Giving Up the Slip

Posted by John

We originally planned to quickly swap a daily-commute-to-work lifestyle with one of cruising endlessly (endless for maybe two years). This was supposed to happen about six months ago. It didn’t. The change is now less of a hot swap, and more of a power down and reboot.

We’ve taken small incremental steps over the winter, many of which have taken some getting used to. We’ve given things up, sold possessions and thrown stuff away. But we’ve received nothing new in exchange yet, certainly not that endless summer of cruising. When I went down the hill to do some yard work where we used to keep the goats, I half expected them to come running out of their barn, ears flopping and stubby tails wagging, just as always. Instead, nothing.

Over the winter we worked on the boat and the house, at least as much as we had energy for in the wind and rain. We also spent a lot of time involuntarily testing what it means to maintain an official permanent residence in one location, receive mail in another, and physically be somewhere else. It’s a good thing we had this trial run. A lot of time has been spent waiting on hold for customer service, and then even more time trying to clear up the confusion. You’d think that what we were trying to do was unique and unheard of. For future reference, the key word to use with government, banks and insurance companies appears to be “Snowbird.” That seems to be a lifestyle that they recognize and can work with.

With the winter dark days done, it was time to take the next step: give up the slip. So it was with high optimism that we told the marina staff not to charge us for the month of April, or any other month after that, because we would be out of there at the end of March.

Taking the boat out of the marina doesn’t just mean giving up a comfortable and familiar slip. It also means giving up the shore power connection, easy access by car, and dock carts to move stuff back and forth between car and boat. On the upside, we won’t be paying monthly moorage fees anymore. We’ll keep the boat on our mooring buoy until we’re ready to head south.

Ten years ago we had a mooring buoy installed near our house. For several years we kept the boat on the buoy during the summer, then took it back to the marina for the winter. For those months on the mooring we paid no marina fees. But the buoy was never as convenient as it sounds since it required shuttling people, the dog and gear to and from the boat in a small dinghy which we kept chained to a tree just above the high tide line on property we own. It was a workable option for the non-stormy months, and fun for a while. A few years ago someone stole the dinghy. For anyone who might think that this dinghy was a random treasure washed up on a public beach and free for the taking, the damaged lock and hacksawed chain said otherwise. It was outright theft.

We had obtained that dinghy in the 1990’s for $50. We fixed it up and used it for years with our previous sailboat. We’ve been looking, but haven’t been able to find anything that worked as well for quick trips out to the boat. Certainly not for that price, anyway.

About a year ago we bought a used inflatable for $500. It doesn’t row well, but can take a small outboard and carries more people and gear than the beach dinghy did. However, it’s even less convenient than the old dinghy. We won’t be leaving it chained to a tree or dragging it across a beach.

On April 1st we loaded the inflatable, deflated and packed into as small a package as we could, onto Mysticeti’s deck and backed out of our slip for the last time. With a slight north breeze, we unfurled the jib and sailed slowly away for an extended weekend.

The next day we decided to go to Poulsbo, on Liberty Bay. Having something from Sluys’ Bakery while reading the Sunday paper at a sidewalk table in the morning sunshine sounded good. As a bonus, it would force us to try inflating the dinghy on deck, get it into the water, mount the outboard on the transom, and get all three of us to shore and back again. After all, we had never tried that with this inflatable. The calm water of a lake-like bay would be the ideal place to do so.

We anchored just outside the public marina among several other anchored boats. It was quite warm, and the activity and atmosphere of it all felt a lot like summer. It took a bit of effort to roll out the inflatable on deck and assemble the rigid flooring. Eventually we got it inflated and over the side and ready for an excursion to shore the following morning.

Sunday morning the floorboards looked damp. I told myself it was just dew—perhaps a lot of dew. But as we lowered the outboard into place and put more weight into the dinghy, it became obvious that water was coming in from somewhere. We bailed it out, but more came in. We all got in and made it to the dinghy dock on shore, but the boat was definitely filling with water. When we had tested its air holding ability at home, I had just assumed it would hold water. I was wrong.

A few hours later, when we were ready to return to the boat, we seemed to be providing fine entertainment for a group of park-goers watching from the shore-side railing as we bailed many gallons of water. It was coming in almost as fast as we could get it out. Finally, we fired up the motor and went for it, back to the privacy of the mother ship. It wasn’t too bad. We managed to keep the newspaper and box of bakery goodies dry. We put the dinghy up on deck and didn’t use it again for the rest of the weekend.

When we arrived back home to our mooring on Monday evening, we took just the essentials with us to shore, taking everything and everybody to the beach in just two dinghy trips. Water was really squirting in now from somewhere under the flooring. We deflated the dinghy and took it home. Inspecting it the next day, I discovered that a seam near the transom, where the floor is glued to the flotation tube, was pulling apart.

The internet assured me it would be easy to fix with the proper glue. It also gave me about a 60% confidence level that our inflatable was made of PVC, as opposed to Hypalon. There’s a different glue for each.

We went to West Marine and bought a tube of “Inflatable Boat PVC Glue.” Except for saying it was Polyurethane MEK, no instructions, such as cure time or surface preparation, came with it. Inside the West Marine package, the tube itself is labeled with “Avoid Prolonged or Repeated Inhale Action While Using,” and “Chemical Glue For Repair of Boat.” Other than a few other phrases of questionable translation, mostly concerning eye contact, hand washing, and statements against smoking and against vomiting if swallowed, no other instructions were available.

I glued it, gave it 24 hours, and then filled the boat with water from the garden hose. None leaked out. After the fact, I looked up polyurethane MEK glue and found a site with instructions for inflatable boat repair. (Of course, after I’m done I find it.) Except that all of the instructions were for a two-part contact cement and the tube from West Marine was only a single part glue. Oh well, it stuck. So I’m calling it good. For now.

Liberty Bay Castle
On the south side of Liberty Bay there is a house that is built to look like a castle. It blends into the trees, but in the right light, if you squint just so, you can imagine it to be an old-world castle on a hill with a village at its base.