Friday, September 15, 2017

When Things Go Horribly Wrong - Boat Fires

Let me start off by saying that nothing went horribly wrong with our boat in this case. (Hopefully you still want to read the post.)

Recently we were anchored in one of our typical spots - Sue Creek. We had three boats hanging on one anchor, the sun was shining, the beer was cold, the conversation was fun. The three girls were sitting on the swim platform dangling our feet in the water when we noticed that many of the people on the boats anchored behind us were staring intently at something ahead of us.

This is rarely a good sign.

I stood up, turned around, and "Oh @%$#!" This is what I saw:
While we couldn't see through the smoke, it was obvious a boat was on fire. Not only was a boat on fire, but the boat was at the fuel dock at Baltimore Yacht Club.

We all stood in awe and worry on the bows of our boats knowing there was nothing we could do but watch.

The boat was quickly pushed off from the fuel dock. The light gray smoke cleared to form a menacing dark cloud above the red flames.
At this point it appeared that the boat ran aground in the shallows near the entrance to the Creek. With our exit point blocked, we sat and waited for the fire boats hoping that we were far enough from trouble.
It turns out we weren't.

The boat started drifting our way. We were lucky to have only one anchor set. We quickly disbanded the raft up. At this point, the situation was certainly progressing into a more dangerous possibility and, frankly, we are lucky our friends were able to pull up anchor without incident.
Other raft ups quickly followed suit.

Unfortunately, the boat was a total loss. We did hear through the VHF radio that everyone was able to safely get off the boat. Boats can be replaced. People cannot.
We all managed to stay out of the way of the fire boats.

With the boat out of the way, the Creek entrance was opened for boats to leave. No new boats were being allowed in. We took advantage of the opportunity to get out of the way and return to Baltimore.

We will probably never know exactly what caused the fire. A random spark? A faulty wire? All I can say is that we must all be careful. Boats are fun. Boats can also be dangerous. Be safe my friends!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Creating Space for Books

"Lead me not into temptation... especially bookstores."

As I've mentioned before, I'm a librarian. In other words, I have a book "problem." If I had the space, I would have many more books than I could possibly read in my lifetime.

Living on a boat is not conducive to that dream.

In our first home together, my husband and I finished a basement office. I had an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Sadly, the only photograph I seem to have is when we were selling the house and the bookcases were empty:
When we moved to Baltimore, we downgraded in space and I could not take those beautiful bookcases with me. We still found a pretty good sized space for books. What this picture doesn't show is that I oftentimes had books behind books:
When we moved onto the boat, we downgraded in space yet again (are you sensing a theme?). I spent a couple years on board without any bookshelves. The only thing that has saved me is living walking distance from a public library.

We changed things around a bit two years ago and added a desk so I can effectively work from home. After using the desk for a while, we discovered the perfect place for a bookshelf -- under the desk!

It's not much. And it's currently full of the 24 advanced reader copies that I picked up at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference. But it's a bookshelf! And it makes my heart so happy.

This is definitely not a bookshelf where things can collect dust. I'll be attending another ALA conference in June and will be picking up more ARCs then. I read for the Capitol Choices 10-14 age reading group so I need to keep up with the latest books. With the exception of one copy of each of the books I've authored, items on this shelf can expect to rotate off quickly.

Has anyone else found a unique way to showcase books on your boat or in your home?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Unintended Gifts to Neptune

Everybody drops things. And unless it happens to be something fragile, liquid, or could stain the floor, it's not really a big deal. Unless, of course, you drop it near water. Deep water. And it's heavy.

I have been so careful since moving on board. My phone goes in my pocket. My gate pass and boat key are on a lanyard that I put around my neck. I take that extra second to make sure whatever I'm holding is stable before stepping on or off the boat.

The one exception has been my car keys. I've owned a purple carabiner for 20 years. I don't climb. It's just something I've used to carry my keys since college. My husband recently suggested that I get a new carabiner but I wanted this one. This special vestige of my youth. I clip the carabiner to my purse or put it inside a bag before stepping off the boat.

Except last Thursday night. The first really cold night of the season.

I was leaving to meet friends for a run. I was bundled up with thick gloves on. As I unzipped the isinglass it flew open in the wind. I immediately stuck my hand out to grab it because it's older and can crack in the cold temperatures.

I never even heard the splash.

This is my "door step":
I was hopeful that I simply couldn't see the keys in the dark. Maybe they had flown onto the dock and not into the water. But in the light of day I had to admit that they were gone. My set of two car keys (one for each of our cars) was a new gift to the sea gods. Luckily, my husband had his set so we can still use both cars.

That night my friends and I sat around creating solutions to the problem:
  • Use a small floating key ring -- This may or may not have helped that evening because it was so dark and the water was moving quickly in the wind. It's highly possible that I would not have been able to see them or catch them before they drifted off into the Inner Harbor.
  • Create a small Hovding (really cool inflatable bicycle helmet) for keys -- Again, it probably would have floated away before I could get to it.
  • Create a small Hovding with a tiny anchor that would keep the device in one place.
Of course, I have now done what I probably should have done all along. My car key is on a lanyard. A lanyard that will go around my neck before I step off the boat.
Over the years I have heard of all sorts of unintended "gifts" including a crock pot, a full bottle of rum, and a wedding ring. What have you lost overboard?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

AC Trouble

The air conditioning in my stateroom isn't working... again!

What?!?! You ask. How are you surviving in 93 degree heat with 49% humidity and very few windows that open?

Easy. I say. I have three other air conditioners.

Boats like mine are the best for having multi-zone HVAC systems. The units are spread throughout the boat: one in the main stateroom, one in the guest stateroom, and two on opposite ends of the salon. It's great. We can have a nice cool stateroom for sleeping without wasting energy cooling the rest of our home. The AC in the forward (guest) stateroom is rarely turned on because the room is closed off from the cats, the blinds are drawn, and we spend little time in there. In fact, I just checked, the forward stateroom is currently 83 degrees without AC at 3pm on a hot Baltimore day.

When I go to bed tonight, my stateroom won't be as cool as I want it to be, but it will be comfortable.
See that red circle, those two windows lead into the head attached to my stateroom. The stateroom spans the entire stern of the boat. So, while I don't have working AC, I do have things in my favor:
  1. My stateroom is down a couple steps from the salon and we all know heat rises.
  2. I have a fan running on the far side of the stateroom circulating air and helping that hot air find its way out of the room.
  3. Part of the stateroom is below the waterline which helps keep it cool (think about your basement in the summer).
  4. One of the units that cools the salon has a small vent in the master head.
I should be okay for one more night until we get a chance to solve the issue. We may have growth in our AC water strainer. That's been happening a lot this year and it restricts the amount of water going through the system. With all the debris in the water from the recent storms, we may have sucked up a plastic bag (as we've done before) that is also restricting water flow. My hope for now is that the other units continue working until tomorrow.

Living on a boat still beats living on land in my mind.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Baycation Part 3

We left Herrington Harbour South early Thursday morning. The slips in Ego Alley in Annapolis are first come-first served so you want to time your arrival carefully. There are 20 slips plus the bulkhead available. Of those 20 slips, our boat can fit in only 4 because of her length. We can also fit along the bulkhead if that is open. Check-out is 11am and we planned to arrive between 10:30 and 11 to snag any slips that were opening up.

When we arrived, 3 of the 4 potential slips large enough for us were open. We snagged one and waited on the other 3 boats in our party to arrive. The dockhands were very busy over the next hour as slips filled quickly. Two of the boats in our party arrived within 30 minutes of us and got a slip without issue. The fourth boat was coming from another location and got a late start. By the time they arrived around 1pm, all of the slips available for their size boat were filled. They were lucky, however, because a spot along the bulkhead had opened up.

We found space for all four boats in Ego Alley for the night! Now remember, this is a Thursday that I'm talking about. Not a weekend, when boat traffic is at a premium. This was a weekday when many people have to work. So definitely keep that in mind if you want this view from the bow of your boat:
The great thing about being in Ego Alley is you can walk to all of downtown Annapolis. Shops. Restaurants. Ice cream. There are marinas nearby where you can make a reservation for a slip but there is just something about the "Alley" and the boat and people watching that goes along with it. Plus you can check on your boat while eating lunch at Pussers.
On Friday morning it was time to leave for the last stop on our Baycation -- Dobbins Island in the Magothy River. We had not visited Dobbins Island since Bumper Bash many years ago. It was great to visit when there were only a handful of boats anchored in the area.

We dropped anchor and jumped right in the water. Everyone loved the spot because it's a pretty area and the water is clearer than it is further north in the Bay.

There appears to be a theme to my posts recently: Storms! And our little raft-up of four boats got stuck in one while anchored in the Magothy. The area around Dobbins Island is rather silty. We had two bow anchors out but they broke loose as the winds picked up. I promise you that we do know how to anchor properly. We've had much more luck than not with our anchors holding as they should. The past few weeks have been more trying than most.

We reset anchor before the worst of the storm hit. You know you're in quite a rain storm when the radar looks like this:
Like most storms, after the rain and wind, we had a nice quiet evening and left for home in the morning.

Saturday to Saturday: 1 Baycation, 4 locations, 2 anchorages, 2 marinas, 4 restaurants, 7 boats, and countless Chesapeake Bay memories.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Storms and Contacting the Coast Guard

The Upper Chesapeake Bay was hit by a powerful storm this past weekend and we were rafted up with two other boats during the worst of it. We were anchored in Bodkin Creek in about 8 feet of water. We had two bow anchors (from the two biggest boats) and one stern anchor (from our boat in the middle) set. In normal conditions, this would have been overkill. During this particular storm, it was not enough.

Today, I heard that the Weather Station was reporting that boats should seek safe harbor immediately. With three anchors down and an hour or more ride home, we were in the best possible situation considering our options.
It was a beautiful, HOT but still beautiful, clear day without storms in the forecast. But then the skies went ominous.
We started hearing reports of hail and strong winds in Middle River. Knowing that we had friends anchored there, we quickly contacted them to check on their status. They had two boats rafted together in Sue Creek and had to split apart because of the storm. I also received a text from them stating "Life vests are required for this storm, Julie."

We got life jackets ready and waited to see if the storm would come our way. And it did. Full force.

We were stuck in the middle of a storm similar to the derecho that hit us in Sue Creek a few years back. Only this time we had other boats attached to us.  Thanks to amazing teamwork, we survived unscathed. Other boats weren't so lucky - I'll get to that in a bit.

The bow anchors started to drag and it wasn't long before our stern anchor line was out of position. In the attempt to rectify the situation, we had to let the anchor and line loose into the water. Knowing that our bow anchors were also no longer effective, we started up engines and very carefully managed to get both bow anchors up. I say carefully because we had to be aware of which boat was in gear at all times. We couldn't have multiple boats putting strain on the lines keeping us together and causing a bigger issue. We also didn't want to cut any boats loose until anchors were up to prevent boats swinging into each other.

Once all anchors were up, we undid lines from Wet Wille and they pulled up the creek away from us. The Black Pearl stayed with us while we rode out the storm for an hour or so while keeping a sharp eye on shore and potential other boats in the basin.

All the while, we were listening to Channel 16 and the frantic calls of other boats seeking assistance from the Coast Guard. This storm really took everyone by surprise. A boat ran aground at Hart Miller Island and many boats could not get to safe harbor. One in particular was desperate for help. You could hear the panic in the person's voice and, unfortunately, they weren't completely sure where they were and could not give coordinates to the Coast Guard. "We're sitting ducks. Please help." I commend the Coast Guard for their patience and calm as they tried to help this boat. They explained where on a GPS unit to look for coordinates yet the boat could not find this information. When nothing seemed to work, the Coast Guard recommended that the boat use a cell phone to call 911. They said that 911 dispatch could use the phone signal to get coordinates and that they should ask 911 to then call the Coast Guard with the information. I don't know the end of this boat's story but I was happy to hear the smart problem solving skills of the Coast Guard.

We later heard that people (on land) an hour west hadn't even seen rain. Like I said, this storm caught everyone off guard.

Once the storm passed we were able to reset anchor and enjoy the rest of the evening - including a double full rainbow.

The next morning, Doug and Matt went out in search of the lost stern anchor with a fishing pole. The anchor line was mostly rope so all they needed to do was snag a small part of it. With a little luck, and a general knowledge of where it would be, there were successful within 30 minutes.

For those of you following the Baycation posts, they will resume shortly.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Baycation Part 2

This whole Baycation idea started when we realized that there were some pretty cool places that some of our boating friends had not yet visited. They are places that are a little further away so we like to plan a longer stay to make the trip worthwhile. So, three boats left Swan Creek early Tuesday morning to head to Herrington Harbour South (HHS) for two nights. Looking back through the blog I realized that Doug and I have not visited HHS since 2010 so we were definitely looking forward to the trip. We docked our first boat there for a couple years so we knew everyone was in for a treat.

HHS is a well protected marina as you can tell from the entryway.

We lucked out with 3 back-to-back spots along B pier. We couldn't have been any closer to the pool and Mango's on the Bay.
View from our boat to the pool. The umbrellas that you see are in the pool area.
The marina features a large pool, a private beach area, a restaurant and bar, and an eco-friendly atmosphere. It was hot, hot, hot while we were there. We spent a lot of time at the pool. The pool was busy even midweek because locals purchase memberships. However, there was adult swim time every hour for those that want a little quiet pool time.

Swim lessons are available at the pool. Our friends took advantage of the opportunity to get a single lesson for their four-year-old. He's great in the water but it was fun to watch him gain a few new skills.

Outside area of Mango's. It is attached to the pool.
We visited Mango's for dinner the first night. Quick tip: Bottles of wine are half-price on Tuesday nights. It's on the pricey side but the meals were fantastic. And when you have six adults and one child, you can order three different desserts and everyone can share and be happy.

The second night we grilled out. You aren't allowed to grill on the docks, but there are numerous charcoal grills and picnic tables available. The convenience/wine store across the street has charcoal. Plus, you can't beat a kitchen with this view.
That's our little propane grill beside the charcoal grill. We all wanted to cook something different.
We remember when the store across the street was a tiny deli. I didn't get a chance to check it out but Doug said it has really grown. They serve hot and cold food and have a large beer, wine, and spirits selection.

While HHS has a lot to offer, there isn't a town to visit while you are there. I did go for a run Wednesday morning to North Beach. It is two miles away along a road with little to no shoulder for pedestrians. But if you're willing to be careful it is a cute town with a short boardwalk.

This looks like to perfect place to watch a sunrise.
Cute name but also a little scary.
Lastly, being that HHS is an eco-friendly marina, there is always lots of wildlife.

I didn't catch any photos of the numerous orioles I spotted. And Doug saw a pod of 30 dolphins when he went out fishing early one morning.

Our next stop, Annapolis, will be posted soon.