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On Living Aboard

We spent a lovely, albeit chilly, weekend anchored up off Flat Hammock, a small islet off West Harbor on Fishers Island, N.Y. The Wind was blowing as well which added to the lower temperature. However we were comfortable, Patty O’, our forty two foot sedan cruiser that is our home, is equipped with a very efficient closed circuit heating system that runs on diesel. I installed this several years ago when we both got tired of the pot belly coal stove that we installed in Patty O’, and the larger one that followed a few years later. The latter one was salvaged from a derelict boat in the back of the yard that was due to be cut up. We got it for a song due to the fact that it had a foot long crack in the middle. We were fortunate to find a tech school welding instructor, friend of our friend Ritchie McGill, who agreed to attempt to weld the crack as an instructional exercise for his students. It is very difficult to weld cast iron, and keep it from cracking again, particularly when it’s used in a stove. As expected, another crack appeared after two years of use and I upgraded to the current system. Patty O’ is now as warm as a house regardless of the outside temperature. The wind was out of the west and that put us in the lee so we were relatively rock and roll free.

We got under way for our home slip shortly after dawn on Tuesday. It was going to be a very busy week for us both.
Back at the yard, secured in our slip I rigged the salon for the Blonde’s work from home office. Based on conversations with her boss, there was a very good chance that she would be returning to her real office very soon.
Once eight o’clock rolled around, I made a call to the electric supply store to see if they had everything I’d ordered the week before. They had and it was ready for me to pick up.
After I saw the Blonde off to work and we’d discussed dinner, I headed down to the electrical supply house.
Everything was laid out for me and I was delighted that it was all there and it was unlikely that I’d have to return for anything.
In the big shed, which is where they wanted the separate metered stations set up, nothing was ready. I went to find Ray, the yard foreman to ask why.
“I was told it was.” He answered. I assured him that that wasn’t the case.
He went out and found two of the yard workers. They had misunderstood what was needed, and once that was cleared up they were back at it and were finished by the end of the day.
The next morning, bright and early I was in the shed starting the job. As I said before, what they wanted was a separate meter and both 50 and 30 amp power plugs for each workstation. That way, if someone wants to work in a nice, heated environment over the winter they can expect to share the cost.
Working alone, it took the better part of two days to run the cable, and another two to install the meters. That was split by giving my friend Ritchie McGill a hand replacing the cabinet he had just completed refinishing. It had to go back up two fights, and sufficient to say, it went up a bit harder than it came down.
With all this out of the way, it was time to start on repairing the damage to Mustard’s hull. The little runabout’s 20-foot hull had several planks crushed as well as some other damage suffered over the winter in Ritchie’s heated barn.
I moved Mustard into the shed and set everything up at one of the workstations I had just finished installing. Getting the damaged planks removed was not as easy as it looked. Not only were planks damaged, so were several ribs. I also had to shore up the hull and to be careful it didn’t twist out of shape. After the second plank came out, I realized I was at the end of my skill set and stopped and waited for Ritchie.
I was sitting having a coffee when Ray the foreman stopped by. He looked at Mustard and shook his head. “Wouldn’t it just be better to cut it up and replace the whole thing?” he asked.
“Hey we’ve come a long way with this boat.” I answered. “We’re not about to give up.”
Had Mustard been constructed of fiberglass, there would have been no choice at all.
I’m sure that’s the response most people would give. But I had put too much into this boat to walk away now.
Ritchie got there about an hour later and he spent a good twenty minutes walking around Mustard with his chin in his hand. He turned to me and said. “What we’ll do is build a framework around the whole boat. “That’ll insure everything remains correct. Do you still have those patterns we made?”
Before we bought her, Mustard had spent twenty years sitting on a trailer in an unheated barn, un-winterized when we bought her. With my wife, the Blonde being both an architect as well as a structural engineer, it was child’s play to draw up a set of plans as well as make a set of full size patterns.
“Yup.” I said. “They are rolled up in the storage unit.
“Ok,” he said. “How soon can you dig them out?”
“I’ll have them here tomorrow.”
That turned out to be a good answer because Ritchie had a cabinet job on tap that he wanted to start in the morning. When he contracts a kitchen cabinet job, there is no due date; he doesn’t want to rush. And I know how badly he feels about Mustard and how he wants to get her back in the water. He also gave me an estimate of what we would need for lumber.
After he left, I called our local lumberyard and ordered the list he gave me. After that I went to our storage unit for the patterns. Of course, they were behind just about everything. It had been several years since we had finished them. And like every storage unit in the world, the least used things seem to migrate to the far corners.
With the help of the Blonde, or rather the Blonde with the help of me, we got the patterns laid out’ Ritchie, again with my help, got the hull tightened up within the subsequent framework we put together around Mustard. Now, when we re installed a frame or a plank, it would be exactly how mustard’s designer wanted it to be. This made things immeasurably easier. By noon the next day, working together, Ritchie and I had all the woodwork in place, and all that was left was fairing and calking, and I didn’t need Ritchie’s help for that.
Once that was completed, I installed the new exhaust system. Last was the new steering system and that hadn’t arrived yet. I wasn’t really in a hurry as the weather seemed to be a bit relucent to move into summer.
The Blonde had spent the day at her boss’s office, and she had called to tell me that she was going to be late. I decided to surprise her and make something special. After some thought I had decided on Dijon Shrimp Scampi over rice. A bit complex, but I was sure I could pull it off. That, of course, depended on the availability of some top end wild caught shrimp. A trip to the Fishmonger’s we visit showed that they did indeed have a good supply of the shrimp I wanted settled the issue. That and a pound of rice and everything were set.
It was a good choice because it was a bit too chilly to grill over the stern. I deveined the shrimp and had everything ready for when the Blonde got home. While I waited I took down her portable office finishing just as she came through the door.
“I go back to the office tomorrow.” She said. “And it looks like we’ll have a bunch of work.”
She flopped down in her chair, obviously tired.
I told her what was for dinner and she perked up. “How’d you know I was thinking scampi.”?
I smiled and said, “Just a guess.” As I handed her a cool glass of white Zinfandel. We clinked glasses and I said, “Life is good afloat.” She smiled and said, ”Sure is!”