The time arrived to leave our mooring this week. I hated to do so, but I’m not complaining. We had a dandy spell of weather this last month, especially after that crapshow of a September: day after day of sunshine warming our solar panels. Couldn’t have asked for a better fall.
Problem is, it weren’t always enough. If the morning started with fog or some high cloud moved in, or the wind blew from the wrong direction we didn’t get enough to top up the batteries. It took a perfect day of wind from the northwest and fully clear skies to completely recharge with these long nights. And that’s the trouble: not only is the sun lower and weaker, it doesn’t even show it’s face above the trees until late in the morning, and it waves goodbye so damned early in the evening.
So like a mouse that moves into your house in the fall, we’ve scurried away to more comfortable demesnes just ahead of the inevitable November storms. And now that we’s on the grid again, I’m suddenly noticing that there was a fair bit of stress out there, monitoring everything, keeping the ship going, so to speak, with little help from shore. Each day started with a look at the sky and the weather forecast, checking the direction of the wind to try and get an idea of how it looked that day for our batteries.
I’d adjust the panels for a best guess if I were leaving for the day, and hope that’s how things would unfold, but weather in Brentwood Bay is a strange girl, and the winds often box the compass, so if you ain’t there to adjust, your 400 watts could drop to 40 in a twinkling, like a first date when you bring up your genital warts. With the sun so low, the panels have to point in the right direction or they’re kinda useless.
Now it ain’t that I don’t got a genset aboard; I do, and it’s a good one. But it eats fuel and so you have to keep the gas coming in for the days when the sun don’t do its duty. Each morning I check the battery levels, decide if it’s gonna need a genset topup, run it for a bit, check remaining fuel, come back at end of day, check batteries again, run genset again if the wind were a dick, get more fuel. I don’t like storing gas aboard so I only use a 10-litre jerry can, which is good for maybe 2-3 good charging cycles.
My battery charger can only do at best 85 amps, and as the batteries charge up that amount drops off. I usually shut ‘er down at 45 amps or so cause after that I’m wasting fuel. She’s usually about 75—80% charged by then, and it takes forever to completely top off. So we’re rarely at full charge.
I could put in a bigger battery bank, but then you gotta run the genset that much longer to recharge, so not much point.
It’s a crazy amount of bullshit to mostly power a fridge, which uses up at least half of our power during the day, (more when it’s warm out, but then we got lots more sun).
And on top of the power issue we also need water. I’m damned proud to say we lasted a full month this time – imagine 2 people living 30 days on 75 litres of water! Showers are for more sociable folk, and besides, with the amount of rum I drink, the stuff comes through my pores, kind like I ooze my own hand sanitizer.
But now that we’s plugged in, life suddenly feels a lot easier: no more watching the weather so close, hauling gas, running gensets, watching how you are using power. And no more diesel furnace for heat. That’s another big one, cause I don’t like burning fuel while the missus and I sleep, so we shut ‘er down at night. And when it gets down to 5 degrees – like it has on several clear nights – it’s damned chilly to get up to. The old lady’s hot flashes keeps our sleeping cabin warm like a potbellied stove, but the temperature in the salon would crack the nuts off a Greek statue. It gets so cold you could warm it by opening the fridge. And it takes a good hour of the furnace running full blast to take the edge off it.
And no there’s no more running back and forth by dinghy. That’s kinda a mixed blessing. After blowing’ your sails out at a party, that last crawl back to the mooring late at night in the rain can be really shitty, especially when you gotta first bail the dinghy! But I love mornings. Everything is still and quiet and while my constitution balks at rising before lunch, the dog’s gotta go, so we pile up and putt towards shore.
That time of the day the Bay is like a mirror, like clouded glass, and there’s birdsong and the shoreline burning all red an yellow leaves in the sunlight just coming over the treetops. Wisps of fog winding around Willis Point. It’s breathtaking.
And there’s the great feeling of leaving it all behind when you cast off from the dock and motor out to your home floating on the water, away from all the troubles and angry crazy people on shore. Out on the bay folks can’t reach you, and even the cops pretty much leave you alone.
Living on a mooring is freedom and it’s solitude, but it can also be lonely. Any kind of physical separation like that also lets you know you’re alone. I guess you can’t have the grace of solitude without it’s bitter partner popping up some days. Like you can’t have love without jealousy. Or herpes.
But despite all the bitchin’ from shore about us having it too easy out there, those folks don’t know how good they got it, and the sacrifices we gotta make living on the water. It feels so glorious to just be able to turn on something without worryin’ about power. I used to hate the old woman ferritin’ around in the fridge lookin’ for her string cheese, the damn door hanging open so long it were like she were prayin’ to it, down on her knees joints all cracking and popping. I’d give her hell, but she never listens to me, she don’t care, cause she ain’t the one gotta replace those watts she’s letting spill out all over the galley floor.
Worst was the gawd-damned microwave. Every time she fired it up, I gritted my teeth, imagining that 80 amp draw sucking the ship’s blood like a vampire, or liver fluke. But I don’t dare say anything, cause she already puts up a lot to be out here, including me, and she loves her damned microwave.
With us plugged in, she can fall asleep with her head in the lettuce crisper for all I care, and genetically-modify our meals to her heart’s content. I can leave the baseboard heaters runnin’ day and night and don’t have to get up to a room that feels like witch’s breath in the morning.
And so much easy water! When I pee in the sink I can let the tap run as much as I please, since an unlimited supply of water is just a hose bib away on the dock beside us. With so much water at hand I’d love to rip out one of our showers and install a little tub, so I could soak as long as I wanted, with all them wonderful scented bubbles, instead of always having to go up to the marina’s hot tub for my weekly bath. Just last week I caught hell from this old biddy cause she didn’t like me filing off my foot callouses in the water, a chore I’m only taking on cause the old lady complained my feet were so like sharkskin I’d half rip the skin off her legs while we were sleepin.
But being a gentleman I offered to share, pointing out the substantial horn on her own gnarly feet, and after a moment’s thought she agreed, and I passed the file over. I think I underestimated the old girl’s need though, because after a long while of vigorous, frothy scrubbing, the water got a bit cloudy and even seemed to thicken, bringing to mind porridge. That was a bit much even for me, and I vamoosed.
People on shore is strange folks for sure, but they got it easy.