Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Listen well

Annapolis is a day of sailing behind us. We are currently anchored in La Trappe creek, behind Martin’s Point. Someday I may tell you the delightful story of how I nearly lost the anchor, but then again, maybe not.

Back in the halcyon days of our early courtship, Erik taught me how to drive standard. This was ostensibly for the purposes of a cross-Canada tour, but there were, in fact, more sinister forces at play.

The vehicle in question was a yellow ’81 Volvo station wagon (a car that many of you are familiar with, and will note will interest is still a going concern out on the farm, or, as I call it, the Superannuated Car Retirement Village). Said Volvo had all of its working parts, save a working speedometer and rpm gauge. This is relevant, because, when driving standard, one must learn the optimal point at which to change gears.

“Just listen,” said Instructor Erik. “Do you hear that... there. Right there. Now you shift. Okay, listen again. Wait. The motor sounds like... that. Shift again.”

In this manner, I learned to keep half an ear on the engine and so, even years later, I never needed to look at my gauges to change gears.

Oh, what an innocent young Amy I was.

“Listen,” says Erik as he demonstrates the use of the Shower Sump Pump. “Okay, listen, listen, here it comes, hear it starting.... wait... okay... now! Turn the breaker off!” He turns to me expectantly. “Did you hear that? Exactly that sound, when the pitch starts to rise but before you get a real whine? That’s when you stop it.”

I look at him in despair. Unlike the ruddy Volvo, which I only rarely had to drive, this boat is full of Systems That Need To Be Listened To ALL THE TIME. One cannot even flush the toilet without carefully marking the rise and fall of the water, the whine of the pump. And the sea gods help you if you stop listening for a moment, because Crazy Ears will be on you in a moment.

I was helping Indy wash her hands when Erik appeared at my shoulder, eyes wild. “Did that sputter? Did the water sputter? [deleted expletive]!” He was gone, under the kitchen sink. “As soon as that happens, you have got to switch tanks!” came the muffled shout. “If the pump dries out, I’m going to have to pull the whole thing!”

Indy looked up at me, eyes wide, no doubt wondering if she really needed to wash her hands after all.

Even sleep does not stop The Listener from his solemn duty. In the middle of last night, Erik sat bolt upright and half-shouted, “The macerator pump! It’s siphoning sea water! I need to poke a hole in the hose!”

By the time I’d cracked an eye open, trying to make sense of this string of words, he was gone. Squinting aft, I could make out the blurry form of my dear husband, headlamp affixed, removing floor panels. (He seemed to have it under control, so I went back to sleep.)

Even now as I write, Erik has appeared in the companionway, a suspicious look on his face. His eyes shift from side to side as he listens to the Coleman lantern burning above the table, the generator humming away in the engine room, a spider spinning her web in the corner. Satisfied for the moment, he moves on.

The moral of this story is: if I were in charge of this boat, it would have sunk by now.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What did we do last week?

 The girls played on a huge pile of sand...

 ...went fishing with their new Barbie fishing rods (is there anything that isn't Barbie?)...

...and toodled around the harbour in the dinghy.

Hooray for plumbing

Fair warning: this post has everything to do with plumbing and its key uses.  Skip along if you don't want to hear about it.

For those of you familiar with Erik, you know that he likes to tinker.  A lot.  To give him his due, the man can fix anything, and I am grateful.

However, there are days when I would come home to find the bathtub residing unattached in the middle of the room and the water for the house turned off.  (Those were inevitably days when the girls would be in dire need of a cleaning, and we would have to make do with a pile of Wet Ones for a few hours.)  I was, shall we say, ticked off.

Yes, I used to think I occasionally had it rough.  Then came... the forward head.  (That would be the guest bathroom.)

Until last night, we were without a functioning toilet onboard.  That is a full week, my friends.  The nearest heads are about 100 feet down the dock - not so far, in the grand scheme of things, and they are delightfully clean.  But Indy is toilet training.  She is in that key phase when "I have to go," means, "I have to go RIGHT NOW!".  So, many times a day, I had to scoop up the kids, jump off the boat and pound down the dock like a madwoman, elbowing scandalized retirees aside, in hopes of making it RIGHT NOW.

Meanwhile, Erik had to take apart the whole bathroom and much of the nearby hallway floor (leading to the girls' cabin, naturally).  You may recall that we don't exactly have the room to skirt around each other here, so this lead to the odd tense exchange.

But oh, happy day!  It works!  My genius husband has built a toilet for the gods.  And did I mention it works?  It works.  No more sprinting down the dock in my pajamas!  The retirees will be so disappointed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And we're off!

The long drive to Maryland is behind us, and we are now officially living aboard Papillon.  Hooray!

The past few days have been spent moving in.  More accurately, moving all of the leftover stuff out and then moving in.  Imagine moving from a house to a bachelor apartment shaped like a rabbit's warren with many deep and mysterious closets.  The previous owner left all of those closets stuffed to the gills, but you don't have the luxury of keeping your things elsewhere while you take his things out.  So, for a week or two, you feel like you belong on Hoarders as you crawl over piles of things and try to dispose of everything you can.  Meanwhile, your six- and two-year-olds are stuck in the apartment with you.  Doesn't that sound like fun?

But really, it is fun.  The girls have enjoyed digging in the sand and exploring the marina.  Erik and Stylish are currently out in the dinghy, and Indy is attempting to rest.  Blogger is resisting my attempts to upload photos, so that will have to wait.

Indy is demanding apple juice, so I will leave our preliminary report here.

UPDATE: Photo success!

   This was taken by the lovely Eleanor, our neighbour in the marina.  Of course, there is probably a proper marine term for neighbour, but I don't know it haven't been forced to learn it yet.  Something like "hobbentrope" or "gallyfinglewagler".  (For those of you following along at home, as a newbie sailor, one of my big beefs is with the pointless set of nautical terminology.  Ask someone where the bathroom is, and you'll get a blank look, but ask for the head and they'll point you the right way.  Why?  Why, I ask you?  Why must I cook in the galley, sleep in a berth (or a bunk) and help Erik sheet the gollywobbler* (shorten a sail, but how could you possibly know?)?  Expect further examples of ridiculous names to surface as the days go by.)

*Erik insists I clarify that a gollywobbler is a quadrilateral staysail on a schooner, and, as such, we don't have one.  Yes, this was his problem with my sentence.  Not the use of "sheet" to refer to a rope.  Not the mere existence of a word like "gollywobbler".  No.  Misleading use of (ridiculous) terminology.  My apologies.