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

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

spring is in the air

Spring seems to be arriving at long last. It's coming in fits and starts, but last week's three-day cold snap is alleged to be the last (knock on wood). This spring is definitely in like a lion so let's hope it's out like a lamb. 

Buttercup has been in swimming twice. Easter Sunday was a good day for it after a long walk and some reflection on how much we could use some renewal and rebirth about now. Her Easter swim was a puppy play date with another boat dog, who was having a birthday. Buttercup also got her first dingy ride, and did a good job. I'm truly blessed to have such a loyal companion with a sweet temperament. She has her moments of being stubborn or scared, but so do we all I guess.

I'm trying to clean up the boat but of course every day it feels like two steps forward and three steps back. So much of the organizing I have to do involves upending everything and so piles seem to be in a constant rotation from dinette, to settee, to nav desk, to sole, and round and round we go. But I keep telling myself I'm almost there, just one more turn of the rubik's cube and it will all fall into place; right? It seems to be about all I can do to stay on top of the usual loads of laundry and dishes, much less to make headway on the real organizing and the real repairs. But I am working on renewing and maintaining my focus on myself and my projects so I just need to get in a groove and make it happen.

I know for certain one serious leak is coming from a shroud/deck/chain plate connection. I fear there has now been water coming in at some of the others as well. I am going to act on the assumption that all are suspect and in need of proper sealing. That will be a significant project to cut away the toe rail at each shroud, fill in as much as possible around the chain plate with epoxy, and then seal the top with butyl tape. Once I manage to tackle that project, I will have to come up with a strategy for addressing the water damage. Water has come through behind and under lockers in locations that are inaccessible without removing the internal cabinetry--which may or may not even be possible. Well, I can obviously remove it, but whether I can do so without destroying it is another question. I clearly cannot afford to entirely refit the interior of the boat. However, I fear the cabin sole is soft and moldy where water has sat in these inaccessible locations. I'll tackle what I can with tea tree oil and airing out and fans to dry things out, but much of the damage will remain a mystery until I can take on the larger project of gutting the interior...something that may never be within my micro-budget. Even though the endless list of projects and repairs can be frustrating, overwhelming, and sometimes demoralizing, I am excited to tackle projects and do my best to bring the boat back to her former glory. She's a good, solid boat and the blood, sweat, and tears will be worth it when I'm sipping a cocktail enjoying the sunset or sunning on the foredeck anchored out.

Dockbox update: The air conditioning doesn't work in the Civic. Seriously? I drove my old Benz 560SL without A/C for a couple of years in Miami because I was so broke; that is a special hell I simply can't face again. Anyone want to take this baby off my hands...gee, I'm only in $2,700 so far. Ugh.

While I was on my once-weekly errand-running by car, I lost the keys to my PO Box, office, marina mailbox, and... the only key to the lock on my storage unit. Yeah, what a fun day off driving around without air conditioning retracing all my steps while staring at the ground praying for keys to magically appear. But with all this bad luck, something good is bound to come my way, right? Yeah, it never seems to turn out that way, but perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised.

In the midst of being broke, and having car problems, boat problems, and such, running has been the one thing going my way. By the end of this month I'll have run almost as much so far this year as I did all of last year. I've run 100 miles in the past 30 days and I'm running faster than I have in a couple of years. While my "long" runs right now are only ten and twelve miles, rather than the fifteen to twenty I used to run each weekend, I am running them strong, and at--for me--a decent 10:00 to 10:30 pace per mile. It's always hard to lose weight while increasing mileage because, well, running makes me hungry. But I know it is a tried-and-true recipe for slimming down and getting stronger if I keep running and don't reward myself with more pizza than my metabolism can handle. I can feel my legs and lungs getting stronger, breaks getting shorter and fewer, and if I stick with the program I'll be back in distance running shape by the time I need to gear up for the Seashore Nature Trail 50K that I'll run in December. I would love to set a new 50K personal record as a Christmas present to myself.

So, I need to keep my new year's resolutions top-of-mind and focus on taking care of my pets and myself. Our little pack is what I've got and we have to stay strong for ourselves. I also need to remind myself of my resolution to stop spending time doing things I don't want to do or with people I don't want to hang out with. Social pressures to be polite and friendly make those ones tough, but I always regret an evening lost that I could have spent relaxing on my own, enjoying the company of someone I do want to hang out with, or giving my pets the attention they always crave. And sadly, I'd just rather catch up on Game of Thrones than hang out with most people. C'est la vie.

So I need to keep up the running, stay focused on taking good care of the pets, give the boat the attention she needs, and not let myself be (too) distracted by boys. It would be so nice to be in love during the springtime, to have someone to bake for and play with, have someone to just lose track of time with, but I have to remember to keep focused on taking care of myself because no one else will. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

dockbox blues

My boring old 2002 Buick drove reliably throughout our 15-month relationship. But a dead O2 sensor took my gas mileage from about 25 mpg to about 16. Although the heat and A/C worked, the fan for them gave up the ghost. And leaky doors left items on the floor soaked and the windshield often fogged up... and once, iced over on the inside (which was the final straw that ended of our brief relationship). These mounting repairs would be separate from the hefty front-end damage ($1,500-2,000) from when she was impaled on a guy's bike rack in a fender-bender. Since it was purely cosmetic damage I rather wore it as a badge of honor, or a warning... don't park too close or cut me off... I've got little to lose. But I just couldn't swallow the idea of spending a bunch of money fixing up the Buick. I had originally planned to sell her and use the money for my diesel fuel to get south. But now that I would be sticking around Annapolis I would probably need to keep some reliable wheels to get around. I took the Buick to the wholesaler and let her go. Between what I paid to buy and register it, and what I got in insurance proceeds and sales price, it cost me $500 + insurance + gas to drive the car for 15 months. Not bad, really. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, and I should've held onto her, but I'm too young to drive a Buick!

Six weeks ago I bought a 1992 Honda Civic with over 200,000 miles on it. It's the first car I've ever owned that is actually being held together with duct tape. Um, yeah, I'm an idiot. Just about every text message or phone call I have had relating to the car is overloaded with expletives. I made the huge mistake of taking a friend's advice and recommendation on the car. My gut was that it looked rough and the previous owner was simply a walking lobotomy. To say that every aspect of buying the car was a nightmare of delays and bungling is an understatement. At $1,000, I felt I was probably paying about twice what it was worth, but in reality he should have paid me to take the car. Sigh. On day two it had a freakout and the ignition lock would not release. I wiggled the steering wheel. Locked and unlocked all the doors (that was the magical trick with my old Benz' electrical gremlins). I called AAA only to have the call continually drop. At last, for no particular reason, it finally stopped beeping at me and let the key turn.

When she ran, she was a zippy little drive. But, alas, she was temperamental and unreliable. Just 3 weeks in she didn't want to start when I was leaving work. The check engine light came on, the battery-not-charging light came on, and an awful buzzing emitted as she strained. But after a few tries she started up. The next morning it was the same drama, but she finally started and got me to work. But that evening I was out of luck. She sat in the lot for the weekend and then was towed to the shop Monday. I got rides from co-workers for several days. But now it was urgent that repairs be made since my 30-day temporary registration would expire that Friday. But a whole work-week should be more than enough to get her going and through safety inspection. Naturally, the prior owner and our mutual friend had been more than confident it would fly through inspection (since the prior owner didn't understand the difference between a Maryland safety inspection and emissions testing, well, 'nuff said). A week and $1,000 in work later she did pass inspection, but she only ran a couple of times before dying again. Of course that $1,000 happened to be every last penny I had and desperately needed for boat repairs. So when I got in the car yesterday stressed about how much I could spend on groceries and then she wouldn't start, I just broke down. I pummeled the steering wheel with my fists and screamed and cried. $2,500 into the car between purchase, repairs, tax, tag, and title, and the car doesn't run! Arrggghhhh!!! 

My karma clearly sucks and the universe is getting even with me. Saddling me with a money pit unreliable car when I need to pamper my beloved boat. I begged my mom for back-up if another big bill was about to come crashing down and had the car towed to the dealership. At least I have a friend working at the dealership so I feel less likely to get overcharged and jerked around. It was my only day to run errands and get groceries and now I was out of luck. I should've just taken a deep breath and dove into boat projects but the gloomy rainy day was conspiring against me. I drowned my sorrows in potato chips and a Hershey bar and a strawberry laffy taffy, watched a couple bad movies, took my sleeping pills and went to bed early. I told my pets and my boat that I love them. And though the tide had sunk like a stone overnight in the heavy winds and it was not even 40 degrees out, I was determined to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning and got in a five mile run to start the day (and make up for the prior days' junk food binge). 

When the dealership called and told me I just need a new main relay I was pretty incredulous. The other shop allegedly put in a new one, and then a new fuel pump. But the dealership says she's fixed and the bill was shy of $200. I don't know if the other shop simply ripped me off or not on the relay switch, and I don't really have the fight in me to get into it.  Luckily, I had a friend willing to drop me at the dealership and I retrieved her. She started up fine and didn't let me down as I ran a couple errands before heading home. Fingers crossed she keeps running.

I had wanted to name her, but couldn't settle on anything. I'm tempted to call her "bad karma" but it's bad luck to name a boat anything like that (e.g., a hole in the water, money pit, etc), and I fear the same may hold for cars. Maybe I'll just call her "dockbox." Even if she doesn't run, I guess she can be a very expensive storage facility. Sigh. How about Bluebell? Blue Bunny?

I was going to say the moral of the story is never buy a car through a friend, but I actually got an excellent deal on a reliable car from my friend who sold me the Buick. But he's an actual car-guy. So, the moral of the story is to trust your gut. If you think you're being ripped off you probably are. If you think something isn't worth the money, it probably isn't. If you think someone doesn't have your best interests at heart, they probably don't.

Next up: I need to get that throttle cable replaced so I can (1) move to a new slip with (hopefully) less adjacent car noise but more annoying tourists taking their pictures in front of our boats, and (2) get this vessel out on the bay for some much-needed (if not deserved) fun and adventures.

Friday, April 4, 2014

friends and neighbors

Pretty sunset view from the cockpit
Just because we both live on boats doesn’t mean we have to be friends. Yes, you read that correctly. That may be common sense to many people; just because you live ashore doesn’t mean you’re friends with every other person who lives in a townhouse or a McMansion. But some folks clearly feel that every other liveaboard is his de facto friend. It’s true we share a common thread in having chosen an unusual lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean we have anything else in common. I’m starting to think some people actually become cruisers to gain a gaggle of new friends to have potlucks with. Personally, I can’t even wrap my head around that.

I had over 200 make-believe friends on Facebook, with whom I’m probably actual real-life friends (say, people who would definitely know if I were pregnant or getting married), not acquaintances, with less than two dozen, a good chunk of those being gals I’ve known since I was 14. (I deactivated my Facebook account March 8 and the world hasn't stopped spinning; indeed, I think I like the world a little better now.) Rather than cultivating friendships, I’d say Facebook gives the illusion of relationships that do not exist and impedes real-life cultivation of the handful of meaningful relationships we can actually sustain. No one has several hundred friends. We probably all know several hundred people by name and possibly by sight. But we are not friends with all those people. Our society seems to have confused the concept of having stood next to someone in line at the grocery store and being friends. But the cult of networking tells us we must be viral and have some connection to everyone out there. It is a dangerous fallacy. A handful of meaningful relationships is a much more powerful network than LinkedIn and Facebook accounts hundreds deep but full of merely superficial connections. In any event, I may be forced to return to Facebook at some point, but I'd certainly prefer to have a handful of real friends and leave it at that. If anyone on Facebook really missed me they could always come here and find out what I'm up to. Or, y'know, text me to meet up in real life for a pint of beer.

Anyway... I didn't really understand why random people who also happen to live on a boat think we have some deep connection, but now I realize it's because the "potluck cruisers" want to be friends with everyone. I had already realized that many of the single liveaboard guys will adhere like a barnacle to every liveaboard mermaid they meet. Miraculously, I have finally met a few who are not barnacles and don't think I'm their personal mermaid, which is really nice.

Foggy day at the dock
I've been at the new marina for almost six weeks now. I've only met three of the other liveaboards so far. I haven't met any of the girls, but one or more of them somehow manages to leave a lake in the dressing area of the bathhouse. She must step out of the shower and stand there dripping everywhere, (eeewwww), rather than drying off in the shower stall. I've mostly resigned to not being able to dress there post-shower because the water all over the floor will get my pants soaked when trying to get them on. Someone has basically commandeered one shower stall by leaving their bar of soap and scrubbie there, as if no one else needs space to put their toiletries and as if I really want some random chick's germs just hanging out there all the time. One of the gals also has a conniption if she can't easily get a paper towel out of the dispenser. She leaves a huge pile of paper towel shreds all over the floor. I guess this is just further confirmation that liveaboards are crazy. As is the fact that these things bother me so much.

Parking spaces adjacent to the slip
Despite the gals needing some coaching on personal hygiene and shared public space, I am enjoying the new marina. Twice someone has rescued a wayward sock I lost in the washer or dryer and left it out for me, which was nice. I am trying to move to a different slip that I'm hoping will be more private, but the dockmaster is still figuring out who is coming back and where everyone will fit. The current slip is along a bulkhead with parking spaces right there and the parking garage behind me. Being a light sleeper, the noise of the cars in the garage wakes me and one night someone parked right next to the boat and ran their engine from 2:30am to 3:30am. I couldn't figure out what the awful noise was and why the whole boat was vibrating until I pulled back the shade on a port light and the headlights were shining right on me. They must have seen me because by the time I was topsides the car was off and they were gone. Then one day a little girl came over to the boat and kept pulling it against the bulkhead. I fear that as the weather warms up and people mill about ogling boats, someone will make the mistake of boarding and get a shock when I come out with a 12-gauge. So, I'm hoping a slip on another pier will be less likely to have strangers walking up to the boat and put me a little farther from the parking garage.

Parking garage right behind me
It took 6 months before I had a cat overboard incident, and a year-and-a-half before a man overboard. The young sumthin sumthin I occasionally hung out with (I hadn't seen him in two months) called me over and over in his usual inebriated state and I accidently called him back when I was just trying to see the call log. I warned him he shouldn't be driving but he insisted on coming to the pub where I was having a beer with friends. At least there I convinced him to eat something and killed some time, though he shouldn't have been trying to have a philosophical discussion with the adults at the table. When we were walking to the boat he asked if I wanted to get married, which gave me quite a belly laugh. He kept saying "You look so cute in your Helly Hansen jacket." And I kept correcting him that it was Gill; I'm not a gang-banger or a snotty-yachty, so you won't find me in HH. Ugh. Naturally he had only one thing in mind when we got to the boat but my pack always comes first and the dog needed a walk. I was already quite annoyed with his drunk nonsense and pawing at me. I really just wanted to tuck him in and not have to deal with him. He insisted on coming along while I walked the dog and then said there was no need to pick up the dog shit. Seriously. That's just bad karma. "Yes, I do have to pick it up." I told him. Then he didn't want to hold my hand because I had just picked up dog shit. With a plastic bag. Yep, when he opens his mouth, stupid just falls out in abundance. Sigh. Then he took forever getting in and out of the boat and one of the cats got out. Cars speed through the garage and there are just a lot of dangers being in a much more commercial location, so I try to monitor closely any off-boat forays the cats undertake. He was a baby about me telling him to hurry the F up and not let the cat out again. I can be very patient but when it's the last straw, I'm done. When he didn't shut up as told, I was done and told him to leave. He had kicked off his shoes as soon as he was aboard and complained I was kicking him out without his shoes. I quickly grabbed them and put them up on the deck for him. He took his shoes and was yelling at me and complaining he didn't know where his car was. A whole two blocks away in front of the pub. And he has plenty of friends in town he could call to stay with if he didn't want to drive home.

It turned out it was early enough (11:00pm) I could get to bed almost on time so I started setting up coffee for the morning and getting ready for bed. Then I heard a ruckus topsides and felt the boat move. It seemed he was back without permission. I threw open the hatch: "What the fuck!" I heard calls for help and came out to find him in the water between the dock and the boat. He was holding onto the stanchion at the boarding gate with one hand and holding the toe rail with the other. He claimed he came back for his phone and keys (perhaps he'd left them on the dock or on deck). I convinced him to loosen his grip on the stanchion so I could get the keys off his finger and throw them in the cockpit so they wouldn't fall in the water. I quickly threw him a line that runs through a snatch block and to the dock so he'd even have extra leverage if he used it to pull himself out, but he wouldn't even try. He was freaking out and I told him he needed to stay calm. Panicking just uses up body heat. And even though the water was cold, he was a 6'2" guy standing in just 5' of water. I grabbed the ladder out of the lazarette and hung it over the side for him. That's when one of my new neighbors arrived to help. He'd been out in the cockpit of his boat on another pier and heard the commotion. Of course our "swimmer" said he wanted my dockmate to pull him out, not me. It's unlikely either of us alone could have pulled him out easily since he's 6'2" and 200 pounds. My previously-torn rotator cuff certainly wasn't happy with me for helping get him out. We pulled him up and sat him on the dock. He'd been in the water only a couple of minutes. I fished his shoe out with my net and gave him his keys. Although I was quite done with his stupidity, I was going to offer to put him in a hot shower and throw his clothes in the dryer or drive him to the ER if he wanted. But before I could make the offer he was walking off and was yelling belligerently at me. It was about 11:10pm. Not long thereafter I received a series of malicious text messages from him accusing me of trying to murder him. Seriously? He was trespassing and fell in the water. If he'd come back 10 minutes later I might have been gone walking the dog and maybe no one would have heard him call for help. By 11:29pm he was getting arrested for DUI, an open container in his car, some eight charges in all. It'd be nice if he'd learn a lesson about being responsible and considerate of others in the world, but he's an entitled little rich kid who will likely find a way to weasel out of it and not change a bit. But at least I learned that I have neighbors here who will rescue wayward socks from the dryer and wayward boys from the water.