Learning “The Life”

Learning to live the boat life.

“Boats are like a woman, constantly demanding your attention.”


We heard this quotation more times than we could count prior to moving onboard.  TJ owned sailboats in the past and I come from a power boating family, so we both know boats aren’t a one-time expense; they require constant maintenance.  

Since moving onboard I haven’t had much time to write anything other than quick Facebook posts because every waking moment is spent doing something with the boat, Vivienne, or the dogs.  By the time Vivienne goes to bed I just want to veg out, binge watch episodes of Hawaii Five-O on Netflix, and call it a night.  Every night I climb into our chest-high bed I am exhausted.  My back aches, my feet ache, my muscles are sore and I don’t even know why half the time.  Then, to top it off, “Dawn comes early on a boat” (from the movie Captain Ron, one of our favorites) has never been so true!  I close my eyes and BAM! it is 0700 and the wee one is calling for me to get up.  This is boat life.

My body is getting used to the more constant standing, my back isn’t quite used to the amount of times I bend over to pick things up, clean, organize, or work on parts of the boat that need attention.  My muscles aren’t used to lifting paddle boards, tools, wooden slabs, or scrubbing the deck.  My feet aren’t used to a 1/2 mile walk to the car, 1/4 mile walk to take the dogs out, or hauling an Army duffle bag filled with two weeks worth of laundry to the communal washers and dryers.  Every time I turn around something else needs adjusted, fixed, or cleaned to prevent breakdown or sea-growth.  Living on a boat is hard work.  In some ways it is a little harder because TJ isn’t always here to troubleshoot and help figure out why something isn’t working or lend his hand to fix it.  This is Merchant Marine Wife Life.   However, I wouldn’t trade it because it forces me to problem-solve, trust myself, and appreciate things more.

Saturday was a prime example of this.  While my in-laws had Vivienne I took advantage of my alone time and did some serious cleaning.  TJ had been telling me I really needed to clean the air conditioning filters because they were looking pretty full, so I decided 3pm would be the perfect time to start.  Another boat lesson–always expect maintenance to take twice as long as you anticipate and also except to sweat…a lot.  So, off I go to spray off the air intake filters (easy-peasy) and clean out the sea water intake filter (not so easy-peasy).  In order to get to the sea water filter I had to take all the toys, blankets, sheets, mattress, and boards off Vivienne’s bed to get to the pump down in the starboard hull.  Okay, done.  It is now 4:30pm and it is rather dark in her cabin thanks to the water heater insulation I put over the portholes to keep the heat out.  I busted out my trusty Luci Light and got to work trying to get the filter off.   Of course it wouldn’t come off so I had to find a filter wrench and also realized with this being a French boat, it isn’t “righty tighty, lefty lucy” it is the opposite…and then water started seeping out.  I had forgotten to turn off the water intake valve.  So I quickly shut it off and continued to take off the very disgusting filter when I realized it was full of BUGS.  Little floating, amoeba-esque with tons of legs, bugs.  Nevertheless, I took the filter outside and sprayed it off, dumping the nasty little critters over the side to go infest someone else’s water filter.  There was even a barnacle stuck inside the filter!  Apparently it hadn’t been cleaned in a while…

So, after all the drama of cleaning the filters I put everything back together and run down to our cabin to turn on the air conditioning.  After all, it was 100 in Charleston and I looked like I had just gone swimming.  Anyway, I push the button and the AC turns on…for 30 seconds…then shuts off giving me an “HPF” reading.  What the heck is “HPF” and what do I do about it?   By now I’m getting really frustrated and starting to tear up.  After some digging HPF was telling me there was high pressure in the hoses.  Awesome.  Now what?  TJ was at work and couldn’t do much to help and my emotional side was starting to get the best of me so TJ gave me the phone number for his high school sailing coach who is also the marine AC expert in Charleston.  The poor man called me back, sounding utterly exhausted from working in the heat all day, and told me I had two options:  open the sea water pump to let the air out, or take the water hose from the dock and force water through the external discharge to prime the pump.   Well, okay then.  Neither option sounded particularly easy but I was losing light so TJ and I agreed I would try the external option first.  Now….where is that discharge hole exactly…?   

The external water discharge is on the starboard hull in-between the two hulls.  Awesome.  I had to problem solve while losing daylight.  I grabbed on of our paddle boards, a paddle, one unused dock line, and the dock water hose and got to work.  Dropping the paddle in the water at the starboard stern I attached it to myself and attached one end of the dock line to it.  I got on my stomach (in the gross, nasty marina water) and slowly moved myself forward to tie off to a metal D-ring on the inside of the hull just in case the current decided to move quickly.  Then I moved forward until I found the two holes.  I took a guess and put the hose up to the one that was dirty looking and put some water in it.  “Here goes nothing.  Wow, our hulls really need cleaned, they are disgusting.” I thought.  I did it a few times then pulled on the dock line to bring myself back to the stern to head inside and check out the AC situation.  IT WORKED!  I fixed the AC!  I cleaned up everything and happily sat down with the widest grin.


Even though our maintenance list is never-ending, my confidence is also growing.  I’m being challenged in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time and I love it.  Sometimes I wonder where the day went but I also know it was well-spent.
This is boat life.

Par la Foi,
Lane McKelvey

~~All things are possible for those who believe.  -Mark 9:23~~

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