Monthly Archives: February 2010

Dawn of a New Galley

Take Two has entered a new phase as a family cruising vessel. The boat was charmingly simple, with a one-fuel system, when we bought it. One fuel means 200 gallons of diesel to run everything—engines and generator, for propulsion and electrical appliances, including a 17-year-old BOSCH oven and ceramic cook-top. We liked the one-fuel system, but it required a lot of generator run-time, which is noisy, and the wear and tear on the electrical system ultimately means expensive battery replacement every couple years. Most cruisers espouse two views about energy use: there should be some redundancy in case of failure, and greener is better. If the generator fails, how would we cook? And why not use the sun to keep our food cool and make fresh water?

After agonizing over the details, we decided to make a fundamental change to Take Two and make her more sustainable and energy-efficient. A welder is working on an archway/bimini (i.e. cockpit shade) where we will mount solar panels and hoist the new inflatable dinghy out of the water. Jay heroically removed the ancient, noisy and heat-belching BOSCH and installed a brand-new four-burner propane oven/stove. Only boat people will appreciate this, but this is not a marine unit with an oven too tiny to make lasagna—I can get two 15” cookie sheets in there, or simultaneously bake four loaves of bread. It works beautifully and we christened her with my sister-in-law’s best cookie recipe: coconut-chocolate chip-almond-oatmeal cookies. It is a happy day for this galley slave, I can tell you that much!

Friends Old and New

I was reminded this week as I got together with an old friend, or rather, a friend from the old neighborhood, how good it is to have true fellowship with someone. This is a person (you know who you are!) who sees me as I am and likes me anyway, with whom I can rant, cry, laugh, pray, troubleshoot and commiserate. We don’t always agree, but we do always speak the truth in love. Although this kind of thick-or-thin friendship seems to be a rare and beautiful thing, in God’s kingdom it is in no short supply. I have always found a friend in the places I have moved—at least one, true, loyal and kindred spirit with whom to share the journey. How is this possible? If you count the number of times I have moved in my life, it is surprising that I always find this person, and find her so soon after moving. I can no longer think it a coincidence.

We were bemoaning the physical distance between us. An hour’s drive is prohibitive when you have young children. We often meet in the middle (both physically and metaphorically), but although distance makes the heart grow fonder, it doesn’t do much for keeping in touch day-to-day. We really miss each other, and our kids are suffering withdrawal from their playmates as well. It’s hard to find a good thing and then leave it behind, and maybe harder to find a good thing and have it leave you behind. We were each committed to praying that the other would find fellowship on the new path on which she finds herself.

The very next day, the next day I tell you, I met the new friend. A Gulfstar 53 sailboat with a live-aboard family with four home-schooled boys moved in almost directly in front of us on the next dock over. We had heard rumors that a family was coming in, but we didn’t dare hope for one so like ours. As it turns out, Vicki’s strategy when they move to a new place (they’ve lived aboard for five years), is to pray that God would send her a friend. Both her prayer and mine were answered in less than 24 hours!  I had so longed for a boat-mom friend, so much that I didn’t realize it until I met Vicki. I actually cried during the first meeting! (How embarrassing!)

Since their arrival, we have had time to do “church” together on the weekends, go on a dinghy outing, take the kids to the park and start to show them all of our favorite local spots. They, in turn, have given us quiet moments (a rarity here) when all the kids “went next door” and reminded us why we like living this way so much while encouraging us to keep pressing forward (“you have no idea what fun awaits you!”). Their kids are well-behaved, imaginative, articulate and well-matched to ours—playmates from the first moment they met.  I am too happy and thankful to properly express my exuberance. I hope I don’t scare them off with my enthusiasm…

This all reminds me to remind you to ask. Just ask. Sometimes the answer is no—after all, His grace is sufficient for us. But it pleases a loving God to show us love in a personal way, sometimes through the people He sends our way. I will definitely be following Vicki’s example as we come to new places and asking for a friend. But whatever it is that you lack—ask Him first. And then expect the implausible and maybe even impossible.

Waiting for a Window

“Why are we still here?” We asked ourselves. “It’s in the sixties today in the Bahamas. Should we have kept going after Thanksgiving?”

Our ducks are not all in a row, it seems. The house sits empty, repairs underway but no sign in the yard. On the boat, several major projects are in progress. The propane stove/oven is on order, and the batteries have to be replaced. The water-maker is being repaired and Jay is, at this very moment, in the bowels of the ship cleaning out bilges and fuel tanks. 

But the cold weather that came—and stayed—made us long for points further south. Part of the reason we live in Florida is because we hate cold weather. We have no longing for the high latitudes, and will feel perfectly satisfied sticking to the tropics. The arctic blast that hit us caught us off-guard. I rushed out to buy more down blankets. Nights that dipped below freezing and left frost on the dock and ice on our transoms made sleeping difficult, even with the space heater running and hats on.  That was January, and February hasn’t been much better.

We stayed on the boat during the cold snap because it was the right thing to do. Our house has almost nothing left in it, kids’ beds among the things given away. Packing up and moving out of our home, unless there is a hurricane coming and we can’t get out of its way, isn’t really an option. We camped out upstairs for several days because it was just too chilly to go down into the hulls, where it hovered around water temperature, 50˚. It was fun in its own way, though I have a new appreciation for the term “cabin fever.”  We are able to wait things out because we know it’s temporary. If we can’t hack a week of cold, how will we survive a storm at sea? Or a week of rain? 

Cruisers talk of waiting for a weather window—a time when conditions are favorable for leaving an anchorage to make a passage. We are waiting for a window of sorts, a time when we can leave the house in the good hands of a realtor and have the boat ready to leave the dock. After moving aboard, that is the next logical step. It is just wrong to keep this boat tied up all the time. We are doing this so that we can be out there, not stuck at the dock. It is easy to say “Find a stopping point, set a date and go!” But it is harder to discern readiness and act accordingly. The boat must be safe and main systems operable. The people may never be really ready to go on an adventure, but they should also have done their homework. We want to be safe and have a smooth transition to cruising full-time, which is why people wait for a window in the first place. At the same time, a quest for safety and comfort works against efforts to leave!

The bottom line: we will wait for the right time, and we will know when that time comes. We always do. It’s a little like falling in love. How will you know when you’ve met the person you will spend your life with? You just know. It may take work and patience to persevere after the fact, but you’ll recognize the right thing when it comes. We are not in a big rush—that would be foolhardy, but we are not dragging our heels, either. Our family strongly believes in waiting for God’s timing, so that is what we will do. And in the meantime, we will bundle up and be thankful for whatever weather we’re having, because it could always be worse!