Friday, January 28, 2011

Record Snow!

Living aboard is one thing if you're someplace warm with waving palm trees.   It's quite another when one gets hit with snow storm after snow storm. 

Stamford is just a short distance from New York City.  Since weather usually travels from west to east, what they get, we get.   NYC usually gets about 20 inches of snow a year.  We got that in the first snowfall!

This week really took the cake.  A six inch snowfall on Monday followed by a foot and a half on Wednesday.  It was pretty heavy stuff as well, so after shoveling off the decks, I decided I had better shovel off the roof before the boat capsized.

Here's a pic of the aft deck.  Yes, that's a broken rocking chair.

And here's what the bow looked like.  The bump at the pointy end is the windlass. 

Pam started shoveling first.

And then I did the aft deck and the roof.

Do we still enjoy living aboard?   I briefly pondered this yesterday.  I was using the PC in the helm station.  I looked out over the bow and saw Hooded Mergansers diving for their dinner as a parade of Canadian Geese paddled by, while overhead Seagulls were swirling about.  The sun was setting and it was gorgeous.  My answer is yes.

I then asked Pam if she still enjoyed living on the boat.  A smile came to her face and she said "Most girls wouldn't like it, especially having to go up the dock to the showers.  But I LOVE IT!"

What a gal.

- Dave

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ice 1, Chevy the dog 0

We've had some cold weather down here in CT. Nothing like upstate NY where I come from, for sure, but 4 degrees is pretty cold. The freezing point of seawater is around 28 degrees, depending on its salinity. We'd been pretty much ice free until yesterday when the ice froze to about 1/4" or maybe 1/2", plus a couple of inches of snow on top that fell this morning. Not enough to support Chevy, a 70 pound pit bull who got the icey surprise of his life when he stepped off the dock and onto it.
I was on the boat when I heard the big splash and frantic dog paddling. With adrenalin pumping, I flew down the deck, bounded down the snow covered steps to the dock and the dog, grabbed him by his collar with my left hand and pulled him up, and then grabbed his back leg with my right and deposited him on the dock.  I was amazed.  He felt as light as a feather.
He's the dummy on the right.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Living aboard with pets

    I wasn't sure what was going to happen moving aboard a boat. For Dave and myself it was going to be a challenge in and of itself. Moving aboard with two cats, a dog and a guinea pig, a challenge. We have a 19 year old half Himalayan cat named Smudge, a 6 year old three legged Siamese, Charlie, our young pit bull, Ruby and  Tony the guinea pig. Fellow boaters with pets have warned me if you have pets on a boat you can expect they will fall overboard at least once. I was terrified of this prospect.

   The boat was docked on the Saugatuck River in Westport, CT about a half mile from the LI Sound. The current of the river combined with the current of the tide could be very strong at times. I knew if my three legged cat fell overboard he would surely drown. Our saving grace was that neither cat was really interested in getting off the boat..... until midsummer hit. I discovered the "old lady" off the boat a couple times and Charlie had now taken an interest in things at the other end of the dock. He couldn't quite manage the jump to the dock so I began to take him off the boat occasionally to give him his land fix. It wasn't long before I saw him off the boat by himself! Now I was beginning to worry. What if he jumped and fell in the water instead of landing on the dock? Well, we had to go away for a two day trip leaving the boat and it's occupants on their own. Since the litter box was being kept on the aft deck, we left one of the side doors open so the cats would be able to go in and out as needed. I was a bit worried about the cats but figured they should be alright for two days.

   When we arrived home, it was late in the evening, and night darkness had settled in. We brought our bags in and I went looking for the cats. The "old lady", Smudge came sauntering out very pleased to see us, Charlie, however was no where to be seen. Instant panic set in. I ran out on the deck and began calling his name. I would call and then listen closely.... sigh of relief I heard him! He was on the bank in the trees. I could hear his meow and his distinctive shuffle since he drags his hind quarters and his tail due to his accident. I kept calling him and he kept coming closer, then I heard it.....*SPLASH*...then no more meows. I yelled at David, grabbing a flashlight and jacket, went running down the dock. I just knew he was going to drown with only three legs and a paralyzed tail. I kept calling his name and scanning the edge of the stone wall that ran along the riverside. Tide was high and there was no shoreline. Then as I did a sweeping check of the edge of the trees, I saw him. Drenched. He looked like a drowned rat but he was alive and meowing at me. I scooped him up and ran back to the boat. Toweling him dry, and knowing he was safe,  I could finally laugh at the situation. The poor cat had forgotten you have to get to the boat via the dock. The property is on a large hill, the end of the hill, is a rock ledge with a six foot drop to the water. during daylight hours, he knows to stay away from the edge. At night, he had obviously forgotten all about the river and just wanted to get to his mom. I can't imagine what must've gone through his head as he was flying off the edge of the rock wall and spashed right into the water, then having to scale a rock wall to get out of the water.... poor Charlie.

   I can say, he learned his lesson. Charlie has never again tried to get off the boat. He is quite content to sit on the benches or look over the rail, to watch the goings on, but he has not tried to get off the boat.

Smudge was not pleased with Charlie for having fallen off the boat, especially because he now smelled like skanky river water and seaweed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How we came to buy this boat

I’ve been a sailor for 40 years, but I’ve owned a few powerboats as well.   But my dream of cutting the dock lines and going cruising has always been on a sailboat.

Pam and I moved to Stamford from upstate New York.  It’s expensive here.  Very expensive.  We were paying $1,400 a month for a very small two bedroom apartment.

Last December, my boss’s mother sadly passed away.  Part of her estate was this trawler.  My boss asked if I’d be interested in buying it as a liveaboard.   Hmmmm…..

So one cold sunny day in January of 2010, Pam and I drove to Bridgeport where the boat had been sitting on the hard for close to 20 years.  Pam decided to sit in the truck with Ruby the pitbull while I checked it out.  I put up the ladder I had brought along and climbed up onto the swim platform, and from there onto the deck.  The first thing I noticed was that the window in the door was missing. 

Going inside, I saw the previous owners’ things, just as they had left it.  It almost looked like they were just away for the weekend.   Add to it, though, 20 years of dust and dirt, leaking decks that stained the walls, and stuff everywhere.   There was a huge sag in the headliner in the galley where many gallons of water had leaked in and collected.  

There was foam insulation added to the engine room, but it had mostly all fallen down and was covering everything.  The engines’ fuel line was stuck in a jerry can, most likely because the fuel tank was foul.

I walked all through the boat, climbed off, and got back in the truck.   No way, I told Pam.  Way too much work is needed.  As I sat there and thought about it, it seemed that maybe my impressions of the boat were unduly influenced by all the stuff on it.  I decided to get back on with my camera and photograph everything.

Back at home, Pam and I went through the photos.  It was bad, but most likely fixable.   It could certainly be a liveaboard, although it might need to be towed everywhere since we had no idea if the engines even ran. 

Living on a boat would be fun, we thought.  I’m not the handiest guy in the world, but I’ve done my share of boat projects in the past, things like some woodworking and painting, just what the boat needed.  We decided to go for it.

We made a deal on the boat, and spent the next couple of months removing all the previous owners’ items.  Many things we kept, like the dishes and silverware.  The clothing went to the Good Will, and many things simply had to be tossed. 

The boat originally had teak decks which had been fiberglassed over, most likely because they leaked.   But the owner's wife wanted teak decks and so the fiberglass was removed.  Now, the decks were covered with plastic sheeting which was taped down.  Water got under the plastic anyway and had leaked down below badly, so I removed the plastic so the decks could start to dry out.

Every week or two, Pam and I would go to the boat to do a few things.  Each trip involved running a hundred plus feet of electric cable to an outlet so we could vacuum and run a little electric heater.  One Saturday in February the temperature rose to a bit over fifty degrees and I took the opportunity to paint the bottom.  I couldn’t move for a week afterwards and vowed never to paint it again.   Some things are best left to young people with good backs.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A bit about the boat

A friend suggested that I describe the history of the boat, its design, original equipment and intended use.  I think that's an excellent idea.  Today’s entry will be it’s design and construction. 

The boat is a 1980 Cheoy Lee Long Range Cruiser.  It’s 46’ long, 15’ beam, drafts 4’ 10” and displaces about 50,000 pounds.  It cruises at 8 knots and has a top speed of 9.5 knots.  It holds 800 gallons of diesel fuel, 400 gallons of water, and (I think) a 67 gallon holding tank.  All tanks are fiberglass.  The boat has two 120 HP Ford Lehmann diesels with approximately 2500 hours (very low), two generators (one 15 KW and one 7.5).

Its design is somewhat unique in that the helm station is on the main level of the boat, along with the galley and main saloon.  The lower level has an aft master stateroom with head, a walk-in engine room next forward, and then two staterooms with one shared head.   The forward stateroom originally had two single berths.  At some point, this was modified to a queen sized berth.  I needed a store room, and removed the queen berth modification.  Both staterooms have private heads with showers. 

The uppermost level is the flybridge.  The original trawler style mast and boom was removed and an electric hoist installed.  This is used to lift the 13' Boston Whaler with 40 HP outboard on and off the upper deck.  An 8 man liferaft also lives up there.

The boat has an impressive list of equipment.   Naiad roll stabilizers were installed by one of the two previous owners, which keep the boat from rolling from side to side in seas.  Niceties include three zone air conditioning, refrigerator and freezer, trash compactor, ice maker, washer and dryer, and central vacuuming.   A previous owner replaced all the windows with polarized ones.

The helm’s electronics wre all very dated.  It had a Wagner autopilot with rudder angle indicator, a Magnavox satellite navigator, Radio Direction Finder, Alarm system, Clearview centrifugal windshield wiper, Furuno 48 mile radar, Datamarine depth and speed, VHF, and SSB.  Except for the Datamarine depth sounder, this was all replaced with state of the art Simrad electronics- 12" touchscreen in the main helm with an 8" unit in the flybridge, VHF, 3G broadband radar, and class B AIS transponder.  The radar and AIS overlays the charts.

In its day, this was an outstanding example of what a mid-sized cruiser could be.  With a 1,200 mile range, it can cover large distances and could conceivably travel as far as South America if one wanted to.  With its two generators, it could spend days at sea or at anchor without even the ice cubes melting.

In a later entry, I’ll describe its condition as we bought it, why we bought it, and what we will be fixing and replacing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cold means condensation, and condensation means wet stuff.

This is our first year living aboard.  Spring was cool but nice, Summer was hot but wonderful, and Fall beautiful but cool, again.  Winter is a whole 'nother matter.

Drift Away has  three levels.  The upper level is the flybridge and sundeck, and right now that's covered in snow and doesn't enter into this.  The main level is the helm station, galley, and main saloon.  The helm is heated by an electric heater and the main saloon by a diesel space heater.  Both do an admirable job of keeping things livable.  Last night it was 15 degrees outside, and the main level was 57 degrees.  Yeah, I know it sounds chilly, but you get used to it.  Really.

The lower level has the engine room, and three staterooms with ensuite heads.  All are heated with electric heaters.  This is the problem spot.   The outside walls are, of course, the hull.  Unlike the main saloon walls which are a sandwich of fiberglass with an air space in the middle, this is solid fiberglass.  Fiberglass is NOT a good insulator.  The warm air inside the boat hits the cold fiberglass and the result is condensation.   Constant condensation results in mold and mildew, and also wet things inside the lockers and cabinets.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been putting up some nifty stuff I found at Home Cheapo.  It's basically a thin layer of bubblewrap on the inside and shiny mylar on the outside.  It comes on a roll in various widths and is easy to cut with a box cutter.   Installing it is merely cutting it to length, sticking it in place, and holding it there with Gorilla Tape.   As the photo above shows, the biggest challenge (besides getting my butt up off the couch) is emptying everything out of the cabinets. 

Briefly, on another topic, the weather here has been like upstate NY,  where we both come from.   We've gotten about three feet of snow so far this season, and it's been pretty cold so it hasn't been melting much.  The dogs seem to really enjoy the snow and love to play in it.

We, on the  other hand, don't find it so much.   The heads are about 150 feet up the docks.

And yes, we're on the gas dock.  Our boat is too big for the inside docks, but we don't mind.  Not too much call for gas in January.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beginning of the blog of Drift Away, our 1980 46' Cheoy Lee trawler.

We (Pam and Dave) purchased our boat in April of 2010.   Drift Away was pushed by a small runabout from Bridgeport to Westport where it stayed on a private dock for the summer.

We named the boat Drift Away because, quite honestly, we didn't know if the engines would run.  The boat sat on the hard for 20 years until we bought it from an estate.   It is a project boat, but we are finding out more and more that most things seem to work, like the engines.

Last summer, I spent several hours trying to get one of the two generators to start.   It was blazing hot and I thought that if I could fire up the generators, I'd have enough power to run the air conditioners (if they worked).   After getting exasperated at my lack of success, I stared at the start buttons for the two engines.  I might as well try turning them over, I thought, and if they turn over, I can change the oil and filters, fill up the radiators, etc.  I pushed both buttons, and within seconds they both started!   QUICK, HOW DO I SHUT THEM DOWN!? 

Well, I figured out how to shut them down, and later did the proper engine maintenance.  I'm still amazed that they started and ran, especially because the fuel line was stuck into a jerry can with 20 year old diesel.

This is the beginning of our blog.   Living on Drift Away are Pam and Dave, Ruby and Chevy the dogs, and Smudge and Charlie the cats.  Our plan is to cut the dock lines someday soon.   We've talked about doing The Great Loop, or maybe cruising down the ICW to Florida first and then looping.  We'll decide along the way.

I plan on posting some of the issues of living aboard in Stamford Connecticut, especially this, our first winter aboard.   Later posts will include many upcoming boat projects, and hopefully a few boat trips as well.