Weather Talk

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So as I mentioned before, Matt had been working on patching a ton of places on the roof of the boat in hopes of getting a handle on the leaks that we have.  He has been applying a primer, layer after layer for about two weeks now.  Then sanding edges and in the next few days he will paint over all the primer with a matching paint to our boat color.  In a perfect world all the leaks will stop and we will live a gloriously dry happy little life in our boat.  If only it were that easy. 

I’m not one to carry on about the weather but when you are living on a boat that leaks it kind of happens naturally.   I watch the ten day forecast like a hawk.  With all of the warm sunny summer weather we have had the wood of our boat has dried out.   This is all fine and normal, but when it rains it means more little cracks for water to enter.  It seems that every August right about now, a little summer storm always rolls through the San Juan Islands.  This year was no different.

We went to bed knowing that it was going to rain but I think we were both hopeful that all the patching would slow the water down and maybe make it a nonissue.  Matt was less hopeful than I was mostly because he had been doing all the work and knew that he still had more to do before it was done.  This ill-timed storm was not fitting into his boat work schedule.  We were each hoping for a miracle.  Point being, we didn’t do any prep. 

At 4:30 in the morning it started raining hard.  It sounded like marbles hitting the boat.  So loud and so much water.  It sounded close.  Like on my pillow close.  Sure enough, three leaks sprang above our bed.  We were up.  More leaks in the room and more than a few in the kitchen.  In total I counted twenty-two leaks.  We had towels and buckets and mason jars everywhere.  It was a full time job.  Jars filled quickly, towels needed moved, new drips came out of nowhere.  I was so annoyed.  I had this total little tantrum in my head over the whole thing.  I was personally offended that it was raining.  My bliss of sunny summer days on a boat came to a screeching halt and I was pissed. 

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What I did know that morning as I ran around for four hours in a less than a jovial mood managing buckets and towels was that we needed to declutter our boat again and get moving on projects for the winter.  I spent the better part of the day cleaning out cabinets, closets and dressers.  With colder temps and more moisture coming, it’s time to live with much less again.  Everything is wet on the boat in the winter so there is a greater risk of items getting ruined with water or mold.  It feels funny to have to live a different way for the winter months but it’s necessary. 

I can honestly say that in retrospect, that day of being pissy over the rain was the kick in the shorts I needed to better understand exactly why we are choosing to live this way.  It would have been so easy to let that become all consuming leading to negativity about so many aspects of our daily life.  It would have been an easy path to self destruction and I would have had all the right stories to support why this didn’t work.  I want this to work though.  I like our life on this boat.  I like the environment we live in and I actually thrive off of the physical challenges created by living on a boat.  Living this way is definitely making me a stronger person…. and a little jealous of all you people with roofs that don’t leak.

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Easy Living in the San Juan Islands

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Well we’ve made it six months on the boat.  I’m sure our congratulatory plaque is just being finished up.  I do have to say though; the living is easy these days.  Summer on a boat in the San Juan Islands is pretty beautiful and relaxed.  Life is simple which is allowing for way more time to do the things we love. 

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Don’t get me wrong though, it hasn’t all been sunny days on the deck around here.  An old wood boat needs lots of work and I’d love to say *we* have been busy but really it’s been Matt.  He’s done an amazing job organizing what needs to be done in what order and he is always asking people what they recommend.  We have had a steep learning curve but that is also what we wanted.  The challenge of something new is what keeps the days interesting.      

It has been so fascinating to live smack dab in the middle of a tourist destination.  Literally.  Boat loads of tourists arrive every day.  Some days I start to believe I am on vacation too.  Everyone is so friendly, it’s always cocktail hour and ice cream seems to be the official food of the marina.  It’s glorious at times.  Some days though, I dream of fall when the island slows down a bit.  Fall makes this place feel like a secret again.

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I never could have pictured what summer would be like for our girls.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew what they wouldn’t have such as a yard or a quiet neighborhood to roam.  In all honesty, I was a little nervous as to whether we were robbing our children of a certain kind of childhood.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  This is where they belong.  They are masters at catching shrimp, their knowledge of boats is increasing rapidly, their playground is everywhere and socially they are growing leaps and bounds due to the insane number of people they talk with daily.  Lyla knows what dock has the best fishing (it’s totally G Dock) and Savannah has a solid handle on who has the fluffiest and nicest dogs.  It can be easy to want to recreate situations we had in childhood for our children but I can honestly say our girls are getting to draw the map for themselves.  This is all new to all of us.

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As for the boat, it has everything we need.  We have plenty of space and it’s a solid home for us.  We got this specific boat because of the size and space not because we loved classic wood boats.  We quickly learned though it’s a wood boat enthusiasts’ dream.  I may never get used to people stopping by and just staring at our boat.  We have learned a lot this way though.  It seems our boat might be one of two of this kind ever made with a hardtop.  I guess it was too difficult to ship so they stopped making them.  I find this so fascinating and continue to look for more info on the history of this style of boat.  We are always looking for similar boats to ours and when we find them we are quick to go talk with the owners to learn as much as we can.

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Matt has been hard at work patching all the spots where we think the leaks are coming from.  You need long stretches of dry warm weather to fix the spots so time is of the essence.  We can take as many guesses as possible this summer and then wait till the rains arrive and hope for the best.  I think we have a good handle on it though.  Matt also got one of the engines running and the other is not far behind.  We are in no hurry to take the boat out.  We see this as a long term process for us so we don’t want to rush.  Plus it’s our house- if something happens we really don’t have a lovely two-story to move into.  It’s our journey and it’s unfolding at the pace we need. 

Hands down this has been the scariest yet best decision we have ever made.  It has forced Matt and I to work together in new ways and allowed us to see our girls grow with us in this new experience.  We are going to be on the boat for a long while.  I often wonder why everyone isn’t living this way, but I also get it.  Taking a leap into the unknown is scary but let me tell you, it’s totally worth it.

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Spring on the boat

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1. The spring rains have arrived. March can get a little rainy around here, but I have to tell you, despite the number of towels we need for all the leaks, being in our boat during a hard rain is glorious. The overwhelming sound of rain hitting the windows, the sway of the boat, the change in temperature which you can literally feel, the smell of salt air and rain and the ever changing sky- it all combines together perfectly.

2. We have a few tasks to complete this spring. Some more fun than others. I know there will be an ever growing and changing list of things we need to do, but that’s okay. These are the kinds of projects we like to do, that’s half the reason we have this boat. For the spring, we have the following things lined up:

– new toilet
– replacing the zincs- this basically has to do with counteracting galvanic corrosion on your boat using zinc. I only learned about this because it’s hugely important. It all happens on the bottom of your boat. Matt said he ‘know’s a guy who know’s a guy’… kidding, sort of. This will be taken care of soon.
– Filling in leaks.
– I am determined to have a garden somewhere on our boat. I’m going to be doing starts soon.
– Painting the living room- right now the room is this mustardy orange color that isn’t working for me. I found a much softer cream color which will brighten this whole place up.

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3. I sat up on the top deck of our boat the other night. We don’t spend much time up there currently because it’s cold but I needed 20 minutes to myself. Right now there are canvases on the back of our boat. We have never seen the boat with these off. I literally cannot wait to hang out on our deck this summer. It’ll be like getting a new boat all over again.

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4. We have a sweet dog, Charlie. He’s a nine year old lab and is as gentle as they come. He’s such a good sport and has always just seemed wise. Like he gets it. Getting Charlie on and off the boat is a little tricky though but we are all getting better. Charlie isn’t so worried anymore and we know when he needs help. The biggest adjustment is having to walk him again to use the bathroom, no more yard to play in. We’ve found plenty of fields for him to play in though, so I would say it working out pretty well for him.

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5. Those ‘snakes’ I found turned out to be ribbon worms. They have pinchers and aren’t that friendly but not nearly as scary as snakes. Good news is we haven’t seen them since that night so I’m hoping they are migratory and just stopped by on their way south or something.

Lessons Everywhere

We have only been on the boat for about a month and already we have learned so many new things. Some we expected, others we didn’t. For instance, we know now that we for sure need a new toilet. It’s not terrible; it’s just seen its day. I’ll just leave it at that.

We wondered if we were bringing too many things onto the boat and we now know that we did. I am already taking things back off daily. Someone just recently told me, “An item must have three uses for it to stay aboard the boat.” At first I thought that seemed a bit much but honestly, it’s not far from the truth. The rest is just clutter and we have begun to feel the uselessness of so many things. The decoration of our space is the ever changing beauty out all of our windows. I don’t want items to distract that view. That’s easier said than done though. It’s hard to get down to the minimum items needed.

Cooking….such a love/hate relationship. Our galley is wonderful in a variety of ways. We have a good size refrigerator and a two burner stove. Room for the dishes/cups/pans we need and enough space for food. It really isn’t bad. What has been harder than I thought is the loss of having an oven/microware. I thought we would be fine. I didn’t think it would be this hard. Turns out we toasted/roasted/baked/reheated more than I thought. I didn’t expect to overhaul how we eat with this move but it’s so necessary right now. I mean, we have to face it three times a day, may as well deal with it. The Crockpot has been dusted off and the good ol’stir fry is appearing quite a bit more. Not going to lie, I might have mourned the loss of the quick and easy chicken nugget lunch for the girls. I know there are some good toaster ovens we can get. In time though. I am curious if it’s necessary or if we can just move past needing it.

Our girls have bunk beds for the first time. It is also Sissy’s first big bed. Lyla of course claimed the top bunk before we even purchased the boat. It’s been good, better than I thought. We broke a vicious cycle of bedtime games that had evolved in our old home. It was always one more thing. This is such a welcome reprieve and a chance for the girls to learn new things too.

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Our family has always enjoyed being outside. Our vacations usually involve camping and we would much prefer to be outside than inside. However, we had lost that a bit, maybe from having kids or maybe living in houses/apartments in neighborhoods. It was easy to just stay inside. Our time outside now has grown exponentially. We didn’t think about the impact that would have. The fresh air of the ocean is so nice to take in each day, the skies are beautiful and the moon shines off the water in a picture that almost looks fake. Wildlife is already aplenty and I know the change in seasons will only create more to see. There is a constant awareness of the weather mainly because you can feel the movement and change of wind and currents. We are way more attached to Mother Nature than I thought we would be. Talk about naive to boating now that I think about it. Ha!

We have found changing our lifestyle to be pretty invigorating. It has allowed us to look critically at a variety of pieced in our life. I highly recommend taking the leap to trying something new in your lifestyle or learn something new. It doesn’t have to be big. It’s so refreshing and I don’t think you will look back with regret.

Finding our path again

When my husband and I met ten years ago on Orcas Island, we would spend a considerable amount of time dreaming of living alternatively.  The thought of a house in a neighborhood bored us to tears.  We wanted different, we wanted a little hardship in our living, and we wanted to physically work for what we had.  The standard American way of living never looked that lovely to us.  Don’t get me wrong, I drool over perfectly styled spaces.  Historic homes will always tug at my heart.  But let’s be real here for a sec, if you spend anymore than ten minutes with my husband and I, you will quickly realized quaint historic homes and styled nooks aren’t our gig.

Over the years, our goals and dreams have drifted everywhere from living in a bus, to a yurt, to a grain silo to a storage container and everywhere in between.  We dreamed of a unique space that would allow us to be creative but also not be tied down financially to our home.  We didn’t want a big, expensive, fancy house.  We wanted simple.  We never wanted to be owned by our possessions.

Then we had our first daughter and thought that all of our creative ways to live had to wait.  We needed a proper house to raise our baby.  We took out a thirty year mortgage and settled in with the rest of America in the burbs’ of Portland, Oregon.  We put our true dreams on hold for what we thought we were supposed to have.  But somehow, we never stopped sitting up at night drawing new ideas for tiny houses, dreaming up budgets to travel in a bus or scheming ways to live off of the grid.

We were trapped in suburbia and needed to bust the hell outta of there quick.  There was no denying it.  We didn’t belong.

Little girl #2 arrived and we started making an exit plan.  Our path lead us to San Juan Island in Washington.  We rented a house.  A big house.  The biggest house either of us had ever lived in.  2200sqft big.  And we settled right in.  But we didn’t feel settled.  We didn’t need all of that space.  We didn’t want to buy more things to fill that space either.

Bit by bit, we started to talk about what our next step would be.  We talked about buying land and building our own tiny home (as in physically doing it ourselves).  Honestly though, we have a two and a four year old and we are tired.  We didn’t have time to build a house.  We didn’t have the money to buy land.  We didn’t want another loan and we didn’t want to be owned by our house.

And then one day it all became clear.  We needed to simplify our life to get where we wanted to be.  We really had everything we needed already.  We didn’t need a big house and we didn’t need all our stuff.  What we needed was a boat.  Yes, we needed a boat to live on.  This little family of four + one old lab needed a boat.

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One might think, “oh wow, how fun, they must be experienced boaters”.  Well think again sisters and brothers.  My husband boated when he was little but that was recreationally.  My family went canoeing once and only once.  We spent a lot of time in the bushes along the river on that particular family trip.  Boating is not in our blood.  Okay, it is more in my husband’s blood than mine and he is handy and mechanically inclined.  But still, you get the point.  We are novices.

Everybody has their first day at being new at something though.  So just like any good inexperienced boating family, we purchased a beautiful (yet very reasonably priced) 1954 50’ Chris Craft Catalina.  She is an old wood boat and her name is Wild Rose.  She is one of ten boats of her kind, and it seems only one of two still remaining in the world.  She works like a charm and I know she has stories.  We will only add to her stories.  Every good adventure has a learning curve and this will prove no different.  Here’s to the “Adventures of Wild Rose”.