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On Living Aboard

We’ve been isolated aboard ever since the Corona virus took over the country. The Blonde, my wife works from home, i.e. the boat, albeit far less then pre-epidemic. It’s relatively easy to keep out of the mainstream living on a boat full time as we do. The weather has been relatively mild this season, with a few notable exceptions which mean that our winter cover, although deployed, has given us little trouble. It’s designed to go on and come off very easily so that we can take advantage of nice winter days and get underway for somewhere, which we’ve done three times so far this winter.

When we first started this adventure, we laid out some rules, not the least of which was that we would be able to get Patty ‘O, our forty foot, 1954 Huckins underway in fifteen minutes in summer, and thirty in winter. In reality, it takes a bit more in winter, but we still can be moving in less than an hour. Many live aboards cannot do this; indeed, we’ve seen some that it would take several days to get out from under everything just to move the boat. We made the decision early on that that wouldn’t be the case with us.
Our first trip off the dock was a delightful two day trip up the river, lying at anchor just enjoying the solitude. One would think that quarantining aboard would take care of that, but we wanted to have something else to look at rather than the empty docks across from us.
Our second getaway was to the eastern end of Long Island, where we’ve been many times before. This time it was to get away from the Blonde’s family who were insistent that she get off ‘that boat’ and come to live a normal life, whatever that means these days.
We’ve heard this before. We started on this lifestyle after I was offered the so called Golden Parachute, also known as a buyout. There was no way I could refuse that amount of money. At the time we lived in an upscale condo and the Blonde was working as an architect. I was a software engineer, but far too young to retire. Now, my job is to maintain our boat, which really doesn’t take a lot of effort; just the knowledge of what to do.
The Blonde’s family looks down at me thinking I’m a freeloader, living off her. And now that everyone’s life has been affected by this virus thing, they are even more convinced.
We both are at the bottom of the list for COVID-19 vaccinations so we have isolated ourselves. This wouldn’t work for a lot of people, but it works for us.
We have decided that due to the pandemic, we will forgo Patty O’s annual haul out. This proved to be a problem with our insurance company. One of their requirements is that we submit to a yearly survey, out of the water. There was a lot of back and forth rhetoric between them, us and several surveyors. The one we usually employ, who really does know wooden boats had had the bad taste to retire the first of the year. I finally got a hold of him and convinced him to do the job. He is well respected by many insurance companies, including ours and they accepted his survey with the condition that this was to be the one and only. I could deal with that.
He came over and we sat bundled up in the cockpit in the winter sunshine and drank coffee and he asked me questions about the rot I’d found in the transom this past summer. He was acquainted with my friend Ritchie McGill, who had helped me on that as well as many of the projects over the years. Ritchie builds custom furniture and high end kitchen cabinets. I help him from time to time when the location makes it difficult to move them on his own. His shop has been put on hold during covid-19. He doesn’t mind all that much, it’s given him time to do a bunch of upgrades in his shop and kick back like all the rest of us. I haven’t seen him for a while, but we chat on the phone at least once a week. I called him and let him know what the surveyor had said. He had several orders for cabinets to fill but they were going to have to wait for the pandemic to get under control. He, like me, is pretty far down the vaccine list.
The surveyor stayed a couple of hours and knowing each other well, we chatted about a lot of things totally distant from Patty O’. Having surveyed her several times over the past few years, he knew she was in good hands and all the very important things necessary to keep her that way had been done. Maybe ten minutes were devoted to questions about Patty O’.
Contrary to popular belief, wooden boats with, few exceptions, do not require any more maintenance than boats built of any other material. You do, however, have to keep maintenance current, unlike fiberglass boats which will only look like they’re going to sink if not maintained. In fact, wood is the only boatbuilding material other than steel, that can be performed anywhere in the world, in almost any weather. That plus there are people who know wooden boatbuilding wherever you go.
The surveyor left and told me that the forms necessary for continuing our insurance coverage would be in the mail in the next few days.
Once the insurance issues were over, we decided to celebrate with another trip into the wilderness. This time, seeing that there was a weather window that was going to last several days, we thought a three day trip to Block Island would be in order. We went inside, down Fishers Island Sound and out Watch Hill passage. Our usual route to the Block through the Race, at the western end of Fishers. We choose to go this way so we won’t be bothered by lots of boat traffic. This trip, however, due to the time of year, we saw only one other boat, and that was a commercial fishing boat, heading offshore.
Once at Block, we were the only boat in the great salt pond, something I thought we’d never see. All the marinas were closed and there were very few cars parked near the dock. We had dropped anchor at the eastern end of the pond, so it was a short row to land. On our trips, we usually tow our little Century runabout, Mustard along that we use like a car. But Mustard was in the middle of her winter snooze in Ritchie McGill’s heated barn, so the inflatable dingy, which we have named The Envelop, was put to work. We have a little British Seagull outboard that pushes The Envelop along quite well, but being this close to shore it would have not been worth it to rig.
We saw no one on the short walk into town. Not that we were expecting to see anyone, or to go into any place that was open. It was a nice walk and we both got a good workout, maybe three miles. Neither of us had walked that far in months.
Back at Patty O’ we sat in the salon and did our best to solve the world’s problems.
“We do have it pretty good.” She said toasting me with her drink.
“We sure do,” I answered. We sure do.