Life Aboard…Three Weeks In

First published 13 December 2017

Check out how Further slopes forward on her keel, and how much of the light blue of the hull (below the red waterline) is visible.

There are a lot of reasons to dig where I’m currently living aboard a tied-up Further in Annapolis. I’m in a quiet neighborhood yet within walking distance of all the city’s amenities. Further is tied up in a small marina with another liveaboard who’s a great neighbor and a good friend. There are tons of ducks and herons and other critters here in the upper reaches of this stretch of Back Creek.

But all these have come at a price. And I’m not talking about money.

The first night Further spent at her new home a sharp cold front blew through that brought with it a strong northwest wind. I woke up the next morning to learn that such a wind blows the water out of Chesapeake Bay, taking with it the already thin water up here in June’s Cove. As a result, Further’s keel sat a few inches into the (thankfully) soft mud. No big deal other than my nervousness, but any thought of taking the boat out was on hold until the fierce winds took a break and let the water come back in with the high tide.

Last night’s cold front was sharper and the northwest winds even stronger. And Further is hard on the bottom by well over a foot.

The far side of the cove, where yesterday I watched half a dozen mallards — four drakes and two hens — swim and chase each other around for a good quarter-hour is now exposed and dry. Also yesterday, at the head of the cove where the stream enters the larger Back Creek, I startled a great blue heron who’d been fishing for lunch; the only fish that area can host today better have feet.

It’s also cold. Cold enough that I’m also having to be nervous about things on board freezing. I have a couple of heaters on board but it’s still nerve-wracking. The electric, oil-filled heater radiates only a low heat for such a space, and I can’t leave the propane-fired Mr. Heater (used one of these in my basement in Alaska and it worked great, so I bought one to use on board during these cold days) going when I’m not on board. I’ll be replacing the missing diesel forced-air heater when it gets delivered in the next few days and that will take a lot of worry off my brow.

All that mud was covered by water 24 hours ago. And see the depth gauge on the piling? Yeah…

I’m more than a bit freaked out by all of this. I’m not TOO worried about Further — the mud is quite soft in there so she should be all right. And the cold doesn’t bother me but it could bother some of the systems on board that involve water. Even last week’s snow was kinda nice, to be honest. But still…argh!

I’m worrying way more than I usually do, which is not like me. About all sorts of boat-related things. I’ve told friends who’ve asked that the definition of a boat is very true: it’s a hole in the water into which one pours money. To be honest, things I feared based on the pre-purchase survey have turned out better than expected. But there are still substantial outlays of cash going on. The diesel heater, for one, turned out to be way spendier than expected. On the other hand, the electrical system got a bigger thumbs up from the electrician universally regarded around here as a boat whisperer, so that was nice.

One of my dearest friends counseled me to “enjoy the shit out of it all,” calling even the seemingly negative aspects like spending lots of money, “part and parcel.” He’s right, and I’ve been trying to remember his words when the temperature drops and things break and Chesapeake Bay disappears.

I’m not much for astrology (okay, not at all), but there’s a weekly horoscope I peruse online mostly because it’s usually very upbeat and encouraging. And the past couple of weeks have counseled staying positive and trusting because the big change I’m going through is the right one. That’s been comforting. It’s really seemed to fit the exact questions I’ve been wrestling with concerning Further. So to paraphrase Ronald Reagan: I’ll trust…but continue to check the dock lines.

Something Seems Amiss…

First published 9 December 2017

This is what I woke up to this morning (click here to see the video)…





It wasn’t the snowpocalypse people around here were fearing, but it’s still coming down. In fact, now, at lunchtime, the snowfall is getting heavier. Sigh…

UPDATE: Here’s what I just came home to…


The view from the forward hatch

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

First published: 30 November 2017

Sunrise from Further at the dock

Annapolis, Maryland, is a neat little city. Its downtown core — home to the U.S. Naval Academy, the state capitol and the city’s waterfront — reminds me a lot of Newburyport, Mass. Both cities share a rich maritime history, both are laid out in red brick and both have great ice cream stores (well, Newburyport used to).

The only difference is that Annapolis is much bigger. That, and the ocean is a two-plus-hour drive from here (many, many hours by boat), unlike Newburyport which is right on the Atlantic. If Naptown (as it’s known) was on the ocean, I’d have moved here a while ago. Why? Well, Annapolis is also the yachting capital of the country. Newport, R.I., sometimes makes that claim due to having hosted the America’s Cup for so many decades, but there is so much more sailing-focused business and activity here in Annapolis that Newport might as well be in a field in Kansas.

The same view that evening

Annapolis is also where my boat, Further, and I are currently located. And it’s my location that is the major quandary perplexing my brain these days.

I purchased Further in mid-November, too late to take her back to New England since all the marinas had already pulled in their docks and packed every square inch of land with boats on stands for the winter. That didn’t bother me too much since it’s just an 7.5-hour drive between Naptown and Plum Island and I could get back and forth relatively easily (although I will say that I am WAY over that drive at this point). I figured I could leave the boat in the water, head back and forth often, and work on the boat AND get my sea legs back. Or I could live aboard in Naptown and maybe get a part-time job locally through the winter. Either way, I’d spend the winter getting my and Further’s acts back together before next spring when we’ll head back to New England.

My view upon waking up

There’s another possibility that is tugging at me a bit, however: I’m thinking I could take the boat down the Intracoastal Waterway to someplace warmer — Florida, perhaps — for the winter. It’s been nippy enough waking up aboard Further the last few mornings that America’s third-world country down south seems quite appealing.

But I’m in an area of Annapolis that is really appealing. Eastport, known as the Maritime Republic of Eastport, is the funky section of town, home to great pubs and restaurants, a lot of boating businesses and a funky crew of locals that have a vivid joie de vivre. And I’m currently living in the funkiest part of Eastport — Stella’s Stern and Keel Marina — which I’m really enjoying. My neighbors have returned following Thanksgiving and they’re all really nice, really interesting people. It’s been great settling into the neighborhood.

Twilight in June’s Cove

That funkiness does come with a price, however. Up here in June’s Cove, the water is thin. When we get a big storm that blows all the water out of Chesapeake Bay (as happened the first weekend I was at Stella’s), Further’s keel sits on the muddy bottom at low tide. It’s not damaging the boat but it does make me wary and it means Further can’t get in or out until the water rises again.

And then there’s the aforementioned distance to the ocean and the chilly nights. Maryland DOES get winter so I’m expecting true cold and even some snow later in the season. It’s still only November.

So I’m really in a fix right now as I wrestle with the possibilities. I will definitely head north next spring, but what to do for the next four to six months? How much sailing/motoring would I really do here over the winter? What if conditions are good but the water level has me stuck at the dock? But am I ready enough to even consider heading down the ICW for Florida at this point? And if I’m not in New England for the winter, what will I do about hockey? (Yes, as trivial as it may sound to you, hockey is a big part of my life so it IS a factor.)

I blame this poster…

Among the things that tipped me over the edge into buying Further was the image I use as my laptop’s wallpaper. It reads: “Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone.” Hockey and Plum Island are right in the wheelhouse of my comfort zone, so maybe stepping away from both of them is a good idea, an impetus for growth. To be honest, the hockey this fall has been great but I’ve been stagnating at the island, with nothing really going on other than helping my brother with projects around the house. Even if I’m not doing much down here in Naptown or any farther south, at least I’m making progress with Further and pushing that dream along. So it seems as though prioritizing a life that enables me to work on the boat is the way to go. From there, as detailed above, the questions arise.

Well…stay tuned, I guess.