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March 2010

February 2010

Arm Injury -- Beware of Flying Flotsam - More Live Aboard News From the Northeaster

This is the continuing saga of our experiences during the February 25 nor'easter while living aboard. As with the previous time line post, all items in bold will have a post attached soon. 

So as near as I can tell, I was the only person injured on the docks or boats during Thursday's storm. It happened as I was standing on the main dock, Dock A, "standing by" for the folks on Windrifter. There wasn't much I could do for them as their dock had broken; we had called the marina crew and were waiting for them to arrive with heavy lines, a come-along, and the keys to the work boat. 

It was shortly after 11 and EW was running La Luna to keep her on the dock as we had broken three stern lines and weren't going to attach another until we could do a real fix in calmer seas. R and C - owners of a wooden schooner and a steel sailboat - had gone to shore to call the marina's answering service. The owners of S/V Windrifter had a winter cover and not a lot of visibility. Their dock and piling were useless and they were 10-15 feet from any dock. My job was to simply monitor the situation and sound the alarm if things got worse. It would take the marina crew 40 minutes to arrive.

The winds were gusting over 60 and sustained winds were right up there. I was concerned about the potential for injury from flying debris and kept watch up-wind as much as possible -- when whack!  J from Windrifter had opened his cover door to check on the situation and on me.  Windrifter's door

The wind ripped the door from it's frame and it bounced off my left arm as it headed into the water on the other side of A Dock. The pain and surprise brought me to my knees and J was horrified. (His wife D says he will feel guilty for a long time.) It wasn't his fault and I quickly realized that I wasn't seriously injured. No break in the skin, hand and fingers worked just fine with no real severe pain. Now, over two days later, I have a sickly green bruise. 

Later that night, while I stood watch on a fully secured La Luna, I iced my arm, had a spoonful of chocolate bark, and tweeted. (Hey - I was bored - and chocolate is medicinal.) I had told EW that I'd been hit by the door but we didn't have time to talk about it and could barely carry on a conversation under the shrink wrap cover. So he was a bit surprised later when D told him that I had a "compound fracture". That does explain why he asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital!

A bit later D and I went up to "headquarters" to retrieve Romeo, their Maine Coon Cat and D expressed concern for my arm. She used the "compound fracture" phrase with me and I laughed and asked her if she saw any bones sticking out of my arm.  She meant stress fracture -- stress will do that to your language skills -- and laughed too. I assured her there was no fracture and we cleared that up with EW and J so no one lost sleep over my arm - including me. Heck, I had worse bruises on my honeymoon!

Living Aboard During the Northeaster of February 25, 2010. Yeah. That Was Fun

Whew!  It is now two days since the storm ended and EW and I are not back to normal here yet -- but the boat looks great.  A lot happened between Thursday night and Friday morning and we didn't make it to bed until after 3:00 AM. It is currently Saturday, the 27th at 6:48PM. In the Virgin Islands it is 81 degrees and the winds are 9 knots from the southeast. That sounds really, really good right now. 

This post would be massive if I were to tell everything that happened during the storm. So, let's set the stage and create a rough time line. Subsequent posts over the next couple of days will describe some of the events in greater detail. If you see something in bold here you will know there is going to be a post about it. 


The photo at left was taken from the fuel dock o

n a beautiful winter day. The wooden schooner on the far left is owned by R and his wife. To their right is a steel sailboat owned by C. These owners don't live aboard, but R and C both stayed on their boats for the storm (or as you will see, most of it). Our boat, La Luna is the sailboat with the red boot stripe and no mast. To the far right is L's boat a big old wooden something. He was not on board during the storm. There are two live aboard boats to the right of L and out of the photo -- Sam (of the recliner) and M. M was not on board during the storm. On the other side of the dock is B on a catamaran (behind the schooner), J & D in a sail boat (you can see their mast behind and to the left of our boat) A on the power boat and T on the small sail boat.  

Let's begin on the afternoon of February 28. At 3:00 the winds were 18 MPH with 25 MPH gusts. (That's 15.6 and 21.7 Knots.) The rain was heavy and I had gotten soaked walking down the dock. 

5:00 - I wrote an email to our live aboard neighbors, asking if they were going to be on board and letting them know we would monitor channel 78. That makes it easy when someone needs help -- they just get on the radio and we all respond. The prediction was for heavy rains with winds around 30 MPH with gusts to 55MPH. (26/47 Knots)

5:30 - The restaurant next door to our marina was hosting a neighborhood gathering and EW, ourIMG01651
  neighbor J and I decided to go to support the cause (local businesses) and partake of the free food. I wore my full foul weather gear up to the event.  Not the height of fashion, but I stayed dry!  

6:30 - The wind was picking up, so we left for our respective boats. EW and I watched J as he went aboard - falling in would be nasty and falling in with no help present could be deadly. EW and I checked the lines and settled in. I Tweeted and wrote a blog post - which proved to be just a tad to prophetic. 


Confession - I asked for this storm. I did. We have not had a northeast storm of any strength for two years. We have also not had a decent spring and summer for two years. I have stated, often, that I would accept a northeast storm if it meant we had a decent spring and summer. If you choose to blame me for this storm, you also must give me credit if we have a glorious spring and summer. Deal?
8-ish - C came on the radio to say his stern line had broken. EW and I and others went out to help him attach two new ones. Back on board, I tweeted and watched something on Hulu. EW asked of any of "that chocolate" was left. Not likely. He had last seen a chocolate bar in the cupboard over two weeks ago. I did feel guilty about eating it and decided to make chocolate bark.

9 -ish - Bang! Our stern line broke. Those suckers are loud. I got on the radio and folks rallied to help us. EW had to start the engine to get the boat back onto the dock. Once the new line was on, J. noticed that our spring line was a bit long and shortened it up on the cleat. Back down below, we went for the chocolate. It tasted great, but it never did harden so we had to eat it with spoons. 

9:30-ish- Another bang from the deck. I thought it might be the door banging open, so EW looked out the companionway and cheerfully reported, "No the door's still shut.  I said, "That's a bad thing." He was puzzled by my response until he realized that we did hear a bang and as I said, "An open door is the easiest thing to fix." Sure enough, our stern line and broken again. Back on the radio. This time T had a line he suggested we use. While I was out on the dock, someone said that one off the buoys offshore was recording 22 foot seas. Lovely. The winds kept building. 

10-ish A very loud bang. Yep. Our stern line had broken and -- to make things interesting the ridge pole of our cover frame had broken as well. EW went to the cockpit and started the engine. I got on the radio and made the call -- then he told me to have folks stand down. As you may have surmised, we had an issue with the way the stern line was rigged. I promise to share fully what we had done - and were now up against - in a subsequent blog. He and I talked and decided it made no sense to keep breaking lines. The wind was too strong and we had to re-rig the stern line. We told folks that we weren't going to fix the line until the tide went down. Instead, we would take shifts manning the helm and holding the boat onto the dock. Oh joy. EW took the first shift and suggested I get some sleep. I set my alarm for 11:30 and settled onto the settee.

11-ish - D came on the radio. She asked whether I had heard yelling and whistles. We couldn't hear anything over the engine and shrink wrap flapping and the creaking of the broken frame. (Couldn't sleep, either.) I told her I was on my way, suited up and left EW in the cockpit, driving the boat while trying to hold the wooden frame up. R and C were on the docks. They had gone out to check lines and realized that J and D's dock was breaking away from the main dock. Instead of getting on the radio, they had yelled and blew whistles to get J and D's attention. The three of us decided that we had to get the marina crew down here. R and C went up to shore to make that call.  

11-ish as well -- A came home from his classes to find that his cover was pretty much gone. He cut the rest of it away and stowed the frame so it wouldn't blow away and hurt someone or something. (Yep, that's the boat I had mentioned in my earlier blog). 

11 something - L's wooden sailboat broke a bow line and the bow started pushing on the next dock. Sam's sailboat is on the other side of that dock and the extra pressure could cause his dock to break. Once R and C came back down, they got Sam out and the three of them rigged a line from the wooden boat's anchor to a couple of pilings, taking pressure off of the dock. 

12:00 or so - The tide was now (finally) low enough so that the mud flats stopped the waves. We still had high winds and rain. Later on Friday we found out that the winds had gusted to 67MPH at the airport. I went back aboard La Luna to let Stew know what was going on and to help him. With the ridge pole broken, our door had collapsed onto the boat. To get aboard I had to crawl in beside the door through the ripped plastic. EW had figured out how to run a stern line that would hold and he and I were able to do that without help. We really thought the cover might blow away so I decided to clear all the stuff from the deck. We had project stuff, "mud room" stuff, two foam mattresses, and stuff from the aft lazarette. 

12:45 - Then, with La Luna finally secured, I stayed on board and EW went out to help J and D. You didn't think that was over, did you? Not by a long shot. I stayed with the boat and iced my injured arm and Tweeted a bit. 

1:15 - The wind was still pretty strong but La Luna was secure so I went back out to help with J and D's boat. R and C had decided to go to their respective homes when the boat yard crew arrived around midnight. They thought that other docks might break up and decided they had made their boats as secure as they could. 

3:00 - J and D's boat was tied to the next dock down (the same one the power boat is on) and EW and I went to bed. As I was drifting off, I heard voices out on the dock but we didn't realize that a decision had been made to move their boat to C dock. We missed that. 

4:15-ish - J and D are secure on C dock, the boat yard crew heads home.  

When I read this post, it all seems so matter of fact. It wasn't scary, but it sure as heck was physical. It was a lot of work. 

After this, we had better have a very sunny spring and summer. Remember, if we do, I want some credit for it. 

REVISION -- Was just informed (March 4th) that the web site I used to convert from Knots to MPH was wrong, or I used it wrong. The post has been changed to correct that. Thanks to John and his friend Chris for letting me know. 

You say Nor'easter, I say Northeaster -- Whatever. Living Aboard During One is Not a Lot of Fun

But we can't call the whole thing off! 

Yep. We are in a nor'easter. The winds are gusting above 40 and the "gusts" seem to be the norm to me.  We have just over an hour before high tide - which means we have over three hours of the rocking and rolling ahead of us. The winds are supposed to keep up until 4:00 AM so it won't be totally quiet by any stretch of the imagination.

I've silenced all things that were possible to silence -- did find that knife rack bungee and added some extra padding. Works like a charm. We put old towels under the frame supports that were swinging and banging. We retied one support as the line was chafing. We checked the 6 dock lines and chafing gear and we know where most of our neighbors are. Those who are aboard are monitoring channel 78 on the marine radio. So if we have problems, we can get help quickly.

I think that last thud is the lines pulling as we roll. I can't change that. So here is what I tell my family -- we have a stout boat and I am not afraid that we will be injured or die. Certainly when we are doing dock walks we go in pairs (at least) and carry line, but on the boat, we are fine. If the lines part from the dock or if our finger pier breaks away from A Dock, then La Luna will be damaged and we will have an unpleasant time working to secure her. (Yes this has happened but not to us.)

If the cover doesn't hold, we will at the least drench everything on deck -- at the worst things will fly off with the wind. That has never happened while we've been here. We did a good job with the cover and it is practically water tight since we didn't have to work around mast and shrouds. If our neighbor's power boat stays covered it will be a miracle. (Flimsy frame and a number of patches.) 

EW and I just tried to find whatever was banging and have determined that it is something from the dock that sounds just like a locker door banging. I will just have to get over it. The frame is flexing and creaking in the wind. The sound of the rain on the plastic makes the rain sound worse than it really is. We are at home. EW is reading (when I'm not making him look for noises) and I am writing this then will read or watch Hulu. Still love living aboard - but could have done without this weather. Really.

When You Live Aboard on the Dock, Storm Issues are Wind Direction and Tide

Yesterday, I packed up my home office and moved it to shore for the day. The Northeaster we are experiencing had winds with gusts to 30 knots at high tide in the morning. Northeast is our only exposed direction here -- and then only within 2 hours of high tide; after that the mud flats protect us.

We did not get a lot of sleep last night. Winds gusted above 30 (still not strong enough for dock walks) and the rain pelted down on the cover and the boat rolled from side to side. There were/are various rattles, squeaks, and thuds throughout the boat and on deck. As I lay awake (I heard the ship's bells at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30, 3:00 and 3:30) I tried to catalog each sound in order to describe them to you this morning. 

  • Early in the evening the sharp knives rattled in their holder. I put them on the counter. They are back in the holder and rattling now. We also have (somewhere) a bungee cord to hook around them. This stops the rattle and keeps them from bouncing out at sea. Gotta find that.
  • Did I mention the rain? I'm sure I did. I made it back aboard during a light sprinkling. After that it was torrential. Since we have the shrink wrap cover the rain doesn't fall on the boat -- good thing, the deck is now a workshop/storage/mud room -- but the sound of even light rain on the plastic cover is very loud. Torrential rain was torrentially loud. 
  • One of the wooden upright supports for that cover actually swings a bit above the deck. This was not planned but it just is. In a heavy wind the cover flexes and the wooden support thuds onto the deck.  
  • We have a deep toned squeak when the boat rolls. In the main salon it sounds like it is coming from the port side. In the master stateroom it sounds like it is coming from the starboard after quarter. We can't find it on deck. 
  • Water laps the hull. That is more prevalent when we are rolling. We are rolling. Last night we were rolling a lot.

If you see me today and I look tired. This is why. 

Today's weather is forecast thusly: 

Today... Rain. Windy. Near steady temperature in the upper 30s. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph...Increasing to 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph this afternoon. Beach erosion and coastal splashover possible near the time of high tide this morning. Chance of rain near 100 percent.

 Tonight... Rain in the evening...Then rain or snow after midnight. Snow accumulation around an inch. Beach erosion...Significant splash-over and possibly coastal flooding near the time of the evening high tide. Very windy with lows in the mid 30s. Northeast winds 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 55 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.

This morning, the winds are much lighter than they were yesterday. Tonight they are projected to be that much heavier. Oh joy.

And yes, I still love living aboard. 

Northeast Winds in February - Or Why I'm Going to Work from Shore Today

In a previous post I discussed the first things most people say when they hear we live aboard. There will be another list post down the road about the things people worry about for us (heat, storms, water, etc.)

In this marina, we don't like strong northeast winds -- at high tide they make us bounce. REALLY strong northeast winds (35 to 40 and up) can damage the docks and one or both of us stick around to protect the boat and keep an eye on the lines. This morning we have 20 knots from the northeast with gusts to 29 and high tide was 6:19. We are fine and the boat is fine but it is not comfortable to sit at your desk and try to work on the computer as your boat rolls left and right. 

When EW got our vitamins out this morning, he put mine in the iron skillet on the gimbaled stove so I wouldn't lose them.  (I <3 EW)

This is what things looked like from our open door at 7:30 AM today. It is why I have taken my laptop to a friend's office. (I <3 Lynnelle). 

Relaxing On Deck: One Live-Aboard's Style

A few weeks ago as I was walking out to our boat I noticed a large object on the deck of a neighbor's boat. It looked like ... no, could it be? It looked like a recliner. A large reclining chair on his deck!  Now, since we don't lock our shrink wrap doors, I could have just peeked to see for myself, but I decided to wait until I ran into Sam on the dock.

Me: Sam, do you have a recliner on board?

Sam: Yep. I've got two of them!

Me: Really.

Sam: They are the best! Very comfortable down below. I've had them on board for years. I had to move one to the deck to make way for the heater this winter. It's great on a sunny day. 

So I asked Sam whether I could take a photo of him in his on-deck recliner for this blog and he graciously agreed. Sam in his On Deck Recliner

He does look comfortable, but did say he doesn't have room on deck to actually recline. Down below is a different story. "These are great to have on board, especially when we are rocking a bit. It's a very secure seat." 

You know how once something is brought to your attention, it keeps popping up? Well I've been reading a lot about making boat cushions for the cockpit and below and have particularly been reading all I can find by Don Casey. In one of Don Casey's articles, he states that he much prefers having two chairs, preferably reclining ones, instead of a settee. (Of course he is talking about below decks, though I'm sure he would approve of Sam's unique style.)  

We aren't going to remove our settee. EW would kill me and I'd miss the storage. So stay tuned over the next few months as I try to do most of what Don describes in order to make our main saloon more comfortable. 

Harts At Sea Song -- To the Tune of Gilligan's Island Theme

So -- with my good friend Lynnelle (@lynnelle on Twitter) I have started to undertake ProBlogger's 31 Days to a Better Blog. Yes, I purchased it months ago - better late than never.

Day One: Come up with a "Elevator Pitch" for your blog. In my daily life as a self employed hiring consultant, I do a lot of networking and I teach traditional networking techniques to area chamber members. Elevator pitches are a specialty of mine. In keeping them short I remind people that we have no sky scrapers in Maine. Gotta get it done in 4 floors! But I've never thought of an elevator pitch for my blog. Great idea, Darren. 

Lynnelle and I met for breakfast with printed copies of the first three days, pens and paper and did some brainstorming. I want this blog to be interesting, informative and fun (funny at times). And I want to convey that in my elevator pitch. Of course the E.P. must mention sailing and living aboard, too. So, I said to Lynnelle, "Wish I had the words for the Gilligan's Island theme -- bet I could do something with that!" Seconds later, the theme was on Lynnelle's IPhone and I wrote my first blog elevator pitch:  

Harts At Sea is the tale of a fateful trip that started in a cold Maine port aboard a tiny ship.

Now this E.P. will certainly change over time -- but that's what I am going with now. Those who know me will know I couldn't stop there, however. So ... Here is our new theme song -- sung to the tune of Gilligan's Isle:

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,

A tale of a fateful trip

That started in this cold Maine port

Aboard this tiny ship, Aboard this tiny ship.


The mate is a mighty sailing man,

The skipper willing and new

On April 1st with dog named Jake

They moved aboard in 02. They moved aboard in 02


The winter started getting rough,

The tiny ship was tossed,

If not for the courage of the fearless crew

La Luna coulda been lost. La Luna coulda been lost.


Read about the past eight years sailing and living in Maine

With Barb At Sea

And Cap’t EW

The Champion Boat Yard Dog

The Boat La Luna

Our Friends and Family

Here on Harts At Sea


So this is the tale of the Harts At Sea

They’ve lived aboard a long time

Now they are preparing to sail away

And it’s an uphill climb. And it’s an uphill climb.


Now Barb At Sea and the Cap’t too

Will do their very best

To prepare La Luna to cruise the world

And fulfill their years’ long quest. And fulfill their years' long quest.


We’ve phone, radio and safety gear

And we have some luxury 

Like those who tour in land yachts

As comfortable as can be. As comfortable as can be.


So join us here each week my friends,

You’re sure to get some smiles,

From Barb At Sea and Cap’t EW

As we cruise to distant isles. As we cruise to distant isles.

The Top Ten Responses We Get When People Learn We Live Aboard

It began in 2002 when we were preparing to move aboard La Luna and started telling folks about the process -- selling stuff, selling the house, finding interim housing, preparing the boat and moving aboard. It continues to this day. Telling folks that we live aboard, year round in Maine, can really hi-jack a conversation.  So, in an order roughly related to how often we have heard a particular response from least to most -- The Top Ten Responses to Living Aboard are:

Number 10: Cool. I know/knew someone who has done that. Do you know So-and-So? If they have lived aboard in Portland in the past few years, we probably do. There are only two live aboard marinas here. 

Number 9: Is it a houseboat? No it is a sailboat.Often these people don't get it at all and continue to use the term "houseboat" when talking with us. La Luna is NOT a houseboat.

Number 8: What did your family say? Our adult son called dibs on the artwork and the tools. My sister thinks it's great -- one of my brothers thinks we are crazy and has never been below. Having a beer on deck on the dock was all he would accept. My other brother and EW's sister and brother support the idea and have been sailing with us. I do think we are considered the strange/cool aunt and uncle -- depending on the family. (Three people have said that they were pleased I didn't do this until after my mom -the worrier- had passed away. That was not mean, it was insightful.) 

Number 7: Please talk my wife into this. No. I will not. First of all - you both have to want to do this totally willingly. It works for us but you have to make it work. Secondly, some of these guys who want me to talk to their wives - I wouldn't live aboard with them. At least one person on board needs to be able to fix things. Fix a lot. Fix a lot of different things. If you can't do this, don't move aboard. We went to a party with yacht club members right after we made this decision and a wife there asked us to "talk her husband into it." She could definitely live aboard. He (rather rudely) actually pulled her away from us as he wanted no part of it. I wouldn't have tried to talk him into it either.

Number 6: What did you do with all your stuff? Got rid of most of it. Stopped buying things we didn't need. One of the best benefits of living aboard. We had too much stuff. 

Number 5: Good for you - no snow to shovel. (See the condo reference in Number 3.) Actually, we have a shovel and use it to clear our own pier. When the marina crew is slacking we have been known to shovel the length of the docks.

Number 4: Are you planning on sailing away? Absolutely. We've actually stuck around longer than we intended. When we leave, we plan to sail until we are done. We have a long list of destinations we would like to see all around the world.  

Number 3 Nice! No lawn to mow. (These people need to move to a condo.)

Number 2: Whoa! No property taxes. Well, actually we pay dock fees to a marina that pays property taxes. What do you want to bet that we pay property taxes? By the way, this is most often stated by someone in finance and accounting.

And the Number 1 response when boaters find out we live aboard: Do you sail a lot? Really? (Alternatively put - Do you ever get off the dock?) Yes. We have the fifteen minute rule. In the sailing season, we keep things stowed and on a normal, non-project day can leave the dock in 15 minutes. We live aboard because we like to sail. It is why we are here.