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On Living Aboard

The latter part of this past winter has fluttered around weather-wise, like an early autumn day rather than a late winter one. So much so that, unlike other years, we have been unable to take the short weekend trips we enjoy, due to the uncertainty of the weather. Not that we have nothing to do; far from it. The Blonde, my wife, has continued to work from home at her request, but how long that will continue is anyone’s guess. As an architect, she can perform her job anywhere, and quite often travels long distances troubleshooting other people’s problems. With an undergraduate degree in structural engineering, she is well qualified for the job.

I, on the other hand, have been devoting my time to Mustard, our little twenty-foot runabout that we use like a car when we’re on our excursions up and down the coast. As live aboards, we do tend to seek out remote anchorages the majority of the time, rather than deal with the crowded marinas. That being the case, when we do need to move about, Mustard is a welcome change from a two HP, eight-foot dingy. But this past winter was not good for her either, and now there is significant work to be done on her hull.
Mustard spends the winter asleep in my friend Ritchie McGill’s heated barn, where he stores his supply of exotic lumber. He’s a cabinet/furniture maker extraordinaire and is always on the lookout for rare lumber. At some point, one of the delivery trucks backed into Mustard, causing significant damage.
While he does have a group of vendors that supply his needs, he does sometimes buy from others. His usual vendors have access to the barn and do deliver when required. We both agreed that it was most likely one of the latter who inadvertently backed into the boat. The damage wasn’t immediately noticeable because she was covered with canvas from stem to stern. In fact, it wasn’t apparent with the cover off either and I had her back in the boatyard before noticing that she was damaged.
Once I had crawled inside for a look, it was obvious that the damage was far worse than first thought. I was not, however, about to place blame anywhere. Mustard is a small boat and as such doesn’t weigh very much. A man driving a truck that heavy can back into a small boat like Mustard and never feel it.
There ended up being five broken or cracked ribs, as well as several cracked planks. There was damage to the steering gear as well as to the exhaust system. Ritchie stopped by and did a follow up inspection and I was delighted that he didn’t find anything more, but not for the reasons one would suspect. For the first time since I’ve known him, my assessment for work on something made of wood was the same as Ritchie’s.
Once the extent of the damage was known, I set to work clearing out everything that needed replacing. The steering I soon found was totally destroyed and a whole new system was soon on the way. It was a custom-built enclosed hydraulic unit that had cost a lot of money when I had it made, a little more than two years ago. When I dropped it off for them to take a look and see about a re-build, I was told that while it could be done, the cost compared to a new one would be substantially more.
The exhaust system was also custom-built, consisting of a closed system water-cooled device that also silenced the engine exhaust. This too was going to be expensive to fix. I delivered the parts to both builders and we agreed on a price as well as a delivery date. After some pondering, I made the decision that Ritchie was not going to bear any of the cost of this part of the damages. I am getting a real deal on Mustard’s winter storage, and Ritchie’s friendship is worth a lot more than the cost of any repairs.
The wood needed was easy to replace from his stock, and it was stacked next to Mustard, which was sitting on a cradle I’d built inside the yard’s big shed. The shed was pretty much cleared out now that almost all the boats were in the water for the season. All work on her came to a screeching halt, however, as Ritchie had two kitchens to be built, one of them a rush job. I really didn’t want to start without him; He felt bad enough. Then, I was saved by the yard which hired me to do some electrical work inside the big shed. In addition to an FCC Radiotelephone license, I also hold a journeyman’s electrician’s license, which keeps the yard semi-legal. Checking over what they wanted, I could see at least several days’ worth of work.
I’m sure some people have a hard time understanding our lifestyle. Even some people who call themselves liveaboards. While our home floats and easily gets underway, for reasons beyond our control, which I won’t go into, we don’t travel far from our home base.
Professionally, I was a software engineer. Some time ago I took a cash buy, out and for the most part, I now call myself unemployed.
It took me a day, to consult with the yard management to make a list of materials for the boatyard job. I placed the order on a Friday afternoon and was told it’d be ready the following Tuesday. That left us free for several days.
The weekend weather forecast was for late spring conditions so we decided to take a jaunt over to Flat Hammock, a small island in West Harbor, located on the north side of Fishers Island, NY. It’s a cozy spot where you can anchor up, on the lee side and be very comfortable. Plus, it’s usually never crowded. It doesn’t take long to get there, and we’ve spent many delightful days there over the years.

Anchored up, just after noon, it was still too cold to hang out on deck, so we sat in the salon which these days was doubling as the Blonde’s work station.
I had picked up a nice piece of wild caught salmon that was going to be the star of our evening meal. Due to COVID, we haven’t eaten out in a long time, and our cooking skills have improved exponentially as a result. We recently bought a small stainless steel pellet grill that will clamp to Patty O’s transom. This would be its inaugural use. Reading everything we could on pellet grills, it was soon clear that everyone who had one praised them to high heavens. Pellets are a lot easier to store than briquettes as well as being a lot less messy. The cost of the thing caused me to choke a bit, but in-as-much-as we do all our own cooking, and most likely will for some time, we thought the expense was worth it.
My phone rang and it was Ritchie telling me when the rush kitchen would be going to its new home.
It was the middle of next week and I agreed to meet him for the move.
“Who was that?” asked the Blonde.
“Ritchie, telling when the move will be.”
“Will we have to go back early?” she asked.
“Well, let’s test that grill.”
I raised my glass toward her, smiled and thought for the umpteenth time how good we have it.