Monday, May 4, 2009

So There We Were: A Sea Story


Well, if you knew the content of the many blog posts I have written out in my head over these last weeks, you would not be wondering at all what I have been up to. Seeing as I have not actually committed these words to cyberspace yet, I can understand your wondering. I truly appreciate your patience in the face of such silence. And so you are wondering still-- therefore I owe you the first of many descriptions of what has been happening and where we are now.

The story begins, according to Cap'n Gary, "So there we were . . . and then," as any good sea tale ought. So There We Were, in St. Louis, packing our things for a morning departure, kissing our grand-baby goodbye, And Then: Rick's phone rings. It's Port Security, in Port Angeles. We have a leak in our boat. After Rick's heart nearly stops, Cap'n Gary commandeers the phone from the Security Guy and explains the situation fully: Never mind that we are slowly making our way across the country to live on her, never mind that there is not a thing we can do from Missouri. Whale Song is taking on water from a failed through-hull (one of many holes through the hull for things like propellers and water intake for flushing heads/toilets) and she needs to be fixed NOW. And Gary (our neighbor) needs to get to work, so we need to figure it out from here/there. He had already exercised his inner hero by discovering the leak at 6 am after the noise from our bilge pumps irritated him out of his last minutes of sleep.

Phone numbers were exchanged, calls made, permissions given, and Whale Song was in the boatyard by 11 am. She had all of her through hulls checked, the failed one repaired, and had a good cleaning and bottom painting for good measure. All of this while we traversed the land of Winter between Spring in St. Louis and Spring west of the Cascade Mountains. There are more tales there to be told, but that is for another day. The conclusion of this segment is that we arrived three days later to our floating cottage back in the water, as if nothing had happened.

And Then: we found that the 38 year old refrigerator had died. That is why our first day in Port Angeles was spent searching for that rare breed: an apartment-sized refrigerator. So we could, you know, put the food away. And get to unpacking everything else. After looking in six stores in two towns, we found one in the independent appliance shop practically in our backyard. Chalk one up for small town service. We navigated that fridge down the ramp in a dock cart (picture that!), over the rail of the boat (with some able-bodied assistance) and through the narrow spaces (removing doorknobs as we went). And it worked!

And all went well, as we unpacked, tore out the space-hogging settee and the 70's era carpeting. We had shelves built and new flooring put down. I painted everything rich browns and reds and yellows. We unpacked some more, shuttling between the storage locker and the dock. It was starting to feel like home, so we ventured to the farmer's market and indulged in all of the spring offerings--greens, wild and planted, root veggies from storage, oysters and halibut, orange-yolked eggs. We brought the bounty home to prepare a feast . . .

And Then: the 38 year old stove died. We went back to the appliance store and bought a range to fit the small space left by the old marine stove, wrestled it down the ramp in a dock cart and over the rail and into the galley. . . and, well, it didn't work. It was the wrong sort of power (220 vs. 110--why didn't we think to check?) Moreover, we couldn't find a 110 stove anywhere, even on the Internet, that would work for us. And you know how vital cooking is to me, to us. We bought a hot plate and thought about our predicament. We used Gary's stove--a brawny beast of a marine stove, fueled by propane. We debated propane and it's pros and cons--gas is great to cook with--I have been lamenting electric stoves for years-- but on a boat it can (due to it's heavier than air property) accumulate in the bilge and can (to quote Cap'n Gary yet again) cause the hull and the deck to forcibly part ways when ignited by a wayward spark, such as from the bilge pumps doing their job.

And so, of course, we decided upon propane--with a many layers of protection to make the setup viable from a continuing-to-live standpoint. But these things take time. The stove had to be ordered and converted from natural gas to propane. The tanks were purchased, hose fittings and connections created, housing for the whole assembly built. The solenoid that would serve as a fail-safe had to be ordered and mounted, power sourced and wired. We installed a propane detector in the bilge. All of this involved many kind people, paid and unpaid (the unpaid ones have been promised much roast turkey). All this work, and still no roast turkey. Weeks later, we are just now, maybe, going to use the stove tonight (I will let you know). It seems that we neglected to add one more fuel regulator into the system (who knew you needed two? We are learning so much with every project.) This may explain the lack of gas to the stove and the lack of food on the table (just kidding there--it's amazing what you can do with a hot plate . . . but it does explain the lack of baked goods).

And then, somewhere in there, one of our heads (toilets) died. No joke. Really. We learned a lot about "open-head" surgery (Gary's phrase, again). Rick replaced the macerator pump. Then it clogged and wouldn't flush one day when Rick was at work. It was my turn to do the dirty work. As the former owner said, since the hands that repair the head also make the salad, think twice about what you put in there--only that which has gone through your body should go into a head. Even so, there I was on my hands and knees, wedged into the tiny space, next to the rubbish bin filled with used toilet paper, taking instruction over the phone as to exactly which part I needed to dismantle. In the end, I figured it all out (it isn't the rocket science aspect that makes it a dreaded task) and got the head working better than ever. Did you know that a one-way valve/gasket on a head outflow pipe looks an awful lot like a a heart valve? Picture one of the three-part valves in black rubber and you're pretty close . . . interesting. Ok--I will cut the mental chatter out . . .

So, anyway. You'd think we'd had enough excitement in the span of three weeks to keep us yarning for years, but life, as always has a way of laughing at us when we come to such ridiculous conclusions.

We all know that Fairy Tales begin with "Once Upon a Time", and end with "They Lived Happily Ever After". Not so with a Sea Story. Sea Stories begin with "So There We Were" and end with "And Things Have Been Messed Up Ever Since . . ."

So. There We Were, unpacking, fixing, painting, eating, coping.

And Then: Sammy started coughing. And whooping. Oh yes. Cough-cough-cough-WHOOP. As in Whooping Cough. Pertussis. The Hundred Day Cough.

And we are coughing still . . .


Post Script: While all of the recorded events are indeed true (and we are coughing still) things are not messed up. We are having the time of our lives, loving the friends, the food, the weather. I will write more about the incredible food and resources we have had the privilege to enjoy, but appreciate my tale until then.

7 comments:

Ivan J. Menendez said...

Wow, now that is certainly a massive adventure!
It sounds like you are living well if not discomfited by all of your current challanges!

Sloan and I miss you all and wish you the very best.

P.S. I learned how to surf!!!!!!! In Hawaii of all places! :)

Anonymous said...

Having been a live aboard, I feel your pain and sense of adventure! I miss you guys! I am hauling the Morgan this weekend so imagine me looking like a Smurf as I diligently sand the bottom and prep her for repainting....

Tricia

DeAnna said...

What a great sea tale... love your writing J! I miss you guys!!! And AnaLuna keeps asking when she's going to see Sammy again....

Justine said...

thanks for your kind comments! And, then: it worked! We had turkey and fixins for dinner tonight, with friends and wine and . . . coughing. Should've snapped a photo, but that will come.

Karen said...

Even after reading all the difficulties, I'm wishing I was on such an adventure!!! Pass the halibut, please! Also, onion juice with a little honey will cure the cough. ;>Karen

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are having an incredible time and staying incredibly positive through the "interesting" patches! I look forward to the continuing adventures.
Elizabeth K

JS said...

We have a floating home and went through the exact same thing with the stove and refrigerator. LOL! Except we chose electricity because of the safety factor. It's good that you installed all those failsafes when you went with propane.

Glad to see we're not alone in this. Someone ought to write a book about these things.

 
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