Press "Enter" to skip to content

On Living Aboard

After slipping in the snow on the dock and severely injuring myself, the rest of the winter was spent mostly sitting in Patty O’s saloon watching the world go by. We have also been forced to listen to constant tirades of, “you should be recovering somewhere else than on that boat…” We’ve heard it all before, but not this intense.

Before we began this lifestyle, I was given an early out from my job as a software engineer. The money was good and I pondered a bit on whether or not I should look for another position in that field. We sold our boat and wondered if it was a good idea to continue living in our condo. It wasn’t that we were hurting for money, far from it.
The Blonde, my wife, has a good job. She is an architect with an undergraduate degree in structural engineering. She is very good at what she does, which is mostly troubleshooting. That being said, there are times when she has to travel to far parts of the country due to her firm being nationwide. This isn’t normally a problem, but in my condition, living on the boat complicates things. And so here we are.
And of course, that’s what happened two weeks after my tumble. She was ready to tell them that she couldn’t go; it was in Ohio, not all that far, but still. I gave it some thought and assured her that I could manage as long as it wasn’t running around off the boat. And Ray, the yard foreman, as well as my friend Ritchie McGill, were no more than a phone call away. Speaking of that, I assured her that my phone would never be out of reach again. The memory of the first few hours of lying on that dock would wake me at night in a cold sweat.
Ritchie McGill is a woodworker par excellence and I help him when he has to install his product, which is mostly high-end kitchen cabinets. Obviously, I wouldn’t be able to do that for a while, but he is a good friend and will make sure I will be able to do it before asking me. Also, he has been dropping by in the evening, plus calling during the day to see how I am doing. Almost to the point of being annoying. The same with Ray. I have mixed emotions over everyone checking up on me like I was some kind of helpless dude.
That being said, I am getting better. I have a pair of forearm crutches that allow me to wander at will around Patty O’ without losing my balance. And truth be known, I’m glad to have the time to myself. Keeping my cell close by does have its disadvantages. I have no excuse for ignoring calls. Not from people I care for, like the Blonde, Ritchie, and Ray. But I still get calls from family who demand that I give up this foolishness and move ashore.
While I’ve heard this before, it’s mostly the Blonde’s people who feel that it’s due to my laziness, living off her, who are at the bottom of it. All this aside, I have been improving. The trips to the doctor are an adventure. The high point is the climb over the cockpit side to the dock.
In winter, we are at the back side of the gas dock, and it depends on the state of the tide on how easy it is to get on and off. The doctor is pleased with my healing progress and has proclaimed the effort to get off the boat and the trips to his office are helping me heal.
With all this free time on my hands, I began a list of things that needed doing on Patty O’. Of course, there were all the maintenance issues that need to be kept up on a wooden boat. Unlike a boat built out of fiberglass, which if not maintained properly, will just look like it’s going to sink, a wooden boat treated the same way, just might.
First and foremost, Patty O’s hull was due for stripping and re-painting. Many people don’t realize that this is about the same thing as cleaning and waxing a glass hull. With Patty O’, we strip the hull and mix the paint half and half with thinner. Of course, that gives it the consistency of water. But it goes on easily. The bottom painting is the same. Patty O’s bottom is stripped maybe once every couple of years or as necessary. Another thing is that maintenance on wooden boats can be performed in any weather, anywhere in the world. The only other material that can boast of this is steel.
Although the winter cover was placed earlier this winter, it hasn’t had any maintenance due to my accident. I expect to wake up some night and find it either flapping in the breeze or gone altogether. I know I could ask Ritchie to climb around and do what has to be done, but he has done enough. I have resigned myself just to go with the flow, so to speak.
Ray drops by several times a day too. I know he has far better things to do than check up on me, but I do appreciate it and keep a fresh pot of coffee going all day. As I’ve mentioned, the Blonde works from home, performing all her duties online and via video conferencing. It took not a little convincing to get her bosses to allow this. I turned the after part of Patty O’s saloon into her ‘office’. While she did her thing, I set up my little area on the other side. With my laptop, I was able to keep myself occupied.
The one thing that worried me, and I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, was what would happen if we were to endure a strong storm. We do have a procedure we take when one of these is predicted. But both Ritchie and Ray would have enough to do on their own.
I was pondering this, wondering how I was going to handle nasty weather if and when it comes, when Ritchie dropped by.
“What do I have to do to deal with a storm?” He asked.
“What do you mean?” I answered.
“You know.” He said.
“Come on,” I said. “You have enough to deal with without worrying about us.
He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.
“Who else is gonna do it?”
I could tell from the way he looked that there was going to be no argument. I sighed and proceeded to tell him.
“Well, there are several things,” I said. “Firstly, you need to find out which way the wind is gonna blow. We wanna be sure the boat is set up on the dock to deal with that. If we’ll be on the windward side, that’ll take the most work,” He was taking notes. I went on to tell him about our storage locker. And how there was a large Danforth anchor stored there, along with several hundred feet of chain. He listened intently as I explained how the anchor was deployed in the center of the cove, and how it was marked with a buoy, which also made it easy to recover.
“Next is a bridle around the hull. The chain is fastened to this.
“What about the cover?” he asked.
“Don’t worry about that,” I answered.
“Just do what I said and get me off the boat.”
We talked for a while and he left to look in the storage unit. I looked at the long-range forecast.
When the Blonde got home, I told her what I’d set up with Ritchie. Before I finished, Ray was knocking on the side of the hull. “Tell me what you told Ritchie.” He said. “Two are better than one, especially when you’ve not done it before. And besides, it’ll take two, or three, he said glancing at the Blonde, to get you off the boat if the wind’s blowing.”
“We have people who care,” she said later as we finished dinner. She had just gotten off the phone with her sister, who has been the most vocal over living aboard with that ‘low-life’.
I raised my glass. “Yes, we do.”
She smiled. “Nowhere I’d rather be.”
I smiled back.