Monday, March 31, 2014

Freedom Forever

Late last week the Cap'n looked out the window at the anchorage and said "There's Uncle Harry's old boat." "Oh yeah, I replied, That does look just like his boat.". "No, the Cap'n said, that is his boat."

Yes, the Cap'n knows his boats -- it has been said that he knows boats the way some know cars - boat builder, size, year built, he can call it all, even at a distance. Still, I needed to be convinced.

"And look, he said, it's still called Freedom."  I grabbed the binoculars. Sure enough, he was right. There she was, a 48' Jarvis Newman Lobster Boat.  Uncle Harry passed away several years ago, and had sold her boat at least a few years before that. The last time I recall seeing it was when our now 22 year old son was 7 and we were docked side by side in Rock Hall, MD. A the time we owned a green hulled 38" Jarvis Newman Lobster Boat named Freedom -- a mini-me to Uncle Harry's.

(Longtime readers of this blog will remember that 'Freedom' is a family boat named -- first established by his maternal grandfather,passed on to Harry and then from Harry to the Cap'n)

Excitedly, we tried to raise the current owners via VHF, but they had turned off their radio and were enjoying the sunset after a day of travel. The next morning, after a night of heavy rains, they tied up right in front of us. The Cap'n was thrilled to see how well she has been maintained and to hear where she has been over the many years since our Rock Hall meeting.

What are the chances: Two green hulled motor vessels,  docked in tandem, sharing a family name and a family link? It's a small world after all.

Two Freedoms

Uncle Harry's boat has the beautifully classic lines of the lobster hull

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Springing Forward

Spring has tentatively arrived in Charleston. The tulip magnolias and azalea are in bloom, and the temperatures have warmed a bit.  Mother Nature is still not fully ready to commit to the change in seasons, but we are. It is time for us to spring forward with our projects and plans as our departure date is just three weeks away.

We are about mid-way through our long awaited septic system reconfiguration.  Old hoses out, new ( and fewer) hoses in! Yea.  The only downside is "the facilities" are out of commission. As a result we moved from our spot waaaayyyy out on the Megadock to one closer to the bathhouse.  A more social,  much busier location, with a perfect "Mrs Cravitz" vantage point it suited us well for several nights....until the slip holder came back and we had to move again. Now we are back on the Megadock, yet still close to the washrooms.  All afternoon we have enjoyed watching the confused looks on  fellow slip holders and marina employees as they have passed by.  We can almost hear them think "Wait, didn't they just move last week?"

The best part about this slip is our front row river view. Not long after we tied up the Cap'n notice 6 dolphins playing just off our port side.  We may have to move again when the weekly cruise ship arrives on Friday, but for now we can't complain.

In addition to boat projects we are  checking off our Charleston To-Do list: ie, all the things we meant to do all winter.  There are restaurants to visit, museums to tour and at least one plantation yet to see. Add that to a visit from the k'dults, tickets to a few cultural events and provisioning errands it promises to be a busy few weeks.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dolphins Off the Dock

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: This has been a  long, cold and lately, rainy winter here in the low country. I know I get no sympathy from our friends up north who have been slogging through endless snow storms, school closings and power outages, but all the same, it is miserable here.

We have been cheered by the random days of flip flop weather and the recent appearance of large numbers of dolphins in the Ashley River. It was about three weeks ago that I first noticed them - groups of 3 -5 arching to the surface and gracefully diving beneath.  As Ham and I walk to shore before bed we can't see them, the color of their skin matching that of the waves, but we can hear them breaking the surface to breath,   "refilling the lung in one fifth of a second through an explosive blow which can reach velocities up to one hundred miles per hour."  (

At dawn, they spread ripples across the calm waters as they rhythmically breath and dive. From time to time, a pair will swim into the marina, weaving between and beneath the boats. I have learned that dolphins breathe purposefully, not automatically like humans do. Consequently, they can never fall completely asleep or else they will drown. One half of their brain always stays awake to continue sending the right messages to the lungs

We rarely see a solo dolphin. Some are in adult pairs, some are family pods of two adults and a child, and once I saw a group of 10. As we have traveled along the Intra-coastal we never see groups of more than 4, so such a large pod was exciting.

One sunny day I stepped into the cockpit and noticed a group of three playing just yards from the dock. One briefly disappeared and then emerged in a vertical leap between his two companions. It was a spectacular Sea World-worthy show.  I have always thought such behavior indicated a playfulness among dolphins -- simply a way to use up some energy on a beautiful day. Turns out it has a practical purpose -- such a leap from the water is called a "Spy Hop."  It allows a dolphin to get a good look at what is going on above the surface of the water.

No one is quite sure why we have so many resident dolphins in the river now: some have suggested it is mating season, although dolphins mate all year there is a spike in spring and fall , others think they are attracted by a higher number of fish in the area. All I know is that they have provided us with some beautiful sights and sounds as we wait patiently for spring.... 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stuck in Colder Weather

Actually, we're stuck on the boat, at the dock, and the weather is much colder than we ever imagined.

Before I natter on about my cold feet and ever growing cabin fever,  let's go back to October, and listen in on a conversation between me and the Cap'n:

The Admiral: "I think we should stay here in Charleston for the winter. There's lots to do, and the restaurants are great. How cold do you think it gets?"

The Captain: "It  is nice here, but it won't be as warm as Florida."

The Admiral:" I know but really, how cold could it get?  And it will be a good jumping off point for The Loop.".

The Captain "That's true. You might not be able to wear your flip flops all the time."

The Admiral: "I know, but I have asked around and everyone says it doesn't really get that cold, not like up north.  There are palm trees here -- how cold could it get?"

Fast forward to January 28th:

Okay, that cold. Icicle cold. Ice and snow on the dock cold. The City of Charleston closed for a day cold. Bridges in and out of the city closed because of icy surfaces cold. Record low high temperature in Charleston cold. Colder than I had signed up for cold.

As I write we have not been off the boat in 48 hours -- minus the brief and treacherous walk up the dock taken by the Cap'n and Hamilton yesterday afternoon  Soon after returning to the safety of  Freedom Ham willingly gave up his very high standard of  never "pottying" on board. Desperate times require desperate measures.

The marina was eerily quiet yesterday. A typical day has the marina staff riding by on their golf carts with some regularity, service technicians and crew hopping on and off occupied and unoccupied boats, local residents and office workers out for a stroll, and a steady trickle of boats pulling up for fuel or overnight dockage. Yesterday we saw a few smokers on the dock, an adventuresome ( or crazy) guy motor by on his small power boat, and the occasional car pass by on the road that hugs the harbor. We didn't even see any birds until late in the day.

We spent the day doing chores, looking out the windows, watching local tv reports of storm closings, and power outages, snapping photos, doing jumping jacks to keep warm ( or at least I did) and indulging in an American Pickers marathon. Even Hamilton, the dog who never met a weather system he didn't like, decided it was best just to snuggle up on the settee and nap.

From my galley widow I can see that life on shore is a bit closer to normal today: cars are driving at normal speeds on the road and near by bridge. There is still  little activity on the dock, but marina staff member rode out with today's paper. Warming temperatures and a light rain have washed away much of the ice and a family walk is planned for later this afternoon.

Maybe tomorrow will be better........

Here are a few photos of sights we never thought we would see, and quite honestly, hope never to see again:

Snow and ice on the bow

The Cap'n crawling across the icy cockpit to pull the potty rug closer to the door

You expect me to potty on that?  No way!

Ham hanging out in the snow

Snowy dock, looking south

Another view of the snow covered dock

The dock looking north. That's ice on the pilings

Saturday, January 25, 2014


He had a good run -- 14 1/2 years, 4 boats, dedicated crew member, always at my side.

We brought him home on a late summer day in 1999. Within 24 hours we bundled him in his laundry basket bed and headed to "the boat." He took to it like, well,  a water dog to water. Definitely a homebody, and never a fan of the great outdoors,  no one was more excited when the car pulled into the marina parking lot. Nothing was better than a sniff of salt air.

He had slowed down of late -- deaf, hobbled by bad hips, a growth in his mouth making eating difficult, but still, always at my side. His quality of life was poor and he told us so.

We said goodbye as the new year began.  He was:

Miles James

Bodyguard and Boyfriend          Companion and Confidante
Lover of the Boat Life 
Enemy of the Vacuum Cleaner

May 25, 1999 - January 7, 2014

We will miss him

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Best and The Worst

After a Thanksgiving shore leave we are back in Charleston -- happily well south south of the early winter snows in PA.  As usual, our days are filled with the Cap'ns chore list, dog walks, and Loop planning.  Walking about the city is a special treat now as Charleston is dressed for Christmas -- offering a bit of southern charm we don't see up north magnolia leaf wreaths adorn doors and fences.

Here at the MegaDock the parade of southbound boats continues.  The most recent wave are either 1) owner operated vessels who waited until after Thanksgiving to leave the Chesapeake Bay or 2) professional crews moving new boats south for the Ft. Lauderdale boat show. This group of boats are smaller than what we saw earlier in the season -- the mega yachts safely in their Florida slips awaiting winter charters and/or owner visits.

There is not much more to report, so I though I would share the results of an informal poll I took of the Freedom crew:

Question:  What are the Best and Worst parts of living on a boat in Charleston?

The Cap'n: Best: "It's a Boat, and the weather is pretty good"
                    Worst: "Dog needs" (this response came soon after an unfortunate                                           2AM incident involving vomit)

The Admiral: Best: "The fulfillment of a long time dream to live in Charleston;                                              Wearing flip flops in December; Fabulous                                                                        Food;Sunrises and Sunsets; Carolina blue skies;                                             other than washing dishes by hand, less housework"
                      Worst: "No walks or lunches out with my friends.                                                                 Walking Ham up the dock in high winds or when                                                     he sees another dog".

Miles: Best: "Mom can never get more than 10 ft away from me."
            Worst: "The long walk to shore -- it hurts my hips".

Hamilton: Best: "Mom can never get more than 10 ft away from me. All the                                             attention I get from boaters who miss their dogs".
                   Worst: "Not being able to run around on my own".

We're here for another week before heading north for a month or so on shore....

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dogs On Deck

The new crew….

This year the Freedom crew has expanded by 8, legs that is. After two winters of being cared for by a rotating schedule of our k'dults, Portuguese Water Dogs Miles (14 1/2) and Hamilton (5)   put their paws down and insisted on joining us for this year's adventure.

I spent the summer getting ready.  First stop was a post I had bookmarked from the blog Taking Paws -- written by Karen and Jeff   of Active --  focusing on the live aboard life with their yellow labs.   Every one of their entries is a treat, but this particular post shares a list of tried and true essentials for sharing your boat with a canine crew. Once armed with my list and my Amazon password, I started stocking up.

One of the first things I purchased was a Pet Step ramp to make the passage from boat to dock a bit easier,  especially for Miles whose aching hips don't allow him to jump very far these days.  Once it arrived, we set it up in our mudroom and I demonstrated, runway model style, how to use it. Ham and Miles humored me by walking across it. Then we moved outside where we encouraged them(aka bribed with treats) to walk up the ramp from garage floor to the house. That went well, so, on to the car… Ham sniffed the ramp, jumped over it and lept into the car. Miles turned around and went to sniff something in the garden.  Finally, leash attached and firmly held Miles reluctantly walked up the ramp. Success?

Next purchase was harnesses made by Kong (typically known for their treat hiding chew toys) outfitted with handles. What a difference a handle makes!  We only set up the ramp when we are too far from dock for the dogs ( and me) to jump, or when the tides change the angle from boat to dock. The handle allows me to give Miles an assist to shore, to easily grab Ham when it is not his turn to leave the boat, and to move both of them out of the way of humans or harm when needed.

The handles have been life savers on more than one occasion:

  Within about 2 hours of our arrival in Charleston Hamilton fell in the small crack between the boat and the dock. I calmly shrieked, yelled "Help", dropped to the dock and tried to grab Ham's handle. He was frantic, thrashing about in the small space, uncertain what to do.
Meanwhile, across the dock sat the sailing vessel Geronimo: an at sea classroom from St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island. The teachers and students enjoying their dinner heard my distress call and within seconds were at my side, belly down on the dock and reaching for Ham. With my hand on his harness, another set of hands on his hind quarter, another pulling his leash, and with cheers and encouragement from behind, we somehow lifted him up. He thanked us with a a good shake!
By the time I composed myself the school group was back to their dinner. I soon came to realize this was their last meal tied to shore before heading out on a multi day offshore trip to the Bahamas. Within 30 minutes, with the sun setting, they were off.

Another day I walked Ham to a local dark park for some intra-canine fun. This was just our second visit to the park and we found ourselves alone. I did what I could to get Ham to run about on his own, but his interest was low.  All of a sudden though, he darted for the road. I chased after him, causing him to pick up speed. I could see a truck coming from each direction and I shouted "Stop!"  - mostly to Ham, but hoping the drivers would hear me. Amazingly, both trucks had already slowed down, turned their trucks on a diagonal to block other traffic,  and stopped a good distance from Ham. One driver even jumped from his cab and tried to corral Ham as I rushed up and grabbed his handle. Once again, the handle and the kindness of strangers saved the day.

Just the other night Miles had his own brush with a bad situation. As the Cap'n was getting ready to assist Miles from boat to dock for his after dinner walk, Miles suddenly jumped. His front legs landed on the dock, but his hind legs fell in the gap. The Cap'n quickly grabbed the harness and kept Miles from slipping backwards. The day Ham fell in the temperature was about 70, the winds were calm, and the sun was shining. Last evening it was about 45 degrees with gusts up to 20 mph, and it was dark. Not a great time to fall overboard.
At the same time, our neighbors across the dock were heading out for the evening. They saw Miles slip, dashed across the dock, and gave the Cap'n an assist. It turn out they are Veterinarians  and  gave Miles a quick assessment.  Once again, the handle and the kindness of strangers…..

One of our greatest challenges living with dogs on the MegaDock is the mega walk to shore -- 4/10ths of a mile each way.  Needless to say, we get lots of exercise taking Ham to shore for potty breaks.  For Miles though, this is just  too far to walk. Enter the Porch Potty: a beautiful wicker rimmed draining astroturf lawn designed for apartment dwelling dog owners, but also used by boat owners. This, I decided, would allow us anchor overnight without needing to take the canine crew to shore, and/or provide the perfect spot for late night and early morning relief.  A total win-win: No need to launch the dinghy and find a beach after a long day of travel on the ICW. Along certain stretches of the ICW the marshes and/or alligator infested waters offer pristine anchorages, but preclude any trips to shore. And no need to head to shore in the wee hours -- just open the doors and let the dogs do their thing.

Or not….
You see, the good news is the dogs are so well trained they wouldn't think of pottying onboard.  The bad news is, the dogs are so well trained they would't think of pottying on board. The Porch Potty was a hard sell, and despite our best efforts before we headed south, Miles nor Ham never really cottoned to the whole idea. In addition, it was hard for Miles to climb up on the potty. I even tried "scenting" the turf with urine samples I harvested before we left PA, and used real sod for a while.
Before long I dropped the sod overboard, dismantled the potty structure, and simply placed the turf on the cockpit floor. In a pinch, Miles obliged.
Now that we are settled, the turf sits on the dock and Miles at least aims for it. Ham prefers the walk up the dock, no matter what the time or weather…..
Suffice it to say, I should have gone with the suggestion made on TakingPaws: buy a piece of astro turf, put it on the bow and all will be good…….

Once on shore, Hamilton has had a lot more to learn. A suburban dog all his life he had never walked down a narrow, crowded street, stopped at a cross walk ( where there was actually traffic), or heard the siren of an ambulance or police car.  Out first few ventures into the Charleston Historic District were nerve wracking for him.  But now he is a pro --  to even the horse drawn carriages can distract him.

Even better than a walk through town is a walk up and down the dock when is it crowded with mariners. I used to think men who sent to see missed their women. Now I know the truth: they miss their dogs. Miles and Ham are rubbed and hugged and showered with affection by rugged boat captains at all hours of the day and night.

All in all, Freedom's canine crew is doing just fine.  Here are some pictures of their life at sea. (Check back soon, I'll be adding more)

Ham napping -- it's a tough life!

Miles in his favorite spot -- from this vantage point he can see me at all times.
Miles catching a breeze as we motor along the ICW

Ham strikes a pose aboard The Nellie Crockett

The Cap'n giving Miles a lift to shore. Check out the boat behind them!

Miles chilling in the shade