I can't say that I ever made a conscious decision to live in a small space. I did however, have a great desire to simplify life down to the things that mattered most to me, experiences and relationships; and also find a greater degree of freedom. Couple that with actually digging myself out of a mountain of debt while chasing the american dream, well, as I often say: Experience is the best teacher.
One of the questions I had to ask was, "is it going to be a house or a boat? It certainly can't be both!" This is not the 1980's anymore folks. Or even the early 21st century, where credit was freely available and we were able to live way beyond our means to falsely convey a facade of "wealth". Let me digress for a moment. If you were a child of the 1980's, or even parts of the 90's, it's likely that your childhood was a lie. Yep, I said it.
Everywhere, small homes and cottages, were being razed for McMansions in horribly planned unsustainable communities all over the US. New financial instruments were being created to allow families to take 2nd or even 3rd mortgages out against their existing homes to finance vacations, pools, furniture, electronics, cars..etc. Life was good; we had become full-on consumers. None of it was real though. It was an orgy of easy credit gone wild. Eventually, reality has a funny way of slapping you right in the face, as a lot of people found out in 2007. It was common knowledge that home prices only went one way, up!? That is, until they didn't.
I think everyone around here has just about had it with this particular New England winter. Now, November was pleasant but then December dug it's icy claws in and never let go. With life so busy and weather so unpleasant it can be easy to get down. There are some really cool days I've always noticed during the final days of February into March, just nice enough to lift your spirit a little. Today was one of those days. The wind was strong and steady out of the North, and there was brilliant sunshine that lit up the whole river, clear out to Prudence Island.
I've committed to getting on the bike more as well, almost my way of trying to physically will winter away at this point. I've noticed that my general level of happiness seems to tie in with how often I am able to fly around on one. It's cool to see a couple of nice steel bikes out and about, it's a sure sign of spring.
This week will see me hopefully working on the list of projects. I've begun to sand and will be getting varnish on some of the teak interior, which will need to be taken outside and sanded on pleasant days. I've got some electrical work to do with the bilge pump as well. The wider list includes:
Things are slowly starting to come to life down at the wharf. I learned a valuable lesson last year to get an early start on projects that need to be completed, as you do not want to be sitting on the hard in the month of June. Things have started to settle down back at work now so I will be spending most of my free time working on some major projects. First on the list is a rebuild of the cylinder head on the Yanmar SVE12 single cylinder diesel (the one lung-ah). Jason told me "you caught this just in time bro" with his usual early morning gusto. Being that he's a great mechanic, I'm going to agree with him. I brought the head to New Bedford to be machined, but the fuel injector housing seems to be permanently fused to the cylinder head; this needs to come off before the job can be done. Soaking with lubricant and applying heat with a torch are the preferred methods. Hopefully that can be sorted out by Monday so the head can be resurfaced and I can get my engine back together.
Mike and I started working on the bilge pump the other day, which needs to be upgraded to a much larger pumping capacity and then wired into my panel.
I think a good question to ask for anyone who spends time on the water is, if shit went wrong, what would you be cursing yourself for not fixing? Did you not replace that seacock? What about that chainplate..it looked a little janky, now it's blowing 30kts and you are praying it holds. If you started taking on water, could your bilge pump take it out as fast as it's coming in? So prioritizing your list is very important. Take care of the things that could kill you first is a general rule of mine.
I have been living on my small boat in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island for 1 year and 9 months. The internet connection that I am writing this from is powered by an inverter running off the battery of my old Volvo wagon. Its pouring rain outside the cabin And its December 29th.There are many factors that led up to this life decision, and continue to influence the way I live my life and experience the world. I want to talk about some of that here, along with the everyday challenges and rewards of living on and restoring a 39 year old yacht.Before we get into all that though, a little bit about home. Zennure is a 1975 Endeavour 32. Here's how she's built.
SPECIFICATIONS LOA: 32'4" (Length Overall) LWL: 25'6" (Length at Waterline) BEAM: 10'0" (Width)
DRAFT: Centerboard: 3'6" Up / 7'10" Down
"Aren't you cold?"
If there is one question I am asked more than any other, this is it - by a mile. Even when I took a break from writing this to meet some friends out at the local pub, I got a "must be chilly, no?" To the uninitiated, sure, I can see where this would come from. We tend to stay away from the oceans and rivers during the winter months; it's windy, cold, icy and snowy after all. This is my second year living aboard, so I've learned a few tricks :)
Everything is a little more difficult during the winter months. Water is a challenge because sources are shut off to avoid freezing the lines. Diesel fuel has to be added by jerry can every week to power the Dickinson diesel stove. Clothes tend to pile up everywhere as you are just wearing more layers.
We often speak about certain practices or rituals, and how it just doesn't fit into modern life anymore. Industry creates products to help us cope with the demands of daily life in the 21st century. Big Food creates meals that can be cooked in minutes, to allow for busy families to eat after the long days work, appointments, and activities have been completed. Well almost, there are those late night emails you scroll through on your phone just before you fall asleep. Modern work means many of us must stay constantly connected. For many in the modern world, stepping off this train is just not an option. We've managed to box ourselves in.
The one question that we fail to collectively ask though, is if modern life is even worth it? For so many of us, we blindly put our heads down and work, basing our self worth and happiness on doing our best within the existing paradigm. Keep working harder, it's almost here, you're almost there! However, this mythical "it" simply never arrives. We do this at the expense of our minds, our bodies, poisoning the biosphere we inhabit, and ultimately, our freedom. For those that do not put their heads down and work within the paradigm, the same fate awaits, but is just reached by a different path; apathy and simply giving up.
You have options though, you have a choice. You can walk, or better yet run in the opposite direction. Even if the herd you are running with is in a full on sprint towards the cliff, it just takes one to turn around and go the other way. That's the funny thing about progress, the way forwards is sometimes backwards. There have always been, and always will be stories of brave individuals who walked there own path. These serve as a reminder that we truly are in charge of our own fate.
It's been a little while since my last post, I had to take some time away from this project because of some family medical issues. Everything turned out okay, so I am getting back on a regular schedule of Monday posts.
Here on the boat, I am in the middle of a few projects. A new higher capacity bilge pump and float switch have been installed, and spring cleaning is in full swing. Next up is to pull the mast, inspect and replace rigging, paint and plop it back on. I have a port to replace (from 1975, bedded with 5200..some of you will know my pain) as well as a hatch to put in.
The biggest challenge that I am facing by far is with my diesel auxiliary engine.
The early Endeavour 32 models from 1975 - 1978 came with a standard Yanmar SVE12, a one cylinder 12hp engine. The Endeavour owners website calls it "fine for flat calms but not enough power to push to windward in any wind or sea". Many Endeavour owners have chosen to repower, which is an option at some point, but not this year. In the end though, they call it an auxiliary for a reason. These boats are meant to sail and that's what they do best. To put it in perspective, Chris Bray and Jess Taunton at YachtTeleport have managed the Northwest Passage with a hand-start 8HP Saab diesel, and Mickey Scotia, author of "Mama Junk's Great Adventure" got his Chinese junk from Rhode Island to Florida, mostly without an engine at all.
As the day of departure arrived, it was just as eventful as the days preceding this trip to Maine. Getting the boat prepared, and the man prepared, was as every bit as challenging of a task that I thought it would be. And then some.
Jason was due to depart this same morning in his Eastward Ho "Low Compression" which interestingly enough, he had found years ago in a field with a tree growing out of it after having sunk. Amazingly to his credit, he had managed to rebuild it into a go-anywhere boat. He had made this trip last year, and like me was scrambling to finish all of his projects before doing it again.
Now, Jason usually wakes up around 4:30-5:00am, so when 9:00 came and went on the morning of the trip, I knew something was up. Sure enough he was asked the night before to deliver a big Freedom yacht from Cove Haven in Barrington to the Warren River. This took a few hours and added to the pit surely growing in both of our stomachs. You see it was already July 29th, and since we had intended on leaving around the 10th; we were anxious to get going. Boat projects and delays had set us back and I think we both got a little tired of trying to answer the question "so when you leaving?"
Finally, about 11:30am the diesels grumbled to life, and we headed out of the Warren River, a place that had become home.
Cuttyhunk, which is home to the town of Gosnold is the last in the chain of the Elizabethan Islands that lie about 8 miles off the south coast of Massachusetts. I started out about 7:30am for the 3 hour ride. There was no wind to be had, so on went the diesel. The new cylinder head I put on was holding up well, and the engine was running as well as she ever had. Buzzards Bay was flat and calm as I cruised by my hometown of Westport, MA and soon arrived at the breakwater entrance to Cuttyhunk Pond. The entrance stays almost fully concealed until you are on your final approach, and there isn't much room with boats coming and going!
I arrived to find a beautiful anchorage with crystal clear water and long elegant strands of eel grass gently moving with the current. I dropped the anchor and immediately prepared to go explore the island. I motored the dinghy under a brilliant blue sky to the town docks through a maze of boats. As I walked up the dock, past the fisherman shacks and onto one of the few small "roads" I noticed something strange- silence. There are maybe a handful of vehicles on the island that don't seem to get used all that often. The primary mode of transportation is either walking or golf cart. I made my way up a hill and stopped into the small general store for a snack, and some shade. As I continued on up the hill to an overlook of the south side of the island, I found stunning views of the sheer cliff faces on Martha's Vineyard and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. As I made my way back down the hill, exploring the many footpaths that wind all throughout the island I passed throngs of kids running amok with not a parent in site, it was easy to imagine what a thrill it must be to have this island as your playground, maybe this is what it was like all over in times past?
I continued on and wandered past the Cuttyhunk Historical Society and Museum of the Elizabeth Islands. They are only open a few hours a week, but I was in luck as they were set to open from 2-4pm today. I eagerly read about the fishing clubs that formed on the island in the early nineteen hundreds that attracted people like Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and John D. Archibald, president of Standard Oil. One particular photograph shows all the men standing on a lawn in front of an awning, laughing and cajoling. Only two years later Roosevelt's administration would begin bitter anti-trust proceedings against Standard Oil to break their monopoly on the oil market.
I retired back to the boat for a lazy nap, made some dinner and planned to go back to the island to hike to its highest point for sunset. After a beautiful walk, I was joined at the top by a dozen or so others with the same idea. Among them was David and his wife, who had anchored beside me in their exquisite Tayana 37, Isla Hope. They graciously invited me for a visit and tour of their boat. What a beauty she was indeed with tons of teak and spacious amounts of room below decks. We swapped stories and had some great conversation but before long it was time for bed- a 4:00am start awaited me to catch the flood tide through the Cape Cod Canal. This next leg would be a big test, 60nm through the canal and then up the coast to Scituate. Before I went to sleep I took a few minutes and stared at the sky, it's amazing to see it here with the absence of light.
4:00am came way too early. I did all of my usual engine checks: top off the fuel and check the oil and transmission fluids. I was down about a quart of oil; something that would need to be monitored. I calculated that I had run the motor for about 6 hours so far, and I'd just have to manage it.
I pulled out of the harbor guided by the many mastlights and my spotlight. Winding carefully through the sleeping boats I made my way out of the breakwater and set a course for the Cape Cod Canal about 20 miles away. This first crucial run would take about 4 hours.
The sky lightened as I headed east, the wind came up a bit, but not enough to shut the motor off. I motorsailed right up to the canal entrance, where you are required to drop all sail before entering. Now, it is of the utmost importance that you time your passage through the canal to coincide with the west flow, or the east ebb, depending on which way you are transiting- or else you could be in trouble. Especially in a single cylinder 12 horsepower auxiliary sloop! As I hit the canal entrance around 9am I found out why as my speed quickly increased to 10 knots!! To put this in perspective, Zennure usually cruises around 5 knots under motor and can hit 7 knots under sail, I was flying! About 45 minutes later I had completed the run and entered into expansive Massachusetts Bay.
Seeing that it was close to 6 hours since I had left Cuttyhunk, and I probably had another 5 or 6 to go, the oil would need to be checked. I made sure I was clear of land and any other boats, shut the motor down, cleaned out the starboard cockpit locker which is how you get access to the engine room, and climbed into the hole. Like I expected I was down and quart, so I added it back in, repacked the locker and in about 10 minutes I was on my way.