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On Living Aboard

We tried stretching out our stay at West Harbor, on Fishers Island. We eventually had to head back to the yard due to a shortage of supplies and then there was the weather. A late October Nor’easter, with a barometer reading lower than 980mb snuck up on us. We stayed in the cove, tied off at the gas dock.
We do try to isolate from people due to COVID but it’s becoming more and more difficult to do that. If one storm wasn’t enough, a series of them dumped on us making this one of the worst Autumns weatherwise since we began this liveaboard lifestyle. When storms are imminent we usually get underway and try to settle in somewhere away from the worst of the tempest. Now, there just wasn’t enough time.

Our usual procedure when faced with this situation is to tie off at the gas dock. We have a storm anchor, consisting of a large plow with heavy chain that we set over a buoy in the middle of the cove. This is tied to a large ring that has the chain threaded through it. This is so if the plow is buried, it can be pulled out backward. The near end of the chain is secured to a large Danforth anchor. All this is secured to Patty‘O via a bridle that runs around the outside of the hull. This insures that failure of one of the deck cleats will not result in anything more than that. This whole system is kept, when not in use, in our storage unit a half-mile away.
After the second storm, we were surprised by a visit from our insurance company. They sent a surveyor to check if we had suffered any storm damage, the inference being we might try and lie about any un-related issues. I was furious. Several phone calls later resulted in an apology from a high ranking official in that company, who explained that one of his underlings thought that any insurance policy written on an older wooden boat was ripe for something like that. I took a long walk along the riverbank to cool off. We have had insurance issues in the past, but none like this. I am going to renew my quest for a company that will issue a policy for us that’s fair and at reasonable cost. Patty‘O is an older Huckins sedan cruiser, circa 1954. She was in excellent condition when we bought her, and we have extensively modified her so that she is completely up to date, and well suited for living aboard.
We had hauled Mustard, our little Century runabout before the first series of storms, and it took an afternoon to have her set up for winter. My friend Ritchie McGill lets me store her in his heated barn alongside the supply of exotic wood he uses in his business. He custom builds furniture and kitchen cabinets and once in a while he calls on me to give a hand with the installation of it. For this, he keeps a spot for Mustard and her trailer in his barn.
We do not haul Patty‘O over the winter, much to the disgust of our insurance companies. She comes out for bottom work and any maintenance that requires time on the hard. This year, there wasn’t much that needed doing other than a good bottom power wash. Contrary to popular belief, boats constructed of wood that are kept up do not require any more maintenance to keep them in that condition then boats constructed of other materials, especially FRP, or fiberglass reinforced plastic. The big difference is that if you neglect a fiberglass boat, it’ll just LOOK like it’s going to sink. That being said, you cannot neglect a wooden boat. Just like you cannot neglect one constructed of steel.
Our winter spot is on the inside of the gas dock, close to where we shelter from the big storms. The yard permits this because we live aboard and are always there, and for them, it’s like having a twenty-four hour security watch. We enjoy a good relation with the yard, and I do work for them from time to time. I hold a journeyman’s electrician’s license as well as a first class FCC radio license plus a degree in software engineering. Over the years, I have performed work for the yard in all three of those disciplines.
There is also the matter of our winter cover. It’s made to be rigged in less than two hours, and to be removed in about the same time period. Plastic water pipe is lashed to the stanchions and bent athwartships over the boat. Another is rigged fore and aft and tie wrapped to the ones running across. Construction grade plastic is then pulled over the top and made fast. This wrap usually lasts a couple years. This works well for us, inasmuch as we do live aboard year ‘round. It does require periodic maintenance, especially after a windy day. It was designed to go on and off easily because we sometimes enjoy a day trip when the weather cooperates in the middle of winter.
We both have gotten our COVID shots and recently our boosters. When we go anywhere we wear our masks. The Blonde, my wife, has been working from home. She’s an architect with an undergraduate degree in structural engineering. Her work is mostly involved in troubleshooting. She works on salary, so the reduction in hours due to the lack of construction in this time of COVID doesn’t make much difference. I have disguised Patty‘O’s saloon to look like an office so she doesn’t have to waste time answering questions about her lifestyle.
We enjoy a very fast cellphone plan that has been discontinued for new subscribers. However, we can keep it as long as we pay. It’s not cheap, but the data is unlimited, and not choked down like so many plans that claim unlimited data.
We also subscribe to a powerful VPN, or Virtual Private Network. This insures that no one can hack in. As I said, all this is expensive, but does make a nice tax deduction.
A lot of my time is spent reading. I’ve always been a voracious reader. And that presents a problem. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, I can read a book many times and enjoy it the tenth time just as much as the first. I can and do re-read favorite chapters. This, of course, presents a problem when you are living aboard a forty-two foot boat. Where would I put all the books? Where indeed. But in this day and age of the Internet the answer is right in front of us. Thanks to technology, most all books are available to be read on line. On your laptop, your phone, or on a device dedicated to doing just that. I have an E-reader, and it’s rarely out of my reach. Even books I read years ago are able to be stored thereon, and have helped me maintain my sanity in this time of pandemic.
Thanksgiving came and we enjoyed a nice dinner, away from everyone. The Blonde’s family keeps us at arm’s length. They feel that I’m living off her, and we live aboard Patty’O due to fiscal reasons. Whenever we do interact with them, it’s never pleasant.
I carved the small turkey and she poured us a glass of wine.
“Salute!” she said, raising her glass.
Raising mine in return I said, “Back atcha!”
And all was well in our world.