Wintering Aboard in Maine Feed

Living Small - Small Space Living On Board

One of my favorite boating/harbor blogs is Casco Bay Boaters. I love the information and photos - and love- love- love the design. I am not an artist, but I know art when I see it and this blog is art.  

Today, on Casco Bay Boaters, there is an article about a proposed new style of small space living on houseboats in Barcelona. Beautiful living on the water in only 450 square feet. I am delighted that architects and communities are looking for ways to provide interesting housing on a smaller scale. At some point, I may want a land life again and will definitely want small and energy efficient.

In the meantime, we love La Luna and we love our version of living small. Since we have no "square" footage on board, I have absolutely no idea how much living space we actually have. (That would involve way too much science and math and I have no interest in figuring it out - thank you very much.)

My conclusion on the LoftFloat Houseboat -- beautiful but it's too small and spare for me. Love the concept -- would go crazy living there. See, for those of you non-boaters who read this blog and wonder how I can possibly live on a boat, I do have limits.

What I like about our space: 

  1. Teak. Love the teak interior. Love the warmth of the wood.
  2. Forward stateroom. We have space for guests -- and to store projects and to take naps on.
  3. Space for art and framed photos. Not a lot of space, but some
  4. Book shelves. We have a lot of space for books and a lot of books. 
  5. Storage. For a boat, we have a lot of storage. (Remind me of that we we get ready to set sail and I am finding room for all of the provisions.)
  6. Master Stateroom. With a door. Totally separate from the rest of the boat. EW can watch macho movies or play guitar and I can read or sleep in our room.

Give me those things in a 800 square foot LoftFloat or other space and I may be interested if we ever move off La Luna. In the meantime, I'll work on living small and more energy and environmentally conscious in my boat. This is just right. 

Why the Stern Line Broke Three Times During the Northeaster of February 5

If you've been following the stories from the Northeaster -- you will know this is (finally) the last installment. Clearly I would much rather write about other folks' challenges than describe how we did not adequately prepare for the storm. Time to play fair.

Late last fall we hauled La Luna and had the mast pulled to be worked on this winter. The riggers at Great Island Boatyard also looked at the deck gear and found that two of our cleats (both stern cleats) had cracks and were compromised. At the time, we thought they could be repaired. So when EW and I got La Luna back to her winter slip we removed both stern cleats.

Stern cleats are important. When on the dock La Luna is tied with at least 4 lines: stern line, bow line, and fore and aft spring lines. The last two lines are attached to the same cleat that is near the middle of the boat - one line runs forward to a cleat on the dock and one line runs aft to a different cleat on the dock. Those lines keep us from moving to far forward or too far aft. In the winter we usually have an extra bow line. During storms we normally put on an extra stern line. 

During The Year From Hell - a few years back when we hauled out for what turned out to be an entire year - we did a lot of work on the deck and removed every single thing from the deck. Everything. Including all of the cleats, so I know what it takes to remove or install each cleat. The two easiest cleats to reach are those in the stern. The nuts and washers and backing plates can be accessed from the lazarettes. No big deal. The bow cleats are somewhat accessible - if I consent to playing a pretzel in the anchor locker. Getting to the cleats at the side of the boat require removing the inside of cabinets. Not fun at all. 

We coulda, shoulda replaced the starboard stern cleat with the port bow cleat -- a cleat that sees no use on this dock in the winter. But we didn't. I didn't want to go into the anchor locker. EW could have made a cleat out of scraps of hard wood from the boatyard. It had been discussed. But he didn't. Instead, we ran the dock line from the dock, through the chock (with chafe guard on it) and then took it in a hard right angle from that chock to a winch near the cockpit. Worked fine. Until we had 60+ MPH winds.

So, as described in the time line post at about 9:00 PM we heard a rather loud bang and scrambled up on deck. EW immediately realized that the stern line had snapped - those suckers are some loud when they snap. Our stern was being pushed off the dock and there was no way we were getting on the dock or that anyone on the dock would be able to haul us in. EW started the engine and used the spring line to pull us into the dock and to take some of the pressure off of the other lines. 

NOTE: Boaters will understand the reference to the spring line. This is yet another use of physics when boating. A good description of docking and spring lines can be found here -- where they use terms like "vector of force" and  "forward thrust". The short explanation is when we have a spring line tied from the mid cleat of the boat aft on the dock we can put the engine in forward and turn the wheel away from the dock and the boat will lay up parallel to the dock. Parallel is good. 

So, EW starts the engine and I got into my foul weather gear and then on the radio and asked for help from our neighbors. They came out in force. Bless them. EW stayed in the cockpit and I rigged a new line and got it on with help from our "dock crew".  Within minutes (seconds?) of turning off the engine that line snapped. Once again, our stern was pushed 10 - 15 feet off the dock. At one point one of our neighbors was trying to hold her steady by pulling on the power cord - not a preferred method - but better than having other lines break due to the angle and strain they were under.  EW started the engine again and we put a third stern line on.  That held and we all retired for the night again. Yeah, right.

About 10-ish, EW and I were below when we heard a very loud bang. This was a different sound than before and we both thought that the door had blown open. EW dashed up on deck and then started back down -- 

"No, the door's fine," he said, sounding relieved.

Me: "That's a bad thing."

EW: "Why would that be a bad thing?"

Me: "Because something banged and the door is the easiest to fix."

EW: "Oh, right." And EW went back on deck and said a bad word as I scrambled into my foul weather gear and he started the engine. Yes, the stern line had broken again -- as had the shrink wrap frame. Must have been one heck of a gust to break both at the same time but that explains the extra loud bang.

We agreed that I would call out the troops so I got on the radio, "South Port Live-Abaords, South Port Live Aboards, this is La Luna."  D came on the radio immediately. I told them we had a broken line (again) and they said they would be right over. 

Then EW told me to have them wait a minute while we talked -- so I relayed that. I think (and this is embarrassing to admit) I think I told them to "stand down". Definitely watching too many macho movies with EW. 

So we talked and EW said that the wind and waves were worse and weren't going to get any better. He knew he needed to find another way to rig a stern line, but that wasn't possible in the current conditions -- or until he had time to think it through. We decided to "drive" the boat through the worst of the storm. He would take the first shift, I would try to rest and relieve him at 11:30. By 1 or 2 the tide would be down and hopefully the winds would have lessened and we could rig a new line. 

If you've read the Saga of Windrifter's Broken Dock you know that plan worked but that at 11:00 I left EW to handle the boat alone while I went to help our neighbors on Windrifter. In the meantime, our door frame caved in and EW was alone in the cockpit with no communication "driving" La Luna and trying to hold various broken boards away from different parts of his body. Yeah, he had a great time. 

At some point, he tied the wheel hard over, leaving his hands free to hold the frame and his mind free to work out a new and better stern line rig. When I finally showed up to help him, he had come up with a brilliant plan. 

He took a very long, strong line and ran it from the port winch aft to a snatch block that he placed on the port toe rail directly across from the stern chock on the starboard side. 

Jury Rigged line from dock (at left) through block to winch.

He placed an extra hose on the deck to prevent the line from chafing the deck and then he tied this line to the broken line that had a snubber attached. 


The snubber acts as a shock absorber and there was no way we had time to get the snubber off the old line and onto the new one. A simple square knot connected the two lines and held (and is still holding). 

Old line with snubber tied to new line

Once the line was tied to the dock and through the chock (with chafe gear) we used the winch to tighten it. Perfect!  Or as EW says, pounding his chest, "I fix". 

Yes. He. Did. 

The next day he actually fixed the shrink wrap frame and door. I love EW. 

Thus ends ALL of the stories of the Northeaster of February 25. Aren't you glad? I know I am.

Here's the broken door and frame the next day. During the storm, EW was sitting just beyond the left top corner of the door. 

Broken Door and Frame

Here's a shot of the broken door from inside La Luna. That's one of our great neighbors.

C and Our Broken Door

Here's the fixed door.

Fixed Door

I'm ready for spring.  And let me remind you -- in the first post about this storm I said we would handle a good northeaster if it meant a great spring and summer. You can all thank me in July. 

Man Cave and Living Aboard in Comfort

After I posted our neighbor Sam in his on-deck recliner, one of my readers asked whether I could get a shot of the recliner Sam has below decks. Sam had said that his winter deck recliner was one of two and that it was on deck only to make room for the kerosene heater. 

Sam is a gracious, lovely, intelligent man and he has sailed much farther than I have. He is a great father and a terrific grandfather and a wonderful neighbor. A word of caution, if you and your wife are thinking about living aboard, be careful if you show her this post. Some wives (me included) expect a little more from our salon. Here is Sam relaxing in his on-board recliner:

Sam Below in His Recliner

He does look comfortable.  

You can seen the heater at the right of the photo

There is room for the second recliner  right next to this one when winter is over and the kerosene heater has been moved to storage. 



... I noticed that Sam's dining table was mounted on the bulkhead forward of the recliners. 

In the second photo you can see the heater, his side table and some of the homey touches that appear after a few winter months on the dock.   P3070015

The second recliner will fit in between where the heater is now and the table with Soundings on it. 

Note that directly aft in the photo (forward on the boat) you can see the bottom of the large, teak dining table - perfect for gatherings. 

Hanging on the wall. With no place to go. And no dinette seating to serve it.

"How do you use your table, Sam?" I asked. 

"Well, you really can't eat off it. Someone could sit in the recliner and we could lower the table but it isn't comfortable. I can put my sewing machine on it and fix my sails." 


"And there is a bookcase behind it that is a nice place to keep my books."


In most sailboats the dinette is on one side of the main salon and a settee is on the other. If the designer (or owners) install chairs they take the place of the settee. In new boats, specially designed chairs can be unlocked to glide on a track and allow folks to sit at the table. 

At. The. Table. To share a meal. To sup. To play cards or Scrabble.

As you may have figured out by now, I'm pretty much all about the people we meet and sharing stories and food. 

Sam is all about sailing and comfort. On the starboard side of his salon are a settee/sea berth and an upper sea berth. As a single gentleman who often gets friends to crew with him those sea berths are very important. The dinette, not so much.  It's the perfect sailor's man cave. (I have been informed that women sailors love the comfort of the recliners as much as he does.) 

Sam says that he has eye-bolts behind each chair and simply ties a rope around them in heavy seas. No problem.

To each his own. And thanks, Sam. You are a good sport and a great neighbor. We OK?

From Living Aboard in Maine to the Iditarod in Alaska

What does living aboard a sailboat in Maine have to do with the Iditarod? Not much on the surface. 

When people hear we live aboard -- particularly after we've weathered a storm -- they think I'm "brave".  I'm not. I hate being scared and walk away from movies if I am uncomfortable. I'm not all that keen on camping or extreme physical challenges, either. As I told EW, as a live aboard, I'm not "No Maintenance" I'm "Low Maintenance". 

One of our neighbors (albeit a 6 month live aboard) has completed the Iditarod and his mom is competing right now in the 2010 Iditarod. Now that's brave. So this week we who live on the water in Maine are rooting for Cindy Gallea, a nurse practitioner with two grown sons, who is living her dream mushing a team in a grueling race. 

Chocolate Bark - A Live Aboard "Cooks" During a Storm

As mentioned in my previous posts about the Nor'easter of February 25, at one point fairly early in the evening I did a bit of cooking. We had eaten a meal of small foods at a neighborhood mixer and were sitting on the boat between 8 and 9 - I think -  when EW asked, "Is any of that chocolate left?"

Very silly question from a man who used to legitimately hide snack food from me so he would be able to have some. That was in the house, on the boat there aren't as many hiding options. (Truth time: I was so desperate for the potato chips I knew were in the house that I did search for them. And I did search his bureau drawers. I just didn't paw through them and could not believe he put them under his t-shirts!) 

Anyway, the chocolate in question - or the late chocolate in question - had last been viewed by EW almost two weeks prior to his inquiry. No, it was not still on board.

I did feel guilty and I did have baking chocolate and I had recently read a boat article about making chocolate bark so told him I would make us some chocolate. He protested (weakly) that I shouldn't go to any trouble, but I am Boat Woman after all and immediately gathered the materials. Four squares of baking chocolate, canned milk, sugar, raisins, chopped walnuts, and the double boiler. Also three cookbooks - none of which had a recipe for making chocolate bark from scratch.

Let me remind you, Gentle Reader, that this was all during a nor-easter (ENE) with winds gusting at 50 MPH at least at that point and some bouncy seas. We don't have the mast in and tend to roll more because of that. The article I had read had used large dark chocolate candy bars to make bark -- all that boating woman did was melt chocolate, put it in a plate and sprinkle nuts and dried fruit on it. I had to add sugar to this concoction and am not a chef.

I successfully melted the chocolate and sugar and milk together, tasted for flavor -- added vanilla and a pinch of salt and was pleased. I poured this onto a dinner plate covered with parchment paper, sprinkled the nuts and raisins and let her sit.

In my imagination I saw myself lovingly offering this brilliant creation to EW and packing some in zip lock bags to share with our neighbors during the storm. (During other, less severe storms I have made ginger cookies and tossed a bag of them into everyone's cockpit. The operative phrase is "Cookies in the Cockpit!")

Of course the bark didn't harden, in fact it moved on the plate with each wave. It was really mesmerizing. The nuts and raisins were mired (or moored) in the chocolate goo and all moved together from one side of the plate to the other and back again and to.. and fro ..  and .. well you get the idea.

EW suggested I place it on the gimbaled stove to lessen the motion and give it a chance to cure. I did and at that point we were called out to help with Charlie's lines (or that was the first time our line broke -- whatever). When we came back it was clear that the now cool "bark" was forever to be a soft bark. I dished it up into small bowls and provide each of us with a spoon.  It was not suitable for sharing with neighbors but tasted great and would have been perfect with ice cream underneath. 

I've since found on-line that folks make bark from semi-sweet morsels. That could work. I've also read (in a 10 year old sailing cookbook) that chocolate morsels are hard to find in some provisioning stops around the world. I see myself packing a whole lot of chocolate morsels in vacuum bags and storing them all over the boat. 

When we want chocolate. We. Want. Chocolate.

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. 

Living Under Shrink Wrap -- Living Aboard a Sailboat During a Maine Winter

Yesterday, I had the wonderful pleasure of talking with a college friend whom I hadn't seen or heard from for 8 years. She had gotten the Christmas letter that described our move aboard La Luna and assumed that we had already set sail - so we lost touch.  In 20 minutes we attempted to catch up on careers, kids, husbands and our living aboard lifestyle. 

She has no clue. Really.

I mentioned the shrink wrap and she immediately decided that we moved off the boat in the winter even tho' I had just told her otherwise. Her knowledge of shrink wrap is the total enclosure of her in-laws lake boat. No one gets aboard until spring.

The first step for wrapping for living-aboard is to create a frame and a door. While you can install a zipper in the shrink wrap, that is just not practical for real life. Some folks have a low frame, consisting of the boom aft and 2X4's forward to the bow. The simplest use plastic shrink wrap tape from this center pole to the life lines. Shrink wrap plastic is laid over this, banded and shrunk. 

Shrink Wrap Frame Looking Forward
EW has created a series of frames over the years using a combination of 2X4's and PVC piping. We attach upright PVC lengths to the stanchions and then attach long PVC pipe in a bow to create height. We have found that we don't like to crawl when we have to go forward so we can walk upright on a great deal of the deck. This is particularly useful as we have deck projects to undertake this spring. 

Shrink Wrap Door
He also built a door with a simple wooden block latch. It works - usually. We end up with a mud room and on sunny days it can be nice and warm for deck work. 

As you may imagine, all of this cobbled together wood and plastic is not rigid. During last night's winds -- 20 - 30 knots with gusts to 50 -- we could hear the frame creaking and flexing. Around 8:30 we heard two bangs, and headed on deck. The PVC pipe that goes from the port side to the center frame over the cockpit had worked its way out of this year's clamping method. (EW has feels duty bound to improve the frame each year. It's one of the things I love about him, but I am looking forward to using our mental and physical energies to sail through warm waters in during Maine's winters. <She sighs.>)

Hat on Pipe - Shrink Wrap Frame
In less than 20 minutes, we were able to get the pipe (mostly) back in place, attached, and reinforced with duct tape.  (Mainahs and sailors love duct tape. We use a lot!) I was concerned that the pipe end would poke through the plastic so we prevented that using what we had on hand -- or on head -- my hat. Ah well. It is for a good cause. And I love living aboard. Really.