Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life is What Happens While You're Busy Making Other Plans

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger, wrote that it is impossible to live in the "now" because even when you say the word, it is already in the past.
I ponder on that statement quite a lot.

Our year progresses and the usual signs point to the beginning of the  PNW cruising season. Preparations of both sailors and their vessels can be witnessed at the marina and in the local marine stores. The amount of energy and expense bent on the singular purpose of "getting out there" is highly impressive.

As Jeff and I race to replace some leaky deck planks on Kwaietek and block out a few of our upcoming weekends to repair Sugaree's mainsail and anchor-chain roller, I feel the anticipation with every sunny forecast that scrolls across my phone's weather app. So many chores to finish... so many plans to make... so many expectations about what this season will be like.

This morning I woke to heavy rainfall. The percussion off our plastic winter cover accentuated the rain's brittle patter. I caught myself listening to the quality of the drips that made it through the holes in our diminished cover. A gust of wind could be heard rushing past the masts, it built in intensity and then blew itself out somewhere over the old refinery. Kwaietek rolled back and forth noncommittally, she'd weathered bigger gusts this winter. Somewhere over on D-dock I could hear the sound of a fishboat's generator. Our bilge-pump ran for a few seconds and then clicked off with the familiar gurgle of remaining seawater that failed to make it overboard.

I crawled out of the blankets--annoying Lucky Jack who'd been perched atop my stomach since Jeff and Juliet had departed over half an hour ago. He blinked and then tilted his head toward the bag of 'Whisker Lickins' as if to say, Well, you're up now, make yourself useful. Upon downing his morning snack, he settled into the top shelf of my closet to wait out the storm. 
                                                                 .  .  .  .  .  . 

 I'm thinking again now about Heidegger's statement while I sip my coffee. These past five years of living on the water have changed us greatly. Perhaps it is because of the sudden clamor to finish projects and the super-charged atmosphere of expectancy in the marina... but I'm very aware of how differently we look at life nowadays. It is a good way to live--possibly the closest to being in the Now that we have ever been.

The sounds and smells, the colors and various temperatures of the world around us are so elemental to our waking selves--an integration of the senses that we've adapted as we moved onto the water that make up this change. For practical purposes, it is our very survival that depends on this change. Everything from watching our water intake and output to how the dock lines sound at any given moment. These are just some of the necessities of boat life. Yet the unforeseen benefits are the many nuances and instinctual knowing of our world.

When I am on a boat and away from shore, there is little effort that is required to live immediately. The patterns of ripples on the water ahead are of ultimate importance to me... the formations of clouds and the color of the sky--consciousness occurs innately. Even now, I can imagine the sounds I hear when we are on the water; the brief whispers that occur split seconds before a killer whale surfaces, the pre-dawn splashes of seals hunting, the rapids-like chatter of a rip-tide, our anchor chain grinding against the rocky seabed and the absolute lack of sound during a night-watch on a starry night.

I recognize this reordering of my priorities and try to be as present as often as possible. However, even as live-aboards we get distracted all too many times. I look forward to tossing off our docklines and disconnecting; no more Facebooking, no more political blogs or blaring music from neighboring boats. If there was only a way to bottle the tranquility one obtains from sailing in order to save for the rest of the year... well, Heidegger would be pleased indeed.

The difference between Being and just being can be found in those moments--the ones in between what we have done or thought and what we are about to do or think. Right now, I'm grateful that we have our boat-life and our cruising time to remind me of this. Someday I may evolve enough so that I can live that way no matter where I am... or maybe not. I suppose that's why I read Heidegger.

... Hear that? The rain has stopped. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Well, Was the Winter Cover Worth it?

Last November, we spent two weekends and about two-hundred bucks to construct Kwaietek's weather cover. Our intention was to keep the boat dry enough to get a few pressing projects accomplished during the winter months.

Our dock has several live-aboards that opted for a homemade winter cover as well, so we pooled our resources and purchased supplies en masse. It turned out to be a great neighborhood bonding experience.

 Each boat was a little different of course and presented their own particular challenges to wrap. Fortunately, we had some experienced advise from David B's Jeffrey Smith. (He also lent a hand celebrating the completion of our cover installations).

Four months and roughly six robust windstorms later, we assess the shape of our cover and evaluate it's benefits. The PVC framing has held up pretty well. Jeff learned a good lesson for next year: When using the flame torch to heat-shrink the plastic, he'll avoid heating the PVC up next time. Jeff found that after the heat built up inside the cover it compounded the problem as he brushed the torch back and forth near the pipes. By the fourth or fifth pipe, the PVC began to flex and as the plastic shrunk down. We ended up with some pretty severe warps in our structure. (That we'd been so careful to line up initially).

It has been interesting to see how each vessel's unique wrap-job held up throughout the winter. Some had more success than others. Most held up better than the factory-made fabric boat covers. Overall, we are pretty pleased with ours. It quite likely has maybe one more good storm left in it...maybe not even that much, but it has served us well. Jeff has already planned out some modifications for the next cover.

The decks have stayed relatively dry over the course of winter. So much so that we've been able to complete the deckhouse covering-board project that was priority-number-one.

We've been trying to get stanchions  around our lower deckhouse for a number of years, but always run out of time to complete the project during the dry season and never wanted to pay extra day-rates when hauled out to work on the deck project.
The ability to work at a relaxed pace (well, 'relaxed' for us equals ten-hour days on select weekends), has been a huge bonus. We'll have the posts and rails fastened down before we pull the cover in a few weeks.

Covering board ready for stanchions.

Despite the developing leaks and tearing plastic, the work area has remained dry and unexpectedly warm. In fact, so warm that we often found ourselves working in tee shirts in December through February.

The unforeseen benefit of our weather cover has been a toasty warm boat all winter long. We have enjoyed the shirt-sleeve temps during the day and have been kicking the blankets off during nights for several weeks now.

The animals have taken advantage of our greenhouse conditions and are quick to find the optimum spots for sunbathing. We often use the deck area as an extra room on the boat these days. What with the unseasonably warm February and March weather, we have breakfasted on deck and even held a movie-night with our dock-mates last week. Jeff remarked how surreal it was to have eleven people piled cozily up on deck at 9:30PM in early March. (Global warming much)?

Movie night onboard Kwaietek!

The next job to complete is some corking of deck seams. There are two problem areas that have plagued us for the past three years. Both leaks are situated right over Jeff's and Juliet's pillows!
While we have the luxury of working under cover, Jeff is going to reef out and recork the bad areas--perhaps even replacing one plank.
Work began on this project last night. There's no going back now!

We BBQ'd on deck while he was working on the foredeck and learned one negative effect of living under the cover. And, it really is not a small issue. Proper ventilation is a must when you're residing under what is basically a plastic cocoon. As the propane grill heated up and burned off last week's leavings, we noticed the smoke getting pretty thick up forward.
Always the one to dream up worse-case-scenarios, I started to cut holes and flaps to cross ventilate the boat. Eventually our smoke dissipated, but it isn't something to fool around with. The potential for CO or smoke to accumulate is pretty serious in a wrapped boat. We're pretty satisfied with the amount of venting we have now--and we use fans when painting or using fairing compound... anyway, it is something to really think about when deciding whether to erect a plastic cover and live underneath it.

We have also buffed up our safety measures once the cover was installed. There is an emergency knife hanging at every exit as well as the doorway of every stateroom. We amended our evacuation plan to take into consideration the cover and discussed with our daughter how she would escape from the boat if it were on fire or sinking with the cover on it. Next year we will add smoke and carbon monoxide detectors fore and aft on the framework.

All in all, it has been a great advantage to make a winter cover for our boat. The annual expense isn't overwhelming--and with modifications next year, we can keep most of the parts. The energy spent in erecting the cover is not too cumbersome, especially if neighbors all work together on each other's vessels. The safety concerns are real and should be seriously addressed, but if owners are conscientious and responsible, they are manageable.

Jeff is preparing to begin some shipwright projects on another plastic-covered boat. He will post updates and photos on his new website King Fisher Craftsmen .

I for one, am really looking forward to peeling back the cocoon and revealing all the changes that have occurred inside this winter!