Friday, November 8, 2013

Just when you think you've got it all figured out... don't!

And right now I'm pretty much on my last nerve.

First of all (and probably the least of our problems) my computer died. Just like that. And every picture I've ever taken is stuck somewhere in its innards. That leaves me with attempting to use Blogsy until I can get it all figured out. I don't like Blogsy and I'm almost certain to have a meltdown before this post gets published. The fact that I just spent about 15 minutes trying to find new AAA batteries in our nav station via a dying flashlight in order to get my bluetooth keyboard working, does not bode well for a peacefull evening. I need two batteries, I found one, I'm holding my breath, and Wilbur is hiding in a corner.

We've been gifting the Knotty Cat with all kinds of pretties this summer. I wrote in my last post that we installed a new holding tank. And there's nothing like contorting your body in all kinds of unnatural positions in an airless engine room while trying to aim a heat gun on uncooperating hoses to make you feel real good about deciding to live on a boat. I sometimes wonder if yoga got it's start at sea.

And then there's the wind generator. Hans has been just itching to get one of these buggers for a long time and one night he finally bit the bullet and ordered one. Oh my, he couldn't wait to install it and with great pleasure he took a vacation day from work to do so. We arranged for an electrician to arrive first thing in the morning in order to make sure it was wired properly since the whole Knotty Cat electrical/battery system is still a bit of a mystery to us as too many chefs have created quite a stew behind all the panels. The wiring was done lickety split and then Hans and I were faced with getting that big stinker up in the air. It may have been October but it was hot and sweat was pouring off of us in no time. There was a point in the afternoon where I'd have taken bets that this project would not be completed by sundown and I'm pretty sure if our neighbor hadn't had a day off work Hans and I would either be divorced or dead. Neighbor had replacement screws and nuts for the ones we dropped overboard, he had the proper saw that ate through the stainless supports we needed to shorten, he gave us a lot of advise, and basically saved the day.

It's not his fault the damn thing doesn't work!

A couple of weeks ago we headed out to the Gulf with hopes of testing our new toy and it was obvious from the get go that it wasn't working. It has three settings; charge, free wheel, and brake. It misbehaved for all three and the only time the amp meter worked was when it 'dropped' way below zero and then swooned. A defective switch was the opinion of our electrician and we had a new one overnighted. The new switch was installed but guess what? No go. It still doesn't work. The latest verdict from our electrician is that the generator itself is defective. At this time I have no idea where this is going.

So anyway, like I said we anchored out. Keep in mind this was after it took Hans an entire day to change the oil and transmission fluids in both engines. The only reason it took so long is because it's been nearly two years since we've had to do this and for the first time we had to bleed air out of the system. After we got back we noticed quite a bit of water sitting in the port engine room and decided it must have happened during the oil change when Hans probably stepped on the dripless shaft seal (expensive stuffing box replacement).

So last weekend we headed out for a day sail with some friends (where we discovered the wind generator is strictly ornamental), enjoyed (sarcasm) a day of lumpy seas, and after a surprisingly smooth landing in our slip, wondered why the hell the port bilge pump was going off at thirty second intervals.

Aha! It must be the dripless shaft seal! Only it wasn't. We finally figured out it was a repeat of the disaster we encounted in the Intracoastal a couple of years ago. Only this time we were lucky enough to be sitting in a marina with shore power and not sitting in some remote anchorage.

We've no idea why this has happened again and it's really putting the kabosh on our Thanksgiving plans as it appears we'll need to be hauled out.


Gee, it looks good doesn't it?

"Awe! Say it's not so!!!!" Wilbur cries. "The Knotty Cat rules all!"

If all else fails and life appears bleak, post a picture of a helpless pit bull modeling yet one more baby hat.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Replacing a holding tank on an Island Packet Cat

Fall is finally here which means I can now emerge from the sweaty coma that I sink into every summer and get some projects done. 

So anyway, we are currently in the middle of some boat projects but I'm only going to address one at a time or else this could easily become a twenty page post.
Something I haven't quite figured out though is why the smelly business of our holding tank has become my pet project, and just because my dad was a plumber doesn't mean that I inherited some sort of plumbing talent gene from him.
Yes folks, we're talking about the holding tank on our boat, which on land would be called a septic tank. 
I blogged about my first experience with clogged hoses on this post so needless to say I really didn't want to go there again.

But I did.

Back when we bought the Knotty Cat we were led to believe she was trained and knew how to use a litter box properly so as not to stink things up for her new owners. And we were thankful for that because it soon became apparent that the Knotty Cat loves attention. In short order we replaced leaky drain hoses, bought her new batteries (twice), replaced her water pump (twice), had her bottom cleaned and painted (she looooves that process as it means getting hauled out and paraded about the boat yard which makes her feel like a princess), installed drip-less shaft seals along with balancing her engines (that time she tried to shed a propeller and sooo not cheap), sailed her to the Bahamas where she took up smoking (we put a quick end to that), gave her some solar panels, and a new main sail and wind generator are in the works! 


So back to the holding tank.  We first got wind that something was up a few years ago when some charterers who were using our boat complained of odor. When we got back on board everything seemed okay. Then we had company for a long weekend and shortly after we noticed some head odor, but it quickly disappeared.  Of course the day we really noticed it was when got married out in the bay on the boat with family and friends along and it was obvious that the Knotty Cat wasn't playing fair. Oh, it was bad.

Why couldn't we figure out what was wrong? Because our holding tank is glassed in, that's why.
Honest to God! What were the people at Island Packet thinking when they put this boat together?  We love our boat; it's solid and has a ton of space and storage, but no access to the holding tank? 

CRAP! And that's not a pun!

I tried all kinds of things.  I had the tank filled with soapy water and then pumped it out, I poured expensive products from West Marine into it and had it pumped out. And just when we thought everything was okay, Wham! there was that smell again. 

We decided our tank had a leak. Where? Who knows because it's GLASSED IN!! The decision was then made to be extra careful about what went into the tank. That meant that the bath house was to be used for number two, and when flushing pee into the tank to try to use fresh water and not marina water which I think is smelly. 

Many times we discussed replacing the tank but after a trip into the engine room and seeing what all would be involved we fled back into the salon where I would have a Wilbur Wow Wow and try to forget about it. 

But we want to go cruising again and we don't want to be the stinky ones in the anchorage. 

So here's the deal.
Our holding tank is long and flat like a safe deposit box and holds 40 gallons. It's length runs from port to starboard, aft of our companionway and directly under our cockpit. Unfortunately that means it is just feet away from my galley (separated by a wall of course) where you can really smell it when it acts up. 
In the engine room, tons of hoses and electrical lines are mounted onto the fiberglass that covers it. Even if you were to remove all those things (and you just know something would be sure to break or rupture), you would then be faced with getting the tank out. Since it's so long it can't be pulled out because it would run into the engine room wall, therefor it would need to be cut out. 

I googled forever trying to find if anyone on an Island Packet Cat had ever done this but came up empty. Hans lucked into finding a boat yard that had actually worked on two of them. The mechanic said he cut out and replaced the first tank he worked on and swore he'd never do it again. On the second one he merely abandoned the existing tank and installed a new one in an empty space behind the starboard engine. This is what we had considered doing and his story confirmed for us that that was the way to go. It would have been nice if we could have installed it on the port side where the pump out fitting is but our automatic pilot would be in the way.

Let me say we are very lucky to have so much room and I'm glad we never bought a diesel generator for that spot! 

"This post isn't about me? How boring, I guess I'll just take a nap."

Disconnected pump out hose. The small hose on the left is the over flow for our fuel tank.
New pump out hose in place. The old hose hasn't been removed yet.

The new hose has to go from the port side to the new tank on the starboard side via a tunnel between the hulls. Those hoses to the left are attached to the fiberglass surrounding the old tank. Our hot water tank is on the right.

The new hose stuck between the hulls. 

I was working by myself on this so I used our boat hook to pull the hose through.

Looking straight down. The new pump out hose is attached to the new tank.

The old hose that empties out the starboard head to the holding tank. Trying to remove those old hoses is a real treat! They've been in place for nearly twenty years and felt like cement filled tubes. I used a heat gun for the first time and it's now my best friend.

New hose in place.

And now attached to the new tank. The fitting on the right will be for the port side head hose.

A before picture of the pump out hose hanging free.

An after picture with the new pump out hose zip tied in place.

This is what the tank looks like (sitting so elegantly in our berth). Two fittings at the top for the heads to pump into and the bottom fitting for the pump out. It will hold 32 gallons.

Starboard engine room. The tank went in the space behind the engine. 

We placed cleats fore and aft that we'll use to help strap the tank in place. We had to make sure the tank wouldn't be so big as to run into that drain hose you can see on the left.

The bottom where the tank will sit is very rough and uneven so we bought a piece of starboard for it to sit on. We also screwed some treated wood to it as a frame to keep the tank from sliding.

A close up of the cleats. There is an identical set on the opposite wall.

Here I am sitting on the new tank.  I think I should have a tiara and a sash announcing me as Miss Terlet Queen! Getting that sucker in there was pretty interesting. Just a few inches bigger and we'd have had a problem.

One of the old hoses after being cut off.  I used our emergency plugs to keep the yucky stuff inside.  But only after gushing a bunch of the yucky stuff all over my feet!

We had our final pump out last week and I made sure it was full of clean water and vinegar since it's being left in place. The holes will be plugged but still....

Tomorrow will be our first pump out for the new tank. I'm not too worried about it and even if it needs some tweaking the rules for using the first tank still hold until we know everything's A-OK!

Pssst.  Did you really think I could write a post without including the Little Man?

"Does I haz sumfing in my teef?"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Second Verse NOT the Same as the First!!

Oh my Dog, Mama!!! Not again!

So, yesterday morning found me once again back at our friend's still engine-less boat for attempt number two at getting that stinker (the boat, that is) across the bay to a boat yard in order to get a new engine dropped on board. Keep in mind that the new engine would in no way be connected to the boat (in other words, no help to us) but would simply be along for a majestic ride back to our marina.

It was decided that this time we'd leave much earlier than we did during the last fiasco as it seems the wind is much calmer during the early morning hours. That was the idea anyway. In the absence of a rabbit's foot, I crossed my fingers, made the sign of the cross (I'm not religious so I may have done it backwards), rubbed the scalp of a red head (Wilbur), and arrived on time equipped with my life jacket, coffee, and trusty boat hook. I then noted with dismay that the wind was blowing quite briskly and thought (actually hoped) that surely this trip would be cancelled.

It wasn't. And I tried to take solace in the fact that the crew didn't seem one bit worried.

This time in addition to the same crew as before, we had another live-aboard assisting us with his dinghy, and before I could change my mind we'd cast aside our lines and eased out of the slip. Once we were clear of the pilings and with the wind pushing our bow right back into them, our helper was there with his dinghy. It was like watching a dolphin nudge us along as he bumped into us keeping us on track until we were out of the marina and into the bay.

From then on it was smooth sailing (without sails) as we chugged along with the whaler lashed onto the port side. We slid into the boat yard's marina slick as snot, loaded the new engine via chains and a forklift, shouted bon voyage, and we were on our way once again.
I didn't even have time to worry about how we were going to get back into our slip again, when just like that, we were there.

Wow, no drama! So, how the hell am I supposed to get an interesting post out of that?

I decided to celebrate returning home in one piece with a Wendy's Frosty, and Wilbur (my lucky red head) was only too happy to help.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Another Marina Adventure

Oh, no!!! I can't look!
I spent this morning as part of a crew attempting to move a friend's 'engineless' sail boat from our marina to a nearby boat yard where a new engine was ready and waiting for him.  And the fact that he enlisted my help tells you he was really scraping the bottom of the marina barrel. 

About twenty heart pumping minutes after we left the slip we were right back where we'd started, only now we were stern in as opposed to bow in, and what an adventure it was!

It all started last night when our friend called and since he knows Hans works during the day he wondered if perhaps I wouldn't mind helping. I'd had a couple of Wilbur Wow Wows so I said sure why not and anyway it just might give me some blog fodder. Careful what you wish for.

I was up bright and early this morning and rousted Wilbur from our berth for a quick morning walk.  I prefer an empty dog on board if I don't know how long I'll be gone. After depositing Wilbur back down below with my apologies that I wouldn't be spending our usual Coffee/Bailey's/Whip-Creme breakfast with him, I headed down the marina. 

There were a total of four of us on board (three experienced sailors plus me) and a couple of helpers on land. I actually took my life jacket (well, Hans made me take it) as I figured if I did something stupid and hit my head falling overboard, I'd at least float until someone could get to me because let's face it, we were on a boat without an engine.

It had been a clear, calm (and of course hot) morning until we got ready to cast off the lines and then the wind kicked up. And what normally feels like a nice breeze when you're standing on land turns into something else when you're on a boat. With his whaler lashed to the port side of the boat we backed out of the slip but once we were in the alley of the marina the stern kept wanting to swing back into the pilings and also into those danged anchors hanging off the front of the other docked boats. We were heading into the wind so it was difficult to build up enough speed in order to steer. When it became obvious that the whaler would now need to tow us as opposed to guide us the lines were quickly transferred to the bow. 
While the whaler zig zagged in front of us we fended off the pilings with boat hooks and since I'm not very strong I sat my butt down and fended off with my legs. At least I got a workout.

We continued to crab walk toward the mouth of the bay, and were nearly out of the marina feeling very home free when the steering cable on the whaler snapped. Crap!
So we drifted sideways and with the aid of our land helpers we ended up with the bowsprit against one piling and the stern on another effectively trapping a couple of boats in their slips. One of those boats belongs to a crew member and anyway no one goes anywhere at this time of the year. At least we were out of the channel. 
The weather forecast was calling for even more wind in the afternoon so the decision was made to 'walk' the boat back to its slip. How this was going to happen was beyond me but I should have known a bunch of sailors would come up with something.  A couple of lines were tied together for extra length and tossed to one of our land helpers who was now standing on a boat way behind us. The whaler was moved between the boat and the pilings so it now became a bumper boat. By pulling and fending off (more leg exercises for me) we backed the boat up and then pivoted it on the piling to its slip, finished backing it in and tied her back up again.

I've posted this aerial view of our marina many times but it serves so many purposes.
I call this the 'alley' 
After our big adventure I ended up with a tiny bloody scratch on my ankle but even after I pointed it out (many times) I didn't get any sympathy. As a matter of fact one of the crew commented that he was glad I was along for this trip as he's usually the one who stands around doing nothing.
It's a good thing I know he has a very dry sense of humor.  I think.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

One Last Nail in the Dead Files Coffin.

I was surprised to get a message on my last post about The Dead Files episode of The Riverside Inn.
'R' gave me some examples of why he was unhappy with the show but since he included the names of people I know, I've decided not to publish it but I will address his concerns here.


R was concerned that the Dark Files portrayal of the inn was harmful and pointed out its many inaccuracies. I  figured anyone watching the show who was unfamiliar with the inn would realize this was like all other reality shows and nothing more than a way to gain publicity.  I laughed through most of it and I seriously doubt anyone will stay away from the inn as a result of this episode. Actually, people used to ask me all the time why we didn't have ghost tours.

R told me the inn was never for sale and it was given to the new owners in hope that it would continue on as it had for years. As far as I know the inn was definitely for sale (at least to anyone with a serious interest) and I remember one man who spent the better part of a year trying to buy it but for some reason that sale fell through. As for how the new owners acquired it, that's between them and the former owners.

R pointed out that under the new ownership there have been several negative reviews on the internet, so I spent a good deal of time checking out these comments.  This much I know, there are always going to be negative comments and the ones I read are pretty typical for the restaurant/hotel industry.  And while R feels quite strongly that the inn was in better hands with the previous owners, I know for a fact that once upon a time the former owners' dog ate a good portion of the bottom tier of a wedding cake. And the bride never found out!

In my opinion, weddings are the most difficult and stressful functions of all to work. Those Cinderella dreams seldom meet their expectations. And someone has to take the fall.

A couple of examples:

One of the more memorable weddings that took place at the inn involved a huge drunken brawl the night before the ceremony when the future bride and groom's guests threw cell phones, pool furniture, and each other into the pool, and thanks to all the glasses they shattered around and in the pool, it was closed the next day for cleanup. During the wedding reception, underage kids tried to get drinks at the bar and when that failed the grownups tried to smuggle drinks to them. That failed too and the bride and groom expressed their outrage at the bartender for daring to question them.  They paid their bill via tons of checks from family and friends and then blew town before most of those checks bounced.

A couple of years before I moved away I was given the dubious honor of being in charge of a small wedding between a middle aged minister and his young bride. Being in charge means that anything that goes wrong will automatically be your fault and hitting yourself in the head with a hammer would be much more fun.

My fun began when an old woman (guest only) grabbed my arm with her sharp little claw and screeched that I was to stop lighting the candles. The florist had left dozens of tea-lights sitting deep down inside wine glasses etc... and it was our job to light them.  She insisted they were going to break due to the heat and it would be all my fault. My assurances that I still had to light them totally pissed her off and she let everyone around her know this.  I made sure her table was not one that I was going to serve.

The maid of honor (the bride's sister) was in an anxious hot sweat during the whole event and continuously fussed and fretted over the brides train. When I asked her if she wanted a drink she said yes. When I asked her what she wanted to drink, her face was purple with fury as she screamed "Alcohol!"  Unfortunately since I was in charge I got stuck with her at the head table.

I thought I was home free and then it came time for me to cut the cake and that's when I knew I might have a problem. This was a wedding for about 50 or so people and sitting in front of me was a 12 inch round decorated layer cake. That's it. No back up sheet cake in the kitchen, just this piddly little cake.
Now, the way to cut a round cake into many pieces is this; you cut a circle within the cake so that it now looks like a tire with a hubcap. You then slice the outer circle into slices so it now looks like a radiating sun. The leftover inner circle is the last to be cut.
I took a deep breath, and feeling just like a surgeon and terrified of making a wrong cut, I got started.  I was busy plating pieces as I cut them and was so intent on my job that I nearly jumped out of my skin when someone shouted in my ear, "Oh my God! What are you doing?"  I nearly fell into the cake and I swear my heart stopped.
It was the groom and he was furious.
"Um, cutting the cake?" was my brilliant response which only made him angrier.
"I know you're cutting the cake but what is wrong with you?"  The mother of the bride had joined him and she was breathing fire too.
"Where are the napkins?" he spat at me.
Was that all? Relief flooded over me and I happily pointed out that each plate that had been delivered to the tables by my coworkers had a little cocktail napkin included.
"Not those napkins!!! Our napkins!"
Oh crap. I scrambled around and under the cake table. No special napkins.
I apologized profusely but the groom was having none of it. He called me incompetent and irresponsible and demanded that I get extra help. NOW!  During his tirade he stepped so close to me I was literally doing a back bend over the cake table and I was terrified I'd fall into it and it would collapse.
Once again I apologized for not being able to find their extra special napkins when he stated, "Of course you can't find them, they're in our room!" This was said with so much huffing and puffing and eye rolling from both Groom and Monster-in-law I'm surprised they didn't get dizzy.
"You mean you forgot them?" I made the mistake of asking and he went as purple as the maid of honor.
"No I didn't forget them!! You're supposed to get them!! Go!! Now!!"
While I explained to him that never in my life had I entered a guest's room for a function and that there was absolutely no mention of this on my banquet sheet, Monster-in-law flounced from the room. She returned and slapped the box of napkins on the table.
"Now you make sure every one of our guests gets a napkin," he hissed. "Do. You. Under. Stand?"
 I can't tell you how disappointed I was when upon opening the box to discover not 14 karat gold sheets of paper engraved by reclusive, blind, uncircumcised monks from a monastery deep within some distant poor third world country, but plain old common wedding napkins printed with the bride and groom's names and the date of the wedding. But I made sure every stinking guest got one.

Normally, when we cleaned up after a party, but guests remained to socialize, we cleared away everything but their drink glasses. That day I told my co-workers since these napkins were obviously so valuable and everyone was most likely going to take theirs home to frame, they were to leave every one of them behind, even those scattered about the floor and being ground into the carpet by the heels of careless guests.

I slunk home that night knowing full well I was going to be fired and I spent a depressing weekend waiting for the phone to ring but it never did. The next week when the banquet manager casually asked me how the wedding went I couldn't believe the groom hadn't tattled on me and when I explained to her what had happened she just laughed!  She told me that during the planning of the wedding she'd told the groom that the waitstaff never go into the guest's rooms and it was up to him to make sure everything we needed was in the dining room. I only wished I'd known that ahead of time, at least I would have been prepared.

So anyway, can you imagine what kind of review these weddings would have received on the internet? Because I'm sure 'their' story would be a lot different than our story;  "he said,"  "she said,"  kinda stuff.
And both of these events occurred before the new owners took over.

I have tons more stories but I'll stop with these. And I also plan on this being my last post about the inn.

At least for now.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Travel Channel's 'Dead Files' and a Blast from my Past.

Before last week, I'd never heard of the Travel Channel's series called 'The Dead Files' but I think it must have been via Facebook that I was informed they were airing an episode based in a tiny little town in Pennsylvania about The Riverside Inn. Why this would surprise me so much is because before Hans and I headed south, I had worked at that inn as a waitress for over 10 years. So I taped the show and then forgot about it.

Tonight Hans and I finally watched it.  The Dead Files is a show that deals with the paranormal and if there was ever a place that has a 'ghostly' reputation, then the Riverside Inn is it. However, when I started working there (I think it was 1999) I knew nothing about the inn's many ghosts and as a single mother of three, I was much more concerned with getting ahead of my bills as I was due to lose my full time job within a few months time. I figured waitressing during evenings and weekends would allow me to do that until I could find another full time job. But even after I found a new job I continued to work at the inn for many years.

Like I mentioned before, ghosts were not high on my agenda at that time and anyway I had much bigger things to worry about as I was perhaps the worst waitress in the world, and I knew no one wanted to work with me. Actually, I'd have much rather dealt with ghosts than the inn's owner as I was terrified of her. She ran a tight ship and I managed to irritate her beyond belief.  Why she didn't fire me I'll never know, possibly she just felt sorry for me. By the end of the season I was not working the main dining room at all and I'd been relegated to finish the year in Dinner Theater.  The ironic thing about Dinner Theater is; the money can be quite good, but your waiting skills not so much, and it's really the most desirable shift to be had (during my last year at the inn I only managed to snag one Dinner Theater shift and that was by complete accident). 

It was during the next to the last night of my first chaotic year at the inn that I experienced my one and only ghostly encounter.  I'd struggled through a busy Christmas lunch shift (I still have to wonder how many orders I managed to screw up) and had headed downstairs to the Victorian Room where Dinner Theater is held. I had plenty of time before my shift so I was able to use the ladies room.  I'd piled my belongings on a bench right inside the doorway and after washing my hands and walking back to the bench for my makeup bag, I felt a strange resistance push  me back a step. I figured I was just tired which made me wonder how I was going to get through the next six hours. Needless to say all these years later I would never have remembered feeling that resistance if not for what happened next.
I was bent over the sink and fixing my makeup when one of the stall doors behind me opened. I was surprised because other than one of the waiters out in the Victorian Room who'd also arrived early, I thought I was alone. The door continued to open wide but from my position at the sink I could see in the mirror that it was empty. No one was there. 
The stall doors are held closed by a heavy spring similar to those on old fashioned porch doors so they have to be pushed open from the inside. After the door fully opened, it slammed shut so hard it bounced on its spring.
I turned around and glanced down to see if maybe a little kid had walked out and I just couldn't see it from the mirror, and feeling a little silly, because no one was there, I said, "Hello?" No answer. So I bent over and looked for feet under the stall doors. Nothing. I carefully opened each door and they were all empty.
That's when I left all my belongings behind and went into the Victorian Room to get Mike, the young college kid who was setting up.  I made him come back to the ladies room, demonstrated for him what had happened proving to him that in no way could that door have opened on its own, begged him to tell me I wasn't crazy, and demanded he come up with some sort of logical explanation.  He just shrugged his shoulders and said it must have been the ghost. He himself had never seen anything unusual but he knew many others who had. 
In the following years I too heard many ghost stories from my fellow co-workers, some more believable than others. Every year after that I would go into that bathroom and try to discover what exactly could have happened but I never did figure it out.

This is the main lobby at the inn all decorated for Christmas

A view from the lobby down the hall to the back lobby

A crappy picture of the infamous Victorian Room where Dinner Theater is held.

So, the Dead Files portrayal of the inn came across in a much darker way than I remember it but I'm sure that the macabre sells much better than bathroom doors that open by themselves!

The Riverside went up for sale shortly before I moved and I was so afraid no one would buy it and it would fade away as so many of those beautiful historic places do; the upkeep in itself is tremendous. Needless to say I was thrilled when Larry and Brenda Evans bought it; I'd known them for years and they too were afraid the inn would disappear and they've now put their whole lives into maintaining it as it should be.  

The Riverside is a Victorian Inn complete with a huge wrap around porch, 75 rooms and banquet facilities, is beautifully landscaped and even has the good grace to have a creek that flows right past it.  Whether you're there during a busy summer weekend with wedding season in full swing, an autumn where the trees are brilliant with scarlet and orange leaves, or at Christmas when its decorated from top to bottom and the twinkling lights in the shrubbery glow under a blanket of snow,  it's a magical place to be.  I doubt there are many places like it remaining and if you ever happen to be near Erie, Pennsylvania it's well worth checking into.  

But if you spend the night you might want to sleep with a light on.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Who was that Tropical Storm...?

... It was Andrea, that's who.  But unlike last year's Tropical Storm Debby, who unfortunately became one of those party guests who doesn't understand that by midnight her hosts really wish she'd get lost, Andrea caught on quickly and left as soon as things started to get soggy.

When Hurricane Season began on June first, Hans had taken to calling me from work in order to warn me that 'weather' appeared to be moving our way. "A huge system is approaching," his frantic voice mail would announce (I rarely have my phone with me). This would cause me to become a bit paranoid and instead of hitting the tennis court or gym and getting some exercise I would hole up below with Wilbur (and too many Keebler Cookies) while awaiting the 'big blow'. After a couple of warnings that resulted in a bloated stomach and sunny blue skies I told him to knock it off.  He apologized. And then came Andrea.

On Wednesday night I'd read on my computer via MSN that a tropical storm was approaching, but since Chicken Little Hans didn't say anything to me, I opted to sleep in the next day. On Thursday, Hans left for work, I flipped my pillow to the cool side, shifted Wilbur's stretched out paws complete with sharp pitty nails from my midsection, and had just dozed off when all of a sudden the shit hit the fan. 

What sounded like the wailing of banshees jerked me wide awake. I well remembered that sound from the time we anchored in the Sassafras River in Maryland back when I was a complete novice to this whole sailing thing and I've never quite forgotten it.  I leaped out of bed and in the middle of trying to wash my face the power went out and I started to panic. I frantically wiped the soap out of my eyes and was very thankful that I was able to reset our inverter when the electric kicked back on. I finished washing up and finally opened the companionway door to a gray world of gusting rain and wind.

After the whole Debby experience I'd vowed that we'd be prepared for the next storm but we weren't. I put on my swimming suit bottoms, foul weather coat and nothing else (if you don't want to wash it, don't wear it is my motto) and got to work. I slogged through ankle deep water to get ice (if I don't have ice for drinks then don't mess with me), took Hans' hockey gear out of our dock box (before it could get soaked), took down anything that might blow away, retied our dock lines, and moved our dinghy.

I didn't get down below to check things for quite awhile but I wasn't too worried as our boat is pretty much water tight unless we stupidly leave a hatch open. Needless to say, I was horrified and totally pissed off to find our berth completely soaked. We recently bought two new air conditioners and while the one in the salon area appears to be on perfect behavior with full intentions of earning an Eagle Scout Award, the one in our berth is the spawn of the devil. I watched in complete horror as it spit rivulets of water from its cold air vent in rhythm with the drumming rain, all over our big fat feather pillows and Memory Foam mattress pad. 

The rest of the day revolved around my adjusting the dock lines in tune with the tide, sitting in the driving rain at the bow of our boat with our hose in order to fill the water tanks because I forgot to do that the day before, trying to tempt Wilbur into the cockpit so that he'd empty himself on his potty patch and not down in our already sodden berth (the only thing that got out the door was his nose, whereupon he fled to his favorite spot on our settee where he sulked for the rest of the day with a full bladder), listening to all the tornado warnings, and rotating our sodden pillows in front of the two fans I set up in our berth in hope that things might dry out before 2014. 

And, then, as late afternoon approached, Andrea grew bored with us and headed north. I felt slightly insulted, kinda like when you've put up with a totally ignorant guest and all of a sudden they blow you off for something better. Wilbur finally came out and relieved himself, I tossed all our wet towels into the cockpit, and took a shower.

Hans arrived home to a clean wife and boat, a dry berth, homemade chili on the stove, and an empty dog.

Just before the water crested our docks. It rose about six more inches after I took this picture.

Wilbur's ears blowing in the breeze.

After Hans arrived home we decided to bail out our dinghy.  I bailed while Hans supervised!

What a difference. This is how our docks normally look.

And this is what a vicious pit bull looks like after a nerve wracking day . Scary, huh!

Late his afternoon while relaxing in our cockpit we experienced a typical Florida cloud burst and normally I enjoy this since our bimini protects us like a screened in porch. But I knew better. I went down to our berth and sure enough the air conditioner was spitting water like crazy. We turned it off and tomorrow it goes back to Walmart for an exorcism.

And to think this was just the first storm of the season. I hate to think of what's to come.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

At Sea or in a Marina, Life is Always Interesting While Living on a Boat

Wilbur enjoys a Bloody Mary morning.
Hmmm, so what's happened here at our marina since April?

Thanks to an unusually low tide, a boat across from us would have completely sank instead of settling onto the bottom after a simple hose worked itself  free of a clamp. I did take a couple of pictures but I'm not going to post them as I wouldn't want anyone doing that to me.

 The man who fell off his boat this past March ended up spending two weeks in the hospital with three days of them in intensive care. He developed pneumonia within hours of falling in and I really didn't think he was going to survive. I told him that recently, and he laughed and said he's done dumber things in his life. He'll be 80 this month!

Our neighbor fell and broke 3 ribs. Hearing his screams of pain during the night when he coughed and his ribs didn't realign themselves properly is something I never want to experience again and I'm sure he doesn't either. Of course his cat chose to fall overboard that night too. It wasn't the first time and it won't be her last.

During my Mother's Day phone conversation with my 30 year old son, I told him that Hans and I are now swingers. After a long pause he told me I really need to learn how to phrase my comments to him in a way that won't give him a heart attack. I thought he knew that I meant we'd taken up swing dancing. Actually, I just like messing with his head.  About our swing dancing.  I love it. Hans, not so much.

I wonder how my son will feel when I tell him we have crabs. We've found two of these poor guys all dried up in our guest berth.
Hans and I are attempting to play tennis. We bought our rackets at WalMart and mine is designed for a 9 year old (the tag didn't state whether it meant physically or mentally).  Hans is experienced, I am not, but I'm very thankful for his patience. I do feel badly for him as he suffers from neck pain due to the car accident he had over a year ago and his mobility is not what it should be although it does level our playing field a bit. During the day I've been hitting a ball against a wall and in addition to sweating up a storm, I fear I now have tennis elbow.

The other day I watched a sailboat roar through the marina like it was in the Indy 500 so of course I ran up to our bow to watch. The renegade boat managed to turn around at the lower end (it was either that or run into a wall) while two men from the marina both armed with boat hooks, jumped aboard. Pretty impressive stuff.
The boat shot back up the marina, zipped past me and then attempted to get into its slip. It bounced off a piling and since we were at low tide all the oyster shells and barnacles that had collected at the high tide mark crashed into the water. The boat now skidded around toward the boats on the other side (our marina is U shaped with boats lining the inner long sides of the U. This creates a lane of water between that we use to get in and out). Luckily, it didn't hit anyone and revved up for a second attempt at docking. Wham! it slammed into the next piling and sent another cascade of barnacles into the water (at this point I wondered if we just might have chanced upon a rather unorthodox way to rid pilings in our marinas of those pesky and germ ridden creatures). The crew, looking and sounding like a band of pirates, shouted and brandished their boat hooks like swords as they caught the lines from the pilings and managed to screech to a stop before the cement wall stopped them.
Those poor people had just bought the boat and must not have had a survey done and this was their maiden voyage. Apparently the throttle only worked at full speed and was then only interested in going forward. It would eventually reverse but took forever getting there. Also, the rudder cable didn't care to cooperate and having its own agenda, didn't want to go where everyone else wanted to go. Considering all this, I think the man who jumped on board, took over the helm got this boat back into its slip did a pretty good job.

What I'll never forget was the look of sheer terror on the faces of the two women who were sitting in the cockpit while tightly clutching a toddler. The women's eyes were as big as saucers as they sat frozen in fear. The toddler's eyes were as big as saucers because he was being squished like a bug. But since we were at an extreme low tide and the water was about four feet deep I wasn't too worried about anyone disappearing from sight if they did sink.

This alley of water seems much more narrow when you're trying to maneuver  your boat in it.

Wilbur still loves going to the park, he likes whipped creme on his breakfast kibble, he sneaks up to the bow of the boat when he thinks I'm not looking because he's a big boy now, he peed himself when a dog from another boat knocked us over during a walk, he's still afraid of the neighbor cat and the Yorkie from a few boats away, he's very selfish and won't share toys with other dogs at the park although he feels they should all share with him, and last week during a dinghy ride he jumped out and towed us to shore.

Every thing tastes better with whipped creme.

Gee, I wonder what's going on over there?

"OMG!!" Wilbur exclaims in true teenager fashion, "When are you going to stop being a helicopter  mom and leave me alone??"

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Sweating Season

Hans and I, both very much northerners (during those years we never did enjoy the more than 9 months of cloud cover at a time), are now entering our third summer as liveaboards here on the hot, sunny, and steamy western coast of Florida.  We are either becoming a bit more accustomed to the heat or we've just given up any hope of ever knowing what it's like to not sweat for 24 hours a day.

I'm still amazed at the destructive rays of the sun and we are only now feeling like we have a small handle on its power. After suffering through our first summer here we covered the dead lights (or windows that don't open) that surround our salon area with a sunscreen that snaps onto the outside of our boat. 
Then last summer we had a sun shade made for our western facing stern. It very conveniently zips into our bimini and means that we can now sit in relative comfort during the early evening hours and not feel like a couple of sizzling eggs in a skillet. In the very near future we'll be draping the Knotty Cat in her Home Depot patio curtains that supposedly block an additional 15% of the sun.  And last week we installed two air conditioners. 

Before: closed hatch with a sunbrella cover.

Open hatch.

After: we cut a hole in a Rubbermaid container, stuffed an air conditioner  into the opening and dropped it over the open hatch. It was a perfect fit.

Who'd think there was an air conditioner behind that box?

What a difference. 

I had enjoyed our open-hatch-fresh-air winter so much that I dreaded having to deal with another hot and closed up summer. But thanks to Hans' ingenuity we now have cool dry air down below and I think I may even be able to sew in comfort.

Hans was away on business last week and here's Wilbur watching for him during his evening ritual.

It's been a while since I've posted and needless to say life at the marina continues to be interesting.  I'll catch up on all the doings here on my next post.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another Departure

Another cruiser cast off his lines a couple of days ago.

Josh arrived at our marina awhile back and since he had to go past our boat amongst his comings and goings, we, along with a lot of other live-aboards, quickly became acquainted with him.

Monday night we had a going away party for him.

Because just like that, after putting in tons of hours of work each and every day in order to get his boat ready to go, he was... ready to go.

What boggles my mind is the fact that Josh is only 32. And while he is young in years, he has the heart and soul of someone who's been around much longer. Please don't get me wrong when I state this, it's just that he's so very self sufficient when these days it seems like a lot of young people his age still depend on Mom and Dad.

Josh opens a going away card and gift.
After Josh dropped way too much stuff overboard at the dock and then had to "go in" after it, Rich and Danee worried that this might be a sign of things to come and therefore gifted him with a Keep Away Crockigator Plan (we hope it also works with sharks). 

Wilbur took his hosting duties quite seriously and even though he's dressed in formal attire you can see he's frantically cleaning Danee's spaghetti bowl. Never mind that we used disposable dishes that got tossed in the garbage anyway, he's all about keeping our land fills clean of food debris.

Shortly after Josh arrived, some of the live-aboards here realized he had a rental car. "Get rid of it," they told him as he was welcome to use theirs. So for the next few weeks I would do a double take every time a familiar vehicle would zip into the marina and Josh was at the wheel. I can't help but feel that sailors are always eager to help their neighbors. This seems to be in direct contrast to say condo or suburban living where neighbors seem to do their utmost to cause trouble. 

John, who lives a couple of boats down from us (and whom I discovered is originally from just a few miles of my home town), went along for the first leg of Josh's journey.  He'll return in a couple of weeks or so, and here and there some of Josh's other friends will be filling in as crew. 

Josh and John casting off.

This beautiful boat has already sailed all over the world and with Josh at the helm I'm sure it won't have any trouble getting him back to Australia.