Boats take us to amazing places but they do it in a harsh environment that’s mighty tough on all the systems. Every year or two Escape Velocity, like every other boat, needs to come out of the salt water so we can sand and recoat the bottom with antifouling paint, check on all the underwater bits and repair or replace whatever’s necessary. We continue to live aboard but a boat out of water is an uncomfortable business. First of all, we are up in the air and need to climb a ladder to get on and off, not too bad a proposition for catamarans because we have relatively shallow keels, but it can be downright terrifying in a deep-keeled monohull. Some of the fancy boats rate proper stairs but even those aren’t tall enough for some boats. And imagine not just going up and down all day, but carrying tools, parts and provisions every time, and especially realizing in the middle of a job that you’ve forgotten the essential item that’s still up there in the boat. It’s a good workout using muscles we’ve nearly forgotten about.
We can sleep in our own beds but we can’t use our own bathrooms. The boatyard has clean toilets and coin operated showers ($1 for five minutes of welcome hot water, double up if you’re extra grimy) but who wants to get fully dressed in the middle of the night (it’s cold!), climb down the ladder and walk a hundred yards just to pee? No one, apparently; you can see boaters taking the walk of shame every morning to empty a trug, bucket or jug.
Then there’s gray water, the stuff you’ve washed with. Normally water from the kitchen and bathroom sinks just comes out the bottom of the boat but you can’t do that in the boatyard or before long you’d be living over stinky puddles. We run hoses from the sink drains into big jerry cans on the ground, which then have to be dragged on a cart to a specified wastewater drain. We do that every day or two, depending on what we’re cooking and how many dishes and pots and pans we’re washing.
This is an environmentally clean yard and there are strict rules about the use, collection and disposal of all the toxic materials and chemicals boats require. We protect ourselves, too, with masks, respirators, gloves or even full bunny suits.
Every boat around us is doing the same thing so for weeks we live in a cacophony of scraping, sanding, drilling, grinding, pounding and cursing, punctuated by the hydraulic whine of the boat lift and the rumble of delivery trucks. It’s a lonely business, working all day under the boat, but we celebrate each other’s victories, take breaks to kibitz and meet on the grassy knoll for cold beers at the end of a long day.