My Name is FNR and I Might Be a Dock Queen

I’ve been reading some about the derelict boat problem.  Boats are being abandoned.  Some are left at the dock.  Some are set free to sink.  Some are sunk intentionally.  Unsightly for sure, they pose environmental and navigational hazards.  It’s a problem all across the country but it’s getting a lot of attention in Florida.  They have an At-Risk Vessel Program there.  Owners are being notified that they have “pre-derelict” boat and are being asked to address the issues.  It sounds like it’s been pretty successful.

I sure hope so because it makes me sad to see an unloved boat.  Steve and I like to walk docks and we see lots of boats that just sit in their slips waiting for someone to come aboard.  Often, the canvas is torn, the interior is exposed to weather, the decks are covered in bird poop, and the hull is barnacle-encrusted.  There may even be plants growing in the anchor well.  Not knowing the circumstances, I try not to judge the owner.  I just feel sorry for the boat.

At the other extreme, there are some boats that are well cared for, yet they, too, hardly ever leave their slip.  Those boats and their owners are known as Dock Queens.  It’s somewhat of a derogatory term and it may very well apply to us.

We move aboard FNR on March 27 planning to stay at Oriental’s Pecan Grove Marina until our lease ends in June.  Yes, it’s cold a lot of that time and yes, we have quite a few boat projects to complete, but, in those 3 months, FNR leaves the slip twice and that is only because we have guests who want to go sailing.

Come June 29, we are excited to throw the bow lines off.  Meandering up the ICW to Solomons, MD was quite enjoyable.  But since arriving on July 8, FNR has only been out of her slip three times.  Once to move from Beacon Marina to Solomons Harbor Marina.  Once to turn her around in the slip and lastly to see if the Milwaukee 28 volt right angle drill that Young Son bought Steve for his birthday really would raise the mainsail.  Ha!  Who needs electric winches?

Our plan to putter around in the Chesapeake for a couple of months has not come to fruition, but we are good with that.  We are retired.  We are good with not waking up to an alarm clock and with not going to work.  We are good with spending our days the way we want to spend them.  Life is good and we are good with being Dock Queens…at least for the next few weeks.

Yesterday, we opened our Waterway Guides, logged into Active Captain, spread out the charts and starting planning our trip south.  The more we planned, the more excited we got.  There are tons of great anchorages out there that we really want to see.  We may even jump offshore for a day because that’s what cruisers do.  Most legs of our itinerary have an anchor out option and a marina option since September can still be pretty hot.  We.  Do.  Not.  Like.  Being.  Hot.  Period.

Our plan has us in Little River, SC mid-to-late October.  We’d like to be cruising into Florida the first week or so of December.  We’re not sure how we’re going to get there – we haven’t charted that part of the trip yet.  We have looked at the weather though, and in December, Florida’s daily highs range from 71°F to 75°F.  Our Dock Queen days may very well be behind us.  If not, we are good with that.  Hopefully, FNR will be, too.

Sometimes I Need a Bigger Boat

Steve’s first wife, Lou, died of breast cancer in 1988. He remarried but divorced 17 years later. I was married for 25 years before divorcing. With 56 years of marital experience under our belts, Steve and I are working hard to do it right this time. Based on how many people have said that they couldn’t live on a boat with their spouse and how good we work together, I think we do married pretty good. But, sometimes, I need a bigger boat.

As a young woman, I was an intense, driven, judgmental, impatient, demanding perfectionist who paid way too much attention to detail. One day, I paid some attention to myself and decided that I didn’t like being an intense, driven, judgmental, impatient, demanding perfectionist. Wanting to be a different person, I read self-help books and went to personal development workshops. I started doing yoga and learned about being in the present moment. Today, I am a recovering perfectionist working toward being a better “ME”, but sometimes I need a bigger boat.

Steve is a self-aware guy. That was one of the things I noticed right off and really liked when we first met. He knows his strengths, his weaknesses, what he likes, what he dislikes. He has strong opinions but typically he’s okay with agreeing to disagree. He doesn’t like to screw up but admits it when he does and learns from his mistake. He apologizes if he thinks he’s wrong. And that’s why sometimes I need a bigger boat.

You see, sometimes Steve gets grumpy and behaves in such a way that I get pissed off. When I tell him that his behavior has upset me, he apologizes for upsetting me which pisses me off even more because that means he is NOT sorry for how he behaved. So I give him the silent treatment and that’s when I need a bigger boat. It’s hard to ignore someone you literally cannot get away from.

Ridiculous? Definitely. This is one thing we need to work harder on. Thankfully, this ridiculousness doesn’t happen very often but last week we were in Raleigh visiting our kids and guess what?

Steve got grumpy and pissed me off so I gave him the silent treatment while pretending not to give him the silent treatment in front of the kids. It was a challenging couple of days but there was an end in sight. For me, a trip to the beach with my daughters, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter and for Steve, a visit with his brother in Chocowinity.

At North Myrtle Beach, the world revolves around the granddaughter until her 7 PM bedtime. Then, it’s three 20-something and one 50-something girls gone wild. We sit around the kitchen table and eat, talk, laugh, play games, confide, listen, commiserate, and reminisce. We watch “I’m a Snake” on You Tube. (How can such a stupid a video be so hilarious?) We drink too much. (Oh. Maybe that’s how.) We stay up way too late and get up early to do it all over again. A grand time is had by all and then? Then, it’s time to go back to Raleigh.

Steve meets me at the door. I’m not mad at him anymore. We’re back to working hard at doing married good. On the drive back to Solomons, I resolve to not let the intense, driven, judgmental, impatient, demanding perfectionist get the better of me the next time Steve gets grumpy. No getting pissed off. No silent treatment. No needing a bigger boat. Yes, the better “ME” will just accept that sometimes Steve gets grumpy. Either that or I will just go back to North Myrtle Beach….

Girls Gone Wild

Sorta Chilling in Solomons

You may notice my blog looks a little different. That’s because WordPress’s Blogging 101 course is teaching me how to snazz up it up. Feel free to critique. I’d love to hear from you.

There are three things that most full-time cruisers say will make or break a cruising experience.

ANCHOR: No one wants to deal with a dragging anchor in the middle of the night.

DINGHY: It’s got to be big enough to be comfortable but not so big that it can’t be manhandled when needed and your engine must, must, must be reliable. No one wants to motor ashore and then have to row back to the boat with a dinghy full of supplies.

REFRIGERATION:  Who wants hot beer and sour milk?

Anchor?  Check.  Check.  Since the kind of anchor you have depends on the bottom in which you are anchoring, we have two.  Our Bruce anchor is good for anchoring in grassy and rocky bottoms and our primary anchor is a 33 lb. galvanized Rocna.  It’s more of a “general-purpose” anchor.  There’s about 400’ of rode between the two of them, and while we haven’t anchored out a lot, we’ve yet to drag.

Dinghy?  Almost check.  We have a 2003 Caribe C-9 dinghy with an 8 horsepower Yamaha engine.  There’s plenty of room for the two of us and since FNR has davits getting the dinghy in and out of the water is no big deal.  We don’t have a motor lift but use a halyard to lift the motor on and off the dinghy.  Right now, the only thing between us and a reliable dinghy engine is operator error.

We (and by “we” I mean Steve) have only had to row once, but that debacle taught us (and by “us” I mean Steve) that it’s a good idea to made sure there is plenty of gas in the tank before taking me for a dinghy ride particularly when I need to be back at the marina by 3:00 to get ready for my week at camp.

And did you know that no matter how many times we (and by “we” I mean Steve) pull the rope, that engine absolutely will not start if there is oil in the carburetor? So how do we (and by “we” I mean Steve) keep oil out of the carburetor? We (and by “we”…okay you get the picture) do not lay the engine on its side when transporting it from Point A to Point B.

Furthermore, we all know that oil and water don’t mix. Well, neither do gas and water. “We” figured that out when “we” didn’t close the vent on the gas tank and it rained. Dinghy engines do not run well when there is water in the fuel line.

Luckily, the operator is definitely learning and even though we’re troubleshooting another fuel line problem, we’re close, very close to having a reliable engine on our dinghy.

Refrigeration? Ours is dying. It’s probably not original but it uses R-12 refrigerant and since that was banned back in 1996 due to its ozone depletion potential, it can’t be recharged. We install a small fan inside the box hoping improved air circulation results in better cooling.

No, a tornado did not rip our boat apart. All we're doing is installing a fan in our refrigerator, I promise.
No, a tornado did not rip our boat apart.  We’re just installing a fan in our refrigerator.
No luck. We replumb the drain so the melting water can drain directly into the bilge and not freeze around the evaporator plate.

Replumbing the fridge drain
Replumbing the fridge drain…

Replumbing the fridge drain leads to cleaning the bilge. Go figure...
…leads to cleaning the bilge. Go figure.
No luck.  It needs to be replaced. Oh, goody!  I get to go refrigerator shopping!!  How fun is that?

Oh. My. God. Refrigerator shopping is not fun.  It is hard, unbelievably hard.

What kind of condenser do we get? Do we go with an air-cooled, water-cooled or an air/water-cooled system?

Do we want a flat evaporator that can be bent to fit around the sides of the box or a bin-type evaporator?

What about power?  12-volt?  120-volt?  Or one that that switches between DC and AC voltages automatically?

We get quotes from a couple of the boatyards in Solomons, and we (and this time by “we” I mean us) do not want to spend what they are charging to install a new system so guess what?  We’re going to install it ourselves because you know what Steve says. The only difference between us and the people who do refrigeration for a living is experience and we’re fixing to get that experience.  I hate it when he says that.

Currently, we have an air-cooled Norcold condenser with a flat evaporator that switches between voltages automatically.

See that frosty thing down there? That's a flat evaporator plate. It's too small for our box and it's dying.
See that frosty thing down there? That’s a flat evaporator plate. It’s too small for our box and it’s dying.
The only thing I really care about is the evaporator. I want a flat evaporator because even though it has to be bent, it takes up less room in the box.  Armed with that knowledge, Steve gets to work. He scours the internet, makes many a phone call, and polls our neighbors on the docks before sitting me down to give me the good news / bad news spiel.

Steve thinks we should get Adler Barbour’s SuperColdMachine CU-200 Condensing Unit. Good news? It’s an air-cooled condenser that can be converted to an air/water-cooled system. Water-cooled systems are more efficient in warmer climates and since we are heading to Florida, that’s a nice feature. Bad news? It’s not compatible with a flat evaporator. Of course. The only thing I care about.

M: So what are my choices?

S: I really think you’ll like the horizontal bin evaporator. The bin is a little freezer so if you want to keep something frozen you can.

M: How big is it? (Going online to look at it.) That’s huge!!

Huge…7-1/2″H x 15-1/2″W x 12″D
M:  Hey, what about this one?? It can go right where the old evaporator plate is. It won’t take up much room AND it has a built-in fan to help circulate the cold air.

Not huge…10-7/8″H x 8-5/8″W x 2-5/8″D
We poke around the internet looking for reviews. Apparently, this isn’t a very popular evaporator. Two reviews. One person loved it. One person hated it…said it froze up.

S: I really think you’ll like the horizontal bin evaporator. We can mount it above the inclined wall. That’s space we aren’t using anyway, and if we put it as close to the top of the box as possible, you’ll still be able to put stuff underneath it. How about I model one out of cardboard and install it so you can see what it will look like?

Hmmmm…this might very well work.
Steve starts measuring, drawing, cutting and taping and the next thing I know there’s a cardboard evaporator prototype in our box.

Evaporator, Cardboard
See that Cheerio box? That’s where the evaporator bin is going to be installed.

Say hello to my new freezer!!
I do like I!  Say hello to my new freezer!!
Our Adler Barbour SuperColdMachine CU-200 Condenser and ColdMachine VD-153 Large Horizontal Evaporator will be delivered Tuesday.  Installation experience to follow…