When we modified Patty O’, our 42-foot Huckins sedan cruiser to be able to live aboard permanently, our plans were to travel up and down the east coast, following the nice weather. For reasons I won’t go into, that hasn’t happened yet. One of the things we did was to install a very efficient air conditioning unit that would take care of assuring our comfort wherever we went. This summer, I was very glad we did.
The system on Patty O’ is a true marine unit, meaning that the condenser is cooled by water rather than by air. Ours is a combination system that provides heat as well as cooling, and was designed for a boat twice the size of Patty O’. Considering the weather this summer, that proved to be a good thing. It was a Thursday and I was on the foredeck involved in the unpleasant task of reversing the anchor chain. This necessitates pulling all hundred and fifty feet of chain out of the locker, and feeding it back in from the other end. This keeps wear on the chain even and allows me to inspect for any imperfections. I had just removed the anchor and was about to start feeding that end of the chain back down when the man from a couple slips down the dock stopped and called to me.
“Hey!” he said. “Do you know that your bilge pump has been running all morning?” He then pointed to the air conditioning cooling discharge. I’ve had people ask that before. This type of A/C is not common in north latitudes. Explaining that to him prompted a look of disbelief.
“I find that hard to believe.” He said. “Everyone knows how much these old, wooden boats leak.” I was about to answer but he cut me off with a wave saying, “I hope you take care of it pretty soon.” He walked down the dock towards shore.
This guy obviously had no clue and thinks that all wooden boats are falling apart and are on the verge of sinking. He has made snide comments before. Shaking my head, I continued my job with the anchor chain, wishing I’d started earlier as the temperature was rapidly heading towards triple digits, but then I remembered how nice it would be inside.
The rest of the project went without incident and I was soon below enjoying a nice cold shower, reveling in the seventy-degree air in the saloon. Having a couple errands to run in town, I took a few minutes to think if there was anything else needed. With this COVID thing going on, I try to keep trips to town at a minimum.
That completed, I stopped at the yard store for a potable water filter replacement cartridge. Ray, the yard foreman was there.
“Hey, got a minute?” he asked. Now what, I thought. I’ve found that anytime someone asks if you ‘got a minute,’ something unpleasant is going on.
“Got a complaint about you.” He said. “Not to worry, but your dock-mate, a few slips down says that your bilge pump is running all the time, and he thinks you’re gonna sink.” He said this with a smile, and I know he was just following up on a ‘complaint.’
“Yeah,” I said, “He stopped by earlier with the same comment. I told him it was the A/C discharge, but obviously, he didn’t believe me.”
“I thought that’s what it might be, but I thought I’d ask, just in case. I’ll speak to him.”
There are those people who think that all boats build of wood are sinking, and nothing can be done about it. Sure, Patty O’ was built a long time ago, but she is in better shape than she has ever been, and that includes the day she was launched. She is not a restoration; she was in exemplary condition when she came into our lives. Over the years we have replaced many things including, both engines, generator, storage tanks both fuel and water. The list goes on. She is our home and we have spared no expense regarding our comfort. In reality, wooden boats that are kept up require roughly the same degree of maintenance that boats constructed of most any other material. You polish your hull, I give mine a coat of paint. Preparation for both of these jobs is about the same. Plus, wooden boats can be worked on in any weather, anywhere in the world. The only other material that can make clam to this is steel.
Before leaving the store, I visited our mailbox and picked up our mail. Along with the usual bills, there was an official looking envelope from our insurance company. Back at Patty O’ I sat at the saloon table and opened the insurance letter first.
“Dear Sir:” it began. “Please note that beginning sixty days from receipt of this notice, we will no longer be insuring boats over the age of fifteen years, that are constructed of wood.” It went on to say that any outstanding premium would be returned. It also listed a phone number to call if there were any questions.
Over the years we have been insured by several companies. This last one began insuring us two years ago. The annual survey requirement is becoming harder to get due to the lack of qualified individuals to do the work. The search for another insurance company begins once again.
Few companies want the hassle of insuring boats made of wood. We have seen that many of those who do, not only require the usual annual survey but also require the boat be out of the water for six months of the year. They also, for some unknown reason, frown on living aboard, thinking of us I’m sure, as homeless vagrants. We are far from that. My wife, the Blonde is an Architect. I was a software engineer, and was offered, and took the so-called ‘Golden Handshake’ some years ago. On occasion, I do a bit of freelance work. We are certainly not hurting for money. We chose this lifestyle because we enjoy it, not because we were forced into it. There are those who think I’m living off my wife, and am obviously a deadbeat. With a sigh, I opened my laptop and began the search.
I was perusing a list of providers I’d downloaded and was shaking my head at the stipulations they required. Most of them dealt with restored boats that were kept mostly for show, and were rarely used. Much like antique cars. This was becoming depressing, so I closed the laptop after checking for email, and made myself a nice tall glass of lemonade. I took the first sip as my cell phone rang.
“Hey Bubba,” she said. “Just leaving. Anything we need? What’s for dinner?” I hadn’t given that a thought, what with dealing with the insurance issue.
“I think we’re good.” I said. “I’ll think of something by he time you get here. I’ve got a nice, cold pitcher of lemonade that has had only one glass taken from it.”
“Gimmie fifteen minutes.” She said. “Bubba, you ‘da man!”