Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Intense sunset off St. Helens Marina docks. We live a life of luxury, relatively, when there.
Wandering Star, docked just across from us, belongs Robin and Barbara Scott. Robin
taught my former West Marine 
colleague, Jon Copper, to play the bagpipes. Small world.

Does the concept of chucking your land lubber life intrigue you? What would you give up to live aboard?

Stuff – Less Is Not Just More, It’s Essential
Our current living space is a mere 350 square feet.  

I do have a small storage area, mostly paperwork, photos and art, that takes up about 4′ x 4′ square feet, and could take up less. One of my summertime goals is to reduce and digitize my photos, pare down my paperwork, stow what’s left aboard without cluttering up the boat, risking waterlogging or placing it someplace impossible to get to. Then I will ditch the storage area. I don’t have any possessions squirreled away anywhere else.  That’s it!

I was so excited that I could make my morning chai in seconds, since I could plug in
our “billy” while we’re at the docks at St. Helens Marina.

Practically Powerless
When we’re at anchor or tied off on a primitive dock without any water or externally provided electricity, there’s a limit to how much we want to or can tax our mostly battery-powered modern conveniences.  We will spend most of this summer untethered, as we did for the five years we sailed halfway around the world.

“What’s the point?” my crusty former West Marine colleague Captain Paul asked, when we bought and returned a non-Honda generator. “Aren’t you trying to get away from it all?” Yeah, mostly. The desire to use power tools for boat maintenance and repair prompted its purchase. Much as I’d like to say we totally unplug, we do use power for our laptops, whether it’s keeping in touch with friends and family, doing some freelance writing or this blog post, or catching a movie.

Untethered, Wayne misses the toaster and microwave the most. For me, it’s the billy, our quick electric hot water heater and a blender. Our mini vacuum cleaner gets charged up when we’re docked but when we do use it on battery power, its get-up-and-go leaves within a few seconds run time. And our shop vac and most of Wayne’s few power tools will only work when docked with power. As the generator didn’t work out, those tasks will now have to wait until docking.

Wayne recently added a pair of solar panels. With the Pacific Northwest’s long summertime hours, that’s enough to give us at least a couple more days of keeping our tiny fridge/freezer running and our laptops juiced up. They’re our most power-hungry conveniences.

What appliances would you have to forgo aboard? Coffeemaker? Food processor? Hair dryer? If it’s got a plug, it’s of limited use aboard. Washer? Dryer? Dishwasher? For the vast majority of boats, fergitaboutit!

We’ll pick up a reliable Honda 2000 generator as backup before we head up to Alaska as the stretches between powerup spots can be substantial. We relied on a Honda generator on our halfway around the world sail. The longest stretch at sea was 32 days and well over 3,000 miles, between Galapagos and the French Marquesas. No need for a heater there, but those tropical waters made our fridge work harder to keep our perishables from perishing and for autopilot, GPS, VHF radio and for us, other essential electronics.

One of our neighbor boats at the St. Helens Marina, host to a wide range of boats. Ready doesn’t look ready though.

What’s your daily routine? 

For me, it starts with whether I believe it’s too bloody cold to get out of bed. Yeah, my husband teases me about being a hothouse flower, and indeed I fare far better in tropical heat than I do in anything less than 72 degrees. Pathetic, but there you have it.

Since we arrived back in the Pacific Northwest on Memorial weekend, most mornings are in the 40s to low 60s aboard.  All parts stand up to frigid attention (aka, tough something-else) when I reluctantly roll out of bed on all but the hottest of Pacific Northwest summer days. 

We have two electric space heaters. When we’re at a dock, plugged into electricity, we can heat our bedroom.  Or our salon. Running both at the same time would blow a fuse.  No dock? Want to heat the bedroom and the salon? Tough noogies. 

Away from external power, we can run a propane heater in the salon, which is where we usually hang out aboard. Turning on the stove or oven helps, too. Otherwise, we bundle up. And the bedroom is cold to bed, cold to rise.

This weather drove us into a marina. If the point of being on the hook was
to enjoy the outdoors and get some boat work done in the sun, by contrast.
this weather inspired us to go city. Today the marina water supply and docks
made it easy to finally get the green scum off the bottom of our dinghy.

Shower Bliss – Maybe. Sometimes. Sorta.
If away from a powered dock, unless we’ve run the engine, which we rarely do except when we’ve got a reason to move the boat, the only way we have hot water for a shower or sponge bath is to heat it up on the stove. If I want a good hair wash, I take advantage of whenever we’re someplace that has ample hot water and good water pressure. St. Helens city docks, for example, charges $2/5 minute shower. I happily dole out my eight quarters for that luxury.

When we do acquire hot water from an engine run, with light water volume — which makes sense as water tanks are far from bottomless  — showers take a while. Despite that, our tiny old shower sump pump doesn’t always keep up. 

Nothing kills my shower zen quicker than my husband having to descend into the engine room to take care of the pump because of my shower. That said, we are lucky enough to have a nice tub-shower on our boat. And eventually we’ll replace the pump, which should eliminate the stress of the occasional shower-us-interruptus. 

We may not be loving these cool rainy days, but these marina flowers are!

Stinky Is As Stinky Does
It doesn’t take much for a little odor to permeate a tiny space. Because of that, when I can, I do #2 off the boat. If we’re at anchor, it’s on the boat.  That’s all there is to it. If there is a toilet off the boat, it’s probably not a flush toilet. When it is, and even sometimes when it’s not. I’m happy to walk a half a mile to keep the boat fresher.

Like RVs, whether #1 or #2, it all goes into a tank. At some point, that tank gets full. Unlike gas tanks, there’s no gauge to monitor how full that tank is. We make our best guess on when to get a pumpout. Usually, we go to a pumpout station. Sometimes, if we’re staying put in a marina for a while, we pay a service to come to us to pump out. 

Names for these purveyors? Royal Flush in Portland. Waste Away in St. Helens. Roche Harbor’s Phecal Phreak, wth the “We take crap from anyone” amuses me most. 

Every once in a while, we guess wrong on how long we have before our cup runneth over. Ugh.

Phecal Phreak, Roche Harbor, San Juans. Photo liberated from the web.
Not sure where the photos I took of Phecal Phreak in Riche are hiding.

Landlocked vs Boatbound
Get together with friends? Got some errands to run? Hankering for a Sunday drive?

Unless they’re boating with you, meeting friends is only an option when you step ashore. Easy in a marina unless you need a car and yours is nowhere nearby. Or a possibility if you’re someplace your friends are willing to drive to. Uber, Lyft and mass transit are typically absent most good boat-able spots. 

Even a walk isn’t an option unless you’re docked or can dinghy ashore.

I have a kayak on order to give Wayne the freedom to stay in one place while I can go to another. The kayak will be my solo ticket from boat to shore, or boat to shore to car. It’s a 5-mile paddle, one way, from where we’ll anchor most of this summer to my car. Wayne points out kayaking 5 miles to drive to join friends for a long hike, then kayaking 5 miles afterward in the dark may not be practical. TBD what will be….

This fawn was among the dozen deer or so seen on my St. Helen’s Oregon walk around town earlier this week.

All Those Sacrifices… Why Do It?
Simplicity. There’s nothing more satisfying than to start your be awakened by birdsong, spending a day in the sunshine, walking a sandy beach, cooking a simple meal, watching an uncluttered sunset, followed with the cosmic blanket of a starry night, ending the day getting gently rocked to sleep. Yeah, worth it. Most definitely worth it.

Not everyone needs to be as minimalist as us. Bigger boats. Internal power generators. Staying in marinas. Maintaining a residence in addition to your boat. 

Yet, we owe nothing. Our expenses are minimal. We are flexible and free.

“Get your a–es up!” shouted our sailboat neighbor from his dinghy, buzzing us.

Indeed, the day awaits!