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

Saturday, November 30, 2013


A friend recently asked me why I decided to start a blog. Why, he asked, would I want to share all my personal stuff all over the internet? He had brought that up before, as have others, so it is clearly something that makes some people uncomfortable. And despite spilling all my insides all over the internet here, I actually value my privacy greatly.

Although it seems as if every liveaboard/cruiser has a blog, I find many are dull and poorly written. Many are pictorial travelogues meant to keep family and friends "back home" up-to-date on the trip; there is nothing wrong with that, but without any personal story to it, it simply doesn't pull me in and make me wonder "What's going to happen next?" "Will they make it?" Then there are the "how-to" fix-it blogs. It may be interesting or helpful for a project to see how someone else did their solar panel installation or rebuilt their engine or organized their galley, but, again, if there isn't an interesting protagonist there, I'm unlikely to keep going back to follow progress and would instead think of it as an occasional reference material. I'd be far more likely to seek out YouTube videos of repairs if I'm looking for detailed technical assistance for a project. I guess what I want to know when I read the "how-to" project or the travelogue is "why was that important?" "how did it change you?" "how did it make you feel?" "why was it a challenge?" I can buy a textbook on engine repair or a travel guide to the islands; when I read a blog I want to know the personal side of the story that I can't get from that textbook or Fodor's.

So, there are countless bloggers out there living aboard, cruising, sailing, fixing up their boats, and having adventures. Do we really need yet another one? Maybe I should stop all this writing nonsense.

So, why did I do it? One reason is that I think my blog is not just like all the others out there precisely because I spill my insides all over. I'm smart and determined, but I'm also tackling things that are new and challenging to me. My blog isn't full of success stories. It's full of hopes, fears, half-starts, failed projects, laughs, tears, temper tantrums, and the occasional victory. It's full of reality. Not edited to just show the sunsets and good times. I think it's because I truly put myself out here, let myself be vulnerable, laugh at myself, and share my failures, that some readers out there connect with my story and follow along to see "Will she do it?"

I'm sharing a heartfelt diary and even if no one follows along I enjoy writing and will be able to look back some day and read it and wonder...why the hell did I start a blog? Is it arrogant to think I have something to say that anyone cares to hear? I guess so. But then I guess any musician who plays a song is arrogant to think anyone would want to hear it or any author who writes a story is arrogant to think it deserves to be read. I don't know that I accomplish it, but I try to express some feelings and challenges that many of us face in life but not all are willing or able to share. If I could point a reader to only one post on this blog it would still be love and the singlehander from last Valentine's Day.

This blog will not teach anyone how to sail, how to fix much of anything, or how to live aboard. But it will show people what it is like to live on a "project boat," to survive winter aboard, to learn to sail. Although the backdrop is a boat, it's really a story about a single girl re-building her life, dealing with love and loss, facing self-doubt and rising to challenges. I'm sharing my personal journey with whomever cares to come along for the ride with the outlook that orbis non sufficit: the world is not enough. 

Thanksgiving supper was...
yummy chocolate porter.
First ice on the water today, brrr.
P.S. Annapolis is not enough. s/v Ambrosia is preparing to cast off the lines and looking for crew. Who's brave enough to go down The Ditch in the winter with me? Tickity-tock... we're trying to head out before Christmas. And perhaps folks will be wondering... "Will she do it?" "Will she make it?"

Thursday, November 28, 2013

bienvenidos a miami

It's been a hectic couple of weeks since my last post. A project took me on short notice back to my old home: Miami. I had to get packed and make arrangements for the pets on the fly. I quickly called my local vet to see about boarding the cats since I wouldn't be able to leave a heater running to keep them warm while gone for several days. I'd be departing the next day, and the vet's office said they'd be open until 7PM, so I'd drop them on my way to the airport. Pup dog would stay with a friend. I didn't want to leave so much stuff visible in the car while it was parked at the airport, so I brought several items aboard, including a black ballistic duffel I planned to use on another upcoming trip.

I packed frantically, somehow fitting everything for five days in a little roll-aboard and satchel, with room to spare. I was running late, of course. As anyone with cats knows, catching them and putting them in carriers is an art. I managed to get them in their little black carriers, loaded my suitcases in the car first, and then went back to collect the cats. I set the carriers on the deck and locked up the boat. When I picked up one carrier I said to myself, "Gee, this is really big; how is the cat filling up this entire thing?" Then, "$hit, f*ck, f*uck, f*ck! It's a suitcase!" Yep, I left one cat carrier below and was about to drop off a black duffel bag at the vet. Of course the lock was a hassle to get back open and when you're in a hurry everything takes ten times longer or at least feels that way.

OK, cats in the car, on the way to the vet. Breathe. I'm running late but it'll be OK. Breathe. I race to the vet and pull up in front. I scramble out of the car and set the carriers down on the sidewalk. I look at the door and my heart sinks: Closed. Hours, Saturday 8AM to 1PM. It's 3:40PM. I have a 5PM flight. I now need to be at the airport in 20 minutes, but am a 30 minute drive away, have to then get from the parking to the terminal, and... I still have CATS!!! I started hyperventilating. The cats will freeze to death. I will miss my flight. Arrggghhhh! I call the friend who will be watching the dog. He agrees to feed the cats daily. I drop them back on the cold, unheated boat. I had a light bulb on top of of the engine block but plugged in some other lights for the cats to maybe let off a bit of warmth. I tell them I am so, so sorry.

I raced to the airport. My flight was departing at 5PM. I arrived at the parking lot at 4:22PM. I told the shuttle driver that I was having a panic attack, that my flight leaves at 5PM and I don't know what to do. He tried to keep me calm and rushed us to the terminal. I ran in frantically yelling to the gate agents to just tell me what gate I need. I run to the security line. Of course I forgot that this is BWI, not MIA. There are only about 3 people in line instead of 100. I get through security and run to my gate. I look at my watch: 4:30PM. Miraculous. People were just coming off the plane, so it'd still be 15 minutes before they even board. After an hour of heart palpitations I ended up being the first person on the plane; I relaxed in primera clase and enjoyed a couple glasses of wine.

On less than 24 hours notice my awesome friend Heather (pictured below) fetched me at the airport. We went to Catch of the Day for dinner and drinks. It's a great super-Latin spot with cheesey singers and people dancing on the outside deck. I had baby churrasco with chimichurri, black beans and rice, fried yuca, and some delicious tostones. I do miss Miami food.

I was back in my old stomping grounds in Coconut Grove, where I lived much of my many years in Miami. Breakfast on Sunday morning was right by my hotel at Berries in the Grove; I love the wraps there but somehow didn't end up having a wrap either time I went on this trip. Well, change is good; right? The Sunday afternoon crowded craziness in the Center Grove hadn't changed a bit since I left. Heather met me at Scotty's Landing, where I had a nice big Rum Runner, we watched the boats, and enjoyed the breeze. Scotty's is a nice locals spot right on the water. My one complaint is that they actually say on the menu that they aren't responsible for well done orders; so, I avoid the burgers there and stick with mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, and the like. (I refer to this style of food as "deep fried crap in a basket," but that's not to say it isn't good.) OK, my other complaint is that the live music was often Jimmy Buffet cover band stuff. I may be a boater, but I'd rather chew glass than listen to Jimmy Buffet. We saw a bunch of jellyfish at the adjacent fuel dock; I rarely saw jellyfish when I lived there, though they are abundant in Annapolis.  Scotty's is also next to City Hall, where I spent so much time my last several years in Miami. So, some interesting walks down memory lane.

I took a 4 mile run that felt like 6 because of the heat and humidity. But it was so beautiful running through the Grove and right by the water. A route I have run countless times before. Passing over a wooden foot bridge I looked down and saw lots of needlefish; they seem to be everywhere there. On my run I passed a cute floppy-haired guy walking his dog; maybe there's potential in Miami to find a floppy-haired sailor who wants to go adventure on the seas with me. We'll see.

One night I spoiled myself with dinner at Le Bouchon du Grove. I stuffed myself on a basket of amazing bread and drank half a bottle of rosé from Provence. When I asked the waiter to tell me about the Chicken Fricaseé he was clearly enthusiastic about it, saying it was the best item on the menu. But it has bones. I don't like to deal with bones. I asked about the filet mignon in a green peppercorn sauce. His reaction was lackluster. I know from personal experience if your server tells you to order something, trust them. They see what gets devoured and what gets left behind. So I "lived on the edge" and got the chicken. It was delicious, served with a creamy cheesy risotto. Easily enough for two to share. I tried my best to finish it but just couldn't. The waiter offered to wrap the rest to go. A while later he returned to my table and looked at me quizzically; where was my chicken? I said it never came back. He looked for it but it had disappeared. It really wasn't a big deal, (and turns out I did not have a mini fridge in my hotel room as I had convinced myself), but he gave me a complimentary glass of lovely dessert wine nonetheless.

Despite this post being filled with my gustatory conquests in Miami, I was there to work on a project and work I did. People have this image of Miami as a vacation hotspot where everyone is on island time and lazing by the pool. The reality is that people who would be "rich" in many American cities, the doctors, lawyers, and accountants, are the Miami middle class. And the hours they work are New York hours. Intense, fast-paced, long hours. Locals don't have tans because they spend their time running from air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned glass office building, day in, day out. That Monday I worked from noon until 4:15AM. Got to sleep at 5AM. Back up at 8AM. Out the door to catch a train downtown at 9AM. When our meeting wrapped at 6:30PM it would have been nice to call one of my friends working on Brickell to grab drinks. But no chance any of them could slink out of the office before 8:30PM, so I didn't even try.

When I was walking from the Metrorail to the meeting that morning some guys were walking just behind me and I hear "Hey, fancy-dress lady, you erasing that tattoo?" "Yeah," I explained, "but it won't all come out." His friend says "Yeah, you can't have that now you're in the Brickell life." I looked at them and laughed, "Oh, no, I left all this bullshit behind," I said, waving at the skyline of awful glass towers. "All these people," I told them "they work too hard to buy shit they don't need." The friend says "Oh, you live off a lot of savings now." "No, no; I'm just poor." He seemed to think that's bad. "Being poor is good," I explained, "it keeps life simple."

Miami is so many things, so many contradictions. So fake. So focused on money. Everything is about shopping and conspicuous consumption. No one can ever have enough. But then there is all the natural beauty. The tree canopy. The water. The needle fish and wild peacocks and iguanas. When I lived there balance was impossible to find. Values become warped. I love Miami. Its beauty, its vibrancy, even its seamy underbelly. But it is a place one has to fight every minute to maintain balance, a grip on what is real and important.

These little Cars2Go are all over Coconut Grove
Tropichop and fried yuca from Pollo Tropical... yum!
I had been planning to crew on a major Pacific passage and had the opportunity while in Miami to catch All is Lost, about a singlehander lost at sea in the Indian Ocean. When the movie ended Heather grabbed my arm and said "Don't go!" The couple sitting next to us said, "We're not going sailing tomorrow." I enjoyed the movie and Redford, but there are 100 or more things any serious sailor would've done differently. We debriefed about the movie over eats and drinks at a new-to-me spot in the Grove that Heather recommended: Lokal. Definitely worth the trip. Burgers are their specialty, but the blue cheese wedge salad was amazing.

Sailboat Bay view from Coconut Grove Sailing Club
Sunset on Spa Creek
Totally unrelated to seeing the movie, I did pass on the Pacific trip. It's not the right trip right now. Other opportunities will arise. Nonetheless, I am likely casting off shortly. Despite the cold and blustery weather, I am trying to mentally, physically, and financially prepare myself to head south for a while. Trying to rustle up some crew to help me make the trip. Trying to get various equipment installed and little fixes taken care of. So now I am consumed with trying to figure out marinas, mooring, a reliable dinghy, moving, and boat insurance that will triple if I stay south of latitude 36 come June 1.

It doesn't have to be forever. I won't ever let myself be tied down, it defeats the purpose of living on a boat. And I can't go back to the Miami grind. But it's time for some adventures, a change of scenery. I feel ready to move on from Annapolis for a while. It was a necessary stop, a respite where I could heal and center myself. And there are so many things I love about Annapolis. But "home" will never be a metropolis or a village for me; home just means something very different to me now that I'm aboard; my boat is home, and so home is anywhere, and everywhere. My boat is this vast potential to call "home" wherever the wind and sea allow.

Annapolis sunset on Spa Creek
A chilly 22 degrees in Naptown
Hard aground
It was 45 degrees on the boat when I got home. Chilly, to be sure, but certainly survivable, particularly with cuddle cups to curl up in. But the cats wouldn't even look at me the first few hours I was back. Nonetheless, it wasn't long before they both crawled on my lap for a snuggle and all was forgiven. At least now I know I have someone who would stay aboard with them so I wouldn't have a repeat of the stress about whether they were OK.

Following up on my last post, kudos to my local True Value, which readily swapped the oil-filled radiator for a new one, despite my not having a receipt, box, et cetera. Unfortunately, the replacement heater died within 30 minutes. Rather than try for a third, I returned the replacement and used the credit toward a DeLonghi oil-filled radiator, which is keeping the boat toasty warm. (It actually got up to 75 last night and I had to turn it down because that is too warm for me!) The heated mattress pad continues to be fantastic; highly recommended for anyone wintering aboard. I have also been gifted a heated blanket, but haven't broken it out yet.

This past Saturday a fellow liveaboard on the other side of Eastport called me: "The pump out boat is running. It's heading under the Spa Creek bridge right now." I quickly got on the radio to hail them. The buildings between us made the connection spotty and they asked me to call on their cell. They put me on the list to visit as soon as they came to Back Creek. Yes, I clapped and jumped for joy because the pump out boat is running in winter! It's a liveaboard thing.

When I'm very stressed I tend to have these recurring nightmares that I'm surrounded by sharks. I've never actually seen one in the wild, but I have a paralyzing fear of them. I can't even swim in a swimming pool without looking behind me to make sure there aren't any. Seriously. Sometimes the sharks are circling and I have to get the cats, dog, and myself to shore from a sinking dinghy. Gratefully, I haven't had the shark nightmares in a while. But lately I'm having a new set of recurring nightmares. We're on the boat and awaken to find that someone has untied all our lines and set us adrift. It's too cold out to get the diesel engine started. I'm trying to navigate the boat adrift in a maze of a marina without colliding with anything. Who would be so cruel to us to set us adrift this way?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The oil-filled radiator I bought last winter already gave up the ghost. That was the one heater safe to leave running when I'm away from the boat so the pets aren't shivering and systems stay above freezing. I had to borrow back a small space heater I had given a friend. We're getting by with it, but I don't feel safe leaving it running when I'm not aboard. I may try taking the oil-filled one back to the True Value to see if it is still under warranty, but it'll probably have crapped out on day 366.

It's hard to see because of the boat's shadow, but if you look carefully you can see the rudder extending above the water in the first shot below. In the second shot you can see that the water is at the boot stripe above the bottom paint toward the bow, but the bottom is more and more exposed moving aft.  I have a boarding gate amidships, lined up just before the end of the finger pier. It's a long walk down that narrow little pier late on a gusty night.

I've been checking the depth sounder frequently to get a sense of how low the water levels are getting already.  A couple of nights ago it was at 4 feet. Last night it was so low that the sounder simply wouldn't give a reading at all, just a series of dashes on the screen. This morning we were at 3.3 feet. The downhill walk in the boat is noticeable and small loose items quickly roll toward the bow. The boat is resting on its keel in the mud, tilted forward, and with the rudder sticking a few inches out above the water. Farther down the dock, the "dinghy dock" is high and dry and the slip beside it has only a couple of inches of water and only on one side of the slip. A neighbor has left his small powerboat aground and doesn't seem concerned.

Last night was perilous and stressful, for both me and pup dog. I measured the distance from the deck to the finger pier: 36.5 inches. Even when sitting on the pier there is still a good distance from the bottom of my feet to the deck, and just too far to reach even if I scoot to the edge and stretch my foot forward. I have to summon some courage and all at once reach down for the stanchion aboard with my right hand as I push myself off the pier with my left and try to firmly plant my feet on the deck. If I slip and fall between the boat and the pier I'd only be in a few feet of water, but I would probably sink in the mud, the water is already very cold, and I may hit the boat or pier on the way down. With no one else in the marina, no one would hear the commotion or calls for help. There aren't any ladders along the dock, so I'd have a hard time getting out of the water and back ashore. It's much easier to handle getting on and off the boat in these conditions during the day because the visibility seems to make it much less psychologically challenging. On the other hand, during the day it's more likely neighbors are chuckling to themselves watching me pull myself up, laying flat hugging the narrow pier, inchworming to pull myself up the electrical pedestal, steadying myself to turn around, and then carefully walking down the pier to get ashore.

Once I got safely aboard last night that was it; I was in for the night. It is just too frightening getting on and off the boat in these conditions. But as I worked away on the computer the pup dog sat at the base of the steps staring at the door. I put down a piddle pad in the head and told her she absolutely wouldn't be in trouble if she went there. She would sniff it and then just sit down and give me the saddest look, with her ears back, begging me to take her out.

I told her she wouldn't like it. I told her she should just go on the pad. I finally broke down and took her topsides. She balked at the ramp, as I knew she would. But she had to "go" badly enough that she finally went up it. A huge mistake I really must not make again. Once she was ashore she refused to come back down the steep ramp. I can better ensure the ramp doesn't fall off the dock if I am on the boat holding it than if I try to hold it from on the dock. And I didn't want to risk getting on and off the boat again. I begged and pleaded with her. I commanded her sharply. She would try, and then whimper pathetically and lay down. Lights were on in the marina owner's house, so I called to ask for help. But they were already in bed. I tried calling the club across the street but just kept getting voicemail. When we heard the car there start and drive away we both knew for sure we were just on our own. If I didn't have any friends close by I could call at 10:30PM to help us, I certainly didn't have any at 11:15PM either. Any friends I might have asked for help were long asleep.

I thought propping the ramp on several cushions to raise the end about 8 inches, flattening the angle of the ramp, was pretty ingenious, but pup dog still wanted no part of it. I tried to ply her with treats and with a bowl of kibble. I kept pleading and commanding. Even when I broke down and cried she just whimpered and refused to come down the ramp. At one point she ran down the dock and then toward the gate and barked very loudly, very aggressively, imploring the neighbors (who never so much as nod a hello) to come help us. I finally resigned myself to going ashore. I wasn't sure if I'd have to put the heat on in the bathhouse and have her sleep on the bathroom floor (I should've taken some towels for her, just in case), or if I'd actually be able to shove her down the ramp. She tried to get away and I had to pick her up, legs flailing, and set her on the ramp, begin shoving her butt, and hold onto the ramp as best I could to keep it from retracting and falling off the dock. She balked at the end of the ramp because she had to then hop down into the cockpit, but she finally did it and then inhaled the bowl of kibble sitting there. She knew I was pretty mad at her and I knew she was just scared and didn't want to be in trouble. I gave her a big hug and told her she was brave and smart, but we just can't do that again. Somehow we managed to get through the process this morning, but the tide was a couple inches higher and the light of day seems to make it less scary for us both. Still, I have got to train her to use the Astroturf door mat on the deck. It's increasingly tempting to move the boat as soon as possible even though I have to pay through the end of the year at this marina.

Note the snoozy counting sheep on the label.
On the upside, our heated mattress pad arrived yesterday. I unpacked it, read over the instructions, and then tried to make the rectangular pad fit in some logical way on my almost-triangular mattress. I set each side on high and let it get started. A note mentioned that it will not feel hot to the touch. That was a little disappointing. But the note reassured that once in bed, the warmth from the mattress pad would be noticeable and relaxing. I don't know if the pets were able to feel it through the duvet, down comforter, and top blanket, but under the covers it was definitely cozy. A few times I wanted to kick the covers off a bit, but then the cold air would nip at my toes and I'd tuck myself under the blankets again. The instructions say to keep it away from pets and not jump on it to avoid damaging the wires...yeah, no way around a 55 pound dog jumping up and down on it several times a day, so fingers crossed it holds up. So far, definitely worth the $110 investment.

Circa 8:30AM this morning, weather report:

Outside: 32 degrees.
Inside: 55 degrees.
Engine room: 50 degrees.
Time to brave the cold again to shower ashore. Can't put off washing my hair any longer, that walk coming back from the bathhouse is gonna be chilly! I might prefer a warmer climate soon, but even with the daily challenges I wouldn't trade living aboard for anything.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

plotting a course to somewhere

Yesterday the outdoor thermometer at the marina was at 30 degrees when I took the pup out at about 7:30AM. By early afternoon the temperature had risen to just shy of 60 degrees. But once night fell the cold set right back in and come 8:00PM we were at the freezing mark. I pulled out one of the work lights, plugged it in, and set it on top of the engine. There is a light socket in the engine room, but I haven't figured out how to switch it on; it would be much easier to use that than to run work lights in there. I filled the water tank today though the marina owner said he won't turn off the dockside water until it gets consistently colder. I go through a tank of water in about two weeks, so it would be nice to at least get to the next fill-up before having to run a hose from the bathhouse. The boat is pretty chilly and an upgrade to a heated mattress pad will need to happen sooner than later. I could just sleep on the settee in the salon, where it is warmer, but it's so much nicer to be able to stretch out in the large v-berth.

Tides are my enemy now. The tide dropped so far yesterday I had to go loosen up lines that needed to be tightened the day before because the winds were whipping. Those same winds blew the water out of the bay and left us pretty dry in the marina. I could see the barnacles on the exposed portions of the bottom and the few inches of rudder sticking out above the waterline.

Pup dog does not like going ashore when we have very low tides because her ramp is at such a steep angle. I sat next to the ramp yesterday to reassure her and told her it'd be fine. I may have spoken too soon. Just when her front paws hit the dock the ramp slipped backwards towards the boat and off the dock. It's tied to some eye-bolts so it won't fall into the water, but it does end up hanging down several inches below the dock when it falls off. I kept telling her I'm sorry but that she's OK and she's so brave. I tightened up the aft spring line to keep the boat from moving forward and tightened up the stern lines, as well, though the boat wasn't really able to move around much being stuck in the mud. When I tried to get her back aboard she just looked at the ramp, looked at me, and then laid down in the grass in protest. She gave me a plaintive but determined stare telling me she was terrified of the ramp, didn't want to be in trouble with me, but also had no intention of moving an inch. Poor girl. I got some treats, showed her that I was holding the ramp and that it was firmly planted. After some coaxing and false starts, she scrambled down the ramp to plenty of praise and treats.

I usually ignore the many emails I receive from West Marine but yesterday's one-day-only deal was too good to pass up. 25% off the chart plotter I had been coveting. Touch screen. NMEA 2000 plug and play. Built-in GPS. Pre-loaded with US Coastal and northern Bahamas charts and able to take additional charts via SD card. Once I can afford an anemometer and a radar, they are easily hooked up to the unit. I may route my depth sounder's data to it or I may wait and add a newer transducer later on to add the sonar to the chart plotter display. So, I raided a good chunk of my little "cruising fund" built up from the sale of most of my worldly possessions, but having a real marine chart plotter will be a major convenience when cruising. And once I add on radar I will feel more comfortable on the water at night and in heavy rain or fog. This is my biggest single purchase for the boat since buying the boat. Now I just have to install it!

I'm still not sure where I'll be at the end of this month. I should be running a marathon after Thanksgiving and an ultra in December for which I am woefully undertrained. I may be here, running, drinking "special cocoa" with peppermint schnapps, wintering over in Annapolis. I may be sailing to Hawaii and beyond. I may be donning foulies to take the boat to southern climes. I simply don't know. And that's just fine by me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

all wrapped up

Mike and Jen helping fix the inside-out jib.
A little over a week ago I was planning a nice day cruise with friends. It would have to be shorter than usual due to the need to time the tides, and no one would want to go swimming in the 60 degree water, but it would still be a nice, crisp, sunny day for a sail. A lot of preparation was needed to get the boat ready to go, both because of loose items on deck and inside, and because the roller furler for the jib still needed to be rationalized. Mike, Jen, and I spent a good three hours getting her ready to go. I'd had a couple of experienced sailors not get the jib set up quite right, so we needed to unfurl it and figure out how to get the line to furl it in the right direction. It had kept wrapping inside-out. My jib has a wide blue border which when the sail is furled provides UV protection to extend the life of the sail. We needed to get enough line wrapped on the furling drum and then have the drum spin in the correct direction so that the cover would be on the outside. A few times unfurling and furling the jib and Jen used her geometry skills to figure it out for us. She may not be a sailor (yet), but she's smart and determined, which is exactly what we needed to fix the problem.

I had realized in an "a-ha!" moment back in September that the reason the jib wasn't trimming properly to sail upwind was that we were using the wrong blocks for the jib sheets. Prior trips out the jib sheets had been run through turning blocks just aft of the winches in the cockpit. To get a tighter angle on the sail to head upwind, we needed to first run the sheets through blocks farther forward. Those blocks have been shackled to some anchor chain up at the bow, likely for safe keeping when the prior owners traded her in. We shackled those blocks to cars on the jib tracks that run along the top of the toe rail on either side of the boat. I've heard that I can get horn cleats that will run on the jib track, which would be much easier for tying my spring lines rather than running the (very long) spring lines through the cars. I would also like to add cam cleats inside the cockpit below the winches as they will be easier for me to manage when singlehanding. The wish list never stops growing it seems.

The dinghy dock high and dry.
With the sails in order we secured the pets below and started the engine. In the cold fall weather it took a few tries to get her to turn over. In the summer she always started on the first go. Diesels just don't like the cold it seems. But we got her running. A couple of hours before high tide the depth sounder said 5 feet. I draw almost five, and the depth alarm beeps incessantly at 5.2 and below. We were now at high tide but when I turned the depth sounder back on we were in 4.4 feet of water. Three days of steady NW winds were blowing water out of the bay, so although the tide was coming in, the water level had continued to fall. We tried pulling her out of the slip on the lines. I tried gunning the engine, which probably just dug us deeper into the mud. After all that preparation, the sails finally in order, our day sail was hard aground. I repeatedly apologized to Mike and Jen but they were great sports and we just hung out in the cockpit and had drinks before strolling down to the pub for a late lunch.

The trip out wasn't only going to be a pleasure cruise, however. The harbormaster's pump out boat has been out of service awaiting a part and my holding tank was full. I also had no idea how much fuel was in the tank and it is best to keep the tank full over the winter to minimize condensation. I do have facilities at my marina and they are not far from my slip, but trust me when I tell you it isn't ideal to have to bundle up, climb up on the pier during a low tide, and run to the head at 3AM. Add rain or snow to the mix and it's even less fun. With the tank full that also means there is sewage sitting in the hoses; over time it will permeate the hose and make the boat very stinky. So, getting over to the fuel dock for a pump out was a priority.

My furry crew can't seem to handle a boat hook.
Midweek I popped by the pub for lunch to see if I might find someone willing to take a little cruise across the creek with me. I probably can handle taking her over by myself just fine, but because my docking situation is a little tight I am more comfortable having someone to help fend me off other boats or pilings while docking. I didn't manage to find anyone at lunchtime but went back about 3PM (circa high tide and the beginning of happy hour). The guy I asked for help initially chided me that I should be able to do it myself without help, but when I mentioned I had a cooler of beer aboard he agreed to come along for the ride. He's an old salt and knows his stuff, so he barked at me a bit for being trepidatious around other boats. He did give me some good tips though to keep moving between gears in short bursts to kick the boat in one direction or another and keep good control over her while docking or waiting to approach the fuel dock. I was surprised to only take 7.4 gallons of fuel. I put some cetane enhancer in before filling her up, but wish I had had stabilizer to add. Now I have the stabilizer, but might need to use up a little fuel to make room for it in the tank. This winter I really have to be diligent about starting the engine once a week to keep her happier, especially if I will have to take her out to find pump out facilities. The harbormaster's office said they will run the pump out boat on Saturdays through the winter, but I'm not exactly holding my breath since they don't even have the boat running at all right now.

My huge, sturdy, lightweight IKEA bag is great for laundry.
After the little cruise across the creek I resigned myself to an evening of laundry. There is free parking at one of the local laundromats, but that one is definitely the kind of place I worry about someone stealing something. Although parking is a nightmare downtown, I still head to the laundromat on Maryland Avenue, which is clean, uncrowded, and I don't worry as much about someone stealing my panties. Although Galway Bay is a pricey watering hole, it is directly across the street from the laundromat so I generally have a pint there and just run across the street to put items in the dryer et cetera. I managed to knock out three loads of laundry in an hour and only drink one pint of Magner's Cider. When I first walked into Galway, a guy stopped me and asked "Was that your plan all along?" I looked at him quizzically. "Was it your plan to put your laundry in and then come here and drink while you wait?" he asked. They seemed to think that was a humorous, but sound, strategy. It does make the whole laundry day experience a little more pleasant, though I would still prefer to have laundry right at my marina.

I tried to get the dog to dress up for Halloween but she wanted nothing to do with it. Myself, I was a corpse bride. I think next year I will wear the gown but have day of the dead makeup. It'd be really nice to have a whole group in that theme or at least have a skeleton groom to complement my costume. The party at Davis' was fun and then I met up with friends for dinner at Vin 909. I had to work the next morning, so I couldn't make it a late night, but it was certainly better than last Halloween.

Winter aboard is here in full force. I definitely need to add a heated mattress pad for the v-berth. The oil-filled radiator is warm, but even with a couple of fans going I am not getting the heat evenly circulated throughout the boat and the salon remains much warmer--perhaps by ten degrees--than the stateroom. I don't really mind bundling up to sleep with flannels, thick socks, a sweatshirt, and hat, but that isn't exactly a sexy nightie and it isn't exactly romantic when an overnight guest is shivering. Now you know the secret to my youthful appearance: the meat-locker temperature of the stateroom is like being cryogenically preserved every night. Just kidding... it's that 45+ sunblock, being a non-smoker, chipmunk cheeks, and being young at heart.

Perhaps the mattress pad should be a reward if I ever manage to clean up the interior of the boat! I have had her in a pretty good state at points, but the last flurry of cleaning and organizing was interrupted half-way, so now piles of clothes, kitchenware, and tools are stacked in every available space. I pulled everything out so I could clean and organize storage lockers, but now I am just buried under stuff. Then came moving out of the office, so more stuff came aboard and my car is packed to the brim. I need to get groceries today but there is no where in the car to put a 30 lb. bag of dog food much less any of the other groceries. I have sold, thrown away, or given away probably 90% of my worldly possessions, but let's face it: I still have too much stuff!

I have been storing pots, pans, and food in the cubbies behind the settee and the dinette but am now rethinking that approach. Because dog hair seems to get everywhere in the boat (sigh), I end up having to re-wash all the items stored in those cubbies before I can use them. I also cannot use all the space in those cubbies because I need clearance to lift pots and pans in and out. I am considering using one of the cabinets that currently houses clothes and shoes for the pots and pans, and storing off-season clothing and extra bedding and towels in the cubbies. Then I can fill them all the way up and they will act as insulation against the hull. The problem is those cubbies are prone to terrible condensation because they are against the hull, though it is not as bad now that they are all lined with Reflectix insulation. So, if I put soft goods there instead of pans I have to protect them from the moisture lest they be soaking wet and moldy. I may get oodles of zip-lock bags and/or space bags so items will stay dry. I just have to buckle down, find a few days I can set aside, and tackle the organizing head on. I need to get to it before too long so I can have friends over for cozy dinners aboard and "special cocoa" with peppermint schnapps and baby marshmallows.

I'll leave you with this: Max thinks the top of the dodger is a groovy hammock. Silly cat.