Learning to Putter

My father was a putterer. I used to think that he wasted lots of time puttering, doing mindless things and that he spent an inordinate amount of time doing them. But now, I think that what he was actually doing was being mindful. Daddy lived life in the present moment and intentionally enjoyed simple things. Simple things like a nightly bowl of ice cream gave him great joy.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of events but I do remember that Daddy’s nightly bowl of ice cream WAS an event.  I imagine that this mindful process started before dinner, with Daddy getting his bowl out of the cabinet and sitting it on the kitchen countertop. I imagine him glancing at that bowl sitting on the countertop during dinner. It’s not a furtive, anticipatory glance. It’s matter-of-fact. Yes, ice cream bowl, I see you sitting there on the countertop. You are not distracting me. I am enjoying my dinner.

Yes, ice cream bowl, I see you sitting there.
Yes, ice cream bowl, I see you sitting there.

After the dinner dishes are done, Daddy fills his bowl with 3, maybe 4 scoops of cheap vanilla ice cream. (My mom bought it by the 5-gallon buckets.) Next, he crumbles two homemade oatmeal raisin cookies over his ice cream, making sure the crumbles aren’t too big or too small. (Daddy was the only one in the family who liked oatmeal raisin cookies so my mom made them just for him to eat with his cheap vanilla ice cream.) After that, the bowl of ice cream goes into the freezer while he watches a TV show or two. When, in his mind, it is time, he gets that bowl of ice cream out of the freezer and microwaves it for the precise number of seconds it takes for the ice cream to get just melty enough. And then? Then, he mindfully eats his ice cream. Every. Single. Drop.

I learned lots of things from my father. Some lessons were easy to learn, like baiting a fish hook or doing a 3-point road turn. But sometimes, the lessons were rather obscure. I mean, really? What can you learn from watching your father’s nightly ice cream ritual?

Well, last week while visiting family, I realized that maybe you can learn to putter. Perhaps you can learn to be mindful. And…if you’re lucky, you can learn to be in the present moment.

We left FNR a week ago Friday and enjoyed an evening with Steve’s brother. Then, it was on to Raleigh to spend quality time with the kids, granddaughter and dogs. In Greensboro, we visited with my sister and brother-in-law before celebrating with my mom and stepdad in Burlington as they tied the knot.

It's official!  They are Mr. and Mrs.
It’s official! They are Mr. and Mrs.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am nowhere near as good at puttering as my father was, but since moving aboard FNR, I know I have gotten better. I know this because the pre-FNR me would worry and obsess about all the boat projects Steve and I weren’t getting done during the 10 days we were gone. I know this because instead of worrying and obsessing, I mindfully savored those 10 days. Every. Single. One.

Daddy and Me
Daddy and Me

Thanks to my Daddy I’m learning that life aboard FNR might, just might, be as good as a bowl of ice cream.

Renovating FNR’s Galley

We finished the galley renovation today. We wanted to get it done this week because tomorrow, we are heading west for a week or so. It was a bigger job than we thought it would be so this break from boat projects is a welcome one. We’re looking forward to seeing family and friends and are especially excited about babysitting our granddaughter and seeing Finley and Rootie. We’re also looking forward to celebrating my mom and future stepdad when they tie the knot on April 25.

Enjoy the video and please keep reading the blog. We’re just getting started on this adventure!!

Retiring is Hard Work

We are in our retirement years, the portion of our life during which we are retired. We are retirees. We are retired. We sure are tired. Why are we so tired? Because retiring is hard work.

Once Steve and I finally decide we really can retire, our workload seems to double. We need to sell the house and there are a few things that need to be done around the house before putting it on the market. Once on the market, we sell it quick – on the market on Friday, under contract on Monday.

One step closer to cruising!
One step closer to cruising!

Whew, no rest for the weary.

We turn in our notices, start transitioning our responsibilities to those who are replacing us and have lots of last minute deadlines to meet.

We start packing once we get past the due diligence date. We have a packing plan that consists of six different “packing” piles.

  1. Give away pile
  2. Yard sale pile
  3. Big storage building pile. That’s for the stuff we want to keep but can’t take on the boat.
  4. Small storage building in Oriental pile. That’s for stuff that we need to complete boat projects but that won’t fit on the boat and will end up back in the big storage building once we start cruising.
  5. Going on the boat pile
  6. Trash pile

We memorize a new address and update our address EVERYWHERE. Thank you, L and CB for letting us use your mailing address.

We close accounts, consolidate accounts, and open some joint accounts.

We turn off utilities. The Time Warner Cable rep is at a loss for words when I tell him that I am moving on a sailboat and NO, there isn’t anything he can do to keep my business. LOL, I don’t think he was prepared him for that answer.

We cancel insurance policies.

We agonize about not taking Finley and Rootie on the boat.

We sign up for Social Security benefits.

Once moving aboard FNR, the projects start and the act of retiring continues.

We research and purchase health insurance through the Marketplace.

We transfer our 401k’s to IRA’s.

We create a retirement budget. (Since Steve is the COO, I get to be the CFO!)

Today, Steve works on the galley renovation.

And, I go to work in my new office.

A good internet connection and I can work from anywhere!
A good internet connection and I can work from anywhere!

Retirement. We’ve never worked harder and we LOVE it!!

Steve, we have a problem.

Hatches are like sunroofs in cars. They let light in and open, you get lots of fresh air.  FNR has three hatches – one in the main salon, one in the head and one in the V-berth. When we were boat shopping, Steve spent quite a bit of time looking at the hatches, running his fingers around their frames and inspecting them for leaks. Sometimes, he’d say something about one needing to be rebedded or gaskets needing to be replaced. I was more focused on the boat’s beam and whether or not I smelled diesel.

None of FNR’s hatches leaked when we bought her. We did have a leaky portlight and Steve had to replace its gasket. He got a little aggravated getting the seal tight but it was not a boat project.

Boat projects are what we spend most of our time doing. We’ve learned that if we expect to complete a boat project in 2 days, then we need to plan on at least 4 and not be surprised when it turns into 6. “A” boat project often turns into multiple boat projects. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve said, “Might as well deal with this while we’re in this deep.” Boat projects are what keep you from getting other boat projects completed.

We had planned on renovating the galley this week but the hatch in our main salon started leaking and Steve was worried that moisture was penetrating the core of the deck. We had planned on rebedding all our hatches eventually. A leaky one just moved this project up on the list. So much for renovating the galley. We’re rebedding a hatch.

Reminder, we ARE retired. That means, it’s close to 10:00 by the time we drink coffee, piddle around on our computers, and take a walk. After taking an hour for lunch, we knock off for the day between 3:00 and 4:00. Yes, a 4 to 5 hour workday does limit what we accomplish in a day, but we have lots of days so we’ll get it done.

Day 1: I want to talk about getting new lenses in our hatches. Thirty years of dinging and crazing makes for unsightly lenses. Steve doesn’t want to tackle replacing the lens himself. We look into sending the hatch off to be re-lensed but an 8-week backlog means 8 weeks with a hole in our deck. Also, 8 weeks is getting awful close to our departure date and that makes us a little uncomfortable.

Maybe a whole new hatch then? No such luck. We can’t find an exact replacement for our existing hatch. We’ll have to get one a little bigger which means cutting a bigger hole in our deck.

Nope, they don't make this one anymore.
Nope, they don’t make this one anymore.

Cutting fiberglass is messy.  Fiberglass dust gets everywhere and you clean it up forever. Maybe our lenses aren’t so unsightly after all. And besides, both re-lensing and replacing a hatch are expensive and we’d rather spend that money on something else.

It takes us half a day to decide that we’re just going to rebed the hatch and by the time Steve gets the hatch out, it’s quitting time. We use trash bags – one on the deck and one on the headliner – to cover the hole.

Our garbage bag barrier still lets in light!
Our garbage bag barrier still lets in light!
Think we need a garbage bag on this side, too?
Think we need a garbage bag on this side, too?

Day 2: Steve is right. Water has penetrated one corner of the hatch. The wet balsa wood in the core of the deck needs to be scrapped out. Wet balsa wood is still surprisingly strong so that’s quite the chore. After that, Steve spends the rest of the day scrapping the sealant used to hold the rim of the hatch in place on the deck.

Day 3: After talking to the West Marine guy, Steve decides to use a router to remove about ¼” to ½” facing of balsa wood so he can apply a barrier of epoxy. That way, if water does get in, it should not erode the balsa wood.

~Yes, I am afflicted with Vertical Video Syndrome.  Sorry, son, it’s a hard habit to break.~

Epoxy is applied and left to dry overnight. It’s supposed to rain tonight so we use our companionway cover to reinforce our garbage bag barriers. I spend the rest of the day doing laundry, blogging, and cleaning up balsa wood chippings.

Somebody made a mess.
Somebody made a mess.

Day 4: Along about our second cup of coffee, I look up and notice that our inside garage bag is distended.  It’s full of water. Steve, we have a problem!  Thank goodness for Glad ForceFlex garbage bags!

I grab a bucket.  Steve grabs his marlin spike and punches a hole in the plastic. We set the bucket on a TV tray under the hole and watch it fill up with water.

Water, water everywhere.
Water, water NOT everywhere, thank goodness!

Disaster averted, I go to yoga class. By the time class is over, it has stopped raining and the sun is out. Steve re-applies epoxy to some areas that need it. End of day 4.

Day 5: Butyl tape applied. Holes drilled. Hatch back in. Hatch trim still needs some work but that can wait. Project complete and unless it leaks, it’s zen on a boat.


The Zen of Rubber Mallets

Before we retired, Steve and I talk about how we wanted our daily routine to look when we retired. We want to wake up naturally – not to an alarm clock – drink one, two, maybe three cups of coffee, and piddle around on our computers before getting started on the day’s chores. We plan to go for long walks and eat healthier. So far, we’ve settled right into the routine we imagined.

I have a couple of personal retirement goals.  Blogging is one.  Reading more is another. I used to love to read for pleasure, but one day I stopped. I think it was because I HAD to read a lot at work. TONS of emails and lots of technical stuff. I guess I was all read out by the end of the work day.

As an aside, I did read a few blogs on a regular basis but I wouldn’t have read them if I hadn’t of gotten an email every time something was posted.  If you’re so inclined, checking out one of my favorite pre-retirement, yes-I-read-him-at-work bloggers may give you a feel for why this blog is called Zen on a Boat.

Steve has always read a lot, at least he has since I’ve known him. You name it, he reads it. Books, magazines, newspapers, Yahoo headlines, blogs, especially sailboat blogs. Since I didn’t read much before moving aboard FNR, Steve would tell me about things he read in those sailing blogs. It was his way of preparing me for cruising. One day, he shared how we weren’t the only ones who used a rubber mallet to break up ice. Apparently, no self-respecting cruiser sets sail without one and I am starting to understand why.

Remember, one of the things Steve and I want to do is eat healthier. I consider nutrition my avocation so I am taking responsibility for meeting this retirement goal. I know what healthy eating looks like. Problem is, I love eating non-healthy foods and so does Steve. A good cheeseburger can make my eyes cross.  Steve thinks that if something doesn’t taste good, then it has to be good for you.

Since they say you should only attempt so much change at once, I don’t want to set us up to fail when it comes to eating healthier. We’re changing our eating habits, but not drastically.  We’ve starting eating sandwich thins and yogurt, and there’s light mayo, 2% cheese, and non-fat milk in the refrig. Healthier choices, a few at a time.

I don’t love to cook.  As far as I’m concerned, if I don’t have to cook it, then it’s delicious.  But when I do cook, I have been known to substitute healthier ingredients when preparing traditional comfort foods. However, there’s one meal I haven’t been able to mess with too much and that’s spaghetti with meat sauce. A good spaghetti with meat sauce makes Steve’s eyes cross.

Luckily, marina sauce is not too bad for you and if I can sneak in lean ground beef, my meat sauce doesn’t clog our arteries too terribly bad. Switching to a healthier pasta is NOT on Steve’s radar screen so I don’t even go there.

Last night, spaghetti with meat sauce was on the menu. No salad though so no veggies. What if I could get an extra helping of veggies in that meat sauce, I wondered?  I used to try that with my kids, sneaking smushed cauliflower and spinach into foods they would eat. I really like Del Monte Zucchini with Italian Style Tomato Sauce.  Adding that to my meat sauce would make for a tasty and healthier meal.  But, how to smush it? Well, I think you know what I came up with…

Smush, smush, smush
Smush, smush, smush.

Add smushing zucchini to the list of things a rubber mallet can be used for.

All smushed!
All smushed and one other thing to note. No self-respecting cruiser sets sail without Ziploc bags either!

Was it edible?  Perhaps Steve should answer that question.

It wasn't awful!
This can’t good for you.

AHA!  Zen. Very zen.

What’s in a Name?

My kids grew up in the 90’s before everything was electronic. PDA’s were being introduced but cell phones weren’t in every pocket. We used a paper calendar to keep up with our schedules. I wrote EVERYTHING on that calendar and with a busy family of 5, that was a lot of writing. So, I shorthanded it, kind of like texting shortcuts. L – SP was soccer practice for my son. C – GS was Girl Scouts for my older daughter. R – PD w/ DGS was a play date with my younger daughter’s best friend. This worked so well that I started referring to my kids and their friends by their initials. (HR3you know who you are!)  As texting became the norm, I started leaving cryptic notes for my kids. TAN was “taking a nap”. YMLY was “your mommy loves you”. It drove them crazy, but they had fun with it with, too. They still do.  I’ll get a cryptic text every once in a while and will have to decipher what they are telling me.

So to us, it’s not odd for our boat to be named FNR. Many of you have asked what FNR stands for. Well, it depends on who you ask…

Steve says it’s a name for all people. Meaning that, if you’re a radio enthusiast, it stands for Frequency Noise Response. If you’re a microbiologist, you probably know all about Fumarate Nitrate Reductase. If you’re a car enthusiast, you’re ready for a Friday Night Ride. If you’re a professor, perhaps you teach in the College of Forestry and Natural Resources. But, he says, if you’re an asshole like him, it’s For No Reason.

Ask me and I’ll tell you that what FNR really stands for is Finley aNd Rootie. Most of you know that Finley and Rootie are our dogs, and that I love those dogs dearly.

They love riding in the back of the truck!
F & R are ready for a Friday Night Ride!

When we talk about going cruising, I just assume the dogs will go with us. Steve says lots of people take their dogs with them. Yes, we’ll have to make some accommodations for them, but dogs do live on boats. Besides, we’ve taken them on a powerboat before and they did just fine. So I am excited to take F & R to Oriental when we close on our boat. They are excited, too!!  But, as we head down the dock, I realize that getting on and off a sailboat can be rather problematic for a dog. Boats move back and forth and up and down along with the water. It’s not just a little hop for them to get on and off. They have to think about when they jump and where they land. F & R are a little intimidated so I jump on with Finley in my arms and Steve carries Rootie on board. Once down below, they make themselves at home.  Yep.  This is going to work out just fine!!

All settled in!
All settled in!

We practice going up and down the companionway steps. They figure out how to go up, but down is another story.

Come on, Finley! You can do it!
Come on, Finley! You can do it!

And, poor Rootie. He has another issue. A medium-sized dog, weighing about 55 pounds, he’s the sweetest dog ever, but a major klutz. I don’t know, maybe his center of gravity is off, because he sure has trouble standing up when he is out on deck. Steve calls him shark bait, meaning it’s just a matter of time before he falls overboard.

It takes me a few months, but I finally decide that cruising with two dogs is not going to be the best idea nor it is going to be particularly enjoyable for me or the dogs. I am going to need time to settle into the cruising lifestyle and it’s going to be lots harder if I have two dogs trying to adjust, as well. Besides, F & R are getting older and I can’t bear the thought of something happening to them on the boat.

Finley and Rootie are going to stay behind. Steve knows how hard that is for me, and while he won’t admit it if you ask him, that’s why we named our boat FNR.

Luckily, both dogs are with family. Each daughter took one. They get together for play dates and the girls share lots of pictures.

Yes, this is MY ride!
Yes, this is MY ride!
Who can say no to that face?
Isn’t that the sweetest face EVER?

Steve and I plan to cruise for 2 years so F & R will be 9 years old when we return. I miss them but I am about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime and I feel very certain that it won’t be for no reason!

Renovating FNR’s Head

There are lots of projects we hope to complete over the next 3 months. I say “we” but I really mean Steve. He’s the handiest man I know. I help occasionally when he needs an extra set of hands but I can’t take credit for any of the finished projects. Steve started the head renovation on Monday. He finished it today. There are a few finishing touches to add, but to quote my girls, it’s SO fancy! Enjoy the show!!

A shout out to the father of my granddaughter, I mean my son, for the “techy” tutorials.  Having an Instructional Technology Facilitator in the family is coming in quite handy!  Bear with us as I learn and he teaches.

The Zen of Zip Ties

This morning, I turn on the water in the bathroom (AKA head) to brush my teeth and no water comes out of the faucet. We started working on replacing the bathroom fixtures yesterday so I assume Steve turned off the water or something. No big deal. Brushing your teeth in the kitchen (AKA galley) sink for a couple of days is a small price to pay for new bathroom fixtures.

Hmmm…no water in the kitchen either. That doesn’t make sense. We have two water tanks. I know one’s empty because we just switched over to the second one yesterday but there’s NO way the second tank can be empty. I also know I use a lot of water but I haven’t used THAT much. Side note…I don’t have to worry about how much water I use right now because we’re at the dock. We have an unlimited supply.

Steve’s still sleeping. I am not going to wake him up to tell him we don’t have any water. One, that’s not a nice thing to wake up to and two, I don’t want to hear AGAIN how much water I use. So, I fix a cup of coffee and start reading email and do some online banking.

Steve gets up and heads into the bathroom. “Wow. We’re out of water.” WHEW! He’s surprised. I knew I hadn’t used that much water.

I figure we’ll fill the tanks after we drink our coffee but no, Steve says he’ll drink his coffee while he fills the tanks. He’s thinking we have a leak and wants to get to the bottom of it. I pull the cushions off the settee to see if there’s water where there isn’t supposed to be water. (I should have taken a picture to show you where this tank is located, but I am still in a pre-coffee state.) Nope, all dry and the tank is definitely empty. I hear the water trickling into the tank and sit down to watch it fill up. Steve doesn’t like to overfill the tanks so I let him know when they are full. Next thing I know, he’s pulling the hose out of that tank and starts filling the other tank. I stick my head out the companionway. “That first tank is nowhere near full.” Steve has a pretty good idea what the problem is. The vent line is clogged. He unhooks the vent line from the water tank and blows into it. Yep. It’s clogged. He grabs a little screwdriver, heads back outside and then yells at me to blow into the vent line. All right. I’ll give it a whirl.

S: Still clogged?

M: How can I tell?

S: Blow.

M: I did.

Here comes Steve. He blows into the vent line. Yes, it’s still clogged. (I still don’t know how he can tell.) I can see him thinking.

M: Will canned air work?

S: No, not enough pressure.

M: How about picture hanging wire? I have some in my tool box.

S: Not rigid enough. I need something thin and rigid.

I decide to go take a shower while he ponders on what he can use as a snake to unclog the line. He thinks it’s a dirt dobber’s nest. On my way out to the shower, I ask if a zip tie will work. I can see him thinking.

Steve is sitting on the settee drinking his second cup of coffee when I return from my shower. Vent line is unclogged.

Ahhh, the zen of zip ties.

I know. No pictures today. I will do better, I promise. Actually, I AM doing better. I have been taking lots of pictures of our bathroom project, and if all goes well, we’ll be posting those in the next day or two.