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February 2013

Getting Ready for Guests: Fixing the Forward Cabin

I did a pro-ject! I did a pro-ject! 

I know, big whoop.  EW has been the god of projects – Thor, Zeus – whomever, he’s been tearing it up this month, and his list is a long one. I am not worthy. But the dreaded Forward Cabin Project has been looming on my horizon and time was short. Here’s the thing. The only reason there was a Forward Cabin Project is because I screwed up years ago, and never fixed my mistake. It bugged EW who, 1. probably wouldn’t have made this exact mistake and who 2. would definitely have fixed it long before now. Here’s what happened.

During The Year From Hell, when we hauled out for 6 months that lasted 12 and removed every blessed thing from the deck, one of my projects was to replace the headliner with new fabric when we were putting the boat back together. It was my job. Fabric jobs are always my job and the phrase is “It’s a fabric thing.” This included laying vinyl flooring when we had a house. I am very good at making an exact pattern in the bath, cutting the vinyl and laying it down. Perfectly. Headliner is a whole different story.

So, the old headliner was removed early in The Year From Hell, as we had to reach the million nuts that were attached to the hundreds of deck items. Really, you have no idea. I had no idea. I didn’t know real people could take this stuff off a deck. At that time I measured the fabric and optimistically ordered it from Sailrite. Then, we stored it at each of the three rental properties, carefully moving it from place to place. I did tell you it was The Year From Hell, right? Finally, nearly 12 months later, it was time to install the headliner. Except I kind of forgot how it worked and I definitely measured the forward cabin pieces once, twice, thrice and still cut them too short. In a boat of our vintage and style, the headliner is often fabric, stapled to what I call “ugly trim”. Ugly trim is hidden by the headliner and the staples are covered by “pretty trim”. Well, that’s how I remembered it, anyway. I had carefully removed and marked all pretty trim and most of the  ugly trim. Tying them in bundles to correspond with each room in the boat. The ugly trim that was removed, covered nuts from the deck stuff. If it didn’t cover nuts, it wasn’t removed.

P2150046Here’s the error. Since most rooms in the boat are longer than the width of the fabric, you will find two pieces of ugly trim screwed within 54 inches of the forward bulkhead. One is supposed to remove one of those pieces of trim and staple headliner that goes both fore and aft of that trim to the edge of the trim. And then, one re-attaches the other piece of ugly trim to create a nice seam. You “simply” pull the fabric tight at the other end and along the sides, and around the lights, and around the hatches, and around the dorade vents, and … well there’s nothing simple about it. I had forgotten what to do with those two pieces of ugly trim and simply stapled fabric to it, leaving a two inch gap, since I figured there must be a piece of pretty trim to cover it.

Here’s the ugly trim in question. You can see scraps of fabric from the origional headliner at left in the photo. One would think that I would have noticed them and wondered …  hmmm, I bet this is important. I did not wonder.

P2150044EW wasn’t pleased with me. I had struggled with this room – though it turned out to be the easiest of all of them – and had no intention of re-doing it at that time. Plus, I didn’t have enough fabric. I did try numerous fixes. EW absolutely refused to have a special piece of teak trim cut. Go figure. I found out that various white vinyl from Home Depot looked just like white vinyl fencing taped to the ceiling. EW was even less thrilled. Now I had staples, ugly trim, and tape marks showing.  I completed installing the headliner for the rest of the boat, using the ugly trim as it was meant to be used, and I moved on.

You don’t really notice it much in the photo at right, do you? Much?





Now you do. This is the guests eye view of the mistake.

EW was still not thrilled. The only time you even saw the ugly trim was if you were lying on your back on the bed. In the guest cabin. So, who saw the ugly trim? Guests. Still, I didn’t rush out and  purchase new headliner. The Year From Hell had traumatized me and I needed time to adjust – five years or so should do it. Before I could fix it, we went cruising. The boat sailed just fine with the ugly trim showing. We went to a fabric store in Fajardo in December 2012, but they didn’t have any headliner. Oh darn. This October, EW accompanied me to a fabric store in Trinidad and we bought headliner. Oh darn – for real this time.

This week, we are delighted to host friends from New York for a few days. Jimmy and EW went to grammar school together have remained friends. We are super excited that he and Marcia are going to join us for fun in St. Thomas. EW pretty much insisted that the forward cabin be fixed for their visit. We didn’t fix it for Favorite, last year in St. Thomas. We didn’t fix it for the Klein’s visit this past summer in Grenada. You can bet that one of us mentioned it both times. In case you’re wondering, I was not the person who brought it up. You probably knew that.

P2160058I couldn’t fix the forward cabin until EW completed the weeks long repair of the aft shower. He agreed with that. We can’t have two major projects going at the same time and actually live here. So, last weekend became Forward Cabin Weekend. It wasn’t awful. Here’s what I accomplished:

  1. Clean out our library. This actually occurred a few days prior to the weekend. We sent five bags of books to the book swap and sent a good-sized box to Mo for safekeeping. 
  2. Empty out the forward cabin.
  3. Remove all the pretty trim and the hatch trim.
  4. Remove the old headliner.
  5. Remove one length of ugly trim.
  6. Hang the headliner.
  7. Paint the forward cabin. We had painted parts of the forward cabin, aft stateroom and main salon during The Year From Hell. It was a good idea and I plan to refresh it all with a coat of paint – someday soon. It was easy to do this cabin now while it was torn apart.
  8. Hang the pretty trim and the hatch trim.
  9. Put everything back.






The whole thing – 2 thru10 – only took a day and a half. What had I been dreading? It looks great, all ready for Jimmy and Marcia. My apologies to Stu and Cathy, Favorite, Amy, Lynnelle, Jon, Ed and Lynn, Jimmy, Howie and the rest of you for any indignity you may have suffered due to your view of the ugly trim and staples. Can you forgive me? EW has.




Yesterday, I was out dispatching for Fun Water Tours, and called EW before heading back to the boat. “If you want crepes for breakfast tomorrow, bring milk home.”

I can do that.

I had to work again this morning, at the Crown Bay cruise ship dock, which is close to La Luna, so instead of having a quick breakfast, I made a few Valentine’s for my sweetie. If you can’t read them, they say:

Be my Valentine? We’re a perfect match!

You are the King of my heart. Happy Valentine’s Day

A third one, not pictured, says,

Be Mine! You float my boat!

A few scattered hearts and he knew I loved him. As if that were in question – NOT!

I also made a few hearts and attached them to my tour sign, which was appreciated by the cruise ship guests and other tour operators. Leroy, the security guard at the gate got a kick out of telling folks on tours 812 and 815 to “look for the lady with the hearts”. One couple who joined the all day sail and snorkel tour are celebrating their 28th wedding anniversary today, so they really liked the hearts.

Back at the boat by 8:30, EW had all but two crepes cooked, and rolled with blueberry jam. When the rest were done they went into a warm oven and we … well, please enjoy the view and we’ll be right back.


Where was i? Oh. And then, EW put Nat King Cole on the stereo, and we dined on crepes and fresh cantaloupe, to “Unforgettable”, “Smile”, “Let There Be Love”, “Send for Me”, and “L-O-V-E”

Life is good.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


For more posts about relationships at sea while living this life, check out www.Raft-up.Net.

Married for Life, But Not for Lunch? What 24/7 Really Means

Which do you think would be more stressful on a marriage?IMG01822

1. Selling your home and nearly all of your belongings; moving most of the rest, including an 85- pound Black Labrador, aboard a new-to-you 47-foot boat; and living aboard, year-round, in Maine for 8 years.

2. Cutting the dock lines, leaving Maine, and setting sail for a Cruise of Indefinite Length in that same boat and with that same spouse. (We lost Jake, the Lab two years prior to setting sail.)


AT RIGHT: Our former home.


IMG01488If you thought as I did that moving aboard, and living on the dock through eight Maine winters would be more stressful than living on the hook on a familiar and loved boat, with a familiar and loved spouse -- you’d be wrong. The difference is the marketing phrase:  24/7.  There is comfort in that phrase if you’re talking about convenience stores and emergency rooms -- not so much if you’re talking about life on board with one’s beloved spouse. Trust me.





ABOVE: One winter on the docks.

BELOW: On the hook in the Bahamas. (Yes, I am aware that I have nothing to complain about.)


Much of my blog during our first year as cruisers focused on two issues: Boat Projects and Our Relationship.  Both issues could only be kept in perspective through humor and love, and humor may have been the more important of the two.  We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary the year we left Maine, and I believe that we fought more during our 26th year of married life than we had in all of the prior years. I tried to explain this to a couple from our yacht club back home who met up with us a few months into our second year as cruisers. They took a one-year sabbatical, sailing down from Maine and making it as far south as Guadeloupe, before heading back home. When we last talked, they said that they were glad to have done it, but that they weren’t ever going to cruise full time.  I tried to tell them that the first year was the worst, and told them how much better things were in Year Two. It’s true. We still undertake planned and unexpected boat projects, but not to the extent that we encountered in our first year at sea. And we still have some disagreements, but they are much fewer and farther between than the epic fights of our first year.  Good thing, or I’d have had to kill him.  (Just kidding. Violence never occurred to me. Really.)

My sweetie, EW , and I moved aboard our 47-foot Cheoy Lee cutter in May of 2002. We had a five year plan, during which we would live aboard year-round, on a dock in Maine, while we worked to prepare the boat and our finances for the Cruise of Indefinite Length. Five years turned into eight years of sailing on weekends and vacations in the summer, and actually enjoying the challenges of Maine winters:  northeasters, ice, record-breaking tides, sleet and snow, breaking docks, and living under shrink wrap. When we first lived aboard on the dock, EW would set off every morning for a 45 minute commute to his office up the coast, and I would depart a bit later for my 10 minute commute to an office just across the river. Life was certainly more interesting than it had been living like normal people do, but we never experienced what we called the “Oh. My. God!” moment, when one or the other of us would realize that we had made a big, huge mistake. We, and our black lab, Jake, took to living on the water with good humor, mostly realistic expectations, and the willingness to “get her done”. In the winter, EW schlepped fuel down in jugs, we worked with our neighbors on Saturdays to get water via hoses lying on the bottom of the bay, hosted parties with the other live-aboards, and organized storm procedures. It was a great neighborhood, and our marriage thrived. Sure, we still had moments of discord, but that was no different than when we lived as normal people do in a home on land.

In fact, the move from home to boat was only a move of one mile from our home of 15 years to a marina in the same town. We voted in the same place, shopped in the same grocery stores, ate in the same restaurants, and participated in life in southern Maine much as we had before. We no longer could host our large Thanksgiving celebrations, but were exempt from hosting the much larger family Christmas party. Life was good, and we were working together toward a ginormous goal -- leaving our jobs, setting sail, traveling to distant shores, and living on the hook -- just the two of us, together -- twenty-four/seven. How romantic!

Not so much.

Babara with HeadsetBefore we even left Maine, I was shocked to discover that our future life at sea wouldn’t always one of romantic harmony.  In the spring of 2010, five months before our planned departure, we opted to save money and “practice” by leaving the dock and taking a mooring near EW’s Yacht Brokerage office, forty-five minutes north of Portland. For the prior five years, I had been working as a consultant, with an office on the boat, and could fairly easily work from Brunswick as I finished my last client obligations.  EW would commute to work by dinghy, giving him more time to tackle a boat project in the evening. He was delighted. As was I, until he began to come home for lunch - in my office! I would be working on the laptop, or talking on the phone and he’d clamber aboard, bang around in the galley, and sit down at the other end of the dinette, munching and crunching on a sandwich and chips. I was chagrined to discover that I resented his presence, and a bit appalled when I realized that this would be my life -- this invasion of my space. This lack of control of when lunch occurred, this lack of alone time, and this togetherness was what we had been working towards for the past eight years!

I handled it by writing a blog post in which I confessed one of my hidden quirks. I thought it was a funny post that poked one of my foibles. When EW read it, his feelings were hurt. “You mean you don’t want me to have lunch with you?” Well, that wasn’t the message I had intended, but truly I didn’t want him to come home for lunch every day. However, this break was important to him, so I adapted. Some days I worked off the boat at an Internet café, and when I did work from home, I broke for lunch whenever EW arrived. 

Over the next year, we worked out many other things - most with humor and compromise, but more often than I would like to admit there were harsh words and tears before the humor. Still, we never had the “Oh. My. God!” moment at sea, either. This living on the water is an excellent lifestyle for us. Here’s how we make it work:

1. We apologize more often and more quickly. We still may snap or snark at each other, but we take it back or say “I’m sorry” and move on, usually within minutes.
2. We’ve forgiven each other for old news and past issues.
3. We each have embraced the opportunity to develop new passions, and fully support each other in those activities. EW has his music and I have my writing. I never tire of listening to him practice and can enjoy endless repetitions of the same song or chorus while writing or reading. When he participates in an Open Mike Night or Music Jam, I almost always attend, take photos, and proudly act as his “Band Aide”. I write for my blog, have self-published a book about our first year at sea, and have written a number of magazine articles. EW edits, praises, gives me the time and space to write, brags about me often, and -- most important -- cheerfully accepts his role as “The Topic”.
4. We find a few ways to each have some alone time on the boat. I may go grocery shopping alone, or play dominoes in Trinidad or Grenada, or meet with other cruising ladies for a walk or day trip. EW will go to another boat to practice music or help with a project, take the local bus to seek parts for something, or even participate in a poker night. What the one left does aboard isn’t relevant. We may read, watch a movie, make a SKYPE call, or write or play music. We may actually tackle a boat project.  A little time alone on the boat is precious to each of us.
5. We love to laugh, and can easily laugh at ourselves. For us, this makes this 24/7 lifestyle work. 

Instead of the “Oh. My. God! What have we done?” moment. Our life is full of gratitude and wonder that we are able to live aboard and fully embrace and enjoy this lifestyle. As we often say when sitting in the cockpit at sunset, “This does not suck.”

On the top!

ABOVE: 2011 in St. Lucia


Anniversary 3 St. Lucia 2011 7-6-2011 1-17-55 PM

AT LEFT: 2011 26th Wedding Anniversary, St. Lucia


Finally, this is my first post for Raft-Up, a site that offers boating bloggers the opportunity to blog about a particular topic each month. This month's topic is Relationships at Sea, one of my favorites. For other takes on this topic, check out Raft-Up. 

Showering Naked - At Last


Oh, the joy of showering in one’s own shower. The feel of skin on skin. The aroma of my favorite shower gel, the joy of shaving my legs without an audience. Don’t try to picture this in your mind – I’m over 50 and jiggly with it. And don’t for a minute imagine EW and I showering together. Not saying that hasn’t happened, but that’s not the kind of blog I write – and this is a really small shower. Do feel free to imagine my euphoria when, after six weeks of showering on deck,  I finally was once again able to take a private shower in our floating home.

EW had to undertake a major shower repair, so to keep clean, and maintain our friendships, we would jump into the Caribbean Ocean, climb back on deck, soap up the bared parts and over our swimsuits, shampoo our hair, jump back into the ocean for a swim and rinse, then climb out on deck for a fresh water rinse. Alternatively, we could simply use the fresh water hose on deck, but if we were washing in public in swimsuits we decided we might as well save water by showering the cruisers’ way. At least once during the week I’d be soaped up or even shaving my legs to see one of the tourists boats enter or leave the beach along our starboard side. I do not  want to see those vacation photos.

The Shower Project started out as Another Project when I discovered a hole in the fiberglass while cleaning. I knew right away that this wasn’t a good thing. We have a traditional boat shower stall, with fiberglass over a wood frame, and a teak grate on top. More modern boats have a home-like all fiberglass shower stall – some of those in the catamarans are huge and I get shower envy. But I digress. I was scrubbing the shower, but not overly hard, and my fingers sound this irregular section that hadn’t been there before. It was a hole, about the diameter of a penny. I hated to break the news to EW, but someone had to and I’m the only other person on board. He took it well.

Thus began Shower Project. He could have completed it sooner, but in the midst of the project, Cousin Jeff asked EW to fill in at his carpentry shop for a month. EW also wanted to take his time to analyze the situation and even had Jeff out to the boat for a consult. Of course, no boat project remains a one-task project, and this one fell into the “As Long As We’re Doing Blank, Let’s Do Blank-Plus, Too” category of projects.

SIDE NOTE: I am very familiar with this category because in our “normal” life EW and I renovated a home. As long as we are taking of the siding, let’s put in new windows. As long as we are redoing the wiring, let’s put in an attic floor. As long as we’re renovating the kitchen, let’s move the downstairs bath. You get the idea. I have come to understand that a couple who survived nine years of on-again/off-again full house restoration can easily survive living on a small boat at sea. In fact, it’s excellent training.

So, as long as EW was going to rip apart the shower floor, he was also going to re-plumb the shower, install a new shower sump, and change the path of the through-hull hose so that it bends far above the waterline. It was a big project. It created a bit of a mess, but that was mostly confined to the aft head and pilot berth area. I elected not to undertake more of my big project while his was going on. It just gets too confusing, and there’s not enough room for two big projects at once. EW kept apologizing for the mess and for the time the project was taking – but none of it bothered me. Even the showers on deck aren’t horrible, and I’ll continue to do so some days for the joy of swimming and to conserve water. I just would like to have the option of showering below in private when I want to.

So, here’s what my hero did:

  1. Once he determined how to take care of the wood, he started in – first working in the bilges to remove the shower plumbing. That proved to be a challenge, so he had to go to the hardware store and find a special tool. He was so excited when he came home. “I was thinking about the kind of tool that would work best for this, and found that exact tool in the store. I didn’t know they made these!” A happy project manager is one who is easier to live with.
  2. Got rid of the old coating over the shower floor. It was a Dynel Fabric and some kind of resin. EW discovered that the manufacturer hadn’t sealed the wood prior to putting on the coating. He was not pleased, but we’ve had very few complaints about La Luna's construction, so he moved on. Still, removing this stuff wasn’t as easy as it sounds and involved many sharp tools and some swear words. No injuries, though.
  3. Cut out all of the rotted wood.  P1050067
  4. Shaped new pieces out of plywood.
  5. Sealed all of the old wood and all sides of the new pieces with epoxy resin. Next, he fit all the new pieces in place, and fared it in with an epoxy powder mixture to make a putty.
  6. He covered the whole shower pan in cloth and pigmented epoxy resin.
  7. Caulked all the seams, around the shower pan and up the sides of stall.
  8. And – another “As Long As ..” project, decided to clean and paint the bilge under the head and under the pilot berth area – where the shower sump is located.  This turned into a real mess when he discovered a noxious substance under the head sole (That’s floor to you landlubbers – if any landlubbers are still reading this.) It is never good to find a noxious liquid substance under your head. He was only somewhat mollified to discover it was a mixture of oil and wine. One of our stored oil bottles had lost a cap, months ago. I thought I’d cleaned it all up but didn’t follow through enough sections of the bilge and some of it had settled under the head sole/floor.  More recently, we had purchased boxes of wine in Trinidad, removed them from their boxes and stored the bagged wine in plastic bags under my drawers. One bag sprang a leak – as did all of the extra bags and a whole 3 liter bag of wine joined the oil in the head. EW was not happy. It was not a fun cleaning project. It took two half days of labor to clean and sand that area so that it would accept paint. I worked very hard to stay out of his way. Anyway, ultimately, he painted the bilge.
  9. Installed the new wiring and plumbing, including running that hose up higher under the cabinet. P1120006 When cruising and healing to starboard, we haven’t been able to shower or even brush our teeth in the aft head sink, because it wouldn’t drain. EW thinks he’s fixed this. I love EW.
  10. Installed a new shower sump. As I mentioned in one of the posts about making the decision to do this, I was very surprised to find that EW had purchased a new shower sump over two years ago, before we left Maine. Wow. Talk about being prepared. This one has a cover. If I’d known that, I’d have pushed for earlier installation. Our old sump was open to the floorboards and attracted dog hair and dirt and sand. The cover over the new sump can be removed for cleaning hair out of the sump, but the sump won’t collect other icky stuff. Cool.
  11. Took a shower. Actually, I’m sorry to say that I took the first shower. I did ask him if he’d mind, but we had plans for the evening and my hair needs more time to dry than his does. He was gracious about it. He strutted a bit when I told him how excellent the shower was and how much I appreciated all of his work.

So, it’s the little things, like a working shower,  that make this lifestyle work for us. More than that, it’s EW’s ability and willingness to tackle the big projects. Thank you, EW. Kisses. Wanna take a shower?

PS. You all know that EW tolerates being “The Topic”. Please understand that he often delights in it. Throughout this project, I’d hear – “Come take a photo of this for the blog.”

Yes, Dear. 

There are 67 photos of the Shower Job, which are a testament to my love and respect for EW.

I only posted 7 of them, which is my testament to my love and respect for you.












Above left, clean, but unpainted head bilge.           Above right, drilled hole, installing vented loop.          













Left, top to bottom, painted bilge in pilot berth area, fixed shower, unpainted head bilge.

Right, new shower sump, with cover.