Our first winter aboard wasn’t easy and we were learning lessons every day. Knowing how to sail a boat and owning a boat are very different beasts. Doggie Paddle was a 1990 Hunter 35.5 and had lived in a Baltimore charter fleet for years. The charter fleet has a reputation for punishing boats and our first floating home was no exception. For two graduate students facing rising rent, the price and the market were right.
Loans were cheap, renting was frustrating and buying a house at the edge of the bubble wasn’t an option. Boats.com became a daily go to and soon we hooked up with a broker from Annapolis Yacht Sales that had a solution for us. The boat was a fancy Clorox bottle that needed extensive repairs on every system. She was minus heat, air conditioning, refrigeration, a working oven and a few other odds and ends but the price was right.
We took possession of her just after a November Gale churned the waters of the Chesapeake and sailed her south from Baltimore, stopping first in Solomons after a knockdown, then ultimately ending our epic trip at the tip of E dock. It was a bitterly cold trip with an oven that worked once, but full of warm memories with great friends on a genuine adventure.
I slid Doggie Paddle into her newly assigned slip next to another liveaboard whose boat gave us pause to consider who it was that we were actually parked next to. The cockpit was loaded with pots, pans, a rice cooker and an assortment of thrift store novelties. We could hear him yelling at something inside of his boat, and assumed that the voices were giving him contradictory information. As crazy as we first thought he was, the Captain of S/V French Connection became a great friend and we shared many good times. It was an introduction to a community that would highlight any Carl Hiaasen novel. We’ve read many of his books and laugh, comparing plot lines, characters, and misadventures to genuine actual humans that we have met. Just a few weeks ago, the Captain of M/V Cantelya electrocuted himself, set a small fire in his bilge then ate rancid pork sausage… the story is what legends are made of or at least a 2,000-word short story.
It’s been a long time since we have seen this much ice in the cove. On the first Doggie Paddle, I learned that watts are watts. No matter how much the space heater promises you, 1,500 watts is not enough and on a 30 amp power supply will suck over half of the available electricity. The bonus about a cold winter is that nature provides the refrigerator. But for all of the hardships we endured, those years aboard the Hunter gave us lasting friendships, great stories, great adventures and an appreciation for a life on the fringe.