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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

feng shui (project: organize and paint)

I bought some dry erase boards in hopes of mounting them and using them to help stay organized and on top of things. Naturally, the one that I mounted promptly fell off the wall in less than a day. One laid on top of the pile of crazy consuming the nav desk and said "Get your space organized and zen and your mind will follow." Guests aboard looked at it, looked at the crazy piles of stuff everywhere, and laughed.

But your space and your insides do seem to reflect and influence each other. I aspire to make the boat clutter-free, with nice matching cushions and such. I had bought cotton net bags to hang for storage and after initially buying a set of multiple colors decided I should go with all natural off-white ones so it doesn't look like some Deadhead rainbow inside the boat. But the reality is that the colored ones are me and the plain dull ones are what I aspire to, but will never be. Similarly, wind chimes on a boat are nutty and mine are very hippy-dippy. I have this theoretical vision of the boat without them, just clean lines, dull and "yachty," but I simply couldn't do it. I have to have my wind chimes that say "breathe" and "namaste" with a simple bell beneath them. Yes, I'll have to toss them in a drawer when sailing, but the little tchotchkes make me feel at home, they say something to me or remind me of some trip or time in my life that I'm not ready to forget. I know they are just stuff, just things, but I've lost, sold, and given up so much, I can't quite let go of the little I have left.

There is still more to be done and it will always be a work in progress, but here are some "before" and "after" shots of the cabin. Yeah, don't judge me; I'm doing the best I can.

The galley is still a work in progress, and let's just not talk about the nav desk yet. That's on the "to do" list for later today... or tomorrow. The real "project" aside from cleaning and organizing was painting the cabin. The painted area had been horribly moldy when I bought the boat. Although the mold has long been dealt with, the black stains left behind were not going to come out. I bought some anti-mold paint and had it tinted. The first coat came out bright white rather than the soft cream I was going for. It had this stark "production boat" feel I couldn't live with. The light color also made the nice headliner, which is a bisque color, seem dingy.

I set aside enough of the original color to do a base coat on the other side so that both sides would match and then took the 3/4 of a quart back to the hardware store to see if they could re-tint it for me. They had to experiment and just sort of make up a color, but it worked. It's not a shade I would've originally chosen but I actually love it. It's sort of a clay color; not quite tan, not quite gray, with a hint of green. It definitely makes the cabin feel warmer and looks much classier than the shabby mold-stained walls I had before. I spent a few hours cursing prior owners for the tacky rope light and gazillion screws they put in the walls to mount it that I had to remove before I could clean and paint. My plan is to run a piece of line where the rope light had been, using some of the gazillion holes already drilled there, so I can hang the net bags between port lights for more storage space for small, lightweight things like hats, gloves, and sunglasses. We'll see; these ideas usually take a few iterations of brainstorming and tweaking to get worked out. I also took some natural-colored cotton fabric and spray-glued it to the Reflectix "curtains" in the larger windows that don't open. It's nice not to have all that shiny silver everywhere making the boat look like a space ship. However, the mast still looks like a big shiny silver disco pole... for now.

The cove I'm in, and from the looks of it all the way across Back Creek, is frozen over and covered with snow on top of the ice. Can I just say I'm ready for spring now? The water pump keeps freezing up, so I haven't had running water aboard for a couple of days. I keep flipping on the water heater trying to generate enough heat in that section of the engine room to thaw the line, but it's getting pretty frustrating. Both sinks are full of dishes and taking them ashore will be a total pain in the ass, but likely the only option at this point. The few days of warmer weather can't arrive soon enough. Last week we had two dangerous winter liveaboard incidents here. First, a liveaboard downtown slipped on his icy deck and fell in the water; luckily other liveaboards heard the splash and, together with the fire department, rescued him. Second, two boats in Eastport burned to the waterline and were destroyed; luckily no one was aboard either at the time. These are things my nightmares are often made of nowadays.

I put silicone at the area around a shroud that had been the apparent source of a leak. Unfortunately, that isn't solving the problem. I think melting snow and ice are now getting through from underneath the toe rail. Another Gulfstar 37 owner is solving this problem by removing the toe rail. The replacement toe rail has breaks at each shroud, so there is no way for water to sneak under the toe rail at the chain plates. A very nice solution, but I'm concerned about how costly that change will be.

I missed a week of running with all the snow and bitter cold, but all that cleaning, organizing, and painting was still a decent workout. This week we're back on track and pup dog was a trooper running six miles in the bitter cold with me. I had the benefit of Yaktrax but we had to stop frequently to pull snow and salt from between pup's pads. It feels great to be running again and although the dieting is tough right now, I know it won't be as hard once my mileage is back up and my metabolism is faster.

A few weeks ago I had called the pump out boat but they were frozen in. The following Saturday they were socked in with fog. So the next Saturday I tried again. The tank wasn't yet full, but another couple weeks and I'd be in a jam. But I was in luck, it was actually a relatively nice and warm day for this winter full of polar vortexes and such. When the boat pulled up I was surprised to see the cute floppy-haired guy who'd been running the boat over the summer; I hadn't seen him since fall arrived. It's hard to explain or pin down why, but when I see him I perk up. I'm sure you've had that happen; someone who just makes your eyes light up, your posture straighten, a smile spread across your face. That's what I think of as the power of pheromones; mother nature just saying there is chemistry there. To me, it's an absolutely necessary, but not sufficient, condition to being with someone. If you don't have that spark right off, it won't ever come. I could definitely be wrong, but I feel like the chemistry is mutual.

He asked about the pup dog, which was sweet. I told him I was planning on leaving soon to head south, and he said we had to stop talking about getting a drink at the pub and make it happen. I scurried below to fetch a card and gave it to him. Time to walk the talk if he's for real. The older guy on the pump out boat was probably rolling his eyes and looking at his watch as we chatted away while vacuuming the shit out of the boat. A handful of hours later he texted me. But it's been 10+ days of texting back and forth and...  that's it. I don't want to play games but I also don't want to scare him off--not everyone can handle my bluntness and the subtleties of sarcasm and teasing don't translate well by text so I try to avoid them. But, seriously? If you've asked this mermaid for a tour of her boat and she's saying "hey, let's get together," just make it happen. I'm always catching sailors I'm not trying to hook and when I finally have one I want on my line, I can't seem to reel him in. Sigh.

pup waiting for me to come ashore
ice kept creeping closer to the boat
the tide got too low for the ice eater
The loose working plan has been to leave Annapolis as of March. I believe my slip has already been rented out. I was thinking that I'd just be underway for a week and then stop somewhere for a month or two to work and keep doing that until I ended up somewhere I wanted to stay longer. Of course, I still have a lot of work to be done on the boat to be able to head out, such as get and install solar panels, but even with cash in hand I can't get guys in Annapolis to show up to do the work. Everyone here just wants to curl up for the winter and drink. But as I am used to in this life, the brief upswings never last long. The work in Miami dried up a little over two weeks ago. Back I go to looking for research gigs or, more likely, waiting tables. Fingers crossed I line something up within the next two weeks as I never have much of any financial cushion. Looks like my big cruise this winter will probably just be over to Spa Creek. I'm disappointed, of course. But the devil you know is better than the one you don't; right? I just need to make the best of my time here and my friends here and keep living the dream.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Sitting here with a glass of wine, the pup curled up beside me, Riders on the Storm playing in the background. I have an exquisite backgammon board tucked at the other end of the settee. Cherry, with an inlaid leather playing surface. Built-in tracks and cubbies for the pieces and dice. I am preparing to head out for the evening, with no particular place to go, meeting up with a friend at some point along the way. But what would be a perfect evening on a chilly winter night like this? To find someone to curl up at the other end of the settee, help me through the wine, playing backgammon, enjoying some classic Doors, all the while speechless.

The ability to be quiet is truly underrated by society, particularly with respect to romantic partners. I don't need someone to talk to. The dog is a good listener; why would I replace that with a person who will judge, give unsolicited advice, or ramble back at me. My closest friends and I don't even need to say anything. The important things are just understood, as are the routine. The stuff in the middle can make for entertaining conversation, but doesn't have to. It's that insatiable urge people have to fill silence with ricketa-racketa, with anything at all, that simply wears me down and drives me back to the solitude and quiet of my boat.

But when someone suggests meeting up for a drink, am I to say, "OK, but we don't have to talk do we?" (Yes, I'm laughing at that, but I'm also quite serious.) Maybe I just want to be out in the world, have a drink at the bar, but sit back and watch. Maybe I don't want to have to come up with conversation or try to stay attentive to some guy's story about... whatever. This isn't solely about romantic partners by any means, but with respect to them I can tell you guys don't "get" girls with anything they say. A girl has decided within about 30 seconds max whether a guy is that kind of material; it's a pheromone thing. If a guy then says something stupid it may kill his chances, so he's honestly better off staying quiet. I bluntly (or cruelly, depending on your perspective) categorize guys immediately into the "fuckable zone" or the "friend zone." Honestly, it isn't even an overt or conscious sorting. But let me just reiterate that the "friend zone" is like Hotel California... you can check in, but you can never leave.

But back to the point of this rant... words are not what companionship, love, or friendship are about. They can't create any of those things, but they can destroy them. I'm not saying I hate words; writing is one of the only things I do well, so I have to be thankful for words and the outlet they provide me. But they are overused and abused. I have a draft post I'll have to finish up on love letters. Short, sweet, honest, and passionate; that's what words should be. But I'll still be looking for a free spirited guy who can look in my eyes and not need to say a thing.

Friday, January 10, 2014

feed your head

I've definitely learned that I prefer my solitude to social obligations. Now that Showtime has killed the Borgias series and being in the off-season of the few other television shows I enjoy, (and figuring I won't have television in a couple of months anyway), I need to entertain myself (i.e., have ways to procrastinate on projects) and try not to have everything be boat-repair or sailing books, since my world already revolves around life aboard. I'm trying to get back to listening to a variety of educational and entertaining podcasts, which I can listen to while running or doing dishes or just walking about. Although I like my podcasts, I am very picky about what I listen to. I tried to listen to a sailing podcast but deleted it due to the sing-song of the guy's voice and the dull material. If anything is remotely reminiscent of talk radio or NPR, it's a no-go. I might actually dislike NPR even more than I dislike Jimmy Buffet music.

So, here are the podcasts that are on my plate as I feed my head:

Notes in Spanish: Inspired Beginners. They also have intermediate and advanced Spanish podcasts. It's a big change in accent for me because it is Spanish Spanish, rather than Latin American Spanish, so some of it is difficult for me to understand and I don't want to pick up the lisp. But since I have a lot of exposure to Latin American Spanish it is good for me to hear even more variety in accent and vocabulary. The beginners' level is too easy for me but since I don't live half my life in Spanish the way I did in Miami, it's good to refresh my ear as I work my way into more advanced levels. Despite college courses in Spanish and Portuguese and strong vocabulary in both, I never managed to get comfortable with future and past tenses, and need to find a way to get myself there so I am not stuck with just shopping and dining out level ability. I'm going to try to watch more movies in Spanish as well for mini-immersion and to expand vocabulary. Spanish is handy in a lot of places and especially for cruising in the Caribbean and Latin America. Having learned that the Canary Islands and Malaga have pleasant year-round weather, perhaps I'd be willing to check out those other Spanish-speaking locales as well. And I have a long love of Brazil and Portuguese, so once I've got my Spanish back a bit more, I'll work on refreshing and expanding my Portuguese, which was at one time quite good.

Wine for Normal People. From practical to geeky, but without the snob-factor. They cover different grapes, different regions, tips on developing your palate, and how to get good value in your wine selection. Check out episode 73 on alternatives to the expensive stuff and episode 55 on improving your palate.

The New Man Podcast. I'm a girl, it's true, but I still love this podcast. I'd recommend it to any guy and to most women. The tag line is "beyond the macho jerk and the new age wimp." It's for guys who are confident enough in their manhood to embrace having feelings, use them to better themselves, their relationships, their careers, and their lives. Explicit language and topics, but, hey, life is explicit. Good recent episodes with Alyson Lanier (#147) and with Kamal Ravikant (#144).

I also have a podcast audiobook of Robinson Crusoe to listen to and if I'm feeling sporty, I'll start the learn German podcast to refresh many years of German studies that are long dusty.

As some of you may know, I'm trying to buckle down, run more, eat less, and lose gobs of weight. I'm meticulously counting calories consumed and calories burned, using the web and iPhone app versions of MyFitnessPal. My target is to lose about five inches in bust, waist, and hips, and 20-25 pounds. One week into the new regimen I was down one inch and four pounds, which is nice motivation to keep me going. The other day I made a quick vegetarian burrito for lunch that logged in at 552 calories (follow the link for the recipe and photos). Not bad for a full plate of flavorful food. Not every day is easy; a lot of them are very hard. I don't do well with my tummy growling. I'd rather go run a few extra miles than be hungry. I'm trying not to be so strict that I go completely off the wagon, but I know that if I mostly hang in, the results will come.

So, with all this cold weather, the pump out boat was iced in and couldn't come out last Saturday. They put me on the list and will call me when they come out; I think I'll call them tomorrow just in case. Fingers crossed. Yes, I'm getting tired of winter aboard. Days when it's so icy and windy that I take a handheld VHF with me just in case I get blown off the bow or slip off the pier. When I bitch endlessly about the heat, humidity, and constant stickiness in the islands, remind me about how I bitched about winter aboard.

I recently had my scariest moment aboard yet. I was getting ready to do dishes and noticed smoke wafting from the engine room from behind the companionway steps. It was too thick to see what was going on in the engine room and my heart was racing with fears of burning to the water line while it snowed around us. But as I kept trying to see the source I noticed the smoke didn't smell like smoke. It was thick, but quickly dissipated inside the cabin. Gratefully, it donned on me that the "smoke" was actually steam from the water heater encountering the frigid air. I don't use the water heater often, but lately the water has been so cold that doing dishes downright hurts. So, I gave it an hour to heat up before putting on the water pump. Any time the water heater and water pump are both on, the pump runs continuously, so my loose theory is that there is a leak somewhere between them. Perhaps the boiling water began trickling into the cold, cold bilge, creating the cloud of steam that gave me heart palpitations.

But a real problem is that the leaks I had stopped are back after a year. Ugh. I think it's from the very cold and the resulting expansion and contraction of wood. For the one at the shroud, I think it'll have to be some silicone as a stop-gap to get through the cold weather. Once I have warmer, drier weather, I'll have to dig out all the 4200, fill with epoxy, and do the final seal with butyl tape.

I'll leave you with some snaps of pup on the snowy beach and Hunter in the snow.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Winter wonderland snowy scenes can be so peaceful and beautiful, but I enjoy snow a little less now that I'm aboard. Snow is certainly better than ice, and the crisp brightness of snow is more cheery than the dreariness of rain. But almost 6 inches of snow overnight definitely complicates life afloat. Gratefully, this snow was light, fluffy, and dry. Although that means it blows easily (dangerous when driving), it also means that it was easier to clear off the finger pier with a deck brush and doesn't weigh the boat down as much. (Too much heavy snow on the decks can weigh a boat down enough to put normally above-the-waterline through hulls below the waterline and sink a boat.)

When we got up in the morning after the snow storm, I was expecting only a few inches. Pup ran over to her ramp and kept looking at me to hurry up and clear it off. I grabbed the deck brush and pushed the snow off into the water for her.

I'm glad I had hung my Yaktrax right by the door and remembered to put them on. They made walking down the pier feel so much safer. I bought them a few years ago for running in snow and ice, and they work great. It just never occurred to me to use them last year on my boots when facing icy piers. Today I'll swap them onto my running shoes for a five-miler and then put them back on my winter boots until the snow melts in the next couple days (we're supposed to get freezing rain tomorrow, oh joy). Pup would probably like some boots of her own. I generally think dog shoes and clothes are silly, but she gets clumps of snow stuck between her pads and then starts hopping with her paw in the air until I come clear the obstruction for her. After getting my jeans covered with snow out walking pup (you can see how deep the snow got from the adjacent photo) and with salt when getting on and off the boat, I pulled out my snowboarding shells and zipped them over my pants when I went back out last night. They may look like puffy clown pants, but they keep me dry.

There was ice on the surface of the water around the boat, so after brushing the snow off the pier and putting down ice melt salt, I flipped on the "ice eater" while I took a shower. An ice eater is a propeller than churns up the water, breaking up ice and preventing it from forming by keeping water circulating. The marina owner put a few in for the winter and one is next to my boat. In the first photo below you can see a fountain of water next to my boat from the ice eater. One of the photos below shows a large area of ice floating just off the bow. The ice is more likely to form in the slips and closest to the bulkhead, where the water is shallower and gets less tidal and wind circulation. So, here are some photos; sorry, no palm trees... yet!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

new year's aspirations

New Year's resolutions seem like they often fail. We bite off more than we can chew, picking a somewhat arbitrary date of January 1 to undertake them, whether we are ready or not. So, rather than making resolutions, I am highlighting for myself some aspirations toward which I will strive in this new year. I mostly began them a couple of days ago, so I got a little jump on them and today doesn't suddenly have to bear the weight of my world.

My aspirations mostly revolve around balance. Balance is, strangely enough, another way of saying control. But balance connotes peace whereas control connotes aggression.

So, here are my new year's aspirations, in no particular order:

Lose 20 to 25 pounds. Yep, and yikes! Bottom line, this means I aspire to run more and eat less. My body needs better balance between its intakes and expenditures. Being slim is simply more healthy and I feel better when I am trim, can wear the clothes I want, and there is no doubt about it--sex is better when your body is fit and smoking hot. Everyone loves youth and beauty. I don't want to be with anyone who has let themselves go, and I have to apply the same ruthlessness to myself. Nothing tastes as good as being thin! (I need to keep telling myself that, especially when my tummy is growling.)

Reduce the takers in my life. I need to take better care of myself and leave the takers in my wake.

Related to that last one, I am going to stop spending time around people I don't want to be around and stop doing things I don't really want to do. (Work, naturally, having to be an exception.) Life is too short to keep spending precious time with people whose company I do not enjoy or doing things I don't enjoy. Yes, we make sacrifices for others and that is admirable. But I end up plagued by people I don't want to be around because I am too polite to say, "No, I don't really want to hang out."

Now I don't mean I'm just going to, for example, stop doing dishes because I don't enjoy doing dishes. Chores are just part of the price one pays for great meals, a comfortable home, and such. But I need to stop getting roped into outings I'm not interested in and which take me away from the projects I need or want to tackle. I lose precious time, don't enjoy myself, and resent feeling pressured to do something I don't want to do. So, it's time to say "enough!" Despite a barrage of pressure to go do something I didn't want to do, I stayed in last night, crawled into bed very early, finished reading a book, and calmed my pets during the rumbling of fireworks. I'm so glad I spent new year's eve with my pack, exactly where I wanted to be.

These aspirations all sound very selfish. So be it. I have to focus on taking care of myself because no one else is going to do it for me. And if you don't love yourself enough to take good care of yourself, you can't really love anyone else. I need to make sure I'm in my best mental, physical, and spiritual shape so I can sail away, have some adventures, and be free.