winter aboard is here: condensation on the window frames this morning. Let the winter battle against mold begin.

The next tidbit isn't even worth mentioning, so I only do so as a little post-script to one storyline for those who have followed along from the outset of this journey. Friday I was walking along over the Spa Creek bridge engaged in two different sets of private messages and typing away furiously. (Yes, I know, texting and walking is bad...but I was messaging about important boat stuff if that makes it any better.) I glanced up so as not to walk into either vehicular or pedestrian traffic and briefly saw the floppy-haired sailor guy about to pass me. "Hmm. It's [him]." And I simply went along walking across the bridge, engaged in my correspondence, and otherwise went about my business. No reason to acknowledge him. He simply isn't on my radar. I have so many things on my plate, so many stressors, and so many wonderful people lifting me up and supporting me. To me, he just isn't there at all; just a blank. And that's just fine. I am not going to feign friendliness or friendship with him, and I also don't see any point in giving him a lecture or telling him off. He doesn't deserve any effort from me positive or negative, I'm just too busy keeping my life moving forward.

Keeping my injured middle finger buddy-taped.
Friday I also heard from the captain who asked me to crew from Los Angeles to the Marshall Islands. I had mostly written off seeing that trip happen since I hadn't heard back from him. He'd been out of touch due to a family emergency. I had been so excited about the passage and disappointed to set that plan aside. I still think it's an amazing opportunity to develop my sailing skills and confidence and to see parts of the world I wouldn't take my boat as long as I have pets aboard. He's now targeting a late November crossing so I'm cautiously optimistic that the stars will align and I will be able to go have an amazing adventure this winter. Whether it is smooth sailing or a terrifying ordeal, I think there's no doubt I would learn a lot about sailing and about myself so it's an opportunity I need to seize.

Buttercup working on her T-bone.
The two other liveaboard boats who have been my neighbors the past few weeks have now headed south for the winter. Brilliant cast off on Friday afternoon. They gave me an old halyard that I'll repurpose--perhaps I'll finally make rope mats for the companionway steps--and a 2.5 gallon jerry can for gas, which will be a handy back-up for the dinghy. This morning we waved good-bye to Eleanor Q. Buttercup will be sad to see them go. Frank would toss the ball for her regularly and they brought her an enormous bone from a T-bone steak last night. You can follow their adventures here. Unfortunately, within only a few hours of their departure a different boat I had hoped not to be neighbors with again returned to the slip next to me. Sigh. Another reason to never, ever sign an annual slip lease: ultra-annoying dockmates.

The Eleanor Q leaving her slip.
Frank and Mary Marie heading south.

Friday, October 18, 2013

can i get a little freedom over here

I don't much get on a political soapbox anymore; I generally can't be bothered to care about political things. Well, I care deeply, and that is why I can't let myself get caught up in it. Unfortunately, we just don't make much of a difference on a large scale so my being upset about things only increases my blood pressure, but doesn't phase the system at all. I am mostly disgusted by our government, by how it treats its own people, by how it spies on us and has pissed all over the fundamental values of the Constitution, by how big money and big business consistently trump people-focused policies and intelligent spending of our tax dollars. I will be thrilled to be on the seas, off the grid, and none too long under the thumb of any particular authority. I don't like or respect authority because authority doesn't like or respect my freedom. Authority pretends to protect my freedom, but all it really does is trample it.

So, what inspired this little political rant on my soapbox?

I recently read an article about slavery worldwide today. It is good to see someone bring attention to the reality that slavery remains a widespread practice in our supposedly modern world. I think the article sugar-coats it a bit, particularly when it comes to Haiti, and it entirely fails to mention how it arrives via Haiti to the United States. Anyone who thinks the Haitian immigrant community in South Florida hasn't brought restaveks along is very much kidding himself. And one is also wearing blinders if he or she thinks the young girls are only enslaved as housekeepers; among their household duties they are often expected to sexually service the men in the household--and the lady of the house may well be the one making sure they do so. It's a cultural mindset that won't be soon or easily broken and one I don't like seeing imported to the U.S. In any event, slavery has likely existed from time immemorial and will likely never be eradicated. Deep-rooted cultural views that simply don't value human life, and less so those of women and children, are prevalent in the areas of the map where slavery is most abundant. But those of us in the more affluent, and supposedly more enlightened, areas of the map shouldn't kid ourselves that slavery isn't in our own backyard. What can we do about it? I don't know. I sure wish we had Khaleesi to come set us all free.

While I'm on my soapbox, I'll share an odd little story. A few days ago I jammed my finger hard into a door and it may be broken. I don't have health insurance and last time I went for an x-ray to see if a finger was broken it wasn't...but my bank account was. $500 for that emergency room foray. Oh, sure, politicians want you to think it was actually free to me because us uninsured people never pay and just burden the system. But the reality is that uninsured people like me get not one band-aid free...we are the ones paying the full price that the insurance companies are not paying. We're the ones subsidizing the insured folks who get over-treated for every silly sniffle. Oh, wait... I wasn't even going to rant about how forcing me to buy health insurance just rewards the insurance companies who are the problem while rubbing salt in my broke-ass wound... no, this was going to be a totally different rant.

So... I did the best I can without seeing a doctor and buddy-taped the injured finger to its neighbor. It made my job a bit challenging, but I wanted to protect the finger as best I can. And if it's just a sprain, it will heal up better being buddy-taped. There's a guy at work who tends to talk too much nonsense in my opinion, like telling me I need to marry a Latino guy because then I can just stay home and the guy will pay all my bills. (The kid clearly doesn't realize I'm an over-educated professional. Or that I did marry a Latino once.) Well, the cute little comment this guy had about my taped-up hand: "Don't you know you're not supposed to resist? If you don't resist you won't get hurt."

Hmmm. It took a minute to sink in. Oh, of course, he was making a joke about rape. Because it's such a hilarious subject and all. I'm one strong, independent woman and I'm not too easily offended. I know the kitchen guys probably say all kinds of sleazy stuff about me once I walk out of the kitchen, but I'm thick-skinned enough that it doesn't get in the way of my doing my job or make me feel threatened. I hate the political correctness police and don't think people have some right to not be offended. If you aren't getting offended now and again, you are living in an isolated vacuum with no fresh or challenging ideas circulating around you. But to joke about rape...yeah, that actually creeped me out. It's not as if I feel threatened by that guy; if he laid a hand on me he'd lose his hand before he knew what happened. I believe in meting out my justice hard and quick on the spot. (That's why when friends drop by late at night and board the boat, they are usually yelling "Don't shoot, don't shoot, it's just me!"). But it reminded me again, like the article about current slavery, that there are cultures and people who just don't value human life, or women, or even animals much at all. It makes me sad for the world and makes me look over my shoulder a little more.

Freedom is a recurring theme on this blog. Liveaboards and cruisers often seem to dance to a different drummer, to seek a life outside the control of conventional society. Much of that freedom we seek is a conceptual freedom, to be free of societal constraints. Some of it is about self-actualization and feeling one with the universe, the sea, and the stars. Those sorts of freedom are important, valuable, and to be prized. But I also live hand-to-mouth most days, often not knowing how I'll pay a bill three days from now. Financial freedom cannot be underestimated, and, indeed, the only value I see in money is the freedom that it buys. As important as these kinds of freedom are to me, there are many others around the world, even here in the US, that do not have even basic physical freedom and safety, who are quite literally slaves. I don't know what, if anything, we can do about that. But I'll try to appreciate the freedoms I do have a little more, and work a little harder toward greater freedom for myself and perhaps the world.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ashore no more

At last, I am free from my office! It took weeks of selling things and moving things in dribs and drabs, having to paint when I definitely had an understanding I would not need to, and delays due to a week of rain at the most inopportune times, but I am moved out. I made a sad pilgrimage to the county landfill to push the then rain-ruined antique desk down the hill (if only I had had time to take it to the LMS before the rains came after the awful Goodwill incident). Bags upon bags of clothes, shoes, housewares, books, and board games went to the local Annapolis Lutheran Mission Society on West Street. Everyone there was incredibly friendly and helpful. My art collection went to the Anne Arundel County SPCA for use in silent auctions and/or to brighten their walls.

The past few weeks trying to get out of the office have been a stressful whirlwind. I'm glad that many of the finer furniture pieces went on to good new homes. I've even been invited to visit my beloved dining table, credenza, and the hope chest my grandfather built for my grandmother, to see them in their new home. Good friends make moving a slightly less painful experience and they really are priceless. My friend Denise kept me company and helped with my moving sale, making the stressful process go much more smoothly. My friend Phil is busy preparing for his own southbound adventure, but helped me load furniture into the truck nonetheless. And I can't thank my friends Mike and Dave enough...not only helping out with moving stuff, but painting the office for me while I sorted and bagged and loaded. Indeed, when I had to leave in a frantic rush to get to work, they stayed behind to finish painting!

I'd like to think I am 100% "ashore no more," but in truth my car is filled to the tippy-top with stuff, the cab of a friend's pick-up is filled to the brim, and I have commandeered about a 3' by 6' plot in a friend's dining room for boxes, bags, and an oriental carpet. Other than a lamp being shipped to my mother and boxes of photographs and CDs that a friend will store, everything else must eventually make it aboard. There are boxes of legal files that need to be sorted, scanned, and tossed. Galley items, candle holders, linens, and too many clothes. The first step will be cleaning and organizing what is already aboard, maximizing the storage space, and tucking everything away somewhere. There is an amazing amount of storage space aboard, but much of it is difficult to access (e.g., large, deep storage lockers beneath the v-berth) or blocks access to necessary areas (e.g., the engine, batteries, and water pump). Little by little I will get there. There is still a lot of work and sorting ahead, but I am incredibly relieved not to have to drive across town to the office anymore and to no longer have that monthly expense hanging over my head.

I still hope I can mediate, as it is very rewarding to help people in conflict move forward in a positive way rather than drain themselves and their bank accounts in litigation. But without a steady stream of clients it was simply impractical and financially burdensome to maintain an office and hope for clients to come. I can always rent conference room space if and when I need it. I still dream of finding a niche cruising the Caribbean and mediating the divorces of couples who retired and sailed away, only to discover that their marriage didn't survive the passage.

Friday I walked around at the boat show, drank Painkillers in the rain, and bought some sail ties. I was mostly nonplussed by the show, but it was fun to walk around with a friend and have some cocktails. I definitely have the itch to sail off and have some adventures, and when I saw one friend at the show I told her I'm not sure when or where I'm going, but I doubt I'll be tied to the docks here in six months. Friday night I got to meet folks from near and far at a Caribbean cruisers reunion. A couple who split their time between a home in the Annapolis area and living on the hook in St. Lucia graciously invited me to their annual boat show party and, as is the norm, the cruisers happily shared their tales, welcomed me, and encouraged me to sail away on an adventure. It's a big world out there to explore, but the cruising and liveaboard communities are small, so it is wonderful to meet folks here who I will likely run into in some far-off anchorage in the future. And I even met someone who is only about ten slips away from me, so it really is a small world.

Still much to prepare, many repairs to make, affairs to get in order so I can head off on my adventures. I am growing wary of heading south in the cold, blustery weather and may wait for warmer, sunnier days to head out. Now that the smell of fall is in the air, I'm not sure I want to miss fall and winter here. I enjoy a little snow, wearing hats and gloves and boots, going ice skating. Is winter aboard hard? Yes. But so are hot, muggy summers in Florida. (The weather is the single biggest thing I hated about Miami during all my years there.) I am still in this state of flux, preparing, edging closer, and itching to go. But still, the plan is that there is no plan. The key goal right now is to truly be ashore no more so I am free to go.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Everything seems to be a moving target, constantly shifting, leaving me in flux. I am ready to move on, move forward, have an adventure, find balance in the midst of the turbulence. But so many things seem to keep holding me back as I try to break free.

I have been trying to get moved out of my office since I can ill afford the expense of it, haven't had any clients in months, and detest driving across town to go there. Friends would help me move but they are only free on the weekends, when of course I have to work. I had hoped to sell more items to have some spare cash to go without work a month or two while sailing away. The garage sales were exhausting and while I am happy that many items are off to new homes, so much remains requiring sorting, decisions, and disposal. When I ready myself to spend a day tossing, lugging, moving... I get downpours. Items I am trying to sell or donate will be ruined if I move them in an open pick-up in the rain. So I must regroup, reschedule. The volume of stuff I set aside to save will fill the boat to the brim, so I may be living among stacks of books and random clutter for a while...not that I don't already! The stress of moving, which I had hoped to never do again, is wearing me down. I try to remind myself of the relief I will feel when I am done with that office for good.

Yesterday a friend met me at the office to load some larger items into the truck so that I could donate them to Goodwill. I was sad to see the nice large desk and little dresser go, but glad at least they would help someone else. Unfortunately, Goodwill refused to take the desk, though it's not clear why since it was a nice solid piece, antique, probably oak, quality made unlike the junk that gets churned out today. They were going to take the dresser but then realized one foot had popped off. Its screws were intact and the foot just needed a touch of glue, but I hadn't had time to do it since it would need to set. But instead of just saying they couldn't take it, they berated me and gave me a ridiculous rash of shit, going on and on until I drove away. An older woman was there dropping off clothes or something and chastised them for being so mean to me about it and failing to appreciate the dovetailing and craftsmanship in the little dresser. At least she saw some beauty in that poor little dresser before its demise. The downpours began overnight with the desk in the back of the pick-up and so now the desk, too, is ruined and I won't even be able to find someone who might adopt it. Probably needless to say, but hell will freeze over before I do any business whatsoever with Goodwill. There are many, many more worthy charities out there. My collection of original artwork will be too difficult to sell, so I will donate it to the Anne Arundel SPCA for silent auctions or to brighten their walls, (and they said they certainly want the set of connecting dog gates that Goodwill refused). Any clothes and shoes I can't consign and various housewares items and books will likely go to the Lutheran Mission Society.

A little over a week ago I began seriously looking into joining a boat as crew for a major passage...from Southern California to Hawaii and on to the Marshall Islands. Although the trip would come right in the midst of when I was planning my own voyage, the opportunity to undertake a lengthy passage and see the south pacific was worth delaying my own plans for several months or another season. I began turning my life upside down. Planning for how I could cover expenses while gone with no income, planning for how my pets would be taken care of. Immense inconveniences all around and guilt over leaving, and likely separating, my pets. I had found someone possibly willing to rent my boat with the cats aboard, which would make the trip financially feasible so that slip fees would be paid in my absence and the cats would not be uprooted. A friend offered to take in pup dog and even bring her by to visit the cats so the pack would not feel so disconnected.

While constantly stressing about the financial, logistical, and pet care issues, I was simultaneously exhilarated at the prospect of the passage. Two, perhaps three, months at sea with one stop along the way. That is a lot of time to be seasick, face terrifying swells and winds, be in tight quarters with strangers, manage crazy sleep and watch schedules, and be generally out of contact with the world. But it is also a lot of time to learn, to find balance, to challenge oneself, to find one's breaking point, to see the stars and sea all around. Most friends encouraged me to find a way to make it happen, to seize the opportunity and go have an amazing adventure. I tried to focus on the upsides, so much opportunity to learn both about sailing and about myself, getting to snorkel in Hawaii and the Marshalls, living life simply, out of one duffel bag.

But my questions about the passage, e.g. how the boat is outfitted, what gear and safety equipment are aboard, have gone unanswered. I had said that it was something that would either come together or fall apart within the next few days. The time when I can secure an affordable plane ticket to LA will soon pass. The lead time needed to deal with any vaccinations and passport issues is fast closing. And so the exhilaration has turned to disappointment and I am coming to accept that this amazing trip simply won't come to pass.

Sunset at the Naval Academy Bridge on the Severn River
Nothing ties me here anymore. My current job is more work for less money and not covering my bills, but certainly adding to my headaches. Having a job one simply dreads going in to is such an awful feeling. I have friends here, but I trust the close ones will come visit me along my journeys and will be here for a pint at the pub upon my return. And of course there is no love interest in the picture. So a marathon in November and an ultra in December are all that really tie me here now. I've paid for the races but it seems silly to stay just for that. Well, my slip lease runs to year-end, so that ties me here unless released from it, since I can't afford to pay for the slip once I'm under way. I worry that I won't be able to pull it all together, finish repairs and such, in the next three weeks. I would head out later, in the cold of January, but worry about nor'easters making it a tough trip. So, the plan is to go. It's not clear when. It's not clear where. The plan is that there is no plan. I just want to live my life barefoot, in a bikini, snorkeling in crystal blue waters, digging my toes in hot sand. On this gray, rainy day, that dream feels so far away and everything remains in flux.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

one year

One year aboard. Happy liveaboardaversary to me. I only wish I had moved aboard twenty years ago and taken off around the world. But at least I got off the wrong path; better late than never. Living aboard is definitely not for everyone. It presents its own set of challenges and compromises that many would consider far too inconvenient or burdensome. One is either called to it or not. I do it for the love of boating and being on the water. For the love of being rocked to sleep by the sea. For freedom.

Despite my stubborn ability to do whatever I set my sights on (other than financial success), despite jumping into life aboard and making it through the challenges of winter aboard and pets aboard and all the quirks of this lifestyle I have embraced, I am still plagued by guys a fraction of my age acting like I don't know anything about boats and talking down to me. Sigh. I was already a back-up depth sounder hanging over the deck of a 54-footer in the Keys when those boys were in middle school. Every boater, power and sail, still has something to learn to the day they die. I guess I have to stop being so polite and just tell guys who think they are old salts to STFU.

I think the frequency of snobbery and know-it-all attitudes is the biggest drawback to being a liveaboard. Those who take their boats out often look down on the "dock queens." The cruisers think they are better than the liveaboards who either choose to (or have to) live and work in one place. There is so much sizing-up over length, gadgets, miles under keel, et cetera it can be nauseating. It's bad enough in the forums, but I can easily avoid them. It's much harder to avoid the folks who come and go at my marina every day. I definitely won't ever enter another slip lease that ties me down on more than a monthly basis. There's no point to being aboard if I can't change my view and my neighbors quickly and easily.

The process of divesting myself of furniture and other "stuff" ashore continues. I am eager for the stress and expense of it to be over. Adding to the strain, my sister launched some mission to find a place to store my hope chest that I had told her would either be sold, tucked away at a friend's, or chopped up into a boat project of some kind. So I had to respond to unsolicited emails about storage to tell them I hadn't asked for any storage and didn't need any. I figure everyone has enough of their own problems that they don't need to butt into mine or create new ones for me, but I guess not.

But yesterday I made progress, selling the beautiful huge dining table, a credenza, and... the hope chest. They are going to a local artist. I know they will be going to a good home, will be enjoyed and cared for. My grandfather built the chest for my grandmother for her 24th birthday, and she gave it to me for Christmas when I was four years old. I have loved it and lugged it all over the country for decades now. My grandparents wouldn't want me to be held back, anchored down by a piece of furniture. I have the memories of them. I value what the hope chest was and stood for. It has gone on to a new home, where it will be an interesting conversation piece, where it will be cared for and used. Sentimental things are in your heart and your mind, they don't need to be in your house or a storage locker. Letting go of all those "things" is hard, but that is the cost of freedom. A small price to pay.

So, what unsolicited advice would I give new or prospective liveaboards now that I'm a year in? First, never, ever, ever sign an annual slip contract. Yes, you save money doing so. But you lose the freedom the boat is all about. And if you look around and see any empty slips at the marina, you can likely negotiate to get the annual rate even if you are just a monthly transient. Second, just get rid of all the furniture and other trappings of life ashore. All that money spent storing "stuff" is far better spent on equipment for your boat or a great boatwarming party. Yes, it is hard to let go of all those things that once meant and cost so much. But that painful purging is part of the experience of moving aboard and it is better to just rip the band-aid off and be done with it. Finally, trust your gut, your instincts, and bring all your other life experience to bear when tackling challenges. About half the advice others give you will be useful and valuable, and about half will be incredibly stupid, perhaps even dangerous advice. Just because someone has been doing something for half a century doesn't mean they've been doing it right. Trust and believe in yourself and your boat; if you love her, she will love you back.