Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A merry Christmas for Misty...

Well Christmas has come and gone and Misty got everything she asked for.

A thorough cleaning.

An electric blanket.

A Kindle.

Wait... I think those last two might have been for me.

The only problem I'm having now is getting out from under my electric blanket (where I like to read my Kindle) to actually do anything worth blogging about. I'll get on that. After the new year.

Merry Christmas, readers! And a happy new year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The social life...

Instead of writing about winterizing, like I probably should, I've decided instead to write about life in the marina. I didn't take any pictures of winterizing the engine anyway. I was too busy trying to remember all the steps.

So life in the marina.

Yesterday I was hanging out and running errands with my friend Andrew. He had some days off left to take before the end of the year and so we decided to get together and run errands, see friends, do some boat work and go climbing. We come back to the marina from West Marine and Costco and lunch with Andrew's brother, Mark, of the famous MarkandChristine duo. And what do we see at the marina? Why, two people sitting at the picnic table, smoking cigarettes and having coffee!

I jump out of the car to introduce myself. The marina staff is on a two-week vacation and I'm a little more starved for human interaction than I usually am.

"Hi! Do you live here? I'm Allie. I live in that little boat," I say, pointing. "I've been just dying to meet some of the other liveaboards here. I knew there were some, but I haven't met any yet."

I said this all in one breath.

It took a moment for the new couple to digest what I had just said and get up to shake hands.

They, too, seemed a little starved for company.

We engaged in a discussion about space heaters. They examined the one I had just purchased from the West Marine. We discussed the relative merits of West Marine-brand space heaters versus hardware store space heaters versus propane heaters.

And then, in the truly attention-starved manner of all liveaboards I've ever met in winter, we exchanged phone numbers and a promise to meet up that night over a bottle of rum.

The social norms in a marina are not complex. They are based mostly in a desire to meet someone -- anyone -- other than whomever lives in the boat with you. And liveaboards like me who live alone? Forget about it. We're all dying for discussion with something other than a duck.

People come in and out all the time because they travel the world, or the Bay, or they're visiting for a week. Whatever it is. So you meet someone in the boat yard and just end up hanging out. There was a guy in my marina this summer who has since gone to the Caribbean. I let him borrow my hose and he, in turn, checked on me during storms and invited me over for wine and chips. Never mind that he had a daughter my age. We had a grand time discussing charts and navigation. Then there was another guy over the summer who liked to sit on his deck chair next to my boat and chit-chat about boat prices. Once, when I went to get my mail, an older couple, despairing of their taxi ever arriving asked me for a ride to the Inner Harbor. When I lived in Washington, D.C., there were always people I'd met in the bathroom or the laundry room dropping by for a drink or a chat.

I'm no sociologist, but I think it's something to do with the prospect of getting to talk about something you love -- with someone who hasn't just spent a long period of time confined to a small space with you.

So what I'm trying to say is that inviting someone you just met to your home isn't strange at all and I eagerly accepted.

Around 8, I got the call and went over.

Now, what I have neglected to mention is that one of my main points of attraction to these people, besides companionship, was the fact that they have pets.

Not just any pets.

They have two cats -- and a pet squirrel.

So we sat up until 2 a.m. playing with their pets and drinking tea with rum and eating cake.

Life in the marina? It's really not so bad.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Misty gets naked...

After watching a neighbor's roller-furled jib flog itself to shreds last week, I decided it was time to take my own sails off the boat.

I enlisted the help of my ever-happy-to-help friend Andrew. Hi, Andrew! (He agreed to help AND to let me take pictures for my blog -- what a sport!)

Anyway, I was a little uncertain about taking the sails off by myself. Mostly because it is shockingly difficult to brick up sails (i.e. fold them into brick-like blocks) on the dock by yourself. And by that I mean that I don't think I could do it since the marina is so exposed to wind. It would have to be a really calm day.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Flogging jib = bad. Taking sails off for winter = good.

So Andrew comes over and we start with the jib, also known as "that little sail on the bow of the boat." On Misty Rose, the jib is roller-furled, which means that it has a mechanism that rolls the sail around the a line that runs from the top of the mast to the deck so that you don't have to fold it every time you use it. Therefore, the sail must be unfurled from the forestay, dropped with the halyard, unclipped at the tack and the head, and the sheets must be untied and coiled.


I unfurled the jib and released the halyard. We then discovered a need for pliers to get all the shackles undone. Is it just me? Or does the rest of the world have the same shackle woes as I? I pulled out my giant tool bag, which, someday, I shall photograph the contents of for you all. Tool kits of sailboats are truly strange things filled with everything from electrical tape to plumbers' wrenches to sailcloth needles and joker valves. After much rummaging, I found a suitable pair of pliers and we set about removing the sail. At this point I also remembered to take pictures.

I found some line and tied the roller furling mechanism to the base of the forestay so that, in a storm, the car attached to the halyard wouldn't work its way up to the top of the forestay. I am not actually sure if that's possible (wouldn't it just slide back down?) but the charter boat captain I work for does it on his boat, so I figure it's a solid bet.

We carried the sail off the boat to brick it up. Misty's jib is easy to brick because it has no battens (fiberglass sticks sewn into one side to help the sail stay flat).

Luckily, the marina has a very wide dock, so we were able to flake and brick on the dock and we didn't have to carry the sail to the parking lot. Andrew took the head (top) of the sail and carried it up the dock, while I stretched out the foot (bottom) of the sail.

Then we flaked it. To flake a sail, two people get on each side of the sail and pull folds of the sail toward the foot until it looks just like this:

Then you simply fold it into a brick. Misty's jib will spend the winter in the dock box.

The main sail was a little harder to handle. Since the main has battens, you have to be very careful when you flake it so be sure that the battens are exactly parallel. This is how we accomplished that:

The main is much heavier than the jib and doesn't fold up as small (battens don't bend), so we tied a neat little handle to it. I used sailor knots. Andrew insisted his were climbing knots, though I think they closely resemble sailing knots...

And voila! The finished product:

And now Misty Rose is shockingly nude... Hope she's not too cold!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter's quiet night...

There's something I love about the marina at night in the wintertime. There's no one around -- no one I can see anyway. If anyone is here, they're hiding inside their boats, snug against the early winter breeze that takes your breath away. It's still and silent save the usual evening sounds.

There's the bell-like ringing of lines. The rhythmic thumping of halyards and the hollow echo of masts. The gurgle of water slapping the sides of the boats, the groan of compressed fenders and the ever-so quiet noise of lines stretching against their cleats. The quiet humming of rigging in the wind is louder than the traffic of the city half a mile away.

Then there's the noise of a working port. The occasional whistle of a tug or blast of a ship's horn as she prepares to leave port. That's the comforting promise that everything is running as it should, ticking away reliably in the background, bringing salt for the snowstorms, bananas and cars and potash and a million other things.

Of course there's also the long, almost harmonious, purr of rail cars blowing horns as they carry goods away from Baltimore. It is quiet and it's nice.

There's something quiet and comforting about the marina at night -- but it's most comforting from the warm, comfortable inside of a boat that has weathered more winters in her life than I...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tying up...

To preface this post, I would like to state that I am not a self-righteous boater. I don't care if you sail with your fenders in the water. It doesn't bother me if you don't trim your sails exactly right. I think sailing is a learning process. You should be able to make mistakes and learn from them with impunity. I know I make boating mistakes all the time -- and I think everyone else should have the same latitude.

That said, there are some things that are plainly unsafe for your boat that, given any basic sailing instruction, you should know not to do.

As you may or may not have gathered from my Wordless Wednesday post, there was a horrific storm Tuesday night, extending into Wednesday morning. I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that I think it was the worst storm I have ever weathered aboard Misty Rose. I didn't sleep more than 45 minutes all night -- even after I took Dramamine. To put the storm in perspective, one of the guys who works in the boatyard expressed surprise that I didn't go and sit in the bathhouse or sleep in my car to get out of the storm. We're talking 35 mph winds with gusts and flash flooding, here.

Now that we've set the stage, let's talk about the reason for this post: the proper way to tie your boat to a floating dock.

I have noticed that a startling number of boats are tied up in the marina like this:

This disturbs me, readers, as it should you. Things wrong with that illustration: There are no fenders to keep the boat from banging into the dock. There is no spring line. All of the lines are tied so tightly that there is absolutely no slack in them at all.

But why is this wrong?

Well. Let me tell you about laying in bed around 4:30 a.m. and hearing an incredibly loud flapping noise. I was out of bed faster than you can say, "Jack Robinson." I thought my roller furler had come undone and my sail was flapping away. I flung open the hatch and discovered that the noise was coming not from my boat, but a boat across the dock from mine.

I was fuzzy from not sleeping all night. Should I do something? Their sail was already starting to rip. Confused, I texted my father, knowing he'd be up at 5 a.m. Five minutes later, he called, frantic that something was wrong. I explained what was happening.

His response?

"Well, if it was Misty, wouldn't you want whoever saw it to at least try?"

Of course I would.

I pulled on my trusty faux Uggs over my PJ pants and got on my pink Henri Lloyd jacket and an old hat of my dad's I'd found on the boat. I grabbed the sturdiest winch handle I could find and a length of line and set out across the dock.

I was soaked through in seconds. The other boat, tied up like the bad example picture, was bucking violently against the dock. I was a little scared to step aboard in the storm with no lifejacket, but I decided to go for it. The jib sheets must have come undone and wrapped themselves about midway up the sail so that the sail was in a figure eight. I uncleated the furling line and winched it in as tight as it would go, wrapping up the bottom of the sail. Now for the top. I cleated the furling line and uncoiled my line to try and at least tie down the maniacally flogging sail. Unfortunately, the boat was slamming the dock so hard I was afraid to go forward of the mast where there was nothing to hold onto. In the wind, I couldn't do anything for the sail.

Well, I reasoned, the marina staff would be in at 7 a.m. They'd have a solution. I got back into the boat, stripped off my soaked clothing and put on the night's second pair of pajamas.

I heard the guys outside around 7 a.m. retying boats and trying to get the shredded sail tied up. They also failed, but they did tie the boat up properly and they found some fenders.

This leads me to this post.

Things to think about when tying up your boat:
1. Buy good-quality nylon docklines.
2. Buy fenders. Put them between the boat and the dock.
3. Use your boat's cleats. If you don't have cleats, use the toe rail. It's not a good idea to tie up using the stanchions or the shrouds. Too much stress on either of these is not good (i.e. if your shrouds break or the line rubs the cotter pin out, your mast could fall or you could break a stanchion.)

Now. When I tie up my boat, I try to take any stress off the bow line because I can hear it rubbing in the chock and it keeps me awake. That in mind, the first picture I posted is my ideal way to tie up to a floating dock at a t-head (which is how my boat is docked). For the record, you should almost always tie your sailboat up so that the fattest part of the boat, also known as the beam, is the only thing touching the dock. You then put a fender there between the boat and the dock. Voila! No slamming.

It is just a bad idea to tie up any boat with only a bow line and a stern line. I have horrific nightmares about my lines breaking after the time I discovered my bow line worn through to a single fiber. To avoid this, I use a bow line, a stern line, a forward spring and an aft spring. I do not have two bow lines like that picture shows because I don't have a cleat close enough. In an ideal world, I would have that second bow line.

For Misty Rose, I like a bow line with lots of slack, a tight stern line, a tight aft spring and a little bit of slack in the forward spring.

I put fenders anywhere the boat might hit the dock if a wave were to make the boat fishtail.

Above all else, lines should be checked regularly for wear. My lines tend to wear most at the chock on the bowline, so I use a short piece of old garden hose to insulate the line in the chock.

And now you know how to tie up your boat to best keep her steady -- whether it's going to storm or not.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the spirit of Thanksgiving...

I feel like I've been complaining a lot recently. It's cold. There's no range yet. I need X, Y and Z. I don't know how to dooooo thissssss...


I've been a whiner.

I'm not sure if it's the cold or if I'm just scared for winter aboard. Winter on the boat can be a little bit miserable sometimes, as I have detailed in earlier posts.

So instead of complaining and being bratty, I'm going to list the 10 things I'm most thankful for on the boat:

1. My West Marine space heater. This thing works like a champ, I tell you.

2. My tea kettle. I drink more hot drinks in a day than most eight-person families drink in a week.

3. Internet access.

4. A marina with nice bathrooms and kind staff.

5. Really nice warm clothing and blankets. (I'm betting that most girls graduating master's programs don't get long underwear and hiking socks as graduation presents, but I did -- thanks Mom and Dad!)

6. A great set of advisers on all things nautical who will take my phone calls and answer the most ridiculous questions (Wait, you connect that to WHAT?!?)

7. A dock box! The marina installed my dock box and now the boat is much more clutter-free.

8. A refrigerator that keeps my food cold and doesn't fill my bilge with water like my ice box did.

9. Thick rubber gloves. If you battled as much mold and icky bilge nastiness as I did, you'd be thankful for them, too.


10. I own half of a freaking BOAT. Who wouldn't be thankful for that?

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, readers!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ahhh, the smell of 2 a.m. in the rain...

Last night was just one of those nights.

It rained all day yesterday. ALL. DAY. I applied for jobs. I thought wishful thoughts about running. I drank 16 cups of tea.

Finally, I deemed it was time to stop "working" for the day, after having complained, over gchat, MSN Messenger and Facebook chat to at least 47 of my friends that I was going stir crazy. STIR CRAZY!

(I will apologize now for my excessive use of caps in this post. But it's my blog. And I'm in an ALL CAPS mood.)

So I watch an episode of "Deadliest Catch" on Netflix streaming. I finish my last library book and reserve some new ones online that I saw at the bookstore. I watch a second episode of "Deadliest Catch" -- or I start to. The Internet stops working and the rain begins to fall harder.

OK, no sweat. I'll watch a DVD. I have seen every DVD on the boat at least 6 times, and I've seen all of the movies in the last year.

So no DVD.

Well, there must be a book on this boat to read. I haven't pulled any new books down on my iPod for a while because I'd gotten a bunch of new books at the library. This was a MISTAKE. A biiiiiiig mistake.

There is nothing to read. So I read a couple chapters of the Bible. I read the last chapter of a mystery I've already read 300 times. I open my copy of "Navigation Rules," the scintillating publication put out by the Department of Homeland Security.

Finally I find a magazine to read in bed. An old copy of Outside one of my friends gave me when she was done with it.

I lay in my berth as the boat rocks back and forth, back and forth, backandforthbackandforth, and tries to dump me on the floor. I get up for water. I watch the water in my cup slosh back and forth. I feel slightly sick.

Around 2 a.m., I hear a huge thump. Anything hitting the side of the boat makes a huge bang inside. Even people knocking on the door is kind of scary-sounding.

I know that this knocking, which clearly is on the starboard side, is the boat hitting the dock.

I argue with myself for a while. Most boat owners would be blissfully unaware of their boat smacking the dock in the middle of the night, I think. Maybe it won't happen again, I think. Yes, it probably won't happen again. I'll fix it in the morning.

It happened again.

Grumpy as can be I pull on an old pair of Costco Fuggs (fake Ugg boots -- they're warm, OK?) and my Henri Lloyd pink rain jacket over my flannel pajamas. I venture out into the pouring rain to discover that the floating dock has risen in the high water. I can barely stand on the dock, the wind is blowing so hard, but I manage to move my fenders and double my lines.

I come back inside and manage to fall back asleep. After about an hour.

Of course I wake up at 9 a.m. when my alarm goes off and feel like someone has just hit me over the head with a frying pan. So I read the magazine I'd started the night before and answer my e-mail from the bed using my phone. Thank you, technology.

Around 9:30 a.m. my mother calls me. This means one of two things at this time of the day on a school day: Someone is sick/dying/in the hospital or something even worse has happened.

Thankfully, it was neither today.

"I'm on my way home from school," she says.


Immediately I get out of bed to check a different clock than my alarm clock. Yep. It's really 9:30 a.m.

"Why?" I ask.

"No power. There was a tornado in Parkville last night."


I open my laptop and start pulling news articles from The Baltimore Sun's website. Damned if there wasn't a severe storm last night in the county! The storm damage pictures on the site feature downed trees the size of cargo ships.

What a nice night to be on the water, right?

It's moments like these that I wonder why I do this...

Monday, November 15, 2010

The haul-out...

So in my last entry about the horrific nightmare that is winterization, I mentioned that I was having my boat hauled out by the marina.

Well Wednesday morning it happened. I was on "flex" as I live in the marina and wasn't too worried about when they'd get to me. I got up early just in case I ended up with one of the first slots and wandered up to the marina office and discovered that Misty would be hauled out at 10:15 a.m. I could live with that. I went back down to the boat to make coffee, have some cereal and get my camera ready. I'd never seen Misty out of the water before. The last time she'd been out of the water, about two years before, I had been away at school and hadn't really wanted much to do with the boat. (I feel guilty sitting in that same boat typing this now -- sorry, Misty!)

Anyway, 10:15 rolled around and coffee in hand, I stepped out to meet the yard guys, who wanted to know if I wanted to drive the boat over or be towed. I wanted to be towed. I wanted to take pictures. Plus I was super nervous. After asking very thorough questions about the location of my keel (fin) and the location of my stuffing box (just ahead of the wheel) and my knot meter (nooooo clue), the guys were ready to tow my boat over and haul her out.

Basically what happens, for the uninitiated, is that they tow the boat to a patch of water with concrete dock on three sides. A large sling apparatus can be driven onto the parallel sides of the dock and a sling can be pulled underneath the boat. Then the boat is lifted up and the slings are driven onto solid ground. I just did a short haul, so the boat stayed in the slings. If I'd been coming out for winter storage, they would have used blocks to brace the boat from the sides and stand her on her keel. But we'll talk more about that later.

I was actually surprised at the lack of barnacles. Sure, she was a little scummy, but not heavily covered in barnacles. This was a good sign.

The marina guys gave Misty a good and thorough power washing (have I mentioned I love this boatyard?) And changed the zinc for me. I'd offered to do the zinc myself, but you can't do any work on your boat when she's in the slings. Liability issue or something. Remember how I talked about winter storage? Putting the boat on blocks? Well whoever painted Misty last was very very lazy. That square block of lighter paint on the bottom? That's where the last boatyard we used didn't move the blocks to paint underneath them. Come spring I'll do the bottom painting myself. Yeesh.

In this picture, you can see the propeller clearly. The knob above the propeller on the shaft is the zinc. Zinc is what's called a "sacrificial." Basically, the zinc is there so that rust will eat the cheap piece of zinc and not the expensive-to-replace propeller. They unscrewed the old one and replaced the new. Zinc, in a boat heavily used, should be replaced once or twice a year. Three times is a little excessive. Twice is extra safe. Once is fine. Doing it less than once a year is not recommended. Of course we've never done that. Ahem.

Anyway, once she was all scrubbed and zinc'd, they dropped her back in the water and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

It's funny. I see the same guys sling boats in and out of the water without mishap every day. But when it's your boat? I don't think anyone could help but worry...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Winter is coming...

It's not even mid-November and already we've had two overnight frosts. What does this mean, readers? You guessed it. It's time to think about my least favorite part of living aboard. Winterization.

There's a lot of things I dislike about winterization. For one, it means that there is no more sailing until spring. For another, it means winter is here. And who likes winter? Finally, it means that there is an opportunity for really scary things to happen. Things like the engine block cracking because the engine wasn't winterized properly.

I have nightmares about that last one. Seriously.

So I've compiled a list of things that need to be done before winter well and truly sets in:
  1. Have the marina haul Misty, scrape the barnacles of the bottom and replace the zinc.
  2. Winterize the engine.
  3. Figure out what to do with the dinghy.
  4. Change out summer clothes for winter clothes.
  5. Start obsessively buying water. And propane. And beans and rice. In case there's a blizzard. Or in case you're an irrational worrier like me.
  6. Lay in a stock of antifreeze to winterize the head and the water tank in case I have to leave for an extended time.
  7. Buy a second space heater from West Marine.
  8. Stop dilly-dallying and buy and install the range already.
  9. Buy slippers.
So you can see some of these things are slightly more challenging than others. For instance, buying slippers is much more difficult than choosing a range. Or not.

I went in to talk to the marina staff (who are incredibly helpful and nice, by the way) last week. They agreed to do the short haul and work and haul my sad, sorry little dinghy out of the water in place of my haul-out and blocking. This didn't make sense to me at first until I learned that they include a haul-out and blocking at a significantly reduced rate to the lease and that paying for a short haul is still more expensive than what I payed for my original haul-out and blocking. If that doesn't make sense to you, try not to worry about it too much. It took me a while, too. Anyway, the short haul is coming on Wednesday.

And come hell or high water I'm going to measure for a propane locker or CNG tank today and try to order the range this week. Or at least by next week...

Friday, October 22, 2010

It's good to have someone who can answer your stupid questions...

E-mail conversation between my dad and I about the range we're about to purchase for the boat:

SUBJECT: I know I sound stupid right now and I will probably write about this in my blog later...

... but what exactly do we want? CNG or LPG? Is LPG just propane?

<3 Allie


LPG is liquid propane gas. It’s what’s in the can.

LNG is liquid natural gas. You won’t get that, it really takes humongous pressure to liquify ng.

What we want is CNG, which is compressed natural gas.

This is the one I’ve always really liked. CNG is really popular in Europe; this is one that several of the Danes had. Note the nifty broiler you wanted.

Can we get a guarantee on one from one of the salvage yards?

Yeah. What he said. So what do you think, readers?

Finally shopping for the range of my dreams...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My new best friend...

I would like to announce to the entirety of the blogosphere that I, Aleksandra Robinson, have a new best friend.

His name is Buster. Dust Buster.

For the past six months I have had a tiny shop vac. It's a workhorse. It's a great vacuum. Except when it comes to the small stuff. It just doesn't have a lot of sucking power. It makes cleaning the little bitty dusty bits difficult, I'm sad to say.

But the other day, my mother offered me a DustBuster. She originally bought it to vacuum crumbs off of my grandfather. Lately? She hasn't needed it for that. Poor Buster has been sitting -- unloved -- in my parents' basement.

I'd forgotten to take him with me the last few times I'd visited my parents, but when I went over to do laundry and give blood (at a donor center, not at their house) this week, I finally remembered to take Buster with me.

He needed a bit of a charge when I got him home, but then he was ready for action. This morning I pulled him out and got all the itty gritty little corners and cobwebs that plague me. Seriously. They plague me.

Now my floor and nooks and crannies are all clean and dust-free.

I'd recommend a DustBuster to any liveaboard for this reason. They're easy to pull out and use quickly. My shop vac is a bear to get out and use. This little thing is a breeze.

When you've got a tiny space to keep clean, it's much more of a challenge than a large space because any clutter or dirt makes the whole deal look dirty. For instance, today I had crusty bread. Normally, I'd break bread outside, hanging over the side of the boat to keep the crumbs away.

Today? I broke bread with abandon and Buster was there to clean up the aftermath.

I'm telling you. Buster is my new bff...

Monday, October 11, 2010

There's no place like home...

Well, folks, I just got back from a gloriously relaxing and rejuvenating weekend with my friends on the beach in Virginia. We actually stayed in a town on the Bay called White Stone. I checked? Three days minimum to sail there. Too bad we didn't have the time! It was a beautiful weekend with perfect perfect weather. Steady, light breeze every day and lots of nice warm sun.

I feel so relaxed right now, but I can't tell you how nice it is to be home. I set out my beach chair when I got here, and I've been sitting on the dock watching the sunset ever since.

I guess it really is like they say. It's very nice to go traveling. But it's oh so nice to come home...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The solution to all my boat problems....

Pack up books. Take them to boat. Read books. Pack books back up. Take them home. Pick out new books. Take them to boat. Read books....

Seriously. That was my life up until recently.

It seemed my car was always filled with books. The boat had them crammed into her shelves willy-nilly, while my canned goods were relegated to a dark and scary cabinet.

It wasn't pretty, readers. It wasn't pretty at all.

But all that changed recently.

No, I didn't stop reading. Oh no. I got an iPod touch. And discovered the Amazon Kindle application.

My mother has had a Kindle for years and for years the darn thing has cramped my style.

"Oh that book?" Mom would say when I inquired after the sixth book in a series we both read. "I read it on the Kindle."

And then my hopes for not having to buy that particular book were dashed.

Now, I can download and read books.

Now I know what you're thinking. I've always been a purist, too. I love the feel of paper in my hands and the flutter of the pages.

But the eBook? It rocks for liveaboards. It's the perfect solution.

I can have hundreds of books in a space that isn't even 6 inches square. Romances, mysteries, fiction, non-fiction, Shakespeare... it's all there for my reading pleasure.

And if there's nothing that meets my reading whims? I can download something else.

It's amazing.

Of course the screen my iPod is pretty small, so I won't lie, I'm holding out for one of these:

But we can't have everything can we? Oh well... Christmas is coming, right? All joking aside, this is a great solution to the age-old entertainment problem. You're cooped up in a tiny boat with no TV and limited Internet and you're running out of books... the eBook comes to the rescue.

It's also great because you can have a newspaper delivered. Any other liveaboards out there miss having a paper delivered every morning? Now you can have papers delivered to your eBook and you can read from the comfort of your vee-berth without arguing with the newspaper delivery people at The Sun over why they should toss a paper 100 yards from the production plant and into the boat. Not that I've done that. Lately.

Now, I think I'll dial up a vampire mystery. I mean, why not?

Monday, June 21, 2010

My hands may never be the same...

Well. It's been a while again. But boy do I have a good story for you.

So this past spring, my friends Mark and Christine and I decided to take a trip. We'd been discussing a nice sail to Chestertown for more than a year and we decided it was time. Christine was early in a pregnancy and once the baby was born, who knew how long we'd have to wait to cruise? Spring was the perfect time -- the only time -- for our long-awaited cruise.

Also, Mark and Christine being a pastor and student pastor respectively, we couldn't go over a weekend. No problem! I work a lot of weekends... why not take four days off?

We decided to take Mark and Christine's newly acquired boat, Dreamscape, a 30-foot Catalina. It was only fair. They'd both been aboard for parts of the trip to Washington, D.C.

It all seemed good the day we left. Preparation was a little involved as it was the boat's first trip of the season. And, of course, they don't live aboard, so they wouldn't have as much stuff aboard to start out as I did.

All in all, the Catalina 30 is a solid boat. She's fast, and with a wing keel she can go where my boat cannot. After a few hours dockside, we were able to take off with a favorable wind direction and head to the Chester River.

Relaxation at last!

Yeah right.

No sooner had we decided to turn the engine on a second time (the wind died midday) than it started to overheat and, finally, it shut off. After anchoring in the middle of the Chester, I set about to take a look-see.

You know it's not a good day when I am the most-knowledgeable "mechanic" aboard.

I gamely cracked the engine ports -- all four of them, easy access be damned -- and set out to check out with a flashlight why we were in such trouble.

It was easy enough to find. Two jets of brilliant neon green fluid were leaking out at an astounding rate. Yup. That was the coolant. Now we knew why the engine was overheating at least.

No problem, thought I. I'll patch it up, add more antifreeze, and we can limp into Chestertown and buy more. That'll get us home. After all, this was a sailboat! Motors are for people who don't know what they're doing.


Well, first off, there was no antifreeze aboard at all. And few tools. And still fewer things to patch holes with.

Duct tape. It was all we had. And it can solve any problem, right?

Sure it can. So laying on my stomach with the side door to the engine propped open with my head and a flashlight between my teeth, I set about patching the leak with Christin handing me duct tape to my exact size specifications. I wrapped that heat exchanger (the source of the leak) like a Christmas present. I wrapped it with layers and layers of tape.

There was still a little fluid left in the resevoir. We'd sail into Chestertown the next day and buy more.

We sailed all day and came to anchor under sail in Chestertown around 2 p.m. the next day. We'd hit a patch of dead air and lost some time, but we got there.

Mark and Christine inflated the dignhy and Mark rowed us ashore. Yes. Rowed. They have no outboard. Miraculously, we got there. The Chester has a little current the way the North Atlantic has little waves.

And then we found a shop with antifreeze! Pay dirt! And they had a gallon of distilled water! We carried our booty to the dinghy and proceeded to have a lovely evening of walking around town and having a nice seafood dinner.

When we got back, we went to bed to tackle the heat exchanger in the morning.

See the lovely green liquid on the galley table? That's what antifreeze looks like. I wish I could tell you what burning antifreeze smells like.

We filled it up and ran it... and it worked. For a time. We hit Queenstown that night in need of still more antifreeze -- and we ran aground a few times by losing power in the tiny chanel that marks the entrace to Queenstown -- a one-horse town in posession of a post office and a pizzeria. No gas station. No marine supply store. The kind harbormaster offered to drive us for some in the morning, but being intrepid walkers, we asked directions to a gas station. Five miles away. Some nice people in the pizzeria gave us some antifreeze.

It took three gallons of antifreeze and half a roll of duct tape and some JB weld the dockmaster gave us, but we made it back. We sailed the entire trip. Sailed to anchor four times. I sailed into the dock in Queenstown without the motor once. And we made it.

It's all about resourcefulness, people.

But I think my hands still smell of burnt antifreeze...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Forgive me....

Well, as Steve at Condor once put it: "Forgive me Blogger, for I have sinned."

Yep. It's been a looooong time since my last blog post. What can I say? I've been sailing. It happens. Work and sailing, sailing at work... shoot. They're kind of the same thing, I guess. And I've been thinking a lot about that recently.

This time two years ago I was living in a cute apartment in Hyattsville, working on my master's degree in journalism and working at The Examiner in Baltimore. I wore high heels at least four days a week.

These days I find myself living on a boat and working at a sailing center and thinking about sailing 24-7. I spend more time on boats and docks than I do anywhere else and I wear shorts to work every day.

I guess it's funny how these things happen.

Now I don't mean to turn this blog in to a philosophical soliloquy about my life. I've just been thinking about how sailing and boats have taken over my life.

And about how I kind of like it.

Look for more posts soon, I've got lots to tell you all. I've got posts planned on titling my dinghy, jury rigging Mark and Christine's heat exchanger, living without air conditioning and becoming a real-deal boat owner... It's been a very exciting spring on the Misty Rose.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is that a dinghy in your pocket...?

Just like every guy needs a wing man, every boat needs a dinghy. It's just a fact of boating. My dinghy? It was missing. Misty Rose was incomplete. She lacked her wing man.

We'd always kept the dinghy (which was new when we bought the boat) underneath the porch at Oak Harbor. And this year, when I moved back from Washington, D.C., and we decided to look for it, it was missing.

Luckily, when Dad called Oak Harbor to find out What On Earth They'd Done With The Dinghy, they admitted they'd moved it into the shed. Without telling us.

Good thing we asked.

So on my day off, rather than sail, we went down to Pasadena and muscled the deflated dink into the car. And no. I don't have an explanation for the plastic bag hanging out of the back of my jeans.

For the whole year I've lived on the boat there's been a mysterious orange thing in a plastic bag. Apparently it's the dinghy pump. Good thing dad wouldn't let me take it off the boat, huh? I have a whole cabinet on the boat dedicated to Dad's bric-a-brac and crock-a-crap.

Putting the pump together was not too much of a mystery. I mean, I've got degrees. I can handle a pump.

Sadly, the pump came with six nozzles and a pressure gauge, which I never got to work. Maybe I should have stayed back in grad school for a dinghy 101 course.

I resorted to everyone's favorite method of trial and error for fitting the correct nozzle to the pump ports. Interestingly enough the nozzles lock onto the plastic ports. There's a spring-loaded thinger inside each one that needs to be depressed, we discovered, in order for the air to stay in when the nozzle is removed. This was discovered after much pumping.

Here I am pumping.

Dad took a turn. And pumped about 10 times before handing the reins back to me. I am daughter. Hear me roar!

I finished up the job more or less quickly.

And then took a nap on the dock while dad went to get the lock. Pumping is no easy job, OK?

After that, all I needed to do was tie her up and lock her down. Of course I locked her down. I mean, people have no problems stealing hoses and hoses have a lot in common with dinghies. Like... they're both made of rubber.

Now I just need to wash it. It's looking like it spend a couple years under a porch in Pasadena and we can't have that now, can we?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why did it have to be spiders....

Everyone has something they're afraid of. Something they wouldn't want to find in their house in the middle of the night.

For Indiana Jones, it was snakes.

For me? Spiders.

I cannot stand spiders. I loathe them. I fear them. They make me go all shivery. I once refused to allow my boyfriend to touch me after he vaccuumed up a few spider eggs sacs until he'd washed his hands 97 times.

I've gotten a little better over the years.

I am now a trained spider killer and I kill on sight.

Now, you may be asking yourself why I'm posting about spiders on a liveaboard blog. It's an interesting question. And if you haven't spent much time in marinas you probably don't know that spiders love marinas and boats. Love them.

And if you don't keep up with them they'll take over a boat. And they'll go sailing. And they never flake the sails correctly.


So when I lived in DC, there was a serious spider problem at my marina and I purchased a corn broom from Wal Mart specifically for killing spiders and wiping away their webs.

Then winter came and the problem got a whole lot better.

Now that it's spring and I'm at the new marina in Baltimore, the spiders are back, pesky things.

Today, for instance, I went for a short afternoon sail with my pal Pastor Mark and my dad. And Mark points out a spider on the boom. So I take the winch handle (I'd just been tightening the jib, so it was handy) and swing it at the dangling spider... and throw the winch handle overboard.

Luckily it was the floating kind.

Also unluckily I don't have a net, so Mark did man overboard maneuvers, Dad grabbed my feet and I hung three-quarters of my body over the side and managed to snag the handle.

Unluckily I didn't kill the spider with the throw and Dad and Mark refused to let me try again with the winch handle.

So now, I must ask you, faithful readers, if any of you have any awesome spider repellent techniques. Do you? I hope so. Because there's a lot of spiders here and I have only so many winch handles I can throw overboard...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The nerve...

So I dropped home today in the middle of the day to get something I forgot. It's pretty nice to be living so close to work, I must admit.

And I'm walking down the dock and I see a new boat next to me. I say hey and nod at the guy working on her and I keep walking.

As soon as I set foot on my boat, the guy goes, "Oh, I'm using your hose."

I look over and darn if he hasn't gotten my hose all uncoiled from the tower and connected it to his own hose to make it long enough to reach his boat. And his hose didn't look like the nicest hose on the block either. I don't know about the rest of the world, but I DRINK the water out of my hose. I don't want it connected all willy nilly to suspect hoses that may or may not have the plague.

"Sorry," he says completely in a completely unapologetic tone.

"Um, it's OK, I guess," I say. "Please be careful with it, it's my only hose and I need it for my water."

OK, so maybe that was a dumb thing to say. "I need it for water"? Really? What else do people use hoses for?

And in a totally bombastic tone, he goes, "I'm just filling my tank, I'll be done in a second."

What? Excuse me? You are using my hose and you're not even going to be polite about that fact that you're using my personal hose from my tower without permission?

I tell ya, the nerve of these sailors. Bold as brass.

And he didn't even coil it back up right.

This is a great example of my the principle of liveaboard life in a marina. The liveaboard is exponentially more likely to have gear used without permission or borrowed because the liveaboard, in fact, lives aboard and is exponentially more likely to have stuff for other marina denizens to steal or borrow. The more stuff, the greater the chances of having it beggared away. The more time you spend on a boat, the greater the chances of having more stuff.

See where I'm going with this?

I'll tell you where I'm going with this. I'm going to Wal Mart to get a lock for my damn hose!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The neighborhood....

So a couple of weeks ago I set out to leave Oak Harbor Marina in Pasadena and head to Baltimore. Since I'm working in Baltimore full time now, I figured that living there would not only save on gas money since the commute from Oak Harbor sucked, but I'd also get to live in Baltimore, my favorite place on earth.

So I called around to all the marinas in Baltimore and kept a list of pros and cons on each marina. Categories included: Price, Internet access, location of bathrooms/niceness of bathrooms and overall location.

Tidewater Marina won in most categories. They have no Internet, but are significantly cheaper than most and were offering a slip close to the very nice bathhouse. Sold! Dad called Oak Harbor and they easily were able to rent our slip out (which meant we got our deposit for the 2010 season back -- to go straight into the range fund.)

I shanghaied yet another unsuspecting crew -- this time my dad and my boyfriend Jon. That's Jon in the center of the picture... and my dad's rear end off to the left there. Hi dad!

We actually had a beautiful trip. It was warm and the wind was blowing over our beam the whole time, so we were able to reach right into Baltimore. Overall it was exceedingly pleasant.

But now to the point of my post. In addition to being my home, Tidewater is a serious boatyard in a very industrial piece of the harbor. Want to see my new neighbors? Coincidentally, Jon snapped all of the pictures in this post since I left my camera home (well, I took the picture of him and he took the rest):

My other new neighbors? The cruise ships. It's like living in a row house in the middle of mansion-land...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's all about getting ahead...

Oh yes. It's every boat owner's nightmare. A broken head. This spring, upon opening the seacock for the seawater intake that provides the water for flushing, I discovered, much to my horror that something -- and I'm sure only God knows exactly what -- had somehow broken in the head.

Oh it would pump dry. But water would not come in. I died a little inside. When the dial was turned to "flush," the handle would become almost impossible to push down and no water would appear in the bowl. I almost cried a little bit. Almost. OK, maybe one tear. Don't judge.

Anyway, once my serious panic had subsided, my dad mentioned that some guy in the boatyard had said that pump repair kits could be bought and that it would likely solve my problem.

Pump repair kits? Yeah, they cost $75 for a Raritan head -- which is, of course, what I have. Just so you know. And the Golden Anchor coupon I'd gotten from US SAILING and had been saving? It was expired.

So I gritted my teeth and paid full price. When I finally got the courage to open the little plastic box on Saturday, I was relieved to find instructions. And I was not so relieved to discover a large amount of strange parts never mentioned in the instructions.

That's the box, sitting on the head. See that red thing? I never used it. No clue what it's for. But you can bet that at $75 I saved the darn thing.

The first thing you do is close the seacock and take the handle arm apart. The instructions are very specific that before beginning work you should CLOSE THE SEACOCK. No sweat. Then it gets scary. It involved a 7/8" deep well socket (don't even bother going to Wal Mart, all they have is metric.) It involved taking a cap off and putting in new rubber and plastic bits.

It involved a new black rubber ball, the function of which I can only guess at.

And finally it included "Raritan Super Lube." Get your mind out of the gutter. I smeared that stuff all over the part of the pump that moves (I'm pushing on it in the second picture) , reattached the handle, opened the seacock again and pumped -- and darned if it didn't start flushing like a champ!

I may not know a thing about marine electronics, but I can sure do some plumbing with the right tools and a well-thought-out chart. First the seaweed and now the head pump? I'm unstoppable.

At least until something else breaks.

Monday, March 29, 2010

And then spend an inordinate amount of time sewing them....

OK, so I can't find my little point-and-shoot camera. And that has all the pictures I took of the curtain making process. So while I look for it, we'll talk about moving back to the boat.

As I mentioned before, I chickened out in the winter weather and moved home for a couple of months. What can I say? Blizzards on a boat are no fun. At least, I imagine they aren't. I wasn't there for either of the ones we had this year.

At any rate, I moved back to the boat this weekend, after moving it to Baltimore. When the weather finally dries out I'll do a photo tour of the new marina.

I'm excited to be back aboard. Even if I have one side of the cabin in new curtains and the other side in the old curtains. Even if I broke my lamp and had to buy a new one. Even if I think I might have to buy a new hose because the water spigot is a bit farther away.

It just feels good. It feels calming.

And now I have a Verizon MiFi, so get ready for a deluge of posts including: the curtains, the head rebuild, the move to Baltimore and much, much more! For only $29.95....


You don't have to pay. This blog is free. Free as a fish! So enjoy. Bookmark. Comment. And get ready to read about my first spring aboard.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In which I buy fabric for new curtains....

So now that I have a stove cabinet, which is the next best thing to actually having a range, I've shifted to work on some more cosmetic changes to Misty Rose's interior while I have my mother's sewing materials at my disposal.

The first thing that I thought needed some attention was the curtains. It's a relatively cheap and easy way to change the whole look of the inside of the cabin. I removed one of the eight old curtain panels to see how the fabric was held into the tracks. It turns out that the curtain slides along the track using what are essentially buttons that would be easy to sew on by hand.

So I removed one panel for experimentation and set out for JoAnn Fabric with my mother in tow. My mom is an ace with a sewing machine. When I was very young and she stayed home with me, she not only made all of my clothing (save underwear and jeans), she also sewed costumes for the Peabody Conservatory dance school to earn a little extra money.

With my mom along, I was pretty confident she'd be able to help me figure out what I needed to buy from the fabric store.

The old fabric was off-white (which may have started its life in 1983 as pure white) with multicolored flecks. I wanted to find a thick fabric with some sort of very subtle pattern to it in a navy color. The thick fabric and dark color being conducive to having people stay over, as my salon functions as dining room, guest room, living room and study, and its impossible to use a computer with the glare or sleep past sunrise in the salon.

Immediately we dismissed duck and simple cottons as not having enough weight to them. I was worried, however, that decorator's fabric, which is usually used for fabric and upholstery, would be prohibitively expensive – some types of decorator's fabric at JoAnn's runs into $50 a yard, and I was hoping to buy between five and 10 yards of matching fabric.

Finally we found a rack of fabric off to the side that included a dark blue and white-striped fabric. It was a "Mariner stripe."

And what did I see beside it? Dark blue fabric with white sailboat outlines and the same fabric in red.

Aha! Pillow fabric! The boat originally had these three-foot long pillows in the same fabric as the settees. Unfortunately, they're really uncomfortable to sit with, so they spend a lot of time on the floor of the cabin, where, last year when I was having stuffing box issues, they got a little damp.

And by a little damp I mean soaked.

So I really want to toss them and make new ones. I bought all the striped fabric (they had only 6 yards) and a couple yards each of the other fabric and two pillow forms. With one 40% off coupon for one of the forms, and the already-discounted fabric, I got everything for right about $70.

The only thing I need to do now is finish making the curtains....

Friday, February 12, 2010

You gotta respect these people...

Check out this article about the Annapolis liveaboards:,0,195495.story

You have to respect people who stick it out through blizzards on their boats.

Me? Well... I'm home with my parents. But I was super sick too and I needed my mommy. Yes. I was that sick. So... yeah. I need to go and shovel off the boat and check on her as soon as I get my car dug out. Really I should check her once a week, but it's averaging out way less and I'm just counting on the marina owners to check on her. It is not a short trip out there and there's not enough daylight to do it after work anymore.

Excuses, excuses, right?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Last day: The final frontier...

OK, so I'll admit. It's freezing in Baltimore and I'm taking two months off to live at my parents' home where there's central heat. So it's been tough to motivate myself to write in my blog about living aboard when I'm not, in fact, living aboard.

Anyway, I'm at a sailing convention stuck on hold with the airline, so let's talk about my last day.

Yep, you heard that right. Last day. But, you say, there were supposed to be four days! You've talked about only two!

Well, dear friends, I mentioned the increasingly scary forecast. That forecast started to foretell a possible blizzard the morning of the third day. Blizzard? No thank you. So I made an executive decision. We'd do the last two days in just one marathon day.

We woke up that morning and discovered small, dinner plate-sized sheets of ice floating next to the boat. Bad sign. I'm not ashamed to admit I said a little prayer before we started the engine that day. Thankfully it started and we puttered over to the fuel dock to drop Peter off, pick up Andrew and wait for the attendant. We fueled up and the nice fuel dock man found a way for us to get some water (there's not much in the shop at the fuel dock in Solomons).

Then we were on our way. Having learned our lesson from Cobb Island, and being a little freaked out about the coming blizzard, we turned on the GPS and I obsessively listened to the weather radio every time I was off. Between Andrew and I we did some pretty fancy-pants navigation to cut miles off our trip (Andrew races a lot, so he knew some nice tricks from his Annapolis to Solomons racing experience).

Once we got close to Baltimore though, past the Bay Bridge, the trip was cake. No one removes navigation markers in Baltimore harbor for cold weather (stupid Cobb Island). It was dark, but we had it covered. This was easily the part of the trip I knew the best and was most comfortable with.

At any rate, we made in to Oak Harbor marina in Pasadena -- right by White Rocks -- two hours before the snow started to fall.

I was so eager to get off the boat, I just left everything aboard. Tossed off my boots and foulies, put on a baseball cap and sneakers and Dad and I took Sam and Andrew to Little Havana's for a cheeseburger since we had to drop Andrew with his car at the sailing center. I have to say though, I was starving and wanted a Coke really badly, but I felt awful at dinner. All shivery and achy.

I spent about 45 minutes in the hot shower when I got home and slept until about 12 hours straight and felt right as rain the next day. We ended up being snowed in, so I took a couple nice naps the next day too. It was the perfect time to come home, really -- nowhere to go.

We'd left two huge light bulbs on in the engine compartment and left instructions for the marina to winterize, so as far as I was concerned, I was good to go.

Getting the stuff (extra food, all my clothes, bedding, etc.) off the boat to wash and put away was another story. It took a couple weeks to get rid of the snow, get time to go down (I was beset by a multitude of serious car problems).

But it's all off now and I can't wait to move the boat to Baltimore to live in March.

Next up? Some thoughts from the National Sailing Programs Symposium -- aka, how I am now obsessed with Stand Up Paddling.