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On Living Aboard

With our boat, Patty O’ safely ensconced on the beach and with my wife, the Blonde, happy with her ‘work from home’ (read boat) office intact, I began dealing with the dry-rot I’d found in Patty O’s transom.

One of the biggest complaints I hear about wooden boats is, “I just don’t want to deal with all that scraping and painting and dealing with dry-rot. Yes, there is prep for painting, and yes, we do paint. And yes, sometimes wood rots.

In spite of popular belief, when a spot of dry- rot is found in a wooden boat, it’s not the end of the world, as some would proclaim. Of course, the first thing on the agenda is to prevent dry-rot in the first place. A careful ‘look’ a few times a year can prevent repairs lasting days.

Once Patty O’ was safely on her jack stands ashore, I proceeded to remove the ceiling in the cockpit as well as a portion of the deck over the lazarette. While this turned out to be unnecessary, I had long wanted to do some work back there in order to gain better access to the rudder stuffing boxes. In it’s present form, there’s a lot of body twisting and scrunching to do normal maintenance. Truth be known, it takes far longer to get in there to take a turn on the stuffing boxes than it does to do the job. And because it takes so long to complete, and is so uncomfortable, there are times when it’s not done as often as it should. Not good. That problem will now be solved as well as getting rid of the bad wood.

Once I had everything opened up, it was time to call in my friend Ritchie, who knows more about wood than trees do, or so it seems. He agreed with me that the top two planks on both the transom as well as the ones on the hull should be replaced. That meant replacing almost twenty feet of plank to be rid of about six inches of dry-rot. I know it seems excessive, but it’s Ritchie’s contention that by doing that, rather than replacing just short pieces of plank, you are maintaining hull strength as well as insuring that rot fungus is completely gone from the area. In fact, it doesn’t take any longer to do than to just ‘fill the hole’ so to speak.

The whole thing did take longer because I had to work around the Blonde’s video calls to her fellow architects and clients. Her workstation is in Patty O’s saloon. I hung a quilt for a backdrop and we did everything we could to disguise the fact that she was working on a boat. Questions about that surely would take away the reason for the call, having to answer questions about our life style.

It was a good day and a half before everything was cut out, and another few hours to measure and scope out what was needed to get everything back together. Materials were no problem. I had enough wood from other repairs on Patty O’ as well as Mustard, our little Century runabout we use when we travel, in lieu of a dingy. There are those who question our logic at doing this, but I assure you, that after the first time you return to your anchored vessel that’s a half-mile to windward of a restaurant dock, and the wind’s blowing fifteen knots, you will appreciate having a runabout that is like a car afloat. We have been doing this long enough that towing Mustard is no longer the effort it was when we first began doing this. Mustard is twenty feet length over all, and sits quite snug against Patty O’s leeward quarter. But I digress…

When we are forced to replace any woodwork on either of the two boats, we are always liberal in choosing and purchasing material. My friend Ritchie generously allows me to store any leftover wood in his heated barn, along with his stash. We store Mustard in there as well in the off-season. In return, I help him out when a delivery of the high-end kitchen cabinets he builds requires extra muscle. It works out well. Fortunately, there was just enough good seasoned wood to complete the job at hand.

Once the planks were in place in both hull and transom, rebuilding the cockpit deck and ceiling went easily. Ritchie was kind enough to offer to assist with building the new hatch to the lazarette. Well, assist wouldn’t be the proper word. I handed him tools and made the proper undistinguishable sounds at the appropriate times. We finished and joined him and his wife Linda at one of the local bistros that practices true social distancing. The food lived up to its name and the wine complemented it quite well. I would have to say that of all the times we have eaten at this place, this was the best yet. The only negative, if you can call it that was when it came time for the bill. I insisted on paying and Ritchie wasn’t having any of it. But it ended up being three to one when the Blonde whispered a few words into Linda’s ear.

The biggest frustration of the whole job was getting Ray, the yard forman, and the Blonde together on a time to move Patty O’ back into her element. The Blonde wanted to lay low below while the boat was moved. That’s a giant no-no in our yard and I completely forbid it. The Blonde hates, with a passion, going up and down the ladder to gain access when the boat’s on the hard. Roy very kindly provides a set of stairs when we come out. I told her in no uncertain terms that staying aboard wasn’t an option. This digressed into one of our rare arguments. And things were quiet for the rest of the evening.

With Patty O’ back in her slip we decided that once we were sure that there would be no issues after being out of the water for a while, it might be a good idea to get away for a few days, just because. We decided on the Cape, mostly due to there not being many people around this time of year. With Covid 19 waiting to strike, being away from others is a primary concern. We ended up renting a cottage that was winterized and was being offered at a reasonable rate. Bringing our own provisions meant that we could enjoy the solitude of the cape in winter and not be exposed to any nasty viruses waiting to attack.

The three days went by quickly, but did the trick and we both were rejuvenated by little or no contact with any of the world’s problems. Chilly walks along the beach with phones shut off, followed by our favorite meals, and enough to read if we so desired.

“Ya know,” she said, “I’m glad we did this.”

Raising my glass in a toast I replied with a smile, “So am I. So am I”.