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March 2008

February 2008

Our Community of Folks Living Aboard In Maine

As I've mentioned before, we have an excellent neighborhood on the dock. Certainly, we all have an interest in making sure that things are safe, we generally keep watch of others' boats when they are not home, and we help each other in many ways. 

In addition, many of us are tied to the community. Six of us are self employed or small business owners; we vote; and we volunteer. An incomplete list includes active chamber of commerce members, a coach for handicapped skiers, and two who teach yoga classes at the community center. As a group, we have sent packages off to those who are serving in Iraq, and we have supported causes taken up by our neighbors and their families. 

In the future, when La Luna sets sail on her world cruise, we hope to become members of some of the communities we visit. There apparently is an excellent network of world cruisers who spread the word about what is needed in various areas and who then take action to help where it is needed. Delivering books, helping to renovate a school, providing transportation among Pacific Islands are all things that we can do to become involved.

 Some see sailing as the opportunity to "get away from it all". But we don't actually see it that way. I look on it as a way to test ourselves -- but also as a way for us to better develop a world view and to learn others triumphs and challenges in a very hands-on manner. One of my goals during these few years we have left in South Portland, is to become a bit more involved locally and to develop the habits that I want to take with me when we head out. Stew and I certainly have been blessed in many ways. It is time to make sure that we give back to whatever place we call home.

Living Aboard a Sailboat With A Dog (Jake's Story)

Jake in Companionway

    Jake, our black lab was 6 when we moved     aboard -- not exactly an old dog but     certainly one who enjoyed a routine.     Moving was traumatic for him as he had     been semi-abandoned (he was a dog of     divorce) and as soon as the packing process     began he became as needy as a teething 9     month old baby. 

    We moved out of our house and into a     furnished rental while we got the boat ready     for launching. Jake did enjoy the gas fireplace -- but hated everything else about those 8 weeks. Each weekend, we would tie him to the jack stands and climb the ladder to the boat, leaving him below with water and a chew bone. As the snow melted and other boaters started arriving, Jake received a lot of attention and loving and treats from our neighbors - but he never really settled. 

 The boat was launched and almost immediately we began to move our things aboard. His reaction was amazing. He trotted down the dock, greeting the neighbors he had met, bounded up on the boat and easily jumped down the companionway to the main saloon. I'm sure he could smell familiar odors -- and we had already installed his bed in the forward cabin. He inspected the cabins and galley, moved forward to his bed and laid down with a big sigh. He was home. He's been an outstanding boat dog ever since. Now, five years later he needs help up the companionway -- and we are glad to give it. Jake and we are home.

Note that we also forgive a "little shedding". The "Black Vac" removes all food particles, but doesn't touch dog hair. 


Living Aboard a Sailboat - (or Don't You Get Sick of Each Other?)

There are a select number of phrases (usually exclamations) that we hear when we first tell someone that we live aboard. Depending on the person's point of view the usual comments are: 

    "Would you talk my wife into that?" 

     "Wow! No property taxes!"

    "OOH. No lawn to mow!" 

     "What did you do with your stuff?"

 and --today's topic? 

    "You really must love Stew/Barbara to live that close together all the time!" 

Well, we do love each other, and we have a great relationship -- but many of our friends have very strong marriages and they wouldn't do this. So it isn't loving the other person that makes this work (though it helps) it is loving and understanding the lifestyle. It can get close on board -- particularly in the winter. 

The dog (Jake, an 80 pound black lab) is allowed on the settee and the bed mainly to keep him from underfoot. There isn't a lot of floor space on the boat. We don't cook much together anymore. The galley simply doesn't allow it. And sure, there are times when one or the other of us is doing some small task and the other of us seems to be constantly in the way. When that happens -- we step aside and wait out the flurry of activity. 

Really, only two situations make the boat seem very small. The first is if one of us is working on a major project which takes up a lot of room. For instance, when Stew repairs the head, or when he changes the oil, or when he installed the furnace -- I simply leave. Sometimes I stay in the area in case he needs my assistance -- other times I abandon ship and let him have at it.  Similarly, when I took on the gargantuan task of making a new dodger (never again!) most of that work was done while Stew was working on weekends. 

 The second situation that makes the boat appear to be smaller is when one of us is ill. Whether cold, or minor surgery, or flu bug -- there is no place for the ill person to hide --- and no place for the well person to avoid the sounds of coughing and sniffles and kvetching. Our home had a family room on the first floor and a den on the second and we often enjoyed both rooms as a couple, but it is apparent to me now that we did separate when not feeling well. On board -- I strive for patience and we bump into each other reaching for the tissues. Whether fighting a stubborn oil leak or a seasonal cold we work it out and give each other space. That is a small price to pay. We do love each other -- and we love living aboard.

Boat Maintenance (Or Only Handy Man -- and Woman Need Apply)

Each live-aboard boat must have at least one Handy Person -- someone who has a least a basic understanding of all of the systems and who is skilled in a few areas. When we first told friends and acquaintances we were moving aboard, one of the common remarks was, "Please talk with my wife and talk her into that!" First of all, you can't get talked into living aboard. It is a drastic lifestyle change and must be entered into freely by both parties. But often those who wanted me to talk to their wives were not do-it-yourself boaters. I wouldn't have moved aboard with them -- and certainly wouldn't have tried to talk someone else into it!

I've learned a lot during these years on the dock in Maine. I have learned to listen -- to the furnace, the bilge pump, the head, and the fresh water pump. I can quickly pick up when one is miss-firing or coming on too often. I have been proven to be quite good at bleeding the engine, setting the anchor, and using the propane stove and grill. And I am really good at snaking wires behind bulkheads and through hand rails. 

 We both have our strengths. I am thankful that Stew has always been in tune with engines and motors. He can handle plumbing (though he hates it) and he is pretty good with electrical and electronic systems. I am aces at organizing the boat -- have installed more headliner than I care to remember, and have sewn a dodger, cushions, curtains and more. 

As important -- we both have a healthy sense of humor. Living aboard isn't for everyone -- you have to be willing to get down in the bilge -- or the anchor locker -- or any other cramped space where that one thing needs fixing. And it certainly helps to have some idea of what to do once you get there!

Stormy Days On A Live Aboard Sailboat

As I write this the boat is rocking a bit moved by southwest winds that are expected to reach 30 knots today. Southwest is just fine, thank you. At this marina, we watch out for Northeast winds of 25 knots and above -- particularly at high tide.  In a northeast wind at high tide, the fetch ---  where the ocean waves are being generated by the wind --- is much greater giving those waves plenty of time to build up. The northeast wind blows the waves from the mouth of the harbor, up the Fore River and into our marina. 

At low tide, exposed mud banks protect the docks and boats. At high tide, boats are pushed by the wind and bounced by the waves, causing them to pull against their lines. The finger piers struggle against their pilings and against their attachment to the main dock. Metal can weaken or the wood may crack under the strain. Lines fray and part. In can be treacherous to enter or leave the boat, and the motion can make simple tasks onerous. For example, I never get seasick on the dock -- unless I am working on the computer in a northeast wind of 30 knots near or at high tide. 

 Our live-aboard neighborhood knows how to work together in a northeast wind. We all monitor the same VHF radio channel, checking in frequently and when necessary calling out, "South Port Live-Aboards. This is La Luna and we need assistance."  It always amazes me how soon each crew arrives, outfitted in fowl weather gear and life jackets and carrying lines and flashlights. Each new arrival to the scene takes in what is happening, what is being handled and what needs to be done and generally assigns him or her self a role. We keep track of each other, check all boats and lines, and share ginger cookies, stew and coffee. While I don't look forward to the storms, I do enjoy the feeling that we are all together here, watching out for each other. It is a good neighborhood.

Living Aboard at the Marina - While Our Neighbors Move On

We have lived at this marina since September of 2002. As you may imagine, since our homes are portable, the neighbors change each season. There has been a core group of 6 or 7 boats for the past few years and this winter we have been joined by 10 other boats of couples and singles. There are over 25 people living here and it is a great neighborhood. 

We watch out for each other, socialize, and even work together for a cause or community event. Last week 9 of us attended the Democratic caucus. We are sad because in a few months many of our neighbors will leave us -- and only one boat will be leaving for the ultimate best reason -- an extended cruise. 

One couple will move to Arizona where she has accepted a coveted nursing position in a teaching hospital. Another couple will move back into the house they rented 2 years ago when they set sail for the Caribbean. Yet another couple have decided that family and work require them to purchase a home and move back "on the hard". 

Dave and Judy are going to help the rest of us keep the dream alive. They will set sail this spring for Nova Scotia, where they own property. They'll work and enjoy the beautiful Maritime coast and head for the Caribbean in the fall. It is time to begin to plan a major going away party for all of these wonderful neighbors. I am reassured by the nature of this lifestyle and am certain we will have equally wonderful new neighbors next autumn.

Living Aboard a Sailboat in Maine

In May of 2002, my husband and I -- and our black lab -- moved aboard our 47 foot Cheoy Lee sailboat. We had sold our home in March, after an amazing home and yard sale; moved to a furnished rental that was closer to the boat; and got her ready for habitation. We have lived aboard (year round) in Maine since that time, with the exception of one hard year on the hard while we recaulked the teak deck and had other repairs done.

As that last sentence implies, living "on the hard" has been the most challenging year so far in our life with La Luna. We truly enjoy the life aboard and have never regretted the move. In this blog I plan to share some of the experiences of the past few years as well as current events aboard. This is my first step into blogging and is done in anticipation of perhaps creating a blog for my business, Hire Well. In the meantime. If you like sailing, dream of taking your boat to distant shores, and live aboard or wonder what it is like to do so -- then I hope to write something here that will be of interest to you.

First, a brief bio: I was born in Maine, graduated from U Maine Orono, and have worked here since. I was raised inland and did not sail on the ocean until I met the man who became my husband. On our third date, Stew looked deep into my eyes and said, "I sail and all of my friends sail". Having already decided that this was the man I wanted to spend my life with, I replied, "I'm sure I can learn." It wasn't easy, and I never intended to sell most of our land possessions and move aboard nearly 20 years later. It has been a wonderful journey and we are currently planning our next journey when La Luna slips her lines and heads across the Atlantic for the beginning of our world cruise.

The photo is S/V La Luna under sail in Quahog Bay in Harpswell, Maine. It was taken by Jack Nordby, a photographer, sailor, and pilot from Maine.