Saturday, December 29, 2012


So, the Triton left Seattle on Wednesday morning with Jeff onboard. Juliet and I drove him down to north lake Union and dropped him off at the ship. Later that day we drove to the Locks and waved goodbye as they locked through. He looked pretty happy and right at home on the foredeck.

We've made it through the first week back here on Kwaietek on our own--Juliet and I. Aside from a cold empty bed with nobody to rub my icy feet and shopping for too many mouths still, I think we're doing pretty well.

At night before bed, Juliet and I pull up the Marine Traffic app on my Droid to locate Jeff's ship. It helps us feel closer to him while he's out there, especially as the cell coverage is non-existent in many of the areas in which he is traveling.

We've done this before, in a way. The year that we put our house on the market--after I closed my business. Juliet and I (along with my pitbull Sasha), moved onboard the Zodiac to spend the winter while Jeffery remained back in Seattle to finish the last of the remodel projects. We got to see him every weekend of course, and cell phone reception was a little more reliable... but still.

Here's a portion of the chapter called "Live Aboards" from Prepare to Come About: 

 ~ Chris

Live Aboards

            Zodiac awaited us at her dock. Her towering masts soared above the adjacent ferry terminal’s roof and greeted us as we drove through the parking lot. Juliet rolled down her window and hung her head outside to get a better view of the ship. Sasha crowded in as well, instigating a tussle in the backseat. Before the dog-daughter encounter had a chance to escalate into a gang fight, Jeff pulled up to the gate. “Everybody out!” 

            We piled out of the car and stretched. The salt breeze relaxed me instantly and I got that familiar sensation of grounded contentment—even though I was embarking on a life far from established and one on the water instead of the ground. Standing outside the car for a few minutes, I took in the view. Zodiac bobbed slowly in the swells of the bay. Her decks were deserted and clearly in mid-restoration work, but the familiar brightwork still gleamed in the sunshine. 

            We popped open the trunk and unloaded our belongings into several dock carts. I packed enough gear and clothing to last for the next three months and Juliet’s bags of stuffed animals and home-school books took up an entire cart to themselves. “Don’t forget the dog food!” I called back to Jeffery.

            I went down the ramp first, with Sasha dragging me toward the dock. The two seagulls that stood several yards ahead of us picking apart a starfish eyed her suspiciously. They waited until the clear and present danger of a charging pit bull made it necessary to flap upwards to safety, leaving behind a perfectly good meal. Sasha rushed to where they’d been just seconds previously and snorted as she sniffed their leavings.

            After a few trips back and forth for all the loaded dock carts, we piled our things onto the deck of the ship, and I stepped below to turn on heaters and some lights. Zodiac was cold, damp and deserted. In the darkness, I poked around the engine room and found the switches on the old diesel-fired boiler. I flipped the ignition toggle, and the circulation pumps clicked on to begin driving the warm air into various sections of the ship. I peered down the passageway to the foc’sle and could barely make out the bunks and staterooms. It was an eerie contrast to the bustle and energy that usually filled the old schooner during her cruising season. Sasha grew tired of waiting for me and darted back to the salon, crisscrossing around to stick her nose into each of the lower bunks on her path. She jumped onto the bench seat in the center of the room and looked back at me with her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth, her eyes alight with excitement. “Yep, this is your new home for a while, Pig-dog.”

            The past several months of the winter’s refit projects were evident all around me. Tools and refuse from construction and varnishing littered the salon, the galley table and the charthouse. A thick coat of dust had settled upon all of the surfaces, and even the usual glowing mahogany panels were nondescript and dull. I glanced toward the kitchen part of the galley and sighed, dirty dishes covered the counters near the sink from the last work party. “Well, let’s get to it,” I told the dog.

            Jeffery and Juliet pounded down the companionway loaded with boxes and bags. I directed Juliet forward to where her bunk was located and relieved Jeff of a portion of his burden. 

            “Wow, the place is a wreck,” he commented.

            “Yeah, looks like I’ll have plenty to keep me busy for the next couple weeks.” 

            Sasha rushed past us to the foc’sle, intent to find Juliet and, no doubt, cause havoc with the unpacking. Predictably, we soon heard the aggravated screams from our youngest. “Sa-shaaaaa! You stupid dog! I hate you!” The dog came barreling back through the galley on her way to a hiding place in one of the salon bunks. 

            “Ah, it feels just like home already!” Jeffery said.

            We brewed some coffee and unpacked the chocolate chip cookies Juliet had made for the occasion. Then the three of us sat around and talked about the many plans we had for our next few months on the Zodiac, and Jeffery’s plans at the house, and strategy, if all went well, for what we would do once we were able to buy Kwaietek. I wanted to keep talking, to keep the verbal momentum of solid planning, of our new lives, going; but Jeffery wanted to hit the road back to Seattle so he could get some remodeling things orchestrated for the next day, fix dinner for the other kids, and get to bed early so he could start before dawn. It was time to say goodbye, and it hurt so much to see him go. The reality of our situation became crystal clear as he walked back up the ramp. Barring too-short weekends, we would be living apart for several months. Juliet’s tears did nothing to help my attempt at stoicism. “Don’t be so sad, Bug. Dad’s going to be back up every weekend to see us. And we have Sasha here to keep us company.”

            “I hate that stupid dog!” She stomped below.
                                                            . . .
            Lying alone in my bunk that first night, I listened to the unfamiliar noises of our new surroundings. Freight trains rumbled along the waterfront every few hours, their whistles heralding their arrival and road-crossings and departure. I could interpret the strength of the wind by the frequency and volume of the flag halyards banging against their metal poles outside the ferry terminal building. What I didn’t hear was the sound of Jeffery’s breathing next to me, the cedar tree scraping against our bedroom rooftop, and the quiet noises from my children as they settled in for the night in their rooms. I lay awake in the dark, with Zodiac’s subtle rocking, and grieved for my old life. 

            Sasha stirred in the bunk below me and sighed in her sleep. I rolled over and looked at my dog; she, at least, seemed unaffected by the big change and smiled in her doggy-dreams. I crept out of bed and walked across to Juliet’s bunk, just outside my stateroom door. She was curled up in her blankets and snored lightly. She’d already taped family photos and her drawings onto the walls encircling her bunk, making it appear cozy and uniquely hers. Okay, if Sasha and Juliet can handle this, then so can I.

            For the next several days Juliet and I cleaned house, or rather boat. I scoured the galley and main salon while she swept and dusted. Soon Zodiac looked her old self again. By the time Jeffery returned for the weekend, we had a homey, familial routine established onboard, and I felt almost like a home-maker welcoming my man after a hard day’s work. 

            “Has Tim been by to see you guys yet?” Jeffery asked as we cleared our dinner dishes from the salon table. 

            “Nope, he phoned to check on us two days ago, but I haven’t seen him.”

            “Well, he’ll be pleased with how you have her looking.”

            Our days and nights on the ship became a normal routine. Juliet sat in the charthouse with me, immersed in her home-school lessons as I worked on the marketing campaign for the  ship’s next season. Captain Tim began dropping by the ship once or twice a week and we chatted over coffee in the galley before he set to work on his projects in the shop across the parking lot. And for two days a week we had Jeffery to ourselves. He showed up for dinner on Friday evenings and left at dawn on Monday morning. The tears that Juliet shed during Monday breakfasts faded as the weeks wore on.

            As we settled, I felt desperate to do something more tangible than sit at the computer doing market research and paperwork. I asked Tim if I could do some painting below decks. “Take on whatever you’re willing to do,” he replied. “She needs some freshening up in almost every compartment.” That next day, I started Juliet on her school assignments and went up to the shop. I returned laden with white gloss enamel, thinner, sandpaper, buckets, tarps and brushes. By mid afternoon the galley and companionway were sanded and prepped for paint. I threw myself into the physical work, and it somehow helped me to not think about Gracewinds, the house, the kids, our old friends, or the simple fact of the unknowns facing me. Once I let my mind wander down those lanes, it usually resulted in those same empty and hopeless emotions that paralyzed me last winter. I didn’t want to go there again.

            Besides, as long as I didn’t let myself dwell, for the most part I enjoyed living full time with Zodiac. And it was as if I was living with her and not simply onboard her. She became like a friend to me, and I could tell that she liked having people around her. She was warm and dry, her passageways sported new coats of paint, and there was a constant smell of baking cookies or bread emanating from her galley. Plus there was a joyful child and rambunctious dog skittering across her decks every day. I imagined she could only be happier with a full crew and passengers on board, and her sails filled, out on the seas somewhere. In my characteristic manner, I had already anthropomorphized her to the point that we could carry on conversations. I spoke to Zodiac often, especially when she misbehaved.

            One evening during a substantial south-westerly blow, Juliet, Sasha and I lay in or bunks listening to the wind whip around the rigging; her shrouds particularly noisy. Zodiac creaked and groaned as she pitched and rolled in the choppy water. Juliet finally called into my stateroom, “Mom! I can’t sleep. It’s way too noisy.” 

            “Yeah, she’s getting banged around a bit, huh?” I climbed out of my bunk, reluctant to go up on deck and face the chill of the winds but knowing I should check on things. Throwing on my jacket and slippers I walked past Juliet’s berth. “I’ll go have a talk with her and see if we can’t calm her down a little.”

            “Okay. Tell her I’m trying to go to sleep.” Juliet flung herself around to face the wall of her bunk.

            When I pushed open the charthouse doors I was struck with a severe blast of cold wind. I braced myself and stepped onto the deck, but staggered like a drunken sailor as Zodiac rocked from side to side. Once I regained my balance, I went back to her quarter-bits and checked the mooring lines; all good. I then walked forward and confirmed that her bowlines were fast. “Well, girl, what’s all the fuss? You’re making quite a lot of racket up here.” Another big gust blew past me and I heard the moaning thud that had been pestering us below. I walked around the charthouse and watched as the fore-boom swung back and forth.

             “Hah! So that’s what is going on…. Come here, you.” I picked up the short preventer and tethered the boom to a cleat near the gangway. With her boom cinched in tightly, she quieted right down. 

            “That’s a girl!” I patted her mast as I walked back toward the deckhouse. “Now, how about let’s all get some rest tonight, huh?”

...... t.b.c.

~ Chris

Saturday, December 22, 2012

We Wish You a Maritime Christmas!

Christmas eve in the marina, what a wondrous sight.
The fish boats aglow, bathed in their sodium lights.
No noise but the wind and the sounds off the Bay
as waves crash on the breakwater which stands in their way.

Sailboats and Chris-Crafts all tethered into rows,
Silently bobbing along as the south-easterly blows.
The harbor seals glide past our float-able home
Keeping tabs on the Kwaietek as they quietly roam.

Inside of the vessel, her inhabitants sleep,
Unaware of these vigils that occur in the deep.
The moonlight shines down on the deck of our boat
and cast shadows in the water upon which she floats.

Juliet in her bunk--dreams of  gifts under the tree
When Captain-Saint Nick sails in from the sea.
Should Santa arrive, there'd be nary a witness,
'Cept Lucky Jack, on watch--an alert state of fitness. 

The big sleigh would touch down, properly fit out
with pontoons and a bilge pump that's just lying about.
And should Santa's reindeer swim as well as they flew
She had not a doubt they'd soon come into view.

Padding down the long dock, he'd pause at every slip
leaving presents and goodies aside each lovely ship.   
Oil 'sorbs and chart plotters, new line and some varnish
would be left for good sailors, their effect would astonish.

And Juliet? She'd receive a new bike and a pony
She knew she'd been good--she wasn't a phony.
Certainly Santa could tell, for she had left him a note
Thanking him sincerely for visiting her boat.

Mom and dad were asleep in the cabin next door,
reminiscing about Christmas eve's years before.
Content that their lives had changed for the best,
for their life on the water seemed to be truly blessed.

Lucky Jack silently sat and watched the night time pass by
Keeping track of the stars in the black-velvet sky.

Christmas eve in the marina--a special time of year
that makes us aware of all the things we hold dear.

 .     .     .

Merry Christmas and a Nautical New Year, Friends! 

~ Jeffery and Chris



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Singular thoughts in Mid-Winter

"Be on your guard, there are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world."       ~ Gandalf

It's the week before Christmas. We are steeling ourselves emotionally to see Jeffery off for several months. He'll be leaving at four in the morning the day after Christmas to join up with theTriton, an ocean-going tug. They'll depart immediately for Port Alberni on Vancouver Island's west coast, and tow a log barge down the coast to Coos Bay. ...back and forth from January through April. Hopefully, he'll be able to take a run or two off after the first month to come back home. We aren't quite sure how the whole thing works right now.

"Triton" tug boat

Jeffery is looking forward to this new adventure. The last few months have been pretty slim for us and he has grown tired of scrounging up the next shipwright project while still trying to finish up the current one. (The last yachtie he worked for kept "forgetting" to pay him on time--that didn't help one bit either). Since he has been hoping to get in with a union tug company as an AB "able-bodied seaman"--a merchant mariner certification for deckhand, this opportunity has set him on that path.

Juliet is pretty anxious about saying good-bye to her dad for such a long time. Even the promise of backpacking trips to Shi Shi beach with Jeffery this summer are not convincing her it will be worth it. The holidays are pretty blase' around here these days because of it. The strong winds and biting cold haven't really helped the general lack of cheer.

Last night I crawled into bed all alone. Jeff was occupied with the diesel stove which decided to blow out on one of the windiest nights this month. The temperature in our stateroom was so cold that I could see my breath. For the life of me I couldn't get warm enough under five blankets to thaw out my numb feet. After 45 minutes, I crawled out of the covers and pulled one of the cast-iron skillets from out of the oven. Fortunately, there was enough heat left to keep the skillet toasty hot. I padded back into my bunk; wrapped a towel around the cast-iron pot and stuck my feet around it.  
Shit-balls...this is what it's going to be like for the next three months. pulled the blankets tightly around my chin and tried to shut out those thoughts.

I am consumed with lists. Lists that appear in my brain like a scrolling 'Star Wars' movie intro as I try and fall to sleep at night.
...what about the flu on the diesel stove--we haven't cleaned it since we got the boat--that's why the stove kept being fluky last night... what am I going to do if the bilge pump craps out again?...If we get a big Nor'easter, how am I going to keep the boat warm enough without the wood stove?... the fuel lines in the laz tank are going to plug again, I know they are... on and on and on, ad infinitum. 

Now, I am no stranger to anxiety... Hell, I used to be a small business owner!
If I could have counted my 2AM-5AM strategy/stress-out session as billable CEO hours, we woulda' made a million bucks. The frustrating difference between worrying about my scheduling and staff versus fretting about pumps, 32-volt systems and potential flu-fires is that I usually could affect change once I'd spent all night problem solving.

There are still so very many things I need to learn before taking over complete responsibility of a 90 year old wooden boat. I was just starting to feel pretty good about the skill-set I'd developed with the Gardner diesel. I hadn't started learing how to trouble-shoot generator crap-outs or diagnose and track down clogs in the stove's lines. I am not a big fan of scenarios where there is a high likelihood of chaos. Why am I so nervous about this situation? 
When we put our house on the market three years ago, Jeff remained in Seattle to finish up remodeling left-overs. Juliet and I lived on Zodiac by ourselves all winter long. We survived just fine. We became familiar with the various sounds of  all those pumps and instinctively knew when they didn't sound quite normal. We were able to ride out nasty blows there at dock, occasionally having to run up on deck and tie something down before it blew away. 

As self-sufficient as I like to think of myself (and believe me, I am), I've recently fallen into a comfortable safety net--competent guys there to back me up.  I've always had Tim with me up on the big ship. It's easy to focus only on my strengths and stick just to the jobs I felt secure with because he took care of the rest, or was there to help me out. On Kwaietek, I've been able to select the duties I wanted since Jeffery loves tweaking systems and tracing down little anomalies, (like hair clogs in the sump-pump).  I don't mind admitting that his initial, chivalrous offer to assume the pumping-of-poo job was immediately accepted with nary an argument on my part.

I spent seven years as a single mom while enrolled full-time at the university, I worked as a costumer in the theater department and waitressed in the evenings. I lived on my own with my sons, drove 'em back and forth to soccer and football and ran my own household... while carrying 20 credits and designing award-winning costumes.  Why have I recently given away part of that amazing confidence? Is it because I'm now on a boat and dealing with situations that I'm unfamiliar with... is it because I'm just getting older...lazier?   

No answers. Yet.

Juliet and I will have to pow-wow about dividing up chores once she's back in school. We'll work together to problem solve when things crop up (she's much quicker to pick up on abnormal sounds and smells than me).  I shall manage to push the pump-out cart down the dock without grumbling (too-much), about the 'gender-specific division of labor'  and still get the laundry, dishes and meals done.  We'll make it work regardless of my insecurities.

Nevertheless, I really hope that this new situation gives me back a little of my old confidence and willingness to "get back in there' once again.

We'll miss Jeffery very much, but I know this is going to be an exciting time for him. 

...... And--well heck, just think about all the different stories we'll both be able to start posting in a few weeks!

~ Chris.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weighty Words to Ponder

Kwaietek's deck-house, (main salon) looking aft.

Books are pretty much categorized as ballast when they come aboard a boat. We’re not a family of light readers, nor are we fans of e-books. We prefer to take the interpretation of “read it cover-to-cover” literally. The much-loved, hardback volumes that sat upon our shelves on land have become our traveling companions aboard Kwaietek; destined to accompany us on our many adventures. But when one lives full time on a boat, one must have a designated place to store all of those works of literature. 

 Last August, Jeffery constructed some custom bookshelves in which to house our compilation of reading material aboard our floating home.  They made a huge difference in the living area of the deck-house; separating my “office” from our “den”. The vertical grain fir looks stunning in the salon, and our rather cumbersome assortment of books are now within easy reach.

 Best of all--our pesky list finally disappeared!

The potential problem with the fabulous new library however, is the way in which we may have redistributed the load throughout our vessel. This critical question has increasingly plagued my thoughts once the winds shifted from blunt southerly blows to erratic westerly gusts.  As Kwaietek begins to ride against her dock-lines, I’m almost certain that I feel the rolling much more acutely then I remember from previous years. The deck-house is obviously the worst place to be for such to-and-fro motion.



 Now the last thing we want is to have Kwaietek’s stability altered in such a manner to throw off that whole “righting moment” thing. 

...The only take-away that I retained from the Stability portion of my captain’s course was the term “righting moment” and the equation that amounted to:  “low center of gravity = good / high centered = bad”.

Fortunately, my husband’s brain works in that realm of numbers and formulations, so we set about calculating the impact of our added ballast in the deck-house.

First, we figured the total amount of weight that came aboard with the addition of our bookshelves. Jeffery estimated the weight of the lumber and materials he used to make the shelving. We averaged up the number of crates of books that came aboard once he'd completed the project. The approximate added weight came to 650 pounds in the deck-house, (mostly on the starboard side). 

We then looked for changes below; to counteract the extra weight above, we needed to factor in the new weight we'd contributed from the last two year's of remodeling below.

Juliet's stateroom got significantly heavier when her bunk was remodeled; new drawers, a built-in desk and drawers and a big bookshelf on her aft bulkhead contributed another 400 pounds of weight below. 

Jeffery's initial boat remodel project in our stateroom gave us a port-side dresser that ran the entire length of our cabin. On the starboard-side, we now have a fir and mahogany bunk with storage below and drawers for clothes.  Fully loaded, the new cabinetry in our stateroom amounts to about  600 pounds.


 The master head in the forepeak  has a new cabinet and counter. The old plastic shower unit was torn out and replaced by a custom built, tile shower. We added extra chain to our anchor rode... all told an additional 800 or more pounds of weight went into the head up forward.

The galley and mess are situated in the aft end of Kwaietek. Her diesel stove and copper water heater tank sit far back near the lazarette where Kwaietek's lazarette and day tank for fuel are situated. 

The galley mess is directly over the bilge and pumps. We have four giant storage boxes underneath the settees on each side of the table. Over the course of three years, we have begun to accumulate canned goods and food-stuff in those boxes. Jeffery has recently started using one bin for tools and parts- including a spare bilge pump.

The lead ballast that sits in Kwaietek's bilge was moved around a little recently; Jeff shifted some of the weight inboard. This has helped to compensate for some of that list we were fighting previously. Couple that with the heavy six-cylinder diesel engine that occupies her mid-ship engine room and our generator--there is plenty of low-lying weight in our old girl.

Sitting down over a few beers the other night, Jeffery and I tallied up our figures.
"It looks as if  we're doing okay according to these measurements." He said. "Especially when you remember that we are riding pretty high until we fill our fuel tanks this spring. They're almost empty right now."

"I don't get it, she just feels a little more, I dunno--rocky to me." I replied.

Jeff drained his bottle and glanced over at the bookshelf next to my desk...the one that held a portion of my Che Guevara books, not to mention Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky, C. Wright Mills and various other political science texts.

He leaned back in the chair and smiled widely. 

"It seems as if your choice of reading material is completely at fault here, m'dear...
All the ballast in the world isn't gonna stop us from being a Left-leaning boat." 


He had a valid point there. 


 ~ Chris