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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

welcome to the circus

The other day I was doing dishes and pup dog was in the cockpit relaxing in the sun. I saw her tail begin wagging wildly and thought my friends might be arriving for our little cookout. When I peeked out there was a girl crouched down on my dock as close to the boat as she could get with her mother in the background trying to frame a good photo of the girl with pup dog behind her. Sigh. I wanted to say, "Hey, we're not a circus! This is my house! I don't come take photos of you sitting on your porch or in your backyard." I know, I'm a curmudgeon. It's just that there are times when you're in the mood to be friendly and satisfy the tourists' desire to see some "local color," and there are times you just want to be able to enjoy a glass of wine on deck without being bothered. I'm considering making signs for the boat that say "The Circus is Closed" and "The Circus is Open; Pet Photos $5 each." (It's tempting to at least monetize the annoyance, but then I'd be a commercial enterprise in violation of marina rules.) I had hoped to move to a slip on one of the docks that has a gate and a sign noting the pier is private. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like any slips over there will be available until the fall.

You can see that the pets are very stressed out living aboard. Clearly, they handle the pressures a little better than their mom does.

I'm not sure if it was the serious rocking and rolling from high winds or that the litter box was due to be cleaned, but one of the cats mutinied and at 5:00AM Friday morning I was unceremoniously awoken by a giant puddle of cat pee on me and my blankets. It was a surprise since it had been well over a year since we'd had any out-of-box peeing. But oh, yay; laundry time! (A four-part attack of detergent, Oxy Clean, Borax, and Nature's Miracle due to the particular noxiousness of cat pee.) Washing the boat bedding is a serious pain because the mattress protectors, sheets, and heated mattress pad are all made for traditional rectangular beds but mine is a huge triangle that is also very difficult to access, so making the bed is sort of a project in itself. Naturally, one washer and one dryer stole coins from me and wouldn't run. The other dryer has been out of commission for several weeks. I ended up having to schlep my wet laundry to the icky laundromat nearby to use the dryers. Why can't marina laundry just work and be simple? If college dorms can figure it out why can't marinas?

I knew that the condensation from the winter would be bad so I had to brace myself for whatever ick and mold might be along the sides and beneath the mattress. The mattress itself did not appear to have any mold and was completely dry underneath, to my great surprise. The condensation did lead to mold on the teak, which I wiped down with a solution of tea tree oil and water, and the laminate appears to be nearing its useful life but I don't have the budget for gutting the entire interior of the boat anytime soon. I took the opportunity to prop the mattress up on various items so that it had full air circulation around it, sprayed it down with the tea tree oil solution and with Febreeze, cracked the hatch, and aimed a couple of fans on it. I spent two nights on the settee, for which my back definitely did not thank me, and then put the v-berth back together, leaving off the heated mattress pad until next fall. There is still a ton of mold from the winter to battle, but I'm just going to keep working my way aft through the boat until I've got it all under control.

So many projects... so little time... I have this bottomless list of projects aboard, some of which I need mechanical assistance with, some of which I just need to buckle down and make happen, and some of which I won't be able to tackle anytime soon since all the funds saved up have been bled into the worthless car. Yet it's all I can do to stay on top of basic laundry and dishes. Honestly, I'm not doing a good job staying on top of those and feel overwhelmed by them most days. But I am running my ass off, which is important. I've worked up to a base of 30 miles per week, which will be my routine until late August when I begin increasing mileage in preparation for my 50K trail race right before Christmas. The running is keeping me sane and slimming me down, so even though I'm in hopeless debt and broke as can be, I'm feeling and looking good. Let the world keep throwing shit at me; they haven't brought me down yet.

I went out on another fishing charter but again no fish. I'm starting to feel like bad luck. But on three of the four times I was out with friends trying to catch something I did, and I reeled in four fish among those three trips. Although it's obviously less "work" on the charter when you don't catch anything, I need to learn to fillet the darn things and I need to impress the customers so they'll throw more cash my way. But at least I'm getting out on the water. 

Sadly, the more time I spend on the water, the less I like sailboats, or probably more accurately, sail boaters. It cracks me up how so many sailors say that it's the power boaters who don't know and don't follow the rules of the road. My experience has been the polar opposite. And I hear from so many sailors who when they do have the right of way feel the need to press it, won't alter their course a few degrees, when it could make a huge difference for the give way vessel. Just because you technically have right of way over a fishing charter boat with lines out trolling doesn't mean you should revel in the opportunity to cut across their lines and cost them hundreds or thousands of dollars in gear, ruin someone's charter trip, and increase the animosity between the power and sail camps. When fishing lines are out, and especially with planer boards, that power boat is going maybe two knots, has limited maneuverability, and needs to make turns very gradually. The fundamental concept behind the rules of the road is to have boats with greater maneuverability give way to those with less maneuverability. It would be so much nicer out on the water if folks would consider that and show each other some courtesy and patience, rather than acting like spoiled children stomping their feet that it was their turn. And of course all the sail boaters who hate powerboats pipe down when they need a tow or someone to throw them a wake to get off a shoal...  Sigh.  A little more application of the Golden Rule would definitely make being on the water more pleasant and safer.

I actually dread going out on the water on days there will be lots of sailboats. They commandeer large sections of the water for their races precisely where others need to transit. Because I can't read their minds I'm in a constant state of panic that they will tack or gibe nearby and force me to alter my course on short notice. I want to be out on the water with not another boat in sight. I love to be out on the water, but I can take or leave the sailing part. We all have different reasons for being on boats and would be well served to learn to respect those differences. A sailboat made sense for me because they are set up more logically to live on, I could buy more boat for the money, and it opened up the possibility of destinations I could not afford the fuel to reach. But the boat is a method of reaching destinations, its value to me is not in sailing for sailing's sake; its value is in where it can take me, what it lets me see and do, the adventures that become possible.

Dockbox update: I was two weeks without the car. The ECU, (i.e. the "computer"), needs replacing but is an elusive part. I can't trust one from eBay because it has to be exactly the year and model of my car or it won't work. I have a friend keeping an eye out if one comes available through the junkyard network. For now, I have to avoid using the car on rainy days and try to keep it parked where it will stay dry. I can't just hop in and start the car. It will just freak out and make horrific noises and not start. Instead I have to get in, put the key on the second ignition position, and... wait. Sometimes after about 30-60 seconds the check engine light will turn off and I will hear the fuel pump kick on. Then I can start the car. If after a minute that hasn't happened, I have to remove the key, wait a bit, and try the routine again. I've never had a totally unreliable car before, or one that was treated like a trash bin, or held together by duct tape. I feel like I'm trying to rehabilitate a dog that was chronically mistreated by its prior owner. My life has been a series of poor decisions but this is the first truly piece-of-shit car I've ever had dragging me down. I admit I have some bad karma but I didn't deserve this. The self-impressed guy who talked me into buying the car has been texting and emailing, but I'm going with the Thumper Rule: I don't have anything nice to say, so I won't say anything at all. What I want to say is unless you are contacting me to buy this junk heap for the $2,700 I'm into it, please lose my number. Ugh.

On the subject of idiot guys texting me, the former boytoy who fell overboard texted me twice on Saturday. Midafternoon I got a message asking if I was home and then again a little before 10:00PM. I figured maybe he wants to beg for a sympathetic witness at his trial or perhaps he's 12-stepping for a plea deal and has to make amends. But the second text asking "hey you home tonite?" makes me think he's actually so stupid that he thinks he can come by for a booty call after all his nonsense. I guess he could be that stupid. Again I went with the Thumper Rule and did not respond at all. But I was a little nervous he might drop by uninvited, so I made sure I had phone, flashlight, and hunting knife within arm's reach.

Being single in Annapolis can be a drag because it's such a small town and I've pretty much seen everything on the market. I also won't just sleep around because everyone here knows everyone else and it's a gossipy little town. I tend to think I have to wait for new guys to move to the area or just plan to be single until I move on to a new locale. I can count on one hand (or more like a couple fingers) the guys here I haven't already friend-zoned. I know what I really want but it'd be so one-in-a-million to find it that I figure it's an impossibility. But at the very least I have to be firm about not settling. If there isn't that immediate chemistry, if a guy doesn't have the chutzpa to seize the moment with me, then it's not worth my time. I'd rather be alone than with someone with no passion. And if someone isn't willing to get messy, get complicated, get their heart broken, forget it. Doing dangerous or adventurous things is easy; risking broken bones or even your life is easy. Risking your heart takes real guts.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

fish on!

39-incher caught on my first charter
Last Friday I got up en la madrugada (i.e. at o-dark-thirty) and worked my first fishing charter. The night before, I packed my lunch and my backpack (layers, sunblock, knife, gloves, et cetera). In the morning I made a thermos of coffee to take along. It was a rush to get ready, feed the pets, walk the dog, and get out the door.  At least the commute is only 3 blocks.

Next time I may have to get up at 4:00AM, or perhaps at--gasp--3:00AM so I can get a run in first. Since I often wake at 3:00AM anyway and struggle to get back to sleep, maybe that isn't as crazy an idea as it sounds. There is no way I would be able to get in a run after working a charter, and I don't want to slide backwards on the pace and mileage I've built up. 

We had four guys on the charter; three friends and the son of one. They were a really nice group and forgiving of it being my first day. The captain showed me how he sets up his trolling lines and I helped put everything out. Things were slow, so we added a couple of dummy lines, which have lead sinkers and lures, but no reels. We had a couple of knockdowns where a fish hit the bait hard enough to pull the line off the planer board line, but we weren't hooking anything. The guys were getting pretty disappointed. I checked some lines to see if they had jellyfish on them, (it makes the lure unattractive to the rockfish), but no jellies. For whatever reason, the fish just weren't biting.

When we needed to start pulling in the lines I started with the dummy lines. I got one in and was going to finish putting it away before moving on to the next. The guy who seemed most disappointed that we hadn't caught anything yelled to me that he thought we had a fish on. I laughed it off thinking he was just pulling my leg since I was trying to get the port dummy line put away. He insisted he thought there was a fish on. We all looked at the lines but none were down and no reels were clicking. Then he said, "No; on this line!" pointing at the starboard dummy line. When we started pulling it, a fish popped along the surface and the panic ensued! (I don't know to whom to attribute the quote, but folks say something along the lines of "fishing is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer panic.") Since the line has no reel, you simply have to pull the line in by hand. Gratefully, I was wearing grippy gardening gloves that work well for that task and helped the guy pull it in. He was thrilled to have finally caught something and bringing it in by hand made for a special story.

Once we were back at the dock I watched while the captain filleted the fish. If there had been more I might have tried, but I certainly didn't want to do any damage to the only fish we'd caught on the trip. So, learning how to remove the hook safely when landing the fish and how to fillet it up properly are still priorities. I washed down the rods and lures, brushed the hair on the lures, put away the gear, and scrubbed down the deck and the fish box. It was a long day but I've got no doubt I'd rather be out there on the water, getting some exercise, being in the outdoors, than stuck in some office or slinging drinks. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be one of the most interesting jobs I've had.

I figured I'd go out that Friday night, since I finally had more than $3 to my name. I laid down at 7:30PM for a quick nap. I woke up around midnight, and again around 2:00AM. I finally got up at 8:30AM. I guess after a week without sleeping pills and a long, hard day on the water I was pretty tired!

I must not have done too awful a job since the captain had me back for another charter the next afternoon. The group of seven young guys doing a bachelor-party weekend looked a little confused walking down the dock and seeing me there readying things. I think most mates have hairier legs and less curves than I do. The guys were suffering a bit from the previous night's festivities, and some of them napped while we kept searching for fish. Rain and thunderstorms had been predicted and kept most boats in port that afternoon. Thankfully, the storms passed north of us. But we only got one fish hooked and he ended up getting away. The guys were disappointed but some seemed pleased to have a video ribbing the groom for losing the fish. 

My big mistake that day was not keeping the planer board line taut enough when sending the board out. I was trying to hold it and pull it back, but the line whipped right through my bare hands and pulled behind the boat. I knew that was a serious problem since it could easily foul the prop. Although it hadn't caught the prop, it was tangled around the rudder. The captain tried to free it with a boat hook but we ended up having to pull the board out and cut the line to be able to pull it free of the rudder. It was only a few minutes, but pretty frantic. Once the line was clear the captain tied it back on the board and I sent it out... very slowly, and with my grippy gloves on! A serious mistake that could have ended much worse; but lesson learned, and a mistake I won't make again.

Yesterday I headed back out on my friend Captain Chris' boat for a day of fishing. I was hoping we'd limit out so I could get some good practice on cleaning the fish. For some reason both days I've gone out on this boat this season have been cold and foggy. All that sunblock I put on was definitely wasted, and I was glad I threw on an extra sweater. The first fish we caught was only 24" and had to be released. We had a couple of knockdowns. The only keeper was a 32" rockfish I reeled in. My arms are still sore from cranking the reel and bracing the rod. Afterwards I learned how to put on the fighting belt properly to make it easier next time. It was good to get another day of training and practice without the pressure of charter customers to impress. I can't thank Captain Chris and Riverboat Bob enough for teaching me, and I'm grateful for a chance to make some cash at it.

[From left to right in the first photo below: Tim, yours truly, and Riverboat Bob]

The only fish we kept wasn't going to fillet itself, so it was time to learn. The fish was laying there in the well with the ice. I stepped down to get it but kept asking the guys if he was really dead. I assured them that if I grabbed his lip and he started flopping I would start screaming! Even though it was staring me down with its mouth wide open, it didn't wiggle a bit and I managed to hoist it for the photos and then into the dock cart to head for the cleaning station. It measured in at 32 inches. The mate, Riverboat Bob, began the process and explained what he was doing. He finished one side, flipped the fish over, and then it was my turn. I had Bob shoot the little video below. I didn't do the most elegant job, but I got it done without puking or crying, so I consider it a success.

Yes, a living creature was harmed in the making of this video. I don't find it "fun" to kill nature; every little thing just wants to live. I recognize the hypocrisy that I am not a vegetarian, and stay blissfully ignorant of the lives and deaths of the beef, pork, and poultry that I eat. At least with fishing one does face the vitality and mortality of one's dinner eye to eye. I hope that when out fishing I can always be humane, respectful of wildlife, and show gratitude for the resource, and guide others to do the same.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

april showers

A week ago Monday I had an opportunity to go out fishing. Although I'm allergic to seafood and don't really want to hurt or kill nature for entertainment, I hate to pass up an opportunity to get out on the water and I want to develop skills to serve as a mate on fishing charters. Those mates can make some good tips on a half- or full-day charter, and if I can do the job looking cuter than the usual old salts, well, I figure my tips would be even better. I've found that "soft skills" aren't much rewarded financially and are easily outsourced offshore, so I'm on a mission to stockpile some "real" skills like fishing, sewing, and fixing mechanical things. On my few trips out rockfishing I've learned how to put out the planer boards, clip in and send out the trolling lines, keep an eye out for knockdowns, bring in the lines, tidy up the reels for storage, and clean the lures. I've brought in a few fish, but I still need to learn how to safely net the fish, remove the hook, and filet it up. Although I learned a lot on this past trip (thanks Cap'n Chris and Mate Bob!) and we had 14 lines out, we didn't get so much as a nibble. It didn't look like other boats were having much more luck, though, so I don't feel too bad. The fishing gods must have sensed me typing this and in walked the captain of a local charter boat asking if I could work a charter this Friday. Fingers crossed I do well, make some good money, and get invited back for more work. I should be able to make as much in tips as if waiting tables, but with the potential for more. And it's time on the water, getting some exercise, and developing a skill I can take with me anywhere.

As you may recall, one Tuesday the car died and the following Tuesday I learned the A/C in the car doesn't work and I lost all my important keys (other than car keys). Perhaps the most important of the lost keys was the only key to the lock on my storage unit. So last Tuesday I started my errands with heading to the storage unit to pay the bill and see if they would cut the lock for me. The manager said of course they could cut the lock...for a fee. My heart sank; I'm painfully broke and whatever it cost was coming straight out of the small grocery budget. Then he smiled and said "Just kidding! Of course we'll cut it for free." I just had to sign a liability waiver saying I'm me and won't be upset they cut the lock, et cetera. Annapolis Self Storage rocks! Sparks flew, it smelled like melting metal, and voila! The 5'x5' unit is not even waist high with stuff, much of which just needs sorting, tossing, or donating.

Items I like to keep in the car were at the top in the storage unit, e.g. a trunk organizer, jumper cables, beach chair, hockey skates, emergency overnight bag, and my portable backgammon case. It was a rainy gloomy day so I hit up a fellow liveaboard and suggested I drop by after picking up my groceries and we could play some backgammon and hide out from the rain. He's very competitive, a racer. I'm not. I wanted him to have an edge since he was new to backgammon so I let him pick the black dice, which I suspect to roll doubles on a higher-than-average basis. Although he did roll doubles often, apparently I just have a gift for rolling more of them. Even when I didn't need them my double sixes kept coming up. After just three games he said he never wanted to hear me say "box cars!" again. I guess there's a hidden competitive streak in me, after all. So I promised to let him win at chess.

Having totally lost track of time hiding from the rain, it was about 1:00AM as I was finally heading home. But if it's Tuesday the universe has it in for me, and the car was dead again. I got a ride home only to find that the gasket in one of the port lights had come out of its track and what seemed like buckets of water had rained onto the settee and pillows. There's really no fixing it when wet, so I had to pile towels and a basin below the port to try to catch the rain. A couple days later I managed to get the gasket back in, though it still leaks a bit (I seriously hate the design of these port lights), but I'm still without a car. Every time it freaks out and fails it's been raining. The dealer is thinking it may need a new computer, but the part is elusive and I think they need to figure out how water is intruding and shorting it out so I'm not continually replacing an expensive and hard-to-get part. In the two months I've had the car it has run less often than it's been broken down. At this point whenever I'm about to cry I just start laughing kind of hysterically, like I'm on the verge of a psychotic break. At least I can look at the situation and laugh!

The rain, south winds, and high tides converged to flood the parking garage at the marina with a good 5 inches of water. Water didn't come over the docks but it was close and the boat was high above the pier. I wore my foulies all day Wednesday and had to sit on the deck to jump down.

After what seemed like endless rains, we got some sunny, warmish weather and the dock water was turned on. I borrowed a pressure washer from a dockmate and spent Sunday giving Ambrosia a bikini boat wash. I spent four hours going over the decks with the pressure washer. The boat went from gray to white. One guy said he always found it cathartic to clean the boat like that, and I have to agree. She was just caked with grime and it definitely gives a sense of accomplishment to blast it away. By the time I reached the cockpit I was feeling rushed because the temperature was dropping and winds were kicking up. I didn't want to be caught out in a thunderstorm. Gratefully it passed us by. I spent another hour working on spots by hand and still have more to do to clean up the topsides, but she looks so much cleaner and brighter now.

Come Sunday evening I had a bunch of chicken to cook up but no one was up for coming over for dinner and drinks so I was on my own. I've always left grilling to men. Everyone needs their own "turf," their own things they are good at, skills they get to "own." Since I'm a pretty decent cook and baker, I like to be in charge of my galley. So I've always left the "killing beast over fire" Neanderthal thing to guys. I let them own that primal manly task. But being a single gal and (perhaps overly, painfully, stridently) independent, I have to do for myself these days. For a while I've been using a little George Foreman grill, which I actually quite like. However, it only fits a couple chicken breasts or burgers and if I'm cooking in larger quantities (as is often the case), it takes a long time and there is a lot of clean up. So, this past Sunday I got a fellow dockmate to show me how to light the communal grill by the dinghy dock and lo-and-behold, I grilled up my first batch of chicken by myself. Folks walking by ooh-ed and aah-ed; one family said they wouldn't have gone to Boatyard for dinner if I'd been grilling when they walked by, another guy said it smelled delicious and could smell it a block away. I'd say the real skill in it was marinating the chicken for a few days in a Ziploc bag with olive oil, garlic, fresh ground pepper, and kosher salt, but I guess my grilling abilities aren't too shabby, either.

I had been planning on moving slips but don't like the slip open on the main pier. I'd be stuck between two power boats (which cuts off breezes and could make me feel boxed in) and the view would be of a shabby boat at the marina next door. I'm going to pass. I was mostly resigned to staying put, which pup dog would probably like and would avoid drama dealing with Comcast, but the parking garage noise and being right next to another liveaboard really do bother me. There is another slip possibly opening up on a pier with a gate (so less risk of strangers walking up to the boat) and the docking situation would likely be relatively simple, but that slip would cost almost $1,000 more per year than where I'm I obviously don't have right now. So, we'll see. I think I would have more privacy and peace and quiet there. It's an adjustment being in a more urban/commercial marina with all the noise and foot traffic, but I think what is harder for me is all the liveaboards, gossip, and unsolicited advice. I've got to get the boat fixed up so I can take off on some mini-cruises and get away.

Although it'd be nice to fall in love or at least find a good guy and have a playmate this spring and summer, I'm so thankful that I am not trapped in a stale or bad relationship. I'm saddened when I see someone encoupled with the wrong person, staying by default because inaction is easier than action. There is an enormous opportunity cost to doing that because the love of your life might walk right past you but not see you because you were on another's arm. I keep telling myself (and want to yell at my friends): Don't settle! You deserve better. The person you're with deserves better. No one should ever be pressured to get married or have children, nor pressure anyone else to do so. Marriage is hard. Marriage is a partnership and a sacrifice. If you don't wake up every morning wanting to be there, you are shortchanging yourself and your "partner." If you wouldn't stay if there weren't a legal bond between you, you sure as hell shouldn't be together. Too many people marry for all the wrong reasons, under all the wrong pressures. Too many women marry because they want a wedding, because all their friends are doing it, or because they think they can't have a kid on their own. If a guy truly loves me he won't need legal papers, or a name change, or a joint checking account. He'll show he loves me by being there in my bed every morning and not fucking anyone else. By being his own person, independent, self-fulfilled, seizing and sharing his dreams.

One thing I think we often forget is that we are not responsible for anyone else's happiness. We are each responsible for our own happiness and only when we love ourselves, are independent and complete in ourselves, can we truly love someone  else, seek only to lift them up, not pull them down or revolve around them. I don't want to be the center of anyone's universe (well, other than pup dog's). It's too much pressure. And it isn't love, it's obsession or dependence; there's a very big difference between those things and love. Jealous people, like drunks and addicts, don't truly love. They lack the self-value and self-confidence to do so.

I consider having some fun here and there, but I know I won't be satisfied with that. Even if it's just a physical thing, and especially if it's just a physical thing, I don't want to be with anyone that there isn't just this immediate, gut, pheromonal desire to rip each others' clothes off. I deserve that kind of passion. Anything less than that is selling myself short. So I have to stick with my mantras: Don't settle. Just keep running. Be the lioness, not the gazelle.