Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ice Storm

Well since we're literally covered in ice anyhow and we're trapped inside listening to the ice bombs fall from the rigging on to the foredeck...

Here is a cool little project that Zach got completely absorbed in...

Take a plastic bowl. Fill with water. Freeze. Pop out ice into a cookie tray or something to contain the upcoming mess. Give the kid a bowl of salt, various shades of food coloring, and bowl of hot water.

Watch them experiment!

He loved seeing what the individual grains of salt did to the surface of the ice (chunky salt works best).

He loved mixing the colors. And of course in the end he poured a bunch of salt in the middle to make an "Ice Volcano". (big surprise I know)

This was taken straight from the Oak Meadow homeschool craft book. Would be fun on a hot day too!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lava Love

Ever since seeing the REAL THING in Hawaii... Zach has been a little volcano crazy. We finally got a kit to build our own volcano, paint it, and then spend endless cold, grey afternoons (and endless amounts of vinegar and baking soda) oozing our very own lava flow.

Appeasing Pele we even coaxed the sun out for a brief, brilliant moment!

The volcano is now living in the cockpit, since it's a little big to have hanging around inside the boat. It snowed today and Zach loved having a snow peaked volcano. I think tomorrow we're going to be oozing more lava outside in the snow.

Is it spring yet?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Flashback

I am listening from the warmth and comfort of our boat, just 30 miles from the action in DC, to the ramp up of inauguration morning events. There is just NO way I would go down in person. Too cold. Too crowded. All for an ant's eye view. Call me jaded. Call me an old fart. I prefer to call it SANE.

Once upon a time I was a freshman in college in Washington DC, it was the year Clinton first got elected. There was a lot of great energy back then too. I volunteered for the campaign, I was in Washington, I was young, so of course I wanted to go to the inauguration. I planned on going with the masses, along with my friend Angie, just happy to "be there", watching on the JumboTron with the other commoners.

But something happened. I overslept. Angie overslept. I called her in a panic, just an hour or so before the actual swearing in was supposed to happen. We wondered whether it was worth hustling down there, we would be SO far back, we may even be too late.

But being young and intrepid we hopped a taxi and zoomed to the Capitol. We were faced with massive security, crowds, vendors, and the hopeless looking prospect of not being able to see anything.

"Get your inauguration souvenirs here, get your invitation souvenirs right here. Five Dollars!"

A vendor waved a piece of paper our way. Sturdy card stock, embossed calligraphy writing, and a gold seal of the President. It was a souvenir inaugural invitation, but it looked pretty darn official.

So we bought two, took a deep breath, and walked up without a care in the world to the security gate for ticket holders. We saw people holding tickets that looked a little larger than your average concert ticket and they were color coded, red, blue, grey and so on. The MP were doing the standard airport security checks. Scanning bags, frisking people, mostly checking that we were unarmed. But this crack security force didn't seem to care if we had a ticket or not.

We got through security and another MP asked to see our ticket. He was explaining the reds go here, and the blues over there, and so on. We held up our souvenirs and said, "We have personal invitations."

His eyes bugged. "Oh sorry ma'am. You're in the wrong place. I'll escort you up to the platform."

And up we went, wearing blue jeans and me in a thrifted army jacket (oy vay). We were seated on the platform just below where Clinton was being sworn in. We had Jack Nicholson and Jessie Jackson on one side of us and JFK Jr. with Daryl Hannah on the other side of us. We just tried to lay low and fit in, fearing we'd be found out. But nobody cared. We saw the whole thing so close you could count the curls on Chelsea's head.

I had A LOT of photos from the big day, most of which I have no ideas where they are now. But here is one. And know that this was a disposable camera, no zoom. We were THAT close.

I plan to be that close again, in the warmth and comfort of a friend's house, with my nose against her big screen TV.

Happy Inauguration everyone and YAY OBAMA!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Zach's Point Of View

(view looking from salon down to starboard hall)

Since I am without a camera (boohoo) the only photographic device on board is Zach's digital camera. I got it on ebay for $20 and, well, you get what you pay for.

But he LOVES it. And that's all that matters.

Here are a few shots from this week that he took.

(Zach point of view while he sets the table for dinner - daddy in background)

(play time on a winter day stuck inside)

(view out starboard salon window. Notice all the ice)

(Prized possession, held by daddy)

(under the covers)

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Three is the magic number.

3 degrees (F) was how cold is got last night. Our average for this time of year at night is actually about 33F. But last night we were at 3F with negative something or other if you include the howling west wind.

3cm is also the approximate amount of fiberglass between our family and everything we own and the icy chunks of the Chesapeake that are rubbing against our hull.

3 is the usual number of space heaters it takes to keep this floating tub-o-fiberglass warm in winter time. Yesterday we had to run an extra extension cord across the dock and make it four.

3 is also the number of people in our little family crew. And thank goodness we have a family bed rather than the dysfunctional American tradition of exiling children to their own cages, uh, I mean rooms. The three of us have always happily slept snugly side by side in one berth. We all manage to find our space and on nights like last night, we usually end up partially on top of each other just to stay warm. Body heat is KEY! And we actually stayed so warm I peeled off my polar fleece socks and sweatshirt in the middle of the night.

(The early days. Zach at 8 days old. The bed seemed bigger back then.)

3 is the number of months of real winter we have to tolerate around these parts. I am trying not to really count, but I think we're half way there.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Winter Time Live Aboard Blues

(I wrote this little missive for the Jan. 2009 Spinsheet. I will post a link when they have it up.)

When I woke up that winter morning it was quiet, too quiet. It’s never that still living on a boat. So I clambered down from my bunk to let the dog out, noticing the white fluffy stuff covering every hatch. I didn’t think anything of it until I tried to push open the bi-fold companionway door.

It didn’t budge.

I pushed harder, the dog gave it a good nose nudge too, and that’s when I recognized the sound of crunching snow. I slid open the top of the companionway hatch and peeked up and out to find we were completely snowed in. The wind blew from the north all night as flakes piled up under our bimini and in to our cockpit where it stacked up about 5 feet high against the door of our PDQ36 catamaran.

Walking the dog later that night in the cold, dark, snowy quiet of February I wandered over to the townhouses that neighbor our marina. As I waited, and waited for the dog to find the perfect spot to leave his calling card, I peered up from the small opening in the hood of my foulies and spotted a warm glow. The second floor of one unit had floor to ceiling windows ablaze in the light of a roaring fireplace and big screen TV. I didn’t know who these people were, but I decided I hated them.

Winter can wreak havoc on normal, sun loving, land lubbers but it seems to have an especially dour impact on boat dwellers who are unfortunate enough to be iced into northern climes when their cruising brethren are drinking their way south. I grew up in Chicago. I know what winter is. I really did walk to school uphill in 7 feet of snow. But let me be crystal clear about this. I HATE WINTER.

The obvious is of course the fact that we boaters of the Chesapeake don’t get to partake in the joy of boating for a good 4 months of the year (except for you frostbite folks, but I’m not touching that one). Losing your pastime is reason enough to get a little stir crazy. But the difficult aspects of living aboard are amplified through the frigid lens of winter.

Little things like droplets of water collecting in the back of your hanging locker. It’s not just condensation. It’s a damp sweater on a cold morning with a funky smell that sticks with you all day. And those days when the heater is just barely keeping up, when polar fleece and fuzzy slippers are required, when you’re baking muffins just for the extra heat source. And the only thing more unnerving that being snowed into your boat is simultaneously hearing the dull thuds of German Shepherd sized ice flows playing tag with your hull. I have stood outside dressed like the Michelin Tire Man with a boat hook in my gloved hand maniacally hacking at floating ice chunks like the shower scene in Psycho.

My husband and I remember snows so heavy that we had to take shifts during the night to shovel off the bimini for fear that it might collapse under the weight.

And there’s nothing worse than wearing those wire coiled shoe covers that prevent you from skidding on the ice only to scratch up your gel coat, because the bloody marina never seems to shovel the docks let alone have the salt bucket out on the worst of days. All I can say is hooray for global warming.

When the ice retreats, so does the water. Northerly winds blow the water out of the Bay resulting in low, low tides. Some mornings I wake up and open the door only to realize I am looking UP at our finger pier. In the old days that simply meant I called in sick, went back to bed, and finished some winter reading. But for the past four years calling in sick hasn’t been an option as my son and dog are demanding bosses. It’s one thing hauling a geriatric, 50 pound, furry mutt over your head and on to an icy finger pier. But it’s a whole new level when you strap your baby to your back and try the same feat. That’s when you make that difficult call: pole vault out of the cockpit to get some fresh air and go seize the day or stay home and watch your boy bounce off the walls?

Truly, when it comes to winter, I am the biggest baby on this boat. My son loves every second of it and having lived aboard since birth doesn’t know any different. These days he’s in his life jacket and half way down the dock before I even have my boots on. He loves the low water because it means little natural and not so natural treasures wash up for him to explore. If his clothes are soggy, he automatically plops them on the heater knowing a few minutes will fix it right up. He understands that we have a “bath season”. When the marina shuts off the dock water we’re forced to wrestle with a tangle of hoses strung from the marina office down to the live aboard boats for water. That means a long, cold, wet walk to fill up. And it sometimes means we can’t fill up at all if the last person didn’t walk the line to drain the hoses and a little ice chunk ruins the whole set up. When access to fresh water is that cumbersome, the bath tub is closed for the season, but my little boy plays in the marina showers with as much gusto as a bubbly bath.

We read a lot. We take the time to organize all those little things we tend to ignore all summer and fall because it’s just too nice to stay inside. We write letters. We bake. We paint and sew. And we take full advantage of our museum memberships and the local library, not to mention our friends who have houses with roaring fireplaces. We found out who those people in the town house were, and we don’t hate them anymore, especially in winter time.

Then that rare December day comes along, the one that says, “Hey you live south of the Mason-Dixon line, remember?” Those days of polarized sunshine and balmy temps in the low 50’s, a flirting wind that doesn’t rattle your bones. You look at each other bravely, unplug the heaters, cast off the lines, and glide away, Christmas lights still dangling from the bimini.

The Chesapeake is a ghost town. Crab pots, race buoys, and weekender wakes all absent as the water stretches on forever beckoning you to sail anywhere or nowhere at all.

This is why we suffer through the hardships of winter on board, this and the promise of going south again in a few seasons, and never coming back to winter again. Ever.

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