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On Living Aboard

Rain was falling when we got up Tuesday morning. Tomorrow would be one week since we dropped anchor about two miles inside Hamburg Cove and the fourth week since we left the yard. My wife, the Blonde did a few ‘work from home’ things and I took care of some maintenance projects that had been on my mind for a while. Patty O’, our 42 foot Huckins sedan cruiser that we call home is built of wood, and I pride myself on keeping her better looking than she did when she came from the builder’s yard in 1954. Unlike Mustard, our little Century runabout we use like a car, Patty O’ has very little brightwork. That being said, it’s easy to keep it looking pristine. The interesting thing about the current project is that it’s the first time I have ever attempted anything like this while at anchor, away from the yard. While it did indeed get done, I can’t recommend it. There was no way I was able to foresee everything I would need, and of course, there were several items that I needed. Back at the yard, it would have been a simple matter to either head over to the store, or take a short drive to get what was needed.
We did have to return to our slip, however, due to our cell phone hotspot getting close to its data limit. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as we could switch over to the yards wifi service and go from there. But with the Blonde working from home, it was vital that she have access to the internet.
A call to the yard was made to be sure that our slip would be free. When we left on this odyssey, it was with the understanding that the yard could sublet our slip with a two day notice before we’d be returning. I was cutting it close.
Getting underway was easy and as much as it was only a two hour long trip back to the yard, we left at three in the afternoon. It was a nice day, with no wind and sunshine all the way. Imagine our surprise when getting there, we found boats in both of our slips. This has happened before and all it took was telling the people who we were, and they got underway. Not this time. Mustard’s slip held a small cruiser. It didn’t look like anyone was aboard. The other held a boat around our size, with a gentleman on the bridge.
“Hello there!” I shouted. “I think you’re in my slip.” I said this with a smile. No need to do otherwise.
“Yeah,” he said. “He told me that, but I’m paid ‘till the end of the week, and I’m not moving ‘till then.”
Saying nothing, I turned the boat around and headed to the gas dock. Snubbing Mustard close alongside, we tied up at the far end, insuring that anyone wanting fuel would be able to slide in ahead of us. Walking toward the shop, I met Ray the foreman on the way. Telling him the problem, he sighed.
“Yeah, I figured there would be a problem there. Do you mind staying where you are for a bit? I don’t want a big fuss.”
“Not to worry,” I said. “I understand.”
With the COVID-19 lockdown winding down a bit, there is a vast jump in boat ownership and use. Same in the R/V world. I got more lines out and secured Mustard to better deal with any wake. Once secured I sat and gave some thought to what was going on. The Blonde was getting set up on the yard’s wifi, and checking in with her office. She’s an architect and while there’s not much going on in that business right now, she does a lot of ‘fix it’ things and likes to stay in touch.
Sitting on the bridge, I saw Ray heading toward our slip, the real one, not here at the gas dock. Getting out my glasses, I watched as an animated conversation took place. Finally, I saw Ray raise his hands in exasperation and walk back down the dock.
Reading the news online, it’s easy to see that there are a lot of people moving full time to their boats as well as their R/V’s and not all of them are doing it because they are looking forward to a happy life. Those folks as well as we, who have been living aboard before COVID-19, are looked down on as being homeless as well as destitute. With some, that is a fact. For us, that is far from the truth. We live aboard Patty O’ because we want to and it provides us a way to live as we want.
We have always gotten a lot of strange looks from people when they find out we live on a boat. Even more so when it’s discovered that the boat we live on was built in 1954. No matter that she looks far better than many of the so called modern boats. No matter that she is laid out much better than ninety percent of new boats. Eyebrows are also raised when they find out that my wife works and I stay home. Fact be known, back when the economy was booming, I was offered the so called “golden handshake”. It was a substantial amount of money, pretty hard to turn down. As a software engineer, my salary was up there. Once retired, I did some freelance work, but that soon grew old. We sold our current boat at the time because I felt that someone who didn’t have a real job shouldn’t own one. We have a good financial adviser, and I was assured of a comfortable income from investments, although far from what I was making before I left.
When we got Patty O’ I had something to do. While she was in good shape, there was much to do to make her live aboard friendly. The following year, we moved aboard for good, selling our condo, which was paid for. The original plan was for the Blonde to quit her job and we would chase the seasons up and down the coast. But for many reasons I won’t go into, that didn’t happen, and we remain permanent residents at the yard. I do occasional work for them; I hold an electrician journeyman’s license. I also do some freelance computer work. That, plus keeping our two boats looking good is enough to keep me busy. Once in a while, I lend a hand to my cabinet maker friend Ritchie McGill when he needs it, and for that, I get to store Mustard in his heated barn for the winter.
The rest of the week sped by, and we were soon back in our slip. Mustard’s slip cleared out sooner. We thought about bringing Patty O’ over there. It would free up space at the gas dock, but in the end, we didn’t. The further from Mr. Terrific we were the better. We did, however, bring Mustard back. No need for the yard to have to explain to the masses about an empty slip. For several days I watched in amazement at the parade of people coming in and out looking for a place to tie up. In the few weeks, we were gone, it looked as if half the population had descended on the yard.
The big thing I noticed when we got back was the lack of people wearing masks. We haven’t gotten our COVID-19 shots yet, which is going to be rectified soon. We mask up, our choice.
Several weeks passed and although we were tempted to head out again, we stayed put, not wanting a repeat of our last return. Doing a makeover of Patty O’s steering system kept me occupied. Not that the way its present layout was configured; it works quite well. What I really wanted was easier access to all the important parts. And, as I said, it gave me something to occupy my mind.
“Hey guess what?” she said at dinner.
“I can’t imagine.”
“They called. We can get our shots tomorrow at nine. The first one anyway.”
“Great news!” I said. “How shall we celebrate?”
“We’ll think of a way.” She answered.
“I know we will”