Living La Vida Boat-ah

We are ready to start actually cruising!  

We checked off two major items on our to-do list that will enable us to start moving.  The first is that Dave got his Boat Remote!  Ours is called Docking Master, and the engineer who helped develop it also installed it.  He brought along a younger man who must have been apprenticing with him, and who actually did most of the physical work, while José regaled us with stories of his own military career in Argentina and work as a military contractor after immigrating here as a young man.  He rapidly oscillated between naval engineering with Dave, Spanish with his assistant, and English with me.  He was a hoot.  And now Dave has a new gadget with a remote for his boat.

The second was getting the new name put on the boat – it’s… SEE LEVEL.  Many of you may have already seen the video I posted on the kdseefari facebook page with the ‘official’ renaming ceremony to appease Neptune, God of the Seas.  I’ll put the video link below along with the logo , which gives some context to the meaning of the name.  As a submariner and also a private pilot, this is Dave’s adventure at sea level.  It’s also our way of seeing places and people from a different perspective, hence the spelling ‘see’ instead of ‘sea.’  Finally, this lifestyle is one of a slower pace and where much is beyond control (such as weather, driver’s licenses, etc.), and thus it requires a high level of acceptance and playing things where they lie.  Boat names are always fun, frequently a play on words that personalizes the boats to the owners.  SEE LEVEL has already been a conversation starter in the marina. 

And by popular demand, now that we have everything to our liking here is a video tour of the boat! 

The overall theme of these past three weeks?  Boats are a lot of fun, but they are also a lot of work.  Not that we didn’t know this going into it.  But when it’s your home it’s analogous to washing the interior and exterior of the house weekly, have a regular check-maintenance-replacement plan for all the electricals and mechanicals to anticipate problems rather than waiting until something breaks and calling someone in, and keeping multiple and redundant tech systems updated with the latest versions and backing up the backups.  Because if you don’t do all this routinely, your house might turn against you and cast you out into a blizzard.

Fortunately Dave has spent the better part of his grown-up years doing the mechanical and tech stuff and is good at it. (Perhaps because he spent his childhood years lighting things on fire or blowing them up, and seeing what damage could be wrought.  But that’s a whole other story.)  So I have taken on the cleaning and supply side of operations, and he does anything that requires fuel, electricity, or has the potential to go ‘boom.’  Of course, the down side of his vast experience is that he’s adopted a lot of submarine terminology and procedures.  (Is that eye-rolling I see of any of Dave’s shipmates and colleagues who have worked with him?)  I’m good with the usual nautical terminology — such as port and starboard, bow and stern, ‘head’ instead of bathroom, ‘galley’ for the kitchen – since they are common.  But Dave upped it a notch.  There are written casualty and general operating procedures, mess decks (the dining table) and a nav station (short for ‘navigation,’ but it’s the size of a third grade school desk so we made it the dog station), topside (essentially the outside area of the boat), and the conn (where we drive the boat from).  We have ‘lockers’ instead of cabinets: tool locker, maintenance locker, dinghy locker, line locker, play locker (bikes and kayak equipment).  I followed along for the most part, but he threw me a curve ball with ‘DC locker.’ 

“What’s a DC locker?” I asked when I spied the label on a door.

“Damage Control,” he tells me, as if it should be obvious.

“Damage Control???  You mean like fire extinguishers, water bailers, things to plug up holes?”

“No — life vests, the ditch bag, flares…”

“That sounds more like a Damage Has Been Done locker and we’re abandoning ship.”

“Too long to put on a label.”

Of course, I countered by putting yellow stickies on all the galley cabinets.  I actually started doing this many Navy moves ago because I would open up a cabinet and find Dave had put a frying pan in with the wine glasses, because ‘there was room there for it’ as he explained.  After a few rounds of the Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the others” whenever I discovered some odd combination in a cupboard, I decided it was more conducive to domestic tranquility to put yellow stickies on the cabinets indicating where things should go.  The advantage yellow stickies had with the boat was that I could rearrange them easily to mess with Dave when he drove me crazy with the nautical stuff, effectively hiding the cookies and chips from him.

I have spent a lot of time cleaning and organizing the living areas.  In pursuit of the elusive Bristol rating on the Ship-Shape Qualification Card, I’ve come up with a few Boating Truths:

  1. There is a lot of Butt Up time on a boat. I’ve spent a great deal of time with my upper half down in a hold, crammed awkwardly into weird spaces, or hanging over railings while accomplishing one task or another.  This applies not only to cleaning, but also to actual boating.  Keeping my foot on the button to haul the anchor up while simultaneously spraying the mud off the chain with one hand and pointing the direction Dave needs to drive the boat has required a lot of comical contortions.  Cleaning and scrubbing decks and rails is hands-and-knees work, and setting and stowing lines on a moving boat means lots of back flexion and extension.  Getting on and off a bobbing dinghy is worthy of a panel of judges.  The real fun starts when I have to extricate myself from whatever position I’ve managed to get into.  That’s when the derriere is required to take the lead.  Which leads us to the next Truth.
  2. Boating is physical, and good exercise. Besides Boat Yoga moves discussed above necessary to avoid going in the drink, there’s just a lot of physical work.  And it feels good!  There’s the climbing up and down on and off the boat, down into the cabins, up onto the deck and dock – there’s a lot of moving.  Toting everything from shore to boat.  Raising and lowering kayaks and the dinghy.  I am finding that some of the mild old-age arthritis is actually feeling better because I’m constantly in motion.  Workouts are great, but this is a constant labor that helps me not only physically but mentally with the satisfaction of a job completed. 
  3. There’s nothing glamorous about living on a boat, despite all the romanticized stereotypes in the movies – it’s a messy business. I gave up on glamour decades ago.  Never could pull it off.  And this is a salty life, and I mean you literally feel like you’re covered in salt between the air and the sun and the sweat.  I’m always finding smudges on my clothes with no idea how it got there – white is banished.  Sunscreen stains everything.  Hair is blown every which way within two minutes of stepping out of the cabin in the morning, so don’t waste time and money on it.  Accepting this truth is quite liberating.  No one cares what you look like in the boating world anyways because they’re all – um — in the same boat.  
Dave hard at work in the port engine compartment. Roxy is supervising.

Besides being the Cleaning Officer, I am also the Supply Officer.  I don’t ‘go shopping,’ but instead I ‘provision.’  It’s a little trickier than at home for several reasons, such as space limitations, the previously mentioned ‘no cardboard’ rule, and things go bad faster in the warm humid climate.  We were reminded of this last factor when we were still living in the camper and Dave thought the frig wasn’t working right because the temp was going up even though he kept turning down the temp setting, only to realize that on the temperature scale of one snowflake to four snowflakes he somehow was working on the idea that fewer snowflakes was colder so was actually turning the temperature setting UP as he progressed to fewer snowflakes.  You’d think a Minnesotan would have an inherent understanding of the Snowflake System, right?  When we start cruising, we will no longer have a car so grocery shopping will require more thought and must be able to be carried home or by bike.  Unknown access to stores precipitates an illogical anxiety of running out of food in most humans, even though I typically only go to the market a couple times a week; there’s something about not having unfettered access that triggers this ‘first world problem’ behavior (think COVID toilet paper hording).  So after two weeks of serious thought and intention to the simple act of grocery shopping, supplies are laid in and stowed and as long as we have a can opener and Dave doesn’t confuse the freezer snowflake hierarchy again we’re good for a couple weeks.

It hasn’t all been hard work and no play, though.  Longtime friends Kurt and Anita came up from Miami last weekend, and we took the boat out for a spin and then anchored off the beach for swim call and grilled burgers for dinner.  We’ve also met some wonderful people here in the marina during the three weeks since we owned the boat and at our first Dock Party.  Everyone is friendly and willing to share boating experience and answer questions.  There are also lots of dogs on boats here, which is an instant bond.  So we are very excited about a return to a social life that we haven’t had for the past year, furthered by both of us completing the COVID vaccine series this past week.

Grilling burgers while at anchor. Now THAT'S the life.
Roxy is starting to get the hang of riding in the dinghy.
Lunch at an iconic Ft. Pierce eatery. Note the photobombing kid over my left shoulder. Kinda creepy.
Swim call before dinner!

While it may not be glamorous, I love the lifestyle.  I sleep better, I eat better, I feel better, and I think better.  Though busy with daily tasks, I still have opportunities to ponder random things, such as the calm of the early morning on the water, the sound of fish jumping nearby, the feel of the breeze in the heat.  I better appreciate the variety of birds and the magnificent sunsets on our morning and evening Roxy walks.  The smell of the ocean air, the sound of rain on the deck, the feel of bare feet on the boat deck are all new elements of daily life rather than brief vacations.  We are ready and looking forward to start traveling and seeing new places and meeting new people.  See Level is now ready, and we’re mentally and physically ready and eager. 

BUT – of course there was a last minute snafu — At 4:59 pm on Friday along comes an email stating the car transport company couldn’t pick up the truck the next morning and they’d get back to us on Monday morning.  They weren’t answering their phone because they closed at 5:00.  So our planned departure yesterday is on hold until the truck starts its journey.  *Sigh*  This is why we have a plan and not a schedule, but the irony of a car thwarting our sea adventure has not escaped us.  First it was the driver’s license issue that had to be overcome to buy the boat, and now it’s the truck.  Apparently Neptune has a cousin Detroitacus, God of All Things Automobile, whose wrath we have incurred.

8 thoughts on “Living La Vida Boat-ah”

  1. Cannot wait for your cruising tales to begin! You guys are smart to seize this opportunity for adventure

  2. That is perhaps the best boat name ever. You can check the USCG Boat documentation data base to determine if your boat name is unique, at least WRT that, quite large, data base. Our boat was one of 6, but we consider it unique because the others had spaces between the words. Hey. A little spin. If you are one of single digits, that is pretty unique. If you come N to the Patapsco River, Lng:-76.5411237
    Lat:39.1493406, give us a ring. We have doc (hehe) space.

  3. Marge Sagstetter

    So excited for you all! You are pretty darn good with that camera, Karen, especially since Dave seems to grow his head back as soon as you cut him out! 🙂 Stay well, safe and happy boating!

  4. I think my favorite part is the garden, with Grandma’s Leaf (Aloe) plant. I could always tell when we arrived at a relative’s home by the Leaf by the front door! Karen, I know your father is looking down on you with pride!!

    1. Thanks Phil. Funny about the association of aloe with Grandma — I have the same thing. And I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot with this adventure.

  5. Just watched the video of your new digs. So clean. So happy for you. Stupid question, “where is Roxie’s head”? Also, how long will your first cruise be. So exciting.

  6. Have you already started “The Loop” voyage?
    Or is this current trip just a long shake-down cruise?

  7. BTW, great name for the boat, but I was really hoping for “Ratte Race”…

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