Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Virginia C II


This is where it all began - as far as my maritime career goes. Dad acquired this boat in 1978. He found it sitting in Merrit Island Florida where it had been languishing out of service - for a few years. She was built in 1962 in Biloxi Mississippi. At 86 feet overall length, 5 foot draft, the hull is 3/4 inch mahogany, double planked. Power is 2 Detroit Diesel 16-71 engines.

There's a lot of history to this little boat. One of the neatest things about her is that she saw service as ferry in Cuba in her early years. We had been told that by the previous owners, and it was always part of the story that goes with the boat (all old boats have stories). Well, low and behold, a friend of ours was watching a documentary about the Cuban revolution and the Bay of Pigs invasion, and sure enough there's the boat, loaded with people in some harbor in Cuba.

Besides that little tidbit, there's tons of personal history around her too. In 1978 I was 12 years old. I'm now 45 and this boat is still here! The following year, 1979 she went from Boston down to Miami to work the winter season. At 13, I was able to make the trip from Savannah Georgia to Miami. Right around this time is when I began to learn how to stand a wheel watch - there was no auto pilot - and to make engine room checks. Somewhere between Boston and Savannah one of the fuel tanks split open, and Dad tried to salvage almost a thousand gallons of fuel out of the bilge by filtering it through rags back into other fuel tanks that were still functional. The result was stuck injectors that got progressively worse as the trip went on. When we got to Miami the problem was that there was no throttle control. My job was to go down in the engine room and shut off the fuel supply when the engineer's call signal went off. I imagine that was a pretty tense moment for the old man, shape up for the dock, say a prayer, and shut her down. At the end of the season I made the trip all the way back to Boston, pretty cool for a young kid!

Yeah, so I learned all those things that make up the skill set of a mariner, and then I learned a whole lot about working with the public too. I learned how to pretend I was having a good day even when I wasn't. I learned how to tend bar, sling burgers, all that sort of stuff.

Over the years she ran countless trips between Boston and Gloucester, and became a familiar sight at the Studio Restaurant in Rocky Neck. Besides that she did a lot of Whale Watching on Stellwagon Bank, and many evening party cruises. She made the trip to Newport RI a few times to carry spectators for the America's Cup Races.

We took her down to New York in '86 for the Statue of Liberty centennial and the Tall Ships. That was a fun trip. We spent a week in Newport with the Tall Ships, then went down to NY and ran trips from Hastings on Hudson down to the City for a week. A lot of memories there. I looked around for some better pictures, but this all I could find so, well, ya................... ~ Al

Saturday, January 14, 2012

You live on a boat?

I used to get that question all the time back in high school. Yeah, I live on a boat. This is the Joseph J Luna, a retired Boston fire boat. Dad bought it in '78 and we lived aboard, Mom Dad, four kids, a cat and dog.

As Ma would tell the story, it wasn't the plan, but the summer of '78 wasn't exactly a banner year for A.C. Cruise Line. One boat had a fire, and the other sank, all in the same week, so funds were a little tight and as often happens, temporary measures became shall we say, a little more long term.

So there were six of us on board, and it was a little tight, yeah, but cozy, even comfortable. The lower deck consisted of the galley, the master stateroom, and a head with bath. The galley served as kitchen, office, dining room, and T.V. room. We never knew who might be sitting there when we came in from school: Potential customer, sales people, old family friends......... "Alan, this is so and so." ' Oh, hi - howyadoin?' I'd mumble as I started rummaging through the fridge for something to eat. There was always someone coming or going.

The upper deck had three staterooms and a smaller head with shower. After a while the wheelhouse also got co-opted as a stateroom too. There was heat, and laundry facilities, and all the comforts of home - maybe a little abbreviated -but it was all there.

She served as dad's home after we all grew up and went our own ways. She finally sank a couple of years ago after thirty something years of faithful service.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New boat, same old job

I switched boats a few months back. I'm on the Sarah Ann now. I had went over here to fill in for a couple of weks and forgot what it was like to be on a boat that had some room, and that had enough height of eye to actually see over and around the tow. so here I am. It's a good deal in all respects except one: The schedule is three weeks instead of two. To put it mildly, I HATE IT!! I really didn't think it would be that big of a deal, but the extra week is a killer. On an offshore boat, it makes perfect sense. You never know where you're crew changing, and three and three gives the boat time to get somewhere, and gives you some time to get to and from the boat between hitches. It also cuts down on travel expenses over the year. On a harbor boat though I find it exhausting. We're pretty busy on this boat, running up and down and back and forth all over the harbor. It can get a little stressful, what with all the other traffic, and the radios going all the time. After a few days, your can get just wore out. It doesn't seem to be so bad this trip, we've gotten a litle down time since we got on last Tuesday - so I'm not trying to say it's all gloom and doom - but still, it's a little much.

Other than that, it's great, there's plenty of room over here, compared to the Brian Nicholas, and the crew is great. And the boat is an absolute dream to run, real manouverable, good visibility, it's really nice.

I quit smoking last week, and I seem to be sleeping a little better, so that's helping with the fatigue level this trip too. I'm missing the smokes a little, like when I first get up, but just because I feel like I need a smoke doesn't mean I have to have one. And really, just because I feel like a want to smoke, doesn't really mean I want to smoke either. It occured to me earlier tonight that the discomfort of withdrawal is probably less than the discomfort of being a pack and a half a day smoker, what with all the wheezing and coughing and shortness of breath and whatnot. So with that in mind, I'm going to keep going. today will be nine days smoke free, and other than the cravings that come and go, I feel really great. I'm using the patch to deal with the cravings a little bit, although they are still there. This way, what I'm mostly dealing with over the next couple of months is getting away from the ritual of the smoke: the lighting, and puffing, and all of that; Also, the triggers too: Eating, drinking coffee, waking up, getting ready for bed, driving, hanging out with friends..............All of that. It isn't easy, I'm not going to lie, but I feel awesome, I can already breathe much better. ~ AL

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

more on living aboard.....

Yeah so there's the space thing, the water thing, and then there's other little adjustments to get used to. Some people say that it must be kind of cold in the winter. It's a little bit cool maybe, but I wouldn't say it's cold. It's true that most boats aren't insulated, being designed for use in the warmer months. Besides that it is a little drafty for sure. I insulated some of the windows and hatches with some foam panels, and others I put up some of that clear shrink wrap window insulation - to stop the drafts somewhat - and then got some heavy insulated drapes too. It's really kind of cozy though I admit I haven't really seen a deep freeze yet. I think the coldest it's been so far is about 32 or so. We'll see what it's like when I get home at the end of January, when I expect we'll get some serious cold snaps.

Some people build frames and make a plastic tent to protect them from the wind and snow, and they get some radiant heat from the sun with this too. I didn't have time to get that all together this year, time sneaked up on me pretty fast - what else is new?

My heat is a couple of electric heaters that I bought out of a marine hardware catalog. they seem to work well. My electric bill is a little high though, but considering how reasonable the winter dockage rate is, I think it's not too bad. One thing that helps is that I'm only there half the time, and work the other half - three weeks home and three weeks away - so it's pretty doable.

I paid $1470.00 for dockage from Nov. 1 to May 1. the electricity is probably going to come to another $700 or so - maybe a little more. So even if the whole total is $2500 for six months, that's pretty good i think for six months of housing in Boston. I haven't asked many other liveaboards how they feel about the whole thing, but I'd bet many of them would probably agree with me on this: If I could afford to keep a boat and maintain a house or apartment, then I'd rather live on land in the winter. I don't have a lot of money, and I love boating, so this is how I make it happen. In the warmer months, its great. Lots of people around the docks, long days cruising around the harbor, or anchored out somewhere. What's not to like? But in the winter it can be a little bit much. ~ Al

Inbound Newtown creek

Shifting scows at Long Island City scrap dock

Outbound Newtown Creek with two loaded scrappies

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Living aboard

Wow! three followers, this like, becoming a trend or something. This is my home. I bought it in June, and have been living aboard. I spent the summer in Quincy, where the boat was located when I bought it. Now I'm in East Boston where I moved because the marina has a heated shower and bathroom. In Quincy, they shut down the heads and showers for the winter.

Living aboard is not a bad thing, as long as you can get used to a few things. The first big thing is space. My whole living area is contained in that little space right there, twelve feet wide by about thirty feet long (plus the back deck which is about four feet long). In the winter it's even a little smaller because I close off the fore peak area to make it all a little easier to heat. I use that area for storage, which leads me to the issue of storage. There isn't a lot of room for stuff. Everybody's got stuff right? Books, clothes, kitchen gear, knickknacks and whatnot. one has to make peace with what's necessary and what's worth the clutter, and all the other stuff that, well, just isn't that important once you've lived without it for a while. Besides the whole space issue, there's also the bathroom thing. On a boat, we're not hooked up to the sewer system like in a house. Dumping waste overboard isn't option - unless we're out at sea - so most boats use a holding tank, or a treatment system. In the winter, there aren't a lot of options for having the waste holding tank pumped out so the way to get around that is to go up the gangway and use the facilities up on the dock. I liken it to living back in the days when there was an outhouse out back, except that there's heat up there. Same with the shower. I'm developing a habit of going to the gym every other day, so I get my shower there on those days, and use the marina shower on the off days. So once you get past those things, there's only a few minor adjustments to make. In the winter, fresh water is something to think about. Our water line isn't in the ground under the frost line. It's right there in the open air where it can freeze. When I was a kid growing up at Fan Pier somebody was always around to check on things, so we kept a faucet open in the tub so as to keep the water flowing. Flowing water won't freeze unless it gets really really cold, so that worked for years. The problem with that is that if a pipe burst in the bilge (if you're not a boat person think cellar) then the boat fills up with said water and sinks. It's not really a good idea to keep a faucet open unless there's always someone there to keep watch on it, not to mention the water bill gets a little high if there's a meter on it. The marina I'm at now runs a water line under the docks to keep it in the salt water where it wont freeze, so all you have to do is top off your water tank every so often and make sure you drain all the hoses that are out in the open air: the one coming down from the pier to the dock and the one from the dock to the boat. That's it for now, I have to get some work done. I'll continue this in the next couple of days, stay warm! ~ AL

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year Resolution

This was a few summers back, we took the Chesapeake 1000 up to Maine to lift this tug into the water. Washburn and Doughty had a fire and their railway was destroyed, so this was the solution for keeping the work on schedule while they were also working at rebuilding the yard.

The tug is the Laura K Moran. We were told that the boat weighs 500 tons, so the crane is working at only half capacity here - mighty impressive.

As for New Years resolutions, I don't usually make them. I am going to try to develop a routine for writing more though. It shouldn't be too difficult to sit down for a few minutes every couple of days and get some thoughts out there. The big news in my world these days is that I have quit smoking. Yup, started working on it over the holidays and today is my first day without a cigarette! I threw out a half a pack, my lighter, ashtrays, matches, rolling machine, all my paraphernalia. I'm gonna be using the patch for a little bit to help with the physical part of the addiction. That will make it a little bit easier to deal with the mental part - the triggers and associations between smoking and everyday things like smoking with coffee, or driving, or after meals, etc......That's all for now, see ya in a few days. I'm working on a few posts about how I got into this kind of work, and where I came from - that sort of thing.