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

Friday, December 13, 2013

me, myself, and i (+ project: port lights)

Well, actually, it's me, pup, and the cats. My intrepid crew. Although I would prefer to make the trip south with just my pack, enjoying the solitude, making our own adventure, and setting our own pace, it would certainly be simpler and faster if I had crew along to help. Going solo means being stuck at the helm the entire day under way, with no one to take the wheel for even a few minutes here and there so that I can piss or make coffee or check on the pets. I will likely need to bring every item I'll need for the day up to the cockpit with me and forego drinking much coffee along the way. It also means no one to help me watch out for crab pots, to help me with anchoring and docking the boat, or to help with getting the dog in and out of a dinghy to go ashore.

Despite my preference for being on my own, it isn't that I haven't tried to round up crew. I am loathe to ask for help but I sucked it up and asked virtually everyone that made any sense, many who did not, and random strangers, to boot. Between the cold weather, an old boat, and the furry crew, I guess folks just don't see the appeal. Clearly, they haven't had my butterscotch brownies.

A smattering of people think I can do it and tell me to just cast off the lines and get going. Most think there is no chance I can do it on my own and that I'll be heading to certain death. *Sigh.* I'm not talking about taking my boat solo past Cape Hatteras (the "graveyard of the Atlantic"). We're talking about 21+ day trips down the intracoastal waterway. It's a slow bird-watching trip with lots of time spent idling waiting for bridges to open. Yes, I'm worried about various areas with notoriously strong current since I haven't had to deal with much of any current here in Annapolis. Yes, I will have to time tides because the water is shallow in the ICW and I don't want to run aground constantly. Yes, I will have to wait out weather at times and carefully plan my weather for crossing the Albemarle Sound. But as I have said before, stupider, drunker people in less seaworthy boats than mine have circumnavigated and made it home alive. Surely I can make it down the ICW in one piece.

It's disheartening the lack of faith people have in me, but I guess that's why I'm a single girl on her boat with a furry crew. It's me and my pack, we're used to being on our own and just having to believe in ourselves and keep on keeping on.

I'm probably most concerned with anchoring, docking, and locking through by myself. Those are the times that a second set of hands really comes in handy. But I'll just have to buckle down and practice the anchoring and docking as much as I can before I go. Unfortunately, being aground in my slip much of the time during winter means I can't get my boat out for that practice and no telling whether I'd have enough water under my keel to make it out of the slip when I got a decent weather window to head out. Yesterday I picked up my new Gill offshore foul weather jacket. When I bought bibs and a jacket at Annapolis Performance Sailing, I had wanted to walk out with everything that day. The women's jacket that fit me was in red, which isn't my thing, so I went with a men's jacket in graphite. After further consideration, I decided having a jacket with arms that extended a couple inches past my fingertips was not going to work out. And this gear isn't exactly inexpensive. The guys at APS were great and readily exchanged it for me, called to press Gill to get the new ladies' graphite one shipped out, and gave me a Black Friday discount that hadn't been applied earlier. APS may be racer-oriented and on the pricier end, but every experience I've had there has been great. They patiently answer my questions and never talk down to me because I'm a "girl," (a universal experience at West Marine). OK, I'll admit it doesn't hurt that they have some cute young guys working there... anyone who reads this blog knows I have my weaknesses...

The pre-departure punchlist is rather lengthy and I was set back on progress by a cash flow crunch, several days of snow and rain, and being stood up by my handyman. I'm eager to leave, ready for an adventure, tired of Annapolis. But my current thinking is that I'll try to stay in the general area for another couple months to knock out work on my boat where I know vendors. Heading out in March would still be chilly, but if spring comes early it could be quite nice, days for the transit would be longer, and I may be able to line up a crew member to help. The latter is tough. I'd absolutely prefer to make the trip alone and not have to be in tight quarters with someone, getting on each other's nerves. Even the dearest friend can grow tiresome quickly with no way to take a break from each other. But if the right cute, young, floppy-haired guy came along...

Sunday night's mix of snow and sleet left about a quarter-inch of ice all along my pier, plus icicles on the boom and lifelines. Good thing I had plenty of ice melt to put down.

We're about a week into a new litter "system" for the cats. I told the cats it's not just any litter box. No, they are fancy, important cats that get a "system." The Tidy Cats Breeze had been recommended on The Boat Galley via a cruiser with cats. Naturally, it uses special litter pellets and pee pads to lock you into ongoing purchases, but I found those things on Amazon at not unreasonable prices. The box has a grate in the bottom and the pee goes through the grate and into a pee pad in a tray below. After one week the pad was totally full, but there wasn't any cat pee smell at all. I'll likely change the pad more than once a week since I have two cats aboard. The pellets are sort of large and hard. The poop doesn't stick to them at all so you just scoop out the poop very easily and the box is clean. No gritty litter getting kicked and tracked everywhere. The cats seemed unsure at first and we had one "out-of-box incident," but it looks like I have compliance now and this system is noticeably less smelly. One very important benefit: instead of going through 30 pounds of bulky, hard-to-store clumping litter a month, this will use just one or two 3.5 pound bags of pellets. Much lighter to carry aboard and far easier to store.

Project Screen and Gasket Replacement: I bought new gaskets and screens from Beckson several months ago but hadn't gotten around to replacing them. All the screens were ripped and a few of my port lights would leak when it rained. I happened to have an afternoon that was sunny and dry, with snow and rain expected the following days, so I decided to tackle the project. It doesn't seem like a tough project and the only tool required is a wooden mallet. But the frustration level over those gaskets can get pretty high. They just don't want to go in the little groove. Then you get it in and when you think you've finished the last corner you step back and one of the other corners has popped out. Arrgggghhhh! OK, deep breath. As the guy at Beckson had told me, the first one was definitely the hardest and they would each be progressively less hard (I can't really say "easier" with a straight face). For one port I had an internal rain shield so I can leave the port open for ventilation without rain coming in. It's basically a piece of smoked Lexan with a screen at the top half and two louvers to keep the rain off. I expected the gasket project to have been an utter failure and rain to be gushing in everywhere. But to my pleasant surprise, only the port in the head leaked. I tightened down a couple of the dogs and voila, leak stopped. Where I actually see water coming in on most of them is at the screws, which has nothing to do with my gasket replacement project. Once I get some nice weather I'll go topsides and put a little silicone over the screws and a bead of silicone along the bottom and part-way up the sides of the ports even though it's probably overkill. Here's a "before" with a crappy-looking ripped screen, and then an "after" with a shiny new internal rain shield installed. Definitely a classier look.

Ah, but the port lights still looked pretty junky from the inside because I have pieces of silver Reflectix insulation in each of them to keep heat in and condensation down. I had commented on how nice the little inserts over a friend's ports were and she told me they just bought place mats at Michael's and then cut them to fit as sleek little "curtains." I happened to have some place mats with an interesting texture and which seem to be some kind of heavy duty paper or possibly bamboo that may hold up for a while. The color isn't my first choice, but I figured this was a good way to experiment. So...

Take some 3M Super 77 spray adhesive (note: expect this to make a major mess of your nail polish if you forget to put on gloves... ask me how I know), add green place mats, and let's see what happens!

That third photo is a different little project I just tackled, too. I read a comment on Cruiser's Forum saying that an aluminum mast is a heat sink sucking all the warmth in the cabin up and out. I had my heater running on high next to the mast. I felt the mast and it was very cold. Hmmm... I had a huge roll of Reflectix laying around so why not. I wrapped the mast in the insulation and duct-taped it, then slid it around so the duct tape is hidden. I think I'll take an old sail and make a cover to zip or tie around over the insulation instead of having this shiny silver disco pole in the middle of the salon.

OK, back to the "curtains." I sprayed each piece of Reflectix on one side with the adhesive and then pressed it down on the place mat. Then I just followed around the shape of the insulation to cut away the excess place mat. I'm actually quite pleased with how this came out. I'm not huge on green, but it's OK for now and I may just make another set from an old sail or other fabric I like. I have four other larger windows which don't open, and now I just need to cover the insulation in them the same way. Guess it's time to start hacking up that old sail!

Off to a holiday party tonight and tomorrow is the lighted boat parade here in Annapolis. The lights are pretty but this will be my fourth year and I expect it will be the same decorations I've seen for the last three years. It sure would be nice if they required the entrants to change things up.


  1. Docking, anchoring, locking ... tons of books for guidance. But, peeing over the side so you don't have to leave the cockpit while single-handing - explore here

    1. Indeed! At least I have some experience peeing in strange locations from being a runner. When I took the Green Tortoise (West Coast hippy Greyhound) they had a funnel with a hose than ran out to the road; I didn't use it, but I guess I could rig one if I was really in a jam. But a veteran commercial ICW'er gave me a tip to use in a pinch...find a quiet spot and just nudge the boat aground to keep her in one place so I can run below quickly, and then just reverse back off the shoal and get back underway. We'll see. First day of anchor practice was today and my arms are going to be plenty sore from pulling and grinding the anchor up.

  2. Ah, the Green Tortoise lives!

    The ICW shallows are mostly mud so your friend's suggestion to nudge ashore is valid.

    Another option is to drop into neutral, let steerage way die while in mid-channel, run or saunter below... before Ambrosia nudges the bottom. In open water, 'tis simple to heave to (the boat that is!).


Thanks for reading! Have you had a similar experience you'd like to share? Have a link to an interesting blog fellow readers and I might enjoy? Just want to say hello? Post your comments below. I'm a smart, resourceful girl doing things her own way, so I just ask that folks keep the unsolicited advice to themselves.