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On Living Aboard

We were running out of food so after several weeks on a rented mooring at Block Island, we headed Patty O’, our 42-foot Huckins sedan cruiser, back to our boat yard.
Once back in our slip, after fueling Patty O’ and Mustard, our 22-foot Century runabout, and gulping at the bill, The Blonde, my wife, compiled a grocery list and while she checked on a few work-related things, I hopped into my truck and headed out to take care of the grocery shopping. That out of the way, some thought was given to the next few months.
Because we live aboard full time, our preparation for winter is quite different than those who spend weekends aboard and maybe a one-week vacation in nice weather. And then there’s the matter of a winter cover. There are many nice days in winter, and we like to get underway once in a while.

Although we live aboard, we have made a rule that we can get underway in less than a half hour in summer and less than an hour in winter. That includes removing the winter cover. That being said, our cover is much less substantial than most. It consists of plastic pipes bent over the stations, covered with construction-grade plastic. It’s not very strong, but we are there most of the time to monitor things. If it snows, I’m able to make sure it doesn’t stick, and it is easy to shake off. Granted, it’s labor intensive, but gives us the ability to enjoy wonderful winter days. And believe me, there are many.
Further preparation involves making sure we are ready for any really nasty weather that might descend on us. This starts with making up new dock lines all around once a year. We are criticized for this but it’s one less worry we have.
If a big storm is on the way, and it looks like we can remain in the cove, I’ve got a system that can be deployed relatively quickly.
The star of this show is a seventy-five pound plow anchor at the end of a hundred feet of chain that is kept in our storage unit, which is just a short distance away. The anchor is set in the middle of the cove, with a buoy marking its location. This is important because the anchor is easily buried and can become quite difficult to retrieve once the nasty weather is past.
This is attached to a length of ¾ inch nylon line, which then is hooked to a bridle of the same sized line that’s run around Patty O’s hull where it meets the deck. This is the drill if we are secured to the outer gas dock. It keeps us at least three feet off the dock itself. If the wind is from the opposite direction, Patty O’ is rigged on the other side of the dock, and the line is run over the top. These precautions are all subject to change, as every storm is different.
I have become a student of weather and follow it closely. It’s very interesting, every day, of course, is different. Contrary to popular belief, there is only one source for weather information, in spite of what you see on TV. Meteorologists therein draw impressive pictures of interesting weather patterns but if you look at them one after another, there is very little difference between them.
There are times, to be sure, that we do have to vacate the yard for safer places. These have all been decided well in advance. We have several hurricane hidey-holes that we can run to, depending on what the storm is going to do.Hurricanes are given names, and for years they were female names, due to the unpredictability of the storms. But that was determined to be sexiest and now anything goes. Names are chosen by the National Hurricane Center and in the rare event that they are used up, they are chosen randomly.
We are always asked how we keep warm on those cold winter nights. When we bought Patty O’ she had a coal-fired potbelly stove. When that proved to be too small, a larger one was installed but the labor involved in keeping that one fed was far too intense for my liking. After a good deal of research, a very efficient heating-cooling system was installed. After several years of use, we have no complaints at all. The system is fueled by Patty O’s diesel fuel tanks and we do not have to worry about that for the whole season.
I sometimes am asked to do small jobs for the yard on the off days and I do not have any problems with that. Often, they are of an electrical nature and as I am licensed to do that, they save money. And living aboard we can keep an eye on things saving them the cost of a watchman.
I shake my head at the attitude of some boat owners around me. “My insurance is paid.” is their response to questions about storm preparation. In my opinion, that’s one of the primary reasons for the high cost of insurance.
Mustard, our little Century runabout that we use like a car comes out of the water and spends the winter sleeping soundly in my friend Ritchie McGill’s heated barn. Ritchie is a cabinetmaker par excellence, and stores his building material consisting of exotic wood in his heated barn. I give him a hand, moving and installing his finished product, and for that, I get to store Mustard therein.
The Blonde is lucky in that she can work from home, and does not have any specific hours. She is an architect with an undergraduate degree in structural engineering. I rigged a background in Patty O’s salon so that using Zoom on a boat is completely transparent. We also enjoy a very powerful satellite Wi-Fi system. The Blonde’s work is mostly troubleshooting, and this sometimes involves travel in that her company is national in scope.
At one time she was offered a top management position at one of the mid-west locations with a substantial salary increase but that would have meant moving there and changing our whole lifestyle. That was out of the question.
Patty O’ is constructed of wood and due to that, we get many questions. The most asked is how hard we have to work to keep her looking as good as she does. A big misconception is that it’s so much more work to keep her looking good than a fiberglass boat. Not so. A wooden boat in top shape requires no more work than fiberglass to stay there. You wax your hull. I applied a coat of paint cut half and half with thinner. Each takes the same amount of time. We both put on a coat of bottom paint. The big difference is that a glass boat left with no maintenance will just look like it’s going to sink. Patty O’ was in very good shape when we bought her and has been kept that way since she was new.
It took a while for us to get settled in the way we wanted and even that was subject to change. But for now, we just decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. I made a phone call and a nice pepperoni pizza was on its way. We do this once in a while and the delivery driver is familiar with the yard and us, so a call from him at the gate gets me there right away. The call came quickly and we were sitting at the table in the salon in no time.
“Here’s to us!” I said, raising my glass.
And Back atcha!” she said.
And I knew that few have it as good as us!