Monday, February 20, 2012

A post from Jeffery: "Input and Output- from a Different Perspective"

Chris and I had a date night two evenings ago.  Juliet was spending the night at a friend’s house so we had the opportunity to spend some time alone.  Having just come home from a long day reefing out seams on Pacific Yellow Fin, I needed a shower pretty badly.  So I head forward to crack open the hot water.  Nothing.  Not even a drip.

Chris hollered forward that Juliet shut off the pressure water pump because it was running continuously.  Before she’d even said that, I knew we were out of water.  I’d actually known for a few days that we were getting low, because Kwaietek was telling me. She was riding high at the bow, and I could feel the “uphill climb” in the sole (floor) as I would walk forward.  She was also livelier in a southeast wind.  Lastly, I knew that it had been about two weeks since I’d last filled the tanks. 

As a family of three we go through the 350 gallon freshwater tankage in about two weeks.  That covers all of our cooking, washing, cleaning and showers.  It works out to about 50 gallons per person per week.  The average consumption in this country is about 100 gallons per person per day.  We’re not doing too badly.  Careful use and low flow faucets and shower heads help a lot. 

This however does not cover our laundry, as we take that to a laundry mat.  When the galley is rebuilt, I already have a high efficiency single unit washer/dryer that uses about 7 gallons per load.  It will be installed under the countertop.  We should be running about five loads a week, including my work clothes and we’ll still be way under the national average.

The fresh water also doesn’t cover is the head (toilet).  When we rebuilt the forward end, I purchased a high efficiency, electric macerating head.  It uses about a pint and a half per flush, but it uses seawater.  The head flushes into a 45 gallon holding tank in the bilge under our stateroom.  (As you can imagine, proper odor-proof plumbing, tight fittings and a bomb-proof installation it paramount when living so close to the “black water”).  When I installed the system, it took a few tweaks to get everything tight.

So where does the black water go when the tank is full?  Bellingham is part of the zero discharge zone, which means we can’t pump it overboard.  Plus that’s just gross, especially when living in a marina.  So every Sunday I get to spend some quality time pumping poop.  The marina has a cart that I wheel out, push down the dock and plug into our boat. It vacuums out the holding tank, and then I roll it down to pump it out at the station.  Not the most pleasant job, but it really sounds worse than it is.

The amazing part about it is how few people actually use the cart.  There are at least nine boats on the dock that have people onboard regularly.  Theoretically, they should all be pumping out to the cart.  For the first few weeks I was doing this, I would find the cart exactly as I left it.  Our neighbor asked me how to use the cart, as he had never touched it.  I actually had a guy a few slips down ask me what I was doing with that big "carpet cleaner". 

So that means all the other boats are pumping directly overboard.  I say again, that’s just gross.  Now I don’t mind direct discharge in open water where things will dilute and flush on the tide, but not in the marina.  We have occasionally walked down the dock when one of the fishboats in pumping overboard and the smell is most definitely “ripe”.

However, we’ve got two new couples with small children on the dock and a small club is being formed.  It seems that every Sunday, we’re all pumping our black water tanks, utilizing the cart.  We all joke about the romantic lifestyle of the live-aboard, and we all wonder why more people don’t just do the right thing. It’s really pretty easy.

 - Jeff.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Just Because You Can Do Something...

Doesn't always mean you should do it......

Jeff and I have a long history of getting ourselves involved in projects that get rather convoluted--simply because we can see the potential in doing so. Remodeling a 1927 Craftsman house, converting an empty old brick building into a stunning suite of offices, yoga studio and treatment rooms, salvaging two VW buses and well, yes, saving old boats.

Now, take Sugaree (...please, somebody-JK)...  She's a lovely 1974 Magellan ketch. (and in the same way we are drawn to Volkswagen buses because of their comfort and character over performance and speed, we love her). She's a roomy, comfortable sort of sail boat that won't get anywhere very fast. When we got her though, she had been a resident of Harbor Island marina for 13 years and had a layer of cement dust covering her hull that had to be at least 1/2" thick. Her sail covers and dodger were rotting away. So, what do Jeffery and Chris think? Heck yeah! We can work with this! 

Thus began the nine year project that has been our love affair with Sugaree.

She didn't even have a cool name (the name Sugaree is my contribution, as a loyal deadhead). Her old name was unpronounceable and translated into "Sea Eagle" in some Scandinavian language.  We went through the entire process and ceremony to change her name to appease all the right nautical deities.

...did I mention she had a rotten main mast?
                       Oh, no?
Well, she did.

So, Jeffery decides to build a new fir main mast from some old growth lumber donated to us by Tim Mehrer and two and a half years later, shazam! a new mast is stepped... And a refurbished mizzen as well.

So, then we decide its time to fix up the cosmetics... and, being a former scenic artist in theater, I choose to custom mix a really deep green hull color. It is quite exquisite actually. We order a two-part vinyl name and apply it ourselves on the transom. I then hand paint the dandelion fluff graphics near her name and homeport city...(god, what was I thinking?).
The trailboards--also hand stained a new bowsprit and pulpit and finally, the requisite Grateful dead sun on her cabin front...she is a complete.

She really is a beautiful boat, with you can imagine, lots of "funky" unique little elements.  We get a lot of compliments on her appearance where ever she goes.  On the other hand, ever try to match a custom paint job for touch ups!??#?*?@*

The ability to see potential in all things in life can at times, be a mixed blessing. 
Ah, well.... it keeps us off the streets.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Longing for (on) a Boat.

Be careful what you wish for.....

     Jeff has always wanted to live on a boat.  Well, he got his wish just a little over a year ago.  And, y'know, it is everything he ever hoped for--except for on eensy weensy detail... he never actually factored in what living right next to his thirteen year old daughter might do to his love life.

Bedtime at the ol' Kwaietek household is very similar to an episodic ending of "The Walton's"
      "G'night Merrie Ellen."
      "G'night Pa."
      "G'night John Boy.".....
Juliet insists on mentioning every single night that there had better be no breaking of "the routine", which translates into: absolutely. positively. no. romantic. action. emanating from the master stateroom.

     So, Jeffery has what he always dreamed of... with a catch.

     This must be somewhat akin I imagine, to the memorable quote from the Genie in Aladdin, "Phenomenal cosmic powers--itty bitty living space."  I gotta hand it to Jeffery though, he manages pretty well all things considered.

     Nevertheless you can imagine his excitement this afternoon when I informed him that his little girl was spending the night at her friend's house tonight.

Lucky, lucky man.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

More from "Little House on the big Sea"

Juliet grabs her plate of meatloaf, she gobbles it down quickly so as not to be late for class.
"Did you put your valentine's card on the table for Dad?" I ask.

"Yossooneedtotellhimitzzdere."  She replied with her mouth full of mashed potatoes.

"Excuse me?"

She swallows hard. "I said, yes--you need to tell him it is there--please."

"Ah, okay, I will." I say, "It's almost five o'clock, don't you need to be heading down the dock?"

She takes a big swig of milk and gulps down the remaining meatloaf. "I gotta go! I have to get my valentine's cards for everybody!"  Off she goes, dashing through the engine room before I can tell her to clear her plate.

I follow behind her, handing up the bag of books and snacks for class. I sigh as I watch her head out the door of the charthouse, she throws one leg over the railing and then scrambles down the side of the ship instead of walking down the deck and using the gangway like everybody else does.

It's another evening at the marina. Juliet's captain's class is only a week away from being over. She walks down the dock to the yacht club where they hold class for four hours a night. Jeffery is on his way home from Anacortes where he and Tim are corking a wooden ship from Canada called the Yellow Fin. He'll be hungry tired and dirty when he gets home. I decided to stay home this evening and have Valentine's dinner with him, even though he'll be too exhausted to get much benefit from it.

I better go put the meatloaf back in the oven. Time for me to go back to work on my regular manuscript while I have a little free time.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Waiting for Spring

I guess Juliet and I have been reminiscing about our old house quite a lot lately.  Jeffery pointed this out yesterday at breakfast. Maybe so, after all, it is that time of year where the Marina starts feeling claustrophobic and thoughts turn to outdoors.  And there was no better yard for springtime then our old place in Seattle.

I am finding that Sunday mornings in particular, I wax poetic about the old kitchen (Ha! I almost wrote "galley")!... Our routine consisted of coffee and Grateful dead, then breakfast in the sunny dining nook.  The dogs would lay around on the tile floor, (the radiant underfloor heat was their favorite thing).  The entire morning (and sometimes a good portion of the early afternoon), were spent in our bright, sun drenched kitchen.

Nowadays with most of the kids spread out across the Northwest, our Sunday mornings are less of a production. Juliet and Lucky Jack come up to the main salon and join Jeffery and me for our morning coffee. The Dead still make it on the ipod occasionally, but it isn't as much of a tradition.

This is what always happens at this time of year, I call it the "pre-spring-melancholy-blues".  What we need soon is some milder weather and sunnier skies. We need to fill all the fuel tanks and stock the cupboards, seat boxes and coolers, so that at a moment's notice we can cast off the dock lines and head out to who-knows-where.

Because, much as I miss the old house and the memories that belong there, I can't wait to make up new traditions revolving around quiet harbors and  misty bays out in the islands.

Instead of coffee in the sun nook, it is coffee on the foredeck. Watching the seals and birds and other boats bobbing on their anchors, just like us. There may be no hot tub to lounge around in--and trust me, the frigid water of the Salish Sea is no substitute (no matter how inviting it looks)!... we have kayaks and tenders to paddle around and explore the inlets and rocky shores.

 I suppose, as long as it remains damp, grey and cold, I will keep reminiscing on my old Seattle house.  Secure in the knowledge that at some point, the clouds simply have to give way and allow the sun to return. That is when Kwaietek, Zodiac and Sugaree get to make up for it all.

So, here's to making some new traditions and fond memories that haven't even happened yet!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pets on the Water

Partially because I am missing Sasha this morning, but also because our cat, Lucky Jack is being hysterical--I am dedicating this post to boat-pets.

Life onboard a boat is much richer with animal companionship, and sailors have shared their berths with pets for centuries. So- chime in and post your favorite ship's mascot here!

"Sasha"- boat dawg extraordinaire:

Abby- as in "abbynormal"

"Lucky Jack", dressed in his foul weather gear.

The epic tall ship sailor-dog, "Jade"

"Bear", who is makin' tracks down the varnished caprails

Thank you for the great pictures--and for sharing your boat pets.

Friday, February 10, 2012

School on the docks

The life of a home-schooled kid on the water...

My youngest daughter, Juliet is thirteen now.  She has been on boats consistently for the past three years.  We moved onto the schooner Zodiac in 2009, before that she was on for an entire summer sailing season.

Jeff and I pulled her out of school a year prior to our move, knowing that we'd need to transition her into this new life. Also, I was watching her fourth grade classmates become mini- Miley Cyress wanna-be's and I didn't want that to happen to my child. No way, no how.

Her sisters and brothers were products of public schools. Trent, who is now a father and actively involved in school sports as a coach, did alright as a student. His early years were spent in the Corvallis school district- funneling teachers straight out of Oregon State's education department. Dane and the twins grew up in Seattle and didn't fare so well with the public education they received in the big city. In fact, they got the shaft.

Sometimes I wish that Juliet had more social activities, easier access to friends and classmates. Her older siblings tease me for sheltering her from public school....

What they don't see however is her day to day life "in school" on the water.  She finishes her class work around 1 or 2 PM  with the help of (or at times in spite of), her cat Lucky Jack. She then heads outside and interacts with a blue heron she named Theodore, unless we're docked in Fairhaven where her blue heron friend is named Thurston Howell the III. She knows the mama otter and her three kits, the juvenile seagull that has adopted us named Kwaietek Jr. and she is on fairly good terms with a harbor seal that hangs out near our boat.

When on the Zodiac, our passengers come from all walks of life.  My daughter has made fast friends with many of them. I love to watch her spend afternoons sketching with various artists or learning about the orca pods with some of the naturalists. (She now knows enough about our local pods that she can teach passengers about them).

It isn't an ordinary life. She does miss out on some of the cool things that school kids on land get to experience. On the other hand, as she nears completion of auditing the eight-week USCG 100-ton Masters program, (and doing exceptionally well), I believe in the long run, she'll be a cooler person because of this.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Every now and then...

I sometimes catch myself longing for our old house back in Seattle, for the easy access to things like grande lattes and video stores... but when I stop to assess my priorities, and by that I mean really take a pause from the routine of just getting by.... I always return to the beauty and simplicity and "essential-ness" of life on the water.

Tonight is a beautiful example of what makes this all worth it.

Sure, I complain about the wind, the noisy stereo systems of my neighboring fish boats and all the rest, but when I am caught off guard by the magnificence of a sunset--by the mere fact that I'm right on the water nearest it!.. well, it sets me back on the right path.