Yacht Basin Scuttlebutt and the Internet

Internet and cable TV service are challenging when you live on a boat. Our marina has Internet service that is, in theory, available to everyone here. But it is an old system and extremely, painfully slow. We’ve been told you can get enhancers to draw more of the band width to your own boat, but we have deemed this too iffy and too much bother. We know a couple of people who have done this and it works somewhat successfully for them, but it does draw band width away from other boats so it’s far from an equitable system. We were once told by one of the band width bandits that we didn’t need to stream movies; we could simply download them from Amazon and then watch them at our leisure. The problem for us was that downloading proved to be pretty much as slow as streaming and we’re not convinced we were being given the entire story of just how and why they are able to watch countless episodes of Perry Mason from their PCs.

Shortly after we moved aboard we invested in the least expensive marine TV antenna available at West Marine, notorious for its overpriced equipment, gadgets, clothing, etc. for all things boat-related. The antenna works pretty well, but we are back to the basics – ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and Fox plus a few Spanish speaking channels. Each network has two channels, one for the regular network programming and one for local news and weather. PBS has four channels, two for BBC series and/or concerts, one for Florida legislature news and one for nature and other educational programs. We are remembering why we have been so grateful for cable TV for the past 30 some odd years… Occasionally the wind knocks the antenna about and one or more channels become fuzzy or completely unattainable. I was pretty frustrated our first year on board when on Oscar night 2014 all the channels came in clearly with the exception of ABC which was the one airing the Oscars. No clue what was happening but ABC has been perfectly fine ever since, including its MeTV channel which broadcasts classics from the 50s – 90s – everything from “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gilligan’s Island” to “Seinfeld.” My weekly go-to MeTV show is Colombo on Sunday evenings.

Streaming (ie., Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other popular streaming services) is impossible due to the unreliable, excruciatingly slow Internet service. We are able to do ordinary Internet stuff like email, Facebook, Twitter, shopping and bill paying using our Verizon MiFi devices which work remarkably well. I was pretty upset with Rick when Verizon convinced him to invest in these two little devices when we still lived in Seattle. But now they are more valuable than gold to us! Thank you, Verizon, for the slick sales pitch and, Rick, for accepting it!

The big downside of these little beauties is their cost – we need a lot more data (on top of our normal 4G phone service) than the average user because we rely on them for hours every single day, including watching occasional youtube clips. I laugh when I see ads on TV for “super big” data allowances of 12 GB. Try 30 or 40. Streaming, we learned the hard way, gobbles up 1 GB of data basically every 3-5 minutes, so a 2 hour movie devours way more data than anyone would want to pay for.

We are far from TV addicts. Often just sitting on the deck enjoying the evening breezes, driving to a local beach (such as Sanibel!), walking along the river and reading soothes the soul. But, during winter months, when the days are short and the evenings long, we like to zone out with familiar, comfortable electronic friends. Binge watching TV series, courtesy of the public library, Redbox (well, Redbox is actually single shot viewing of recent movies), Amazon, and Barnes & Noble has become part of our winter evening routine.

When Allie was living here she tirelessly researched the Lee County Public Library System to see where we could locate the series we were currently watching. We spent many hours a week driving around Lee County to feed our nightly TV habit. We learned a lot about local geography and I remember those days nostalgically and fondly. We always brought Apollo, our elderly Golden Retriever, with us and took him on walks around library grounds, an activity which we all enjoyed. For the most part we were able to get all of the DVDs we needed, but we did end up investing more than I care to recall in the more recent “Dr. Who” series. My current favorites include several British crime dramas and “Doc Martin” about a curmudgeonly GP in Cornwall, England.

When we first got here, aside from the marine antenna that we purchased, we checked into several TV/internet options, including DirectTV who said they could provide service but we would need to install our own equipment (huh?); Dish TV who “just said no” to boats and Comcast/X-Finity who said “don’t even think about it – impossible!” Periodically over the past three years, we have chatted with neighbors about their wireless/TV situations. One neighbor (who has since sold his boat and moved back to condo living) installed an expensive marine antenna which provided him with 100+ channels to two televisions. At first, as we all tend to do, he claimed to be ecstatic with the service, but a couple of weeks later he admitted that it wasn’t working out; that it worked fine for the main TV but not for the secondary one.

Because the marina internet is so weak, people here are always checking to see what other internet connections might be available in the drop down menu that pops up when your computer prompts you to see what networks are available. When our MiFi devices are on, they show up in the list. Though they are password protected, there is never a guarantee that a savvy user might not be able to hack into our systems. Which is precisely what happened a couple of months ago. I was shopping at DSW one day when I noticed my cell phone blowing up with texts, all of which were from Verizon informing me that we had gone over our monthly data allowance and were gobbling up 1 GB every 2 or 3 minutes. It became clear to me that someone had, indeed, hacked into one of our networks and was watching a movie, courtesy of us. I called Rick, who was on the boat, and told him to shut down his device immediately (mine was off because I was not there and always turn it off as a precaution if I am not actively using it.) The frantic texts from Verizon stopped and when I got back to the boat, Rick and I both changed our Administrator and device passwords. My network is now called “staythehellout” and, so far, hasn’t been tampered with.

Clearly, getting a better, less expensive WiFi system seemed like a good idea – but we still didn’t know how or what, if anything.

But, not long after the hack into our MiFi devices, I noticed Century Link working on one of our neighbor’s boats. It was a very involved, complicated process that took all day, in fact two days, and entailed opening up the cable boxes on the City utility lines at the head of the dock plus I don’t even know what with the boat’s outdoor electric connections pillar, cables running in and out of the boat, and a modem (?) hooked up just outside the boat. After that we noticed them working on installations on two other neighbors’ boats and finally approached the Century Link technicians to ask if they could install a system on our boat. We are at the far end of the dock and the current telephone and other necessary cables would need to be twice the length they are to get to our neighbors’ boats. But the technician made a cursory visit to our end of the dock and surmised that the cables might already be in place and that it should be a fairly simple installation.

Encouraged by this, we set up an appointment for May 31st. The technician who came (not the one who had promised to come and give us a discount on the installation) spent some time scratching his head, peering at our electrical connections pillar, running over to one of the other boats to look at his installation, and finally told us that since we were ordering only WiFi and not cable TV, we would need to have the marina approve and arrange for the installation of a telephone line to our boat. Plus we would need to purchase a modem; a special, needless to say expensive, outdoor cable to connect to our power source; and a router in addition to whatever it was that Century Link would install. Can’t for the life of me figure out what that might be. The technician left after 20 minutes. Not really wanting to deal with getting permission and a special installation from the marina, we decided that our system works well enough, told the technician very clearly that we were no longer interested, and assumed that would be the end of that. However, a week later I stopped to chat with one of our neighbors who has Century Link and he claimed that Century Link had told him that we were good to go as soon as we secured the promised equipment and necessary wiring and contacted Century Link to come back to install. Our neighbor offered that, failing that scenario, if we were to purchase a router, we could share his connection for a “modest” monthly fee. Whew! The wheeling and dealing at a marina! I’m also kind of curious as to why a technician was talking to someone else about our installation. I suppose they’re not doctors, so confidentiality may not be part of the protocol.

After our failed installation, I asked the first neighbor who had gotten Century Link installed how the service was working out for them, and he said he had no clue since it wouldn’t work until he got the modem installed. It had been well over a month since his “installation.”

In any case, two weeks later I received an email thanking us for being new Century Link customers and stating that the technician would be here the next morning (June 11th) to set up our service. I tried to cancel the appointment both online and on the phone to no avail, so I was stuck waiting on the boat Saturday morning from 8 – 12 (fortunately the technician showed up around 9). As soon as he arrived I went to the door and told him we no longer wanted the installation nor the service and to please go away. He said he had called Rick’s phone (Rick was in NY) to tell him he was on his way when both Rick and I had told Century Link they were always, always to call my phone for any service appointments. This is a common problem we have –no matter how many times we beg and plead to have me be the primary contact, it is the husband (Rick) who ends up top on the list. Oh well. The technician mentioned that cancelling was fine but it hadn’t been a waste of time for him because one of our neighbors had called him over when the technician was on his way to our boat to have him fix the poorly done (“it was a mess”) installation on the neighbor’s boat. Again – I’m a bit perplexed as to why a technician thinks it’s ok to work on someone else’s installation when the appointment is with us.

I did manage to get the installation officially cancelled and the service account officially closed after spending quite some time on the phone with Century Link service reps. Imagine my dismay and surprise, then, when on Sunday night I received two emails stating that our first bill would be coming shortly; that I needed to sign up for online billings; and teaching me how to read the bills. I think it was resolved after another hour on the phone with Century Link Monday morning but time will tell…

In the meantime, I am ever grateful for my wonderful reliable private network “staythehellout!” And I am only too happy to continue to frequent the library, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Redbox.

The Perfectionist Part 2 or “Did You Say Swiffer?”

It was November and the daily work regimen was flowing along smoothly. The entire ship had been scraped, cleaned, pressure washed and prepped for paint. Much of the upper two decks had been finished and fresh coats of primer and paint were being applied daily to complete the task on all three decks. This included a side excursion into dismantling, cleaning and spray painting the steering equipment under the stern deck that Rick decided he and The Perfectionist needed to do in late September.

04 fdl climbing in

Rick climbing under stern boards to spray paint running gear with Rustoleum. Note safety equipment not worn by The Perfectionist.

03 rusty equipment

“before” shot of rusty equipment

18 finished

“after” Treated and sprayed with rustoleum

Then, one morning in November, The Perfectionist, perhaps even before he called out his usual, “Debbie!” came charging into the boat with a look of pained horror on his face. “Debbie!” He cried, “what about the bugs?!” I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet and thought rather testily, “what about the bugs?” He nudged me out the door to show me the areas that had been painted the day before, absolutely plastered with thousands of tiny “no see ums” bugs, stuck to the still drying paint. My first thought was to remember an issue Rick had encountered when he was working on the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge project in Nevada. The hand rail of the pedestrian walkway of this spectacular 1 mile bridge that spans from Nevada to Arizona over the Colorado River had been painted with a special coating that keeps the railing from getting too hot to the touch in the desert sun. Unfortunately, the first coating that was applied to the railing ended up looking very like the side of Kalliope currently looked, more bug than fresh paint. Rick’s company needed to find out why and to come up with a new specialized formula STAT. Well, the “why” is what was giving me pause on that November morning in 2014. An entomologist who was called to the bridge project in 2010 determined that something in the paint was a pheromone that was driving millions of bugs into a sexual frenzy. Long story short, the paint was reformulated and the hand rail successfully painted.

So now I was thinking, “oh no – is it something in our paint that is attracting all of these bugs?” It turned out that it was not. Upon further investigation, we all realized that it wasn’t just our boat that was being swarmed but basically the entire marina and some of the nearby downtown areas. For the next two or three weeks we literally could not go out without being surrounded by a cloud of frantically swarming bugs. The bugs went everywhere – in our eyes, in our ears, up our noses and, if we weren’t careful, in our mouths. For the most part they didn’t bite (we were told they are not biting bugs but we’re pretty sure that is not entirely true). We did find out from the Assistant Dock Master what was causing this phenomenon. There is a large lake, Lake Okeechobee, 2 ½ hours northeast of downtown Fort Myers. Most years at the end of hurricane season in early November, the Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the lake to prevent it from overflowing onto nearby homes and sugar cane fields. The water flows down river past our marina and on to Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva. Every few years, apparently, the water release brings with it this plague of millions of tiny bugs. 2014 was one of those years. (As an aside, I’m thinking the Army Corps of Engineers needs to rethink this strategy in general, because this year during an unusually wet winter season, water was released in February, bringing with it millions of gallons of brown toxic water to our local beaches right at the height of tourist and spring break season. The beaches are now clear and the water back from being brown to blue – just in time for the tourist season to end.) Quite honestly, I don’t remember how we dealt with this buggy issue but somehow the painting continued to progress.

November is also the month of the large and popular boat show that is held at the Yacht Basin (our marina) each year. This means that many of us at the marina need to move for 2 ½ weeks so the exhibit boats can be docked here. Some grab this as an opportunity to go cruising, but that is not really an option for us since it would entail a crew of two or three just to handle the extremely heavy lines and spud, as well as to keep an eye on the engines and generator while we are underway. So we made arrangements to move over to A dock which is not affected by the boat show. Our work crew followed us to A dock and back, attracting quite an audience at A dock, which is much more densely populated than C dock by friendly but inquisitive neighbors.

The boat show came to a close; we moved back to C dock; Thanksgiving came and went and it was time to put up a few Christmas decorations around the boat. Because wreaths made from live evergreen boughs tend to dry up in the Florida heat, we decided to get an artificial wreath to hang on the bow. It was large and had burgundy colored bows and was hung just after The Perfectionist had completed painting the walls under the ship’s bell. The Monday morning after I hung the wreath, The Perfectionist was alarmed to discover on his arrival that his meticulous paint job had acquired several large red stains running down its surface over the weekend. Upset does not begin to describe his reaction. He was livid, having jumped to the conclusion that vandals had targeted our boat and splattered it with red paint at some point when we were either asleep or away from the boat. I was not convinced that it was vandalism, but he was so certain that this was the case that when I expressed reluctance to report this to the marine police, he marched up to the marina office and reported it himself. I decided to examine the damage myself and suddenly realized that the streaks were an exact match to the color of the bows on the wreaths. Upon further examination, I found that, sure enough, the red streaks were not paint at all but very easy to remove watery stains that had occurred when it rained on the wreaths, causing the bows to seep whatever dye was in them. The police were informed of the false alarm (not that there was much they could or would do anyway) and The Perfectionist was placated – sort of.

11.30 wreath

I’m not quite sure whatever possessed us, but we also decided that mid-January right after the holidays was the perfect time to install the two new toilets that we had been thinking about for several months, despite the fact that the exterior project was still very much in process. Admittedly, ever since moving aboard, we had been aware of a mysterious, abundant, and nonstop leak into our sewage holding tank that meant our 250 gallon tank needed to be pumped out into the marina’s city sewage line multiple times a day and we needed to be constantly on the alert for an overflowing holding tank despite the excessive pump outs. We had gotten to the point of using public restrooms whenever possible, flushing as seldom as possible, and turning off the water both when we were away from the boat and overnight because that kept the leak from being quite as torrential. I noticed that especially if I closed the valve to the master bath toilet, the leak seemed to dissipate. And, I figured that if we replaced the two ancient and wasteful flush toilets with modern water saving models we at least would be spared quite so many pump outs. So, off Allie and I went to secure the toilets. Let me tell you, toilets are heavy! After hauling the first one by sheer will, grit and determination to the boat, we purchased a hand truck to cart the second one.  (I have to say I was very excited to add the hand truck to our growing collection of tools – exotic and otherwise – and numerous ladders.)  Up until this time, even The Guru had had no success in finding the source of the leak into the holding tank. I suspected it had something to do with the master bathroom but couldn’t really be sure. But, wonder of wonders, the instant the new water efficient toilet was installed in the master bath, the leak vanished – for good! Pump outs are now once a week for five minutes and never entail more than 1/3 of the tank. Hurrah!

01.21 I do love my ladder collection

Some of my prized ladders.

january hand truck

Heavy duty hand truck!

The last week of January found us with new freedom from constant pump outs and an entirely clean and freshly painted ship, save the stern deck. Our point of entry to the boat is from a gangway off the stern deck so the paint needed to be applied at a time when it would have adequate time to dry before we needed to tromp on it to get on and off the boat. Actually, it was quite possible for the two legged creatures on the boat (us) to get on and off over the gunwale (side walls along the starboard side) by either stepping over or grabbing a line to get on and off.

line to get on boat

Getting on and off without the gangplank

Unfortunately, this was not at all possible for the four legged creature (Apollo) who needed to get on and off at least twice a day for his walks and playtimes. And so we were all just hoping that somehow the timing would work.

The painting was completed and the stern deck looked fabulous beyond belief.  01.23 freshly painted stern

And then this happened. 01.22 paw prints on deck

I mentioned in Part 1 that our project whimpered to a close in January and that is an accurate description. Not only did Apollo leave paw prints all over the boat, but simultaneously we discovered a leak under the stern deck that needed to be tended to immediately. My memory of those couple of days is especially cluttered, but it involves 800-Got Junk coming one more time to remove yet another large load of junk left behind to rust and rot by previous owners during decades of neglect prior to our purchasing Kalliope in 2013 (by this time I was on a first name basis with the guys who hauled our stuff away numerous times).

01.30 ancient space heater in rusty dust

Ancient space heater so rusty it literally collapsed in a pile of dust

It also involves The Guru climbing around under the boards of the stern;  divers in the water under the boat both to locate the leak and to clean the propellers; baking soda and oatmeal to locate the tiny hole; a small spike to plug the hole; as well as The Perfectionist and his final two assistants trying to repair and repaint the stern deck, a task that was never completely accomplished.

dirty deck

Permanent paw and foot prints

I think of the rough dirty looking patches as the tiny flaw in the carpet that emphasizes the perfection and beauty of the rest. Here are some before and after pictures that give a hint of everything that happened during those 4 1/2 months. The pictures really don’t do justice to the dramatic transformation, but they do give you a sense of the difference.

12.05 clear bow

Bow getting prepped for painting

02.03 fresh bow with equipment back

Bow after painting and equipment back in place

11.02 main deck not yet primed

Typical look of walkways before

18 walkway and gunwale.wall

Walkways and gunwales after

12.16 bryce painting gunwale

Gunwale in process (note clean white to left and dirty to right)

23 freshly painted stern ceiling

Stern overhang with fresh blue paint

january front view from dock

Kalliope at dock January 2015

So, the clean and paint project was close enough to done. The hole was successfully patched, the stern deck was pretty much left as it was, and we could stop setting our alarms for 6:45. A day or two after the grand finale, The Perfectionist rode his bike over to take one final look and to express dismay that he wasn’t able to make the stern deck picture perfect. Unbelievably, The Perfectionist has suffered from a bad back for years, though it never seemed to slow him down. But, during our project, his back had gotten progressively worse and he was scheduled for surgery in Tampa within the month and could not repaint the stern. He has since moved his boat to a marina near Tampa so he can be closer to his physical therapy and doctors. We guiltily lament that our project literally broke his back, but he assures us that this was inevitable and he knew it would happen sooner or later.

Anyway, as we were talking near the gangway, The Perfectionist leaned on his bike when suddenly we all realized in disbelief that the bike was no longer on the dock and was sinking slowly into the river. Florida waters are all shallow – Florida itself is basically just a huge sand bar between two large bodies of water – the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The Caloosahatchee is no exception. Where we float at the yacht basin, the water is about seven or eight feet deep (we draw 6 ½ feet so we’re always very near the bottom of the river). Not to worry, The Perfectionist called a friend of his who is a diver and 30 minutes later the bike was rescued, basically unharmed.

01.30 diver retrieving bike

Diver retrieving bike

01.30 bike retrieved

Bike back in The Perfectionist’s hands

Project (deep sigh) done!

Ah, but then, there is the maintenance. At least once a day for the duration of the project, The Perfectionist reminded me that once the ship was all clean and freshly painted, it would be my sworn and solemn duty to make sure it stayed that way by scrubbing, hosing, washing down, whatever at least twice a month. Not exactly. This is a ship that used to have a crew of three or four to keep it shining and running smoothly. I’m really good at keeping the interior of a home clean (not necessarily tidy but clean). But hosing down boat exteriors is not in my job description. Imagine being required to scrub the entire exterior of your house once a month. Boat owners often do just that. I did make some valiant efforts, sitting on the dock scrubbing by hand and clumsily attempting to use deck brushes.

I asked The Guru for guidance in getting just the right deck brushes. He bought them for me and told me never to use more than water or water with vinegar at the most with the brushes. And never, ever use the pressure washer – it would ruin the paint, especially if used too frequently. So, about five months after the project was completed and I could no longer ignore the inexplicable grime that inexorably coats all boats, I resolutely put on my bilge clothes (clothes that have been ruined by getting grease, oil or rust on them simply in the course of being aboard Kalliope), filled a bucket with water and vinegar, and began to scrub the overhang of the stern deck which was by far the filthiest part. It worked pretty well, though it was not a pleasant experience having vinegar drip all over me while my neck was bent back at an ungainly angle. Plus it needed to be dried after the initial wetting down to get rid of the streaks left by dripping water. So I rigged up a system of wrapping up the brushes with beach towels (we have dozens that are rarely, if ever, used to go to the beach) to dry the overhang. I did not enjoy this and finally stopped when I was about one quarter done, leaving the stern to get filthier and filthier over the months. It probably doesn’t help that hundreds of spiders live there (well, that’s good, actually; they help keep the bugs at bay), spinning their webs and catching countless bugs each night. But the bug massacre is pretty ugly. I do enjoy the task of taking a long handled brush to knock down the spider webs each morning. Very satisfying.

Rick agreed to pressure wash the sides a couple of months ago and they currently look pristine once again. I figure if we pressure wash the sides once or twice a year we will look pretty good (sorry, Guru). And, then, last week, I had an epiphany! I thought, “why not use my favorite interior cleaning tools on the outside where the pressure washer can’t easily reach?”  I love using my wet Swiffer mop to clean the interior floors and thought that just maybe it might work on the stern walls and ceiling beams. And, yes, it works beautifully. Not perfect, by any means, but quite lovely, nonetheless. I now spend 30 – 45 minutes each day attacking the stern beams and overhangs and am quite thrilled with the results. In addition, I now use a mildew penetrator and favorite dishwashing sponge, the Dobie, to vanquish exterior mildew!

cleaning tools

Note the part that has been cleaned and the rest

bag of rags

One of my favorite discoveries during all those Lowes runs!

clean railing

Railing all clean (this just happened yesterday, 5/12/16)

debbie with used swiffer mop

My new cleaning weapon of choice ~ a wet Swiffer mop after cleaning some of the stern overhang

before and after stern

Before and after recent cleaning

Phew! Maintaining a boat makes maintaining a house look like child’s play! But what a sense of accomplishment, adventure and fun! Yay!

The Perfectionist Part 1 or “Okay – Let’s Get This Job Done!”

 

A year and a half ago, six months prior to the story of the bilge (“It Must Be Love”), I mentioned that we were about to have the entire exterior of our 85 foot, 175 ton, three deck tall, steel hulled ship de-rusted, scraped, cleaned and repainted. The project that was guaranteed to be two to three weeks max turned out to be a four month epic experience, which, quite frankly, did not surprise me in the least. After all Kalliope is 85 feet long by 26 feet wide, giving us a 2,210 foot perimeter. That perimeter includes three decks with walls that are approximately 8 feet tall each, making a grand total of 53,040 square feet that needed to be cleaned, de-rusted and painted. Wow! (Math friends – let me know if somehow I figured this wrong…)

10.28 rust on bow

Typical look all around the ship before the project started.

The project started on Labor Day, 2014 and whimpered to a close the last week of January, 2015. During that time the seasons changed from steaming hot 90+ degree days to the very chilly days of January (yes, Florida does get somewhat of a winter); and flip flops, T-shirts and capris evolved into sneakers with socks, jeans and sweatshirts.

Rick was in and out of town quite a bit and our daughter, Allyson, was living with us at the time so she and I were the primary supervisors. We began setting our alarms for 6:45 am each weekday morning so we could be sure to be up, showered and dressed before the first shout of “Debbie!” (friendly, cheerful and insistent) came bursting through our stern door and our 13 year old Golden Retriever, Apollo, announced The Perfectionist’s arrival with loud excited barking, running back and forth, tail wagging . After two or three days working on his own, The Perfectionist asked if I would mind if he asked a friend to assist. Of course I said that would be fine, although it also meant that the daily wages would be increasing dramatically. A very polite, sweet, soft spoken assistant started the next day. He was a veteran still in treatment for PTSD and was studying to be a physical therapist to support his wife and 2 year old daughter whom he adores. The Perfectionist assigned pressure washing to the new assistant and my image of him is shirtless, covered in old paint chips and drenched in filthy water mixed with his own sweat from the September heat. Man, I felt so, so sorry for him and for all of the guys who followed. I tried to make their jobs easier by providing grapes, Gatorade, bottled water, and fresh coffee each morning, not to mention paying in cash and tipping each of them a bit at the end of each week. Still, it was a pretty thankless job in my opinion. Sweaty, dirty, and meeting the extraordinary standards of The Perfectionist.

The first assistant left after two weeks on a morning when his sunglasses had fallen into the murky waters of the Caloosahatchee River and he had dived in to fetch them (unsuccessfully). The Caloosahatchee is not a river that most people consider a fun place to swim, the occasional small sharks and alligators being among many reasons, but this young man said he grew up here and spent his childhood swimming in the Caloosahatchee. That incident, however, pushed him to pursue his actual career and to leave ship maintenance to someone else.

And so began the parade of 15 assistants who came and went over the next four months. None lasted more than two and a half weeks; several barely made it through a week. One guy that I thought was doing a fantastic job and that even The Perfectionist seemed to enjoy working with was fired on the spot one day when The Perfectionist decided he was talking on his cell phone too much. I must admit, I was pretty disappointed when he was asked to leave because we were getting close to done and this particular assistant was a major factor.

Three weeks after the project started, the dock master became aware of this parade of assistants and approached me in confidence and concern to inquire as to whether the work was being done under the auspices of a qualified contractor (thank goodness, yes – The Guru has a fully licensed, insured marine business and it was he who hired The Perfectionist on our behalf while The Guru tended to other boats’ more pressing concerns like engines that don’t work!) I was told to maintain a ship’s manifest listing everyone who was allowed on board to work. It was quite heady, actually, to have a “real” ship’s manifest!

Those four and a half months are somewhat of a blur to me. Each day involved at least four or five trips to Lowes, Home Depot and local marine supply and hardware stores to get various items for The Perfectionist. These stores, without exception, are a good 20 – 30 minute drive, so many hours were consumed on these errand runs. Wire brushes, countless 2 inch disposable paint brushes (yes, The Perfectionist maintained that to get all of the nooks and crannies, every square inch needed to be painted with these ridiculously small paint brushes, supplemented by six inch pink rollers with the skinny holes only, please…), large bags of rags, drills and drill bits, sanders, special rust dissolving acids, thick rubber gloves for applying the acids, mineral spirits, grit additives to make the deck paint less slippery, and gallons and gallons and gallons of marine paint. Apollo joined us on the project supply runs to help keep him calm and away from the workers.

10.17 apollo surrounded by rust primer

Apollo surrounded by paint and primer

Rick insisted that we also get heavy duty safety harnesses, safety glasses and general work gloves – all for the most part ignored by The Perfectionist and his crew. The safety harnesses were in theory for times when The Perfectionist needed to shimmy up the spud (large pole that goes up and down using a hydraulic motor and serves as a precautionary heavy duty anchor in addition to all of our tie up lines)

10.17 chris scraping spud

The Perfectionist priming the spud

and when the crew needed to hang over the edge of the second deck to paint hard of reach areas.The Perfectionist was a line man for many years and was undaunted by the spud or by painting the flag pole on the stern deck. Fortunately, there were no injuries on the job with the exception of the time The Perfectionist sliced open his foot with a jet stream of pressure washer water. The Perfectionist wears only flip flops forever and always and this “minor” injury did nothing to persuade him otherwise.

Happily, the work day ran from 8 am – 1 pm so Allie and I could breathe a deep sigh of relief and relax in the afternoons. It’s actually very draining having your home invaded by workers day in and day out and always being on call to run out to get whatever is needed.

We did have some downtime. Allie and I went to DisneyWorld to celebrate her birthday just a week after the project started. We brought Apollo with us and he stayed at his own doggie resort right across from our resort hotel at Port Orleans. A good break for all of us! We left a key with The Perfectionist for the three days we were gone and his only question after we came back was “does that cat always howl all day long?” Yes, Sweetie, the Ship’s Cat, was 17 at the time and she does spend a great deal of her time wandering around howling, asking for food she picks at, and sleeping in patches of sun.

And, when, a couple of months into the project, it became clear that I needed to get away from the boat (constant cursing, scowling and ranting being clues, Allie offered to supervise for a couple of days while I went for some much needed R&R visiting my sister who lives in the Tampa area.

11.16 allie painting stanchions

Allie painting the stanchions at The Perfectionist’s request

12.16 brandon on work raft painting hull

One of the assistants painting the hull from a work raft

By early November, we were a smoothly functioning team and the work had progressed from the top deck to the second deck. The Perfectionist needed to remove the antique brass ship’s bell that was hanging under the pilot (wheel) house on the second deck. He was appalled to see the condition of the bell which had been neglected (like everything else on the boat) for decades, not to mention dripped on at some point by careless painters. So he assigned Allie and/or me the task of returning the bell to its original pristine condition. Allie is a museum professional who knows about such things so I was happy to delegate to her. She was not quite so happy about this delegation, but diligently attacked the restoration project which ended up taking several weeks of intense paint removal, scrubbing and re-polishing. Due to her technical expertise and the delicate nature of some of the restoration, she determined that using Q-tips was the way to go, something that made The Perfectionist shake his head (though, he is the one who used two inch paint brushes to cover a massive ship). By early December Allie had removed the paint and begun the cleaning process. She was ready to move on, but the bell still needed a lot more cleaning and polishing. So I agreed to take over for the less technical portion of the job. We were all thrilled with the end result and periodically after the bell was back up, The Perfectionist would go to the front of the ship just to admire the beautiful ship’s bell.

01 bell project

Bell before

04 bell project

Bell in process with professional treatment

12.12 bell almost there

Bell after

(to be continued)

 

It Must Be Love

The bilge of a boat is a necessary evil. It inhabits the area beneath the lowest deck boards (in our case, the steel flooring) and needs to be constantly monitored for excessive water build up. Water in the bottom of your boat is a given ~ it’s needed for tasks such as keeping the engines cool when they are running. All boats have built in openings in the sides near the bottom of the hull that allow river, lake and sea water to flow in and out harmlessly and unnoticeably. All boats also have sump pumps located in strategic locations throughout the bilge that are usually set up with floats that trigger the pumps to go on automatically when the bilge water gets too high and off when the water is back down to an acceptable level. A hose from each pump is permanently rigged through a small opening above the water line to pump the water into whatever body of water your vessel is currently enjoying. Common wisdom around a marina says that if a bilge is constantly going (and some do…) it means one of two things: (1) the water driven room unit air conditioners are running or (2) the bilge is filling up faster than the pump can handle and the boat is sinking.

At the front of our vessel on the lowest of three decks, there is a water room. The water room is not called the water room because it is always watery, though this is something that I believed when we first moved on board because our plumbing system had so many leaks that the water room was constantly wet everywhere. Thankfully, these leaks have, over the course of a year and a half, been completely stopped, thanks to the Guru’s (see previous blog entry) expertise and assistance. Several months ago I was quite astonished to realize that the deck of the water room was, in fact, completely dry!

So, it’s not called the water room because it is always wet. It is called the water room because it houses anything to do with plumbing/water. In our case we have two large potable water tanks for when the boat is underway and won’t be connected to any shore water; the hose that connects the boat to shore water when we are not at sea (most of the time); the pipes that carry the water to sinks, tubs, and toilets just like in a house; and the sewage holding tank. It might sound kind of icky to have both potable water and sewage water in the same room, but really, truly they are completely separate and never, ever comingle, just as a house’s used toilet water never comingles with water used for washing dishes.

On Friday morning, June 12th, during a routine bilge water check, I was horrified to discover that the bilge in the water room was filled to the brim and about to cover the deck where we walk.

01 water under deck

8 inches of water in the normally dry water room bilge.

03 location of full tank

Red and white striped tank is the holding tank. Opening in the back is the decommissioned fuel tank that was full of water. 

Just the day before, the water room bilge had been bone dry. I heard and then saw a constant drip, drip, drip coming over the side of a hatch opening to a decommissioned fuel tank on the starboard side. Upon closer investigation, I was even more horrified to find that the tank was filled with river water up to the bottom part of the hatch opening and the excess water was pouring into our water room.

02 water dripping over side of hatch

Water pouring over the side of the opening to the fuel tank.

My guess is that the bilge was dry the day before because, though the water had obviously been seeping in over a period of time, the tank had not been full enough to overflow until that morning or more likely sometime the previous evening.

I mentioned before that all bilges need to have pumps that turn on and off automatically. Unfortunately, in the case of our water room, the perfectly fine pump works quickly and efficiently but then forgets to turn itself off so most of the time it is left unplugged to prevent it from burning itself up. Hence the unchecked build-up of water.

Adding to my impending sense of panic, my husband, Rick, and the Guru, both of whom I called, were out of town. The Guru suggested that I call the marina office to bring their pump to clear out the full tank (about three and a half feet of water). Meanwhile, I plugged in the bilge pump to clear the water out from under the water room deck, a task that was accomplished within about twenty minutes. The bilge under the water room has been dry ever since!

The Dockmaster came over very quickly to assess the situation and dewater the overflowing fuel tank using the marina pump. Actually, as it turned out, the marina pump was malfunctioning and we used a spare pump that we had in the shaft room behind the engine room. You can never have too many spares of anything when you live on a 61 year old, 85 foot, 175 ton, steel hulled retired tugboat!

Quite honestly, a lot of this stuff seems miraculous to me. How on earth can you put an electric appliance under water and then it will somehow suck up 1500 gallons of water, just like that?? And without shorting out or exploding or getting someone electrocuted? But that it did! It took quite a bit longer than pumping out the bilge under the water room but it did work! Once the initial batch of water was pumped out, the Dockmaster set the pump up to start when the water was about two feet deep and stop when it was back down to a foot deep, well below a level where there was any danger of overflowing into the water room. It worked like a charm. Over the course of two days, the pump went on only twice and had the water back down to an acceptable level within 30 minutes. Two and a half hours from identifying crisis at 10 am to temporary resolution at 12:30 pm! Not bad.

But that, of course, begged the question: why was water seeping in and where was the breech in the hull?  This needed to be determined by the Guru after he got back into town, which, thankfully, was two days later.

Here is a step by step description of what transpired over the next three days:

Day 1: The decommissioned fuel tank that was filling up was completely emptied so the Guru could climb inside and poke around to determine where the tiny leak was. I was very pleased that I had already guessed the correct location the day before.

08 water seeping in

Microscopic hole where water was seeping in to the left of the fuel tank.

09 tank mostly empty

Fuel tank mostly empty to enable work to get done.

In addition, the Guru reconfigured the fuel tank pump out hose to go through the opening in the side rather than up the stairs, through our galley/kitchen, and out an open port light (ugly and inconvenient).

17 setting up hoses to empty out

Hoses from water room bilge and fuel tank rigged up to go out the existing opening.

18 hose tied up outside

Hose on the outside of the opening rigged up to empty water from bilge and tank as needed.

Day 2: Most of the work was completed. First the Guru crawled into the tank and I held a flashlight to supplement the work light he clipped up inside the tank. We were both very pleased and surprised at how slow the trickle/seeping water was. The pump hadn’t even come close to needing to work since the day before.

16 cushion and boards to sit on in tank

Planks and cushion in place inside the empty fuel tank for working on the leak.

For two hours, as I held the flashlight, leaning over the hatch opening, the Guru carefully scraped and gently brushed away the substantial layer of flaking rust that was covering the microscopic leak.  It really looked like he was an archeologist unearthing a fragile piece of pottery or a paleontologist uncovering a delicate dinosaur bone. It was absolutely thrilling to see the beautiful clean original steel deck emerge as he scraped.

At this point I thought, “I’m in love with a steel hull.” Yikes!

But, uh oh ~ instantly the exposed tiny seep turned into a fountain very like a school drinking fountain. Ugh!

Not to worry ~ we will epoxy it, says the Guru, followed by 5 – 10 minutes of scrambling to find the epoxy that he knew was onboard.  He finally discovered it on a shelf in the shaft room at the very back of the vessel behind the engine room.

Next step ~ stuff the tiny hole with a Phillips head screw driver with a rag wrapped around it until he could get the epoxy in and stuck. The first wad of epoxy didn’t take so the Guru added a bit more. I was secretly and silently getting kind of alarmed because the leak at this point seem to be getting much, much worse and gushing quite a bit, spraying both of us with river water.

11 in process

Orange headed phillips screwdriver wedged into the hole. Beautiful clean steel exposed under the layers of rust.

But, we persisted using, among other tools, a large can of baked beans on top of a small square thin wooden board to tamp down the epoxy until it dried enough to keep the water out.

Finally, the Guru decided we needed a bolt, which, as you can see in the picture, worked ~ it has epoxy and a wad of cotton around it to make it even more secure.

14 close up of bolt

Bolt, epoxy and beautiful steel all around.

Once this was accomplished, we used the shop vac (an ancient one that it turned out had very weak suction and was replaced within the week) to suck up excess water so it could completely dry before he Guru would come back the following day to install a 2 x 4 support with a sealing plate.

Day 3: The 2 x 4 with a tamping/sealing plate were installed.  I am told that at some point the support will be removed (maybe) but for the time being it is installed in the decommissioned fuel tank, we have no leaks, everything is dry, and all bilge pumps are working like a charm!

21 wooden plate with tons of putty being held down to dry

Plate with strong jack and 2 x 4 tamping it down until the epoxy completely dries.

Here is what I learned during this project:

(1) Never underestimate the power and sheer force of water.  This is the second tiny hole we have found and plugged up on our aging steel hull. But tiny holes can lead to thousands of gallons of unwanted water in pretty short order. We were fortunate in both instances that the holes were in decommissioned bilge and/or fuel tanks that are designed to hold thousands of gallons of water, meaning we were never actually in any danger of sinking because the holes were not anywhere that would feed into the actual deck or body of the vessel.

(2) No matter how many tools and other “useful things” you have on board, you almost never have absolutely everything that you need. And, even when you do have them on hand, you almost never remember their precise location.

Among the useful tools needed for this project were: a round headed hammer (purchased within the week) for carefully tapping to loosen rust before gently lifting it off with a flat headed screw driver. Check on the flat headed screw driver! Phillips head screw driver. Check! Rubber and/or leather work gloves to protect your hands while doing any number of chores, in this case, rubbing off the final layers of rust. Check! Epoxy (one box in shaft room ~ check!) Rags ~ thankfully we have lots of those! Knee cushion. Check! A can of beans for tamping down epoxy. Check! Planks for lying on. Check! Scissors. Check! Lots and lots of towels. Check!  Anyway, we passed the “need to have” test pretty well for this particular project, thanks to a year and a half of Lowes and Home Depot runs!

(3) Dry dock is inevitable, but we are hoping to avoid this frightening money pit for as long as possible.

(4) Always, always wear clothes that are already designated as “bilge clothes” 20 ready for the bilge because if you don’t, whatever you are wearing will end up being bilge clothes. 15 another set of bilge pants

And, finally, I learned that it must be love ~ I am thrilled to peer in to the empty fuel tank, to admire the plugged up leak, and, most of all, to get giddy over the original steel deck!

24 under the holding tank dry

Bone dry water room bilge under the holding tank.

26 hose configured to go out opening if pumping is needed

Bone dry fuel tank with hose at the ready ~ just in case!

The Guru

The Guru
Once we arrived in Fort Myers and heard about the Guru, we didn’t hesitate to request his professional assistance in any number of tasks. To date, (with assistance from Rick), the Guru has installed and then removed a water pressure regulator (long story but the happy ending is that our water pressure is awesome!); installed a water filtration system; installed a screen door (not as easy as it sounds ~ this installation involved adapting a pre-built screen frame to fit our uniquely sized door frame); installed a second hot water tank for the aft shower; taught me how to use the pump out system more effectively; installed a new bilge pump; replaced both engine batteries and battery chargers, including custom made wood boxes for the batteries; emptied between 200 and 500 gallons of water that had been piping directly into one of the decommissioned fuel tanks (when Kalliope was a working tug, there were three gigantic engines; now we have just two “small” Detroit diesel 671 engines); and, reworked the plumbing to empty out where it is meant to.

In addition, the Guru has caulked and drilled drainage holes in the siding of the upper deck to prevent heavy rain waters from leaking to the living area below, showed me how to use a bent wire hanger to unplug a drainage hole on the upper deck, and fixed a leaking toilet. One of the ceiling leaks involved tearing open 10.23 larry unscrewing ceiling panels and then replacing two ceiling panels 10.23 two panels down and plywood underneath 10.23 rick bracing panel as larry takes down10.24 new panels in place (2)that were affected by the leak.

And that is just the beginning (story of how he saved us from sinking will be another time…)

The Guru knows what he’s doing, how to get there, and has no compunctions about making sure you know who is in charge (he is). He huffs, puffs, hems and haws; thinks and mutters out loud; and, then makes his pronouncements on the actions for the day. He has no tolerance for laziness, unprofessionalism, or wasting of time or materials. He takes his time to bill and told me in no uncertain terms when I made the mistake of asking him about this, that should I ever try to pay him before getting a bill he would never set foot on our boat again! He is gruff, funny, loves to laugh, and is well-loved and respected at the marina.

The Guru will always opt for using materials that are at hand and often asks if we have this or that tool or material and, at first, the answer was often “no.” (deep sigh from the Guru) But, over the past year, we have been building up our arsenal of tools and supplies (that is tools and supplies that are actually useable rather than the corroded stuff left behind and/or the puny tools that we brought with us from Seattle) and he now (occasionally) seems pleasantly surprised at what we do have on hand to assist in his projects. On the other hand, he once remarked drily and with his characteristic guffaw type laugh, when he was surveying the engine and shaft rooms, “Well, there’s a lot of junk here that you could remove, but, then again, it’s not my boat ~ it’s yours!” (by the way, the engine and shaft rooms have since then been cleaned out and the boat relieved of two tons of no good steel, tools and equipment, thank you very much 1-800-Got-Junk!

At the end of August when the Guru was finishing up on the screen door, he casually said to me, “The Perfectionist is going to clean the exterior of your boat for you.” This was not a question. It was a proclamation. He went on to say that The Perfectionist was absolutely the only person at the marina that he would trust to clean his own boat when he is away and that he felt really comfortable asking (telling) The Perfectionist to clean our boat, confident about the ultimate result.

The day I met The Perfectionist he estimated that the project would take two weeks and that we would end up looking like a brand new ship. He started September 1st. The project finally came to its glorious conclusion (or perhaps whimpered to a halt) on February 1st. Over the period of five months we ran through thousands of dollars and twelve assistants; made countless trips to Home Depot, Lowes, and local hardware stores; learned about all sorts of tools, means, and methods for rust removal, cleaning, priming and painting the exterior of a steel hulled boat; became experts on what paints to use for various exterior surfaces; and longed for a time when we would not have to be up before 7 each morning for the imminent arrival of one, two or three eager, noisy crew members hauling, scraping, scrubbing, pouring all sorts of scary toxic substances over the rust for easy removal, and painting. We maintained a ship’s manifest for all of the intrepid workers who came aboard.

To be continued…

The Wonders of the Gangplank

When you’re living on an industrial ship with gunwales (upper edge of the outer walls, pronounced “gunnels”) that are approximately 3 ½ feet in height and the tides can lift your boat quite a bit higher than that on a daily basis, some means of easily getting on and off the boat (or in and out of your home in our case) is an absolute necessity.

When we first arrived in Florida and our home was upriver in a “hurricane hole” the gangplank was situated mid-ship where the inner walkway is quite narrow. Rick set up a fabulous elongated sawhorse of sorts with three steps to make it easier for me to get on board from the gangplank to the deck 3 ½ feet below. deb getting on board at the glades

After we moved to Fort Myers, we were able to position the gangplank at the stern where we could use the sturdy steps that Rick built upriver but which had been too wide for the original location of the gangplank.

Over the year, of course, being on the water and all, tides have come and gone, and with them, the entrance to our home has ranged from a 45 degree or steeper incline to quite flat. (pics) The gangplank is designed to move back and forth across the dock, at times coming quite close to the edge of the dock and at others being very comfortably situated solidly on the dock. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppbh1iK7Vc4&feature=youtu.be

Paired with our extremely useful and necessary diamond plate 11.02 gangplank to prevent the heavy metal gangplank from scraping the heck out of the concrete docks (and vice versa), all of the gangplank configurations have worked well for a year. 10.18 gangplank gangplank looking typical05.02 gang plank at high tide

Then, last week all that changed.

Once a year, our marina is host to the SW Florida boat show. That means that once a year, the marina is transformed from its normally tranquil, easy going, comfortably full but not too crowded self to a bevy of frantic activity. The activity includes over a week of set up, four days of the show, and another two days to remove the hundreds of boats that have filled our local streets (shut down especially for the boat show), as well as being docked in many of the live-aboard slips and berths.

All of us living at docks that are used for the show are required to move to other docks that are not actively involved in the boat show. Our temporary location is on the outer side of an extremely active, densely populated dock directly across and a good ten minute walk from our permanent berth. 092 Central marina cleared out for boat show. 065 Floating docks for boat show. 102 Marina dockmaster watching us clear B dock. 100 11.14 kalliope at a dock from c dock The large ship on the outside of the far dock is Kalliope taken from our permanent slip.

The dock to which we were moved is one that we have actively avoided ever since we arrived in Fort Myers because there are several generally well-behaved, but usually off-leash dogs of various sizes that live here. Our 12 ½ year old Golden Retriever is normally incredibly gentle and predictable in all situations. We never hesitate to tell parents of the tiniest children that it is absolutely safe ~ in fact, encouraged ~ for their children to pet Apollo. There is one notable exception to his predictable behavior ~ he often does not like other dogs, particularly off-leash dogs that startle and charge at him (even with friendly intentions) and often snarls at them. My theory is that it is “fear-biting” but, be that as it may, we have become very skillful over the years at walking to the other side of the street and taking whatever evasive steps are necessary when other dogs are around.

That is not possible in our current location (moving back to our permanent slip on Friday, thank goodness!)

Apollo’s biggest nemesis is a very sweet but always off-leash female Golden Retriever named Annie, who actually responded to his snarl once by nipping him in the face. Guess where she lives ~ yep ~ on the boat directly across from us on this dock! So, at least three times a day we feel like we are walking somewhat of a gauntlet just to get off the dock and to some grassy patches where Apollo can romp and “do his business.” Apollo’s reputation preceded us and Annie’s person now at least puts a harness on her that can be grabbed when they see us coming.

And one day I was simultaneously chagrined and relieved when we were walking by a table where several of the smaller dogs often hang out with their people and every single one was quickly, almost in one motion, swept off the ground and into their respective people’s laps! 10.25 apollo getting off gangplank

On top of being densely populated with both people and dogs, this dock is quite a bit narrower than our regular dock. Our gangplank, of course, was designed to be used with a 175 ton steel hulled vessel, and is quite long. In fact, too long for the width of this dock that has a yellow line drawn about two feet from the edge along its entire length, over which one is not supposed to put his/her stuff. And, so, the day we arrived, Rick designed and built a much smaller wood gangplank that we quickly decided was far superior to the original one anyway, and thought we would use permanently. It is much less cumbersome and was designed with a pulley system that can draw the gangplank up and on to the boat whenever needed. 11.14 new gangplank Our romantic imaginations loved the concept of having a drawbridge that spans the “moat” to get into our home. wooden drawbridge up

But reality has tempered our romantic visions. Within four days, we heard a piercing, grating sound every time the boat moved in the slightest (ie., all the time). We were distraught to discover that the carpeting had worn through (concrete docks are extremely abrasive) and the bare wood was scraping on the dock. Not to worry, we came up with several options for solutions. First, we tried duct tape along the edge. 11.14 duct tape on gangplank edge That, too, was wearing through by the next morning.

Second, we attached furniture buttons along the edge. allie hammering in slides on gangplank Allie hammering in buttons. buttons on duct tape that is already wearing Those, as well, began to wear almost immediately. worn buttons Picture by Allyson.

Third, we were going to try four heavy duty wheels that would roll with the motion of the waves and the boat, saving wear and tear on both the gangplank and the dock.

We never got the chance to attach the wheels because November 17th proved to be an unusually blustery day, complete with a four hour tornado watch and warning (which, fortunately, did not come to pass), and the first thunder and lightning we have experienced since early August. In addition, by late morning, the tide was high enough that the much smaller, shorter gangplank was just about vertical . Even our very heavy, very stable Kalliope was pitching and moving with gusto, right along with all the other boats in the marina. Why we didn’t think to pull up the gangplank during this challenging (but exhilarating !) time, I’m not quite sure. But we didn’t.

Suddenly, around 1 pm, the gangplank pulled off the dock, dropping vertically down towards the water and bringing the top step with it. Picture by Allyson. wooden gangplank fallen down steps after gangplank pulled top piece off

At this point in time, our boat was about three feet out and three feet up from the dock, making it almost impossible for either Apollo or myself to get off the boat without a viable gangplank. So, we re-commissioned the original gangplank, tying it up securely, and carefully placing its companion diamond plate perpendicular to the boat.

It took all of about 15 minutes for someone from the office to come by and tell us that the plate was a tripping hazard and not acceptable (quite a bit out from the designated yellow line). So, we turned the plate parallel to the boat, bringing it almost within the required two feet, but then the river’s tides and wave actions were so vigorous that the gangplank went off the plate and then pulled the plate perilously close to being forced off the dock and into the water. The positioning did result in a somewhat scary overhang, but it was manageable. gangplank overhang

So, yet again, we needed to dream up a creative, new approach to getting on and off the boat. We untied the unwieldy, industrial sized gangplank and decided we will use it as a drawbridge instead. A bit cumbersome but most definitely doable. And, when we are close enough to the dock and the tide isn’t too high, I’m even learning to scramble over the gunwale!

Truly, our chosen life style is not for the faint of heart, nor for those who easily give up or are daunted by perplexing circumstances.

Current status: 11.18 gangplank with new tape “Drawbridge” inside, ready for action. 11.18 diamond plate back on stern Diamond plate tucked away on stern.

And, Sweetie the Cat, thanks us for making a gangplank just for her! 11.17 sweetie enjoying the gangplank

And, of course, there is this: 11.14 sunset (2)11.14 sunset from stern

What I Am Learning

I have discovered over the past year that living on a boat is NOT living in a home that just happens to be on water. Oh no, not at all. Living on a boat can be likened only to one thing ~ living on a boat! It entails constant vigilance of bilges that fill up and need to be emptied. It requires constantly checking lines, water and electric connections, and making sure the gangplank is aligned. It necessitates running the engines and generator every two or three weeks and checking to make sure that all systems are in good working order. It involves frequent hosing down and scrubbing to wash away salt and other sticky debris. No waiting to pressure wash and/or paint it every five years or so, as you have the luxury of doing with a house. It means periodic barnacle checks and scraping off the hull. It means that even when the air conditioning is running, the air is always somewhat damp and dehumidifiers and/or Damp Rid packs are absolute necessities.

And, it means that your waste water reaches the City sewage system only by pumping out from your holding tank to the marina’s pump out system. In our case, that means pumping out for five minutes at a time several times a day. Our issue is that we have a mysterious chronic drip that relentlessly fills our 200 gallon holding tank over and above our water wasting, outdated 5 – 10 gallon per flush toilets ~ soon to be replaced we hope, and enabling us to join the happy “once a week” pump out club! There have been those occasions when the marina’s pump out system is down for several hours before its normal shut off time at 9 pm and we are left with a tank that is half full. We have resorted to an adapted Homeland Security warning system before we go to bed at night for the holding tank, depending on the status of the shore system. Green means “flush at will.” Yellow means “flush only when necessary.” And red means “walk to the shore.” Fortunately, most, but not all, nights are at least pale green.

When Rick and I bought Kalliope last year I chose to overlook and/or accept many of the less appealing aspects of our new home. The hundreds of rust spots all over the steel hull. 10.28 rust on bow The rusty, filthy metal scraps and dozens of milk crates filled with corroded tools that haven’t been looked at for decades in the engine, shaft and water rooms below decks. 10.28 unused plumbing10.28 water room junkThe unsightly rusty equipment on the bow that was once used for pushing up to 22 barges on the river. 10.28 unsightly bow The uneven exterior paint job that obviously had been slapped on simply to give the Kalliope “curb appeal” for the sale.

And this is what remained a year ago AFTER we removed two full Got-Junk truckloads of filthy, wrecked furniture and equipment so that we could install new flooring, appliances and our own furniture shipped from Seattle. And AFTER we pressure washed the sticky black soot that encased the outside of our floating home from the burning of the sugar cane fields right down the road from our original location in central SW Florida (Clewiston, a nearby town, is known as “America’s Sweetest Town.”) 10.25 sugar cane smoke And AFTER we replaced the 35 year old smoke and diesel infused carpeting with fabulous vinyl planking, re-configured much of the plumbing so that the toilets actually flush into the holding tank rather than straight overboard and, conversely, the sinks that were washing into the holding tank now flow directly out as legal “gray water.” And AFTER we replaced all of the kitchen appliances, had some of the sketchier wiring modernized and brought to code, and painted the entire interior ourselves (with much TLC and elbow grease from my sister!)

All of this (detailed in previous blog entries) was accomplished, amazingly, in two short months before we moved in November 2013 down river to our current home in Fort Myers.

Once the initial clean-up was accomplished and we were able to live comfortably on board, I just assumed that we would be living with the rest of it because, well, because we are on a very old boat and that’s just the way it is. I also assumed that we would have chronic leaks during heavy rainstorms, dealt with by a generous supply of towels and buckets (something one would never tolerate in a house). We’re on a boat. There’s water. But, wonder of wonders, over the past three months I have learned that we will NOT have to live with some of these eyesores and we have not had any leaks whatsoever since mid-summer!

Because, lo and behold! We learned soon after getting situated at the Fort Myers Yacht Basin that a boat guru (my term for him ~ others have called him a “genius” [he is] and a “god” [he is not and never again spoke to the person who called him that]) lives here who can do basically anything on a boat ~ electric, plumbing, rebuild engines, design and install screen doors and windows ~ pretty much you name it, the Guru can and will do it … when you fit into his schedule. More on that in the next entry.

So, life on a boat is way more than I ever imagined ~ especially onboard a 60 year old, 85 foot, 175 ton retired Mississippi tugboat! Living on a boat is not for the faint of heart and is often a full time occupation! It is also an act of love, driven by an intense desire for being on the water 24/7.
Living on a boat means that your front yard has waves and sea life in it (like manatees, dolphins, small sharks and lots of pelicans and jumping fish). 05.04 manateepelican (3)10.24 our front yard It means that the traffic that passes by your home looks like this 08.01 beautiful wood boat e It means that your neighborhood looks like this: marina at sunset It means that duck families can swim over to your side yard to say hello and get a hand full of cracked corn. ducks (3) It means that your neighbors share your own passion for life on the water and can always find the time to stop to marvel at the bounty of nature’s wonders ~ sunrises, sunsets, stormy skies, calm waters, swift currents and all the creatures who enjoy these wonders with you ~ or to exchange boating tales of horror and triumph, generously laced with odd (and often very helpful) bits of advice.

It means that your ceilings arch to follow the curve of the deck. vaulted ceilings It means that your ceilings are awesome. awesome ceilings It means that at least some of your windows are round (technically those that open are port lights and those that do not open are dead lights ~ no such thing as “port holes”). open port lightdusk thru dead light And, of course, living on a boat ultimately means that you can move your home pretty much any time you want/need to, bringing everything in the household, including pets, with you. How cool is that!!