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

Sunday, August 30, 2015


The past month has been marked by waves. Waves upon waves of sadness, but there have also been waves of joy. Water, life, they ebb and flow, bringing bad tidings and good, but ever changing. Knowing that a high tide will come and wash the tears, blood, muck, and hurt back out to sea makes the low tides of my days survivable. 

First things first, I owe you photographs of my beautiful new battery box. The wooden box was custom fabricated and epoxied. It holds my house bank of four 6V "golf cart" batteries and the black box in front is the group 31 dual purpose start battery. The bottom photograph shows the water pump relocated forward near the engine rather than laying loose atop the batteries as in the past.

I finally removed the stand-up portable air conditioner and returned it. It never condensed any water and just operated as a glorified fan. The boat is actually cooler without it! I have the window unit running over the forward hatch and it keeps the v-berth frosty and the rest of the boat comfortable enough. 

I had to finish sanding the brightwork. Here are snaps of the brightwork, before, during, after, and one of me after the final 8-hour day of sanding. I haven't finished the hatch, but can't currently afford the mural I want painted on it, so I figure it's better to leave what varnish is left as protection until I can tackle that project properly.

The new batteries and wiring didn't solve my engine problems, so the electrician removed the starter and took it up to Best Battery in Baltimore for testing. It failed the test so they did a rebuild. Before and after:

In the midst of all the repairs, the electrician had to disconnect and reconnect the water pump frequently to access the starter. Something must have jiggled loose at some point and the pump ran continuously, dumping half my water tank in the bilge. Below is the icky old automatic bilge pump that wasn't doing its job. Now there is a beautiful new automatic pump running well (donated by Doria, thanks!). It gives me peace of mind when I see the red light come on the electrical panel and the pump gurgle for a few seconds to clear the bilge (while my galley sink drains overboard, the head sink drains to the the bilge is always getting a fresh influx of water when I wash my face or brush my teeth, yuck.)

I received a lovely bottle of port from a reader. Thanks! (Also pictured a bottle of Italian red I haven't opened yet, a gift from a dockmate). 

The electrician installed the rebuilt starter and miracle of miracles, the engine started right up. Of course, I had 45 gallons of old diesel in the tank I was worried wouldn't cooperate, but I gave it a good dose of tank cleaner and haven't had a problem. (Knock on wood.) Friday the new starter went in and Sunday the boat was out of the slip for the first time since the end of February 2014. 

A friend came to help me on the adventure--a trip down to Thomas Point Light, anchoring out a few hours, and then the hardest part--docking! Coming out of the slip we had our first big surprise. I had the wheel hard a-port but the boat was heading hard to starboard. I freaked out, backed her back in the slip, and fretted a bit. My friend hopped off to look at the rudder and indeed, the steering had gotten reversed. Apparently when my old mechanic and I installed the new engine control cables a year ago and the chain slipped down into the binnacle, we lost the twist in the chain that is needed for the correct steering. We didn't let it stop us, though it made for stressful moments when dodging shoals, crab pots, other vessels, and when docking. 

We went almost to the lighthouse and then headed back north looking for a spot to anchor. Everything shallow enough to be feasible was a minefield of crab pots but we managed it. We anchored out for a few hours, had lunch, and enjoyed the sun and breeze. Enjoying some waves of joy getting my beloved Ambrosia away from the dock at last.

We took some decent waves right on the beam--unable to turn into them quickly enough due to crab pots-- which caused the mini-fridge to tip open and spill its contents everywhere. The fan on top of it tumbled to the floor, pulling the power strip and the computer monitor connected to it to the floor as well. Luckily, nothing was broken, but since every surface on the boat is cluttered, I have a lot of work ahead of me to clear all those surfaces and secure appliances and such with shock cord to prevent mishaps in choppy seas or when heeled over. This was, however, the first cruise when no cats puked. I put them together on a towel in a pop-up dog crate so they wouldn't be able to get sick in some remote locker unbeknownst to me, and so they would be safer from falling objects. It was a good plan that worked out well.

On the way back north we opened the jib and got an extra knot and a half. Naturally, the furling line got fouled beneath the drum rather than wrapping onto it, so I had to go forward and unwind it while carefully jumping back whenever there was slack since the sail would take the slack and fill, spinning off the furler with force. Yes, that is my lovely hatch A/C in the photo. It is too much of a hassle to remove it so we just let it be. And, yep, below you can see the ratty weathered bungee cords keeping my main halyard from slapping against the mast. Don't judge me.

Docking was a major challenge and I freaked out quite a bit. I really don't want to hit another boat so I get very trepidatious in close quarters maneuvering; this is a tight docking situation and a slip I'd never docked her in before. The reversed steering situation didn't help. Gratefully, the dock master was waiting on the pier to throw lines and give advice and we eventually made it in unscathed. But I think next time I will try backing all the way down the fairway and into the slip. I really need someone very experienced to come help me spend three hours going in and out of the slip over and over until it's in my muscle memory and my crocodile brain. But all in, a great trip, a huge relief to get out on the water, and some much needed waves of joy and relaxation.

Here's a nugget of truth to remember: bad tippers are bad lovers (and bad bosses, friends, ...). People who are stingy and selfish in one area of life, like money, are often also stingy in other areas of life--in bed, with their affection, and with their time. The same goes for people who cut in line, cut people off in traffic, and generally seem to have missed the message about the Golden Rule.

I've been running a fair amount, though not back up to my desired 30 miles per week. But I am trimming down, building muscle, and getting faster. Running is my meditation, my church. I listen to Matisyahu, take in nature, feel the connection of my body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by grief and have a panic attack and hyperventilate. But it happens less and less now. So many days I just want to stay in bed, don't want to head out on that run. But I always feel better that I did it, even if it was slower or shorter than my goal. I need to focus on taking better care of myself physically, emotionally, and financially. In a sense, my body is all I have and I have to make taking care of it, making it the best it can be, my priority. 

I started school this past Monday. It seems crazy to be going back to school yet again, but at least this path (massage therapy) feels like it has potential both as something I can do while traveling and that is actually in demand (which is not the case with law). And after many years of lawyering and hating it, it will be nice to do something that reduces the level of stress in the world rather than increases it. Law is just a soul-sucking endeavor and I feel like I need to do something with a far better karmic balance. And it turns out that colleges are full of cute, young that's not so bad, either. I am juggling only being able to get in 30 hours a week of legal work in DC, so that's a $1,000 a month less income when I need it most. So, I need to make a better push to find something local and lucrative that will accommodate the school schedule for this next year.

But more seriously, I am nervous about whether I will be any good at massage, because if I'm not great at it I won't succeed. But I am also nervous about getting through Anatomy and Physiology, which will be the toughest course in the program and I am taking right now along with Swedish Massage. I've been a professional student, had an amazing memory, was a test-taking machine. That's how I got through law school, an MBA, three bar exams, and into a couple Ph.D programs I abandoned along the way. But since all that I've had two serious concussions. My memory has never been the same. The effects of a traumatic brain injury are so cruel and unpredictable. There are times I look at close friends and for the life of me, I have no idea what their names are. So, more waves. Waves of sadness at the loss of a skill I was very good at, at the loss of memory, at the effects I may never shake, but waves of joy at the potential for a new life, at some new chance to find a purpose, meaning, bliss.