Winter has Arrived! (hiding out on Bailey Island, Maine)

January put up such a good front — warm 40-50F days, barely a skiff* of snow on the ground, and easy living on the boat and visiting friends.

Starting with Portland: full of charming cobblestone alleyways, perfect for Tuesday date-night explorations… (*this is a “skiff” of snow, by the way, for anyone unfamiliar with the apparently Canadian term 😉 )

A snowy date night in Portland, Maine

Continuing in Saratoga Springs: Where we met our friend’s handsome new addition to the family… the perfect “prop” in my #operationmakeJonwantbabies attempts 😉

Use the props you've got - Jon holds his first baby

Saratoga Springs has these awesome “warming huts” that you can book for your own event, and they even provide the firewood to get the huts nice and toasty 🙂

Stoking the fire in the warming hut in Saratoga Springs

Cold temps mean flowers have to be in bud vases…

Pretty flowers aboard in the bud vase

More time to pretend we’re fancy with our appies (and Jon’s beautiful handmade cutting board!)…

Playinf fancy with our cheeseboard

Breakfasts in the bubble…

Breakfast in the shrinkwrap bubble - Portland, Maine sailboat life

And ice cream sandwiches (YUM) from Eventide…

Ice cream sandwiches from Eventide in Portland, Maine - YUM

But then February showed up, and she’s been showing her true colors.

Bailey Island - Maine wood pile and cozy winter life

10″ of snow last week, 20″ yesterday, and coastal forecasts that include words like “hurricane-force gusts”. NOT my favorite forecast!

Ice in the marina - DiMillos, Portland, Maine

20" of snow is a lot! Winter in Maine

Snowy docks in Maine - liveaboard life

Thank goodness for mother-in-laws 🙂 Mine generously opens her heart and home to us on a regular basis, and welcomes us (and often our dirty laundry, sewing projects, and extra “stuff” that needs a home for the winter) without judgement. We’ve been camped out here for the last week, and it’s been AWESOME.

Unlimited hot water! Cable television! Queen-sized bed! A snow-blower to play with! Wood stoves to stoke! Gorgeous sunsets and even an OWL who came to visit!

Snow-blowing is fun when you don't have to do it all the time!

Barred owl in the pear tree — top-left pane:

Barred owl in the pear tree on Bailey Island, Maine

It’s been so nice to have quiet time and space to work on some bigger projects.

The new Beta 25 was dropped off — literally. Through some bizarre series of miscommunications, they delivered the engine to the middle of the marina parking lot and drove off, without any notifications or calls — Jon showed up just as some contractors/strangers were considering whether our new engine might be their new engine, and were debating whether to load it up and drive it off or not!!! Some strong words and discussions later, Jon had our Beta safely loaded up in his truck and away from prying eyes.

The new Beta 25 diesel engine - still in the box!

This might be a good time to point out that this is the MOST MONEY WE HAVE SPENT since buying the boat (it ended up being $10k) so the prospect of our brand new engine just *poofing* into disappearance left the two of us breathless for quite a while.

We have to lower the engine stringers about 2″ for the new Beta, so that’s the current engine repowering project…

Getting ready for the new engine - engine stringers without mounts or wood

My projects have been… cushier!

After 6 years of sleeping on our vberth foam, it was time for a new custom cut mattress. Enter foambymail.com << greatest foam supplier ever! Unfortunately the bevel was exactly upside down (it’s hard to describe a bevel!) so it was Leah’s pro foam-slicing skills to the rescue!

A little slicing, dicing & gluing later, and the new mattress is AMAZING — our backs are very thankful!

New vberth cushion foam from foambymail.com - amazing quality!

This meant I could use the original vberth foam to build a quarterberth cushion — low profile, heavy-duty sunbrella cover, hopefully comfy enough for any moms or occasional visitors!

New quarterberth cushion with piping - sunbrella

Quarterberth cushion in place - Nor'West 33

I’m learning to love this quiet season of productivity, and Brio is definitely appreciating the extra attention.

And that’s it from me!

– LMK 🙂

 

Winter Projects: Removing a Westerbeke 21hp from a shrinkwrapped sailboat (in Portland, Maine)

“I hate sailing!”

Harbor Island, Muscongus Bay

It was far from the worst weather we’d seen, or the worst breakdown we’d faced. But somehow the combination of a grey blustery day and an alternator that had fallen off (Again. That makes three times, for anyone that’s keeping count) mixed with our overly high-hopes for our delayed “summer sail” (in October) had brought me to my tipping point.

Westerbeke 21 - broken alternator bracket, round III

Keeping a wary eye on the temperature gauge, Jon hopped inside and started spinning the crank shaft with his foot, preventing the engine from red-lining, while I tried to navigate us around the rocks and into our anchorage as far as possible. We drifted the last 50 feet under momentum alone, dropped the anchor, and surveyed our new surroundings. Middle of nowhere. Broken engine. Overcast skies. Now limited power. No cell signal. What else is new?

Rather than immediately troubleshoot the problem, we decided to make dinner and go to bed, and face it in the morning with a (hopefully) brighter disposition.

***

It’s not that we don’t like sailing. I’m just not a purist, by any stretch of the imagination. I like getting places! I like having power and heat and full confidence in our boat. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed having a 15hp outboard so much is that she’s literally saved our butts countless times; with the dinghy hip-tied and the outboard revving, we’ve navigated harbor entrances, entered foreign ports and executed complicated docking jobs. Engines are useful, y’all!

Harbor Island, Muscongus Bay - There are worse places to be stuck!

So why did this relatively minor breakdown feel so devastating? It’s ridiculous, but in the span of 24 hours I’d gone from feeling excited about our week-long Maine coast cruise, to desperately combing Yachtworld and emailing brokers, certain that the answer lay in a new boat.

As often happens with late-night Yachtworld searches, we found *the boat* — 41′ of aluminum lifting-keel glory, in meticulous condition and patiently awaiting new owners.

Who cares that she doesn’t have any cruising equipment — we can buy that!

Located in Holland? No problem!

Shipping quotes and finance details were just a few clicks away…

***

Repowering in the middle of winter in Maine... smart?

Maybe it’s just us, but this was not a new conversation. Should we buy a house / buy a bigger boat / have a family / go cruising / keep working… it’s like a ferris wheel that we ride over and over again and never quite manage to get off. As we explored the “buy a bigger boat” facet a little more, we started having some really good conversations…

“You assume that a new boat will continue to have all of the positive characteristics of Brio, but none of her negatives… be careful of what you take for granted,” one dear friend cautioned us. “What if this boat doesn’t sail well? What if she isn’t pretty? What if the complicated systems (*cough* lifting keels + aluminum hulls *cough*) leave you stranded just as often as that old Westerbeke does? Think long and hard before you jump, young grasshoppers.”

This was good advice.

***

As the quotes for shipping ($17k from Holland to Baltimore, just in case anyone wondered) and financing ($600/month! For 20 years…!) came in, we also started to really examine our motivations.

What was it about living on a bigger boat that appealed so much? Was it just vanity?

I mentioned co-workers who couldn’t believe the tiny size of our living space, and how I wanted to invite people over and have them say “wow, this boat is enormous!”

Jon reminded me that even if we lived on a 60′ catamaran, non-boaters would probably still look at our life and express shock that we could live in “such a small space” 😉

***

Stopping for a selfie inside the shrinkwrap

And as we looked at why we like this life in the first place — the freedom, the relative simplicity, the options, the possibility of an open horizon calling our names and a sparkling sea beckoning us further — somehow boat payments and insurance and trans-Atlantic-shipping-plans made much less sense.

***

DiMillos Marina - winter liveaboards in the early morning sunrise

Having successfully passed the “buy a bigger boat” stop on the ferris wheel, we moved on to the task at hand.

Was there something we could do to feel like we were still committed to Brio, but had more faith in her and were moving forward in our someday cruising plans? If we looked at the (few) times she’d left us stranded, was there a common theme?

(You know where this is going)

Disconnecting the wiring, plumbing, fuel lines and gauges in preparation for removing the engine

***

So we bought a new engine 🙂

Well, technically I told Jon that I’d try to sell our engine (in the middle of winter in Maine, still installed, and buried deeply inside our shrinkwrapped home), and if it sold we’d buy the Beta 25 that he’d been researching for months.

Our teepee lifting system for getting the Westerbeke onto the trolley

Repowering a sailboat engine - Westerbeke 21 to Beta 25 - Getting the engine up the ramp

Long story short, I posted the Westerbeke, a marina owner with a fleet of boats made an offer, and $1500 and some creative engine-wrangling later, the deal was done.

***

At this point, the Beta 25 has been ordered and we’ve paid our deposit. The new engine will cost us $10k by the time it’s actually in Brio. No one will mistake this for a wise investment (boats. are. never. good. investments!), but as we dream of our next adventures and all the lovely motoring we’ll do, we’re pretty damn excited 😉

Repowering a sailboat engine - loading the Westerbeke 21 into the truck bed with a giant beam

– LMK

Life in the Bubble (shrinkwrapped in Portland, Maine)

We’re optimistically referring to “life in the bubble” again, so it must be winter in Maine! 🙂

christmas3

Some days I feel like our current life is not all that adventurous — we aren’t crossing oceans or collecting passport stamps, and I don’t have a great answer to “when’s your next sailing adventure?!”. Heck, I have a REGULAR full-time job that I love (I always thought people who said they loved their jobs were just flat out liars), we have bills and cars and health insurance and all the trappings of a regular ole life.

But every now and then someone will find out that yes, we really do live on a sailboat, and yes, that means even in winter, and I’m reminded that this, too, is an adventure.

Just of a different variety 🙂

DiMillos Boater's Party - December 2016

Recently a co-worker said, “don’t take this the wrong way, but you look so… NORMAL. I never would have guessed you live on a boat!” 🙂 I think it was a compliment, but I also get it. Permanent liveaboards especially seem to have a reputation for being unshowered, cheap, slum-living bums.

When I was 8, my best friend asked me if we lived on a boat because we were poor. I didn’t know the answer. Maybe?!

21 years later, I know that’s not why we live on Brio. Boats are damn expensive, guys! But I don’t have a satisfactory sound-bite for why we love living aboard so much, especially in Maine in the winter.

It’s not a life that I remember choosing… there was no vision card with images of snowy docks or frozen water lines. No hopeful “letter to the future Leah” that included dreams of shrinkwrapping and Newport Dickinson stoves.

Instead, it just sort of… happened. We knew we wanted to sail Brio to Maine, we tried spending a winter in a house, and the loneliness / misery of that winter made the decision to try a winter on the boat dead simple.

2016-12-06-07-58-37

And that first winter really was a trial. People had told us that they loved living aboard in the winter, that in some ways it was even better than living aboard in the summer, and I just assumed they were job-loving liars too. Who could love the winter??

But we promised each other that if it sucked, we’d bail and rent a house, no questions asked, and it went…. really well? We had just as much fun living aboard in the winter as we’d had in the summer (I still can’t quite say that I prefer winter to summer… summer in Maine is hard to beat).

2016-12-12-06-26-28

So here we are… fully into our second year as Maine winter liveaboards. This year we didn’t even talk about other options — we knew we wanted to spend the winter at DiMillos. This is home!

***

We shrinkwrapped just before we left for Vancouver for Christmas… 17 days away from the boat in the middle of winter, would she do alright? We hadn’t left Brio unattended for this long since our Mexico days, but thankfully Jon’s mom offered to check in on our home for us while we were gone.

We left the heater on low, doubled up our docklines, and didn’t look back. Knowing someone would check the bilges (dry!) and keep an eye on the shrinkwrap in the big storms (intact!) made leaving MUCH easier.

2016-12-04-15-03-51

***

Christmas with family is my absolute favourite.

The highlight this year was sneaking in some matching pyjamas (fabric designed by my sister!) and a quick trip to LA to visit Jon’s brothers and soak up as much LA-sunshine as our very pale, frosty bodies could absorb 🙂

2016-12-25-10-09-14

2016-12-29-14-06-01

Side note: Did you know grapefruits grow in California? Like, on trees in backyards? #mindblown

2016-12-30-12-30-40 2016-12-30-12-30-47
***
Now we’re home, settling in for the real winter to begin and contemplating 2017 and all that it might bring. Why do we love living on Brio? Because it’s an always-evolving, ever-changing experience that brings freedom and challenge in (mostly) equal parts!

Along these lines, the top of the current life-list is installing a brand new engine in Brio 🙂

First we just have to figure out how to get the 460 lb old engine out of the boat… think it’ll fit through the door? 😉

– LMK

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