Solid to the core…

I’ve been promising these pictures, so at long last I bring you (drum roll please) COMPLETELY re-cored (and very solid, but pre-glassed) decks!

decks 039   This photo was taken before the final lapped ‘plank’ of 1/2 marine ply was lagged into place. Every thru-deck (cleats, fuel, water, waste lines) have been set with reinforcements that will keep water from reaching the new core.  Next, two layers of biaxial from bow to stern, and all deck leaks will have been banished!

Renewal…

It’s early March. The boatyard is gray and empty, with few signs of life… that is, aside from the raccoon tracks all over my decks. It seems some enterprising creature discovered by climbing the beams in the shed they could step across to my anchor and slip aboard. From there it was a simple matter of pushing in the screen in the forward cabin port, down the bookshelves, across the bunk and up to the galley, where ultimately they discovered that single bag of stale pretzels I’d left aboard as emergency rations. I can’t begrudge my uninvited guest their meal, especially since aside from the pillaged bag of pretzels there was no other damage, though I’ve lowered my anchor a few feet so it no longer provides a convenient gangplank for the four-footed bandit.

There are a few other signs that life is returning to the yard. The ice has receded from the river and crews are prepping the yard boat and the lifts. Docks are going back in. A cover or two has been pulled back and a lone extension cord snakes across the gravel. Next to the office, between melting piles of grungy snow a few crocuses have broken through the soil. Within weeks this place will be bustling with energy as boats shed their cocoons and the warming air is filled with the smell of solvents and fresh paint. The hum of sanders and the whine of the travel lift will drone from morning till night as boats move from the yard to the docks.

It’s a busy time, but a good busy. It’s a time to reconnect with friends you haven’t seen all winter, to catch up on life as you get things in order for those summer days ahead. There are those familiar faces, the ones that return year after year, though often I know them only by the name across their boat’s hull. There’s the older couple on ‘Fairwinds’, working away on that same boat they bought back when the kids, all grown and on their own now, were little. The fishermen with ‘Reel Good’, eager to launch early for the annual striped bass derby. And there will be new faces; there always are. The group of young friends with a scuffed up runabout preparing for a summer of waterskiing and wakeboarding. The retiree, proudly acquainting himself with that dream boat he’d worked years to achieve. A young couple ambitiously tackling a tired old sloop. We watch, realizing they have no clue where to begin, but what they lack in experience and knowledge they more than make up with enthusiasm and energy. And there will be missing faces and boats that sit untended, and talk of who became ill or passed away, and then you realize how little you truly knew about those people you’d known for years. But at least, looking back, there is a sense that the time spent with them was time well spent – laughing, swapping tools and stories, sharing drinks and dreams.

In this age of shopping centers and central air-conditioning, people have grown isolated. Modern life has fallen victim to its own success. A house in the suburbs with a big backyard and a driveway full of cars has created neighborhoods of commuters who rarely see and barely know one another. There was a time when societies flourished on communities working and building together, helping one another out. I suppose this is a big part of what I enjoy around the boatyard: that sense of community has not been lost. While there may be a diverse range of boats and owners, there is a certain unity. Backed to one another, transoms become porches and docks are communal sidewalks as we all pass one another while we come and go. People pause to stop and chat. A lifted engine hatch will immediately draw queries of “Everything all right?” and “Need a hand?” Friendships are forged as we sympathize, commiserate and assist, even if only to offer a cold beer. And I suppose that’s what I enjoy most about spring within this little village of eclectic boats – that promise of another season among friends, both old and new.Indeed it is. At least, in a manner of speaking.

UPDATE: Over the coming days I’ll be doing some updates/housekeeping here on this blog. I know some of my older posts have missing photos, and there are a few things I’ve written in the past for Write on the Water that I’d like to share here. I can only assure you that this is the start of much more. But in my usual cryptic way, I’m not going to elaborate on that just yet.

Stay tuned! (And thanks for hanging around this long — your patience will be rewarded!)

Snow, snow, thunder, rain, and yet more snow.

snow

2/13/14 – It snowed. A lot. Again. The above photo was taken sometime after breakfast yesterday morning. Rex seems to be enjoying this winter, and if I had a coat like his I’m sure I wouldn’t mind half as much. My other dog, Loki, on the other hand, is not built for this weather and had little interest in being outdoors. Can’t say that I blame him. And this photo was taken a few hours later, during a lull in the storm. Note the patio table and the railing from one photo to the next.  One day’s snow, and the day, and the snow, are far from over.  We’re expecting another 6 inches before dawn, then another round of 4-6″ from Friday night to Saturday morning.

yet more snow

And me? I just spent the last two hours clearing the latest layer from the driveway and walk. Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m curling up in my favorite arm chair with a nice glass of brandy while I watch the Olympics. Which, ironically, was held in Russia rather than New York City, in part because, well, you know. It’s the Winter Olympics, and for that you need a whole lot of top quality snow and ice.  Maybe we could ship some of this white stuff to balmy Sochi — I’m sure they could put it to good use, and I for one, would be happy to see it go.

2/14/14 –  It snowed/sleeted/rained/thundered/sleeted/snowed most of the night. The snow is saturated through and through, and heavy enough that it’s caved in rooftops on some buildings. It’s clearing out now, for a few hours at least, but should return tonight for another round. Meanwhile, my table continues to disappear.

snowsun

The Hudson’s looking a bit crunchy…

DSC01328 C.E. Grundler

I haven’t watched the news all that much lately, though it plays, closed-caption, on a screen in a diner I frequent.  And whenever it’s on, much of the coverage is focused on the obvious. I don’t need the news to tell me, it’s COLD outside. Now I realize there are some of you reading this in more temperate zones, and while I do understand that your weather may be colder than normal, unless your temperature has been regularly dipping into the negatives, you’re not getting my sympathy. Unless dressing each morning to step outside involves layering your clothes until you feel like the kid brother in A Christmas Story, and your travel time has tripled or quadrupled due to an infrastructure stressed to the breaking point by these frigid temperatures, it’s hard to feel bad… though truth be told after anything more than a short time outdoors, it’s hard to feel much of anything. Fingers and toes quickly go numb, your face loses feeling, and if your nose runs, it won’t for long — it’ll freeze, plain and simple. This morning, some tea from my travel mug splashed onto my glove — and instantly froze solid. And according to all reports, this weather pattern won’t be shifting any time soon. DSC01319 The only consolation to this bitter weather is the beauty. We’ve been hit by relentless snow, and every time it starts to look a bit drab, a new storm arrives to freshen things up. The ice flows on the Hudson have yet again brought construction on the new Tappan Zee Bridge to a halt, and if you stand by the river’s edge, the soft, murmuring creaks and pops as the flows shift on the tide can be downright eerie. Yesterday I watched a tug and barge on a small strip of open water, waiting for an icebreaker to clear the channel. Today, even that open water looks as though it’s been swallowed by the ice. DSC01330 DSC01333 Yet, even with this bitter cold, life goes on. Particularly if you’re one of our local eagles, perched in one of her favorite trees.  In fact, she seem right at home with this weather.

DSC01327

The Eagle has Landed…

Ebay and eagles 002

It’s that time of year again. I saw one flying by as I rounded the corner this morning, and now there’s another perched on a tree next to the travel lift. It’s January, ice flows clog the river, and the eagles have returned to the Hudson Valley. If it’s anything like last year, soon there will be seals lounging on the vacant docks.

Ebay and eagles 007

In the last week I’ve watched the temperature swing from the mid-60s down to sub-zero, and now it’s on it’s way back up. By Saturday it’s going to be pushing 50 again. I can’t even venture what the thermometer will read in a month, but either way, I’ll be jumping in the Hudson with an ever-growing crowd in the Stony Point Polar Plunge. Why? For a good cause. And because, why not?

<Update: Why not?  Doctor’s orders, apparently. *Sigh.*>

It’s…*ALIVE*!!!

*POKE* *POKE*

Yes… it IS breathing! For real!

Okay. All kidding aside. Some of you may have noticed a slight lack of activity on this blog for more than a slight amount of time. I could fill pages explaining my hiatus — but I won’t. It suffices to say that life has thrown me a few curve balls over that period, and while they’ve been, oh, let’s just call them challenging, I can say with confidence that I’ve learned a whole lot of new ways to swing a bat and hit a few out of the field. And I suppose, that’s much of what life’s all about. So, let’s take a look at the score.

I’m still here. And what’s the saying? Any day above the ground is a good day.

The boat is still NOT afloat. Which, at this time of year is fairly normal, though it would have been nice to actually seen her underway at any point last summer. And work (more on that some other time) is progressing at a slow but definite pace. ALL the decks, short of the cockpit, have been COMPLETELY re-cored. Again, this is the subject of far more than these few sentences, and it suffices to say that is a task I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s like banging your head against a wall, as it feels much better when you’re done. Someday I’d like to look back and say it was worth it…but that’s down the road, and these days I’ve found time passing far too fast as it is, so for now I’ll just enjoy the thought that my still not floating boat has some of the strongest, most solid decks around.

And my writing? Yes. I am writing. Not as consistently as I have in the past, but as I said, there were all those pesky curve balls. It’s ironic that my third book, set to take place during a fictional hurricane that decimates the NY/NJ coast, was derailed by that very fiction turning to reality. Such is life, but in the end it’s given my madness and mayhem far more material than I could ever imagine. And that’s what I’m writing.

What I’m not writing is anything remotely socially networky. As in, I’m not doing all that stuff writers are encouraged to do beyond actually living life and writing books. All that ‘connect with your audience’ stuff. If you’re my audience, if you’ve read my books, you should understand. I don’t just write about anti-social, snarky characters with questionable people skills — I play one in real life. And trying to pretend otherwise, trying to do that whole Facebook and Twitter and networking thing, for me has been like trying to force an isosceles triangle into a round hole.

The last two weeks have been the longest downtime I’ve had in years, and it’s been a good break. It’s let me regroup and focus on priorities. And it’s made me realize that half the reason I haven’t been blogging in all this time was because I was still trying to figure out how to digitally force that triangle peg into the round hole.

So here’s the score. I’m a crazy writer. Anti-social, highly introverted, and perfectly happy that way. My people skills suck. I know I’ve said that here before, but perhaps that message got lost in my attempts to be social, network, and connect.

This is the web. I can sit in my private little corner, comfy-cozy in my isolation, and write to my heart’s content. Some of you out there may enjoy my somewhat skewed characters, others of you may not. Some kind souls, out of concern for my moral well-being, may send me suggestions to read the Bible, and thank you very much. Some of you can, and have, written me directly, or commented on my posts, and I welcome that. I’ll even reply, though occasionally it may take a day or three.

Perhaps if I could focus on that whole social network thing I might ultimately sell more books. But let’s face the facts: me and social just don’t go together. That’s me. That’s the way I am, and that’s the way I like it. While it might not do much to advance my career, it’s a balance that works for me.  It’s wonderful that my books have an audience and a following, and while perhaps that following might be larger if this particular writer were wired a bit different, I’m not, and that’s what makes me who I am, and my books what they are, for better or worse.

Random Observation of the Day:  Food heats faster when you write. But that accelerated process also applies to food’s ability to burn if not watched. And on that note, I’m going to shut the stove and have some pre-blizzard dinner.

We’re here to fish…

Every so often, one of us will say or do something so notoriously noteworthy that our friends and family will never let us live it down. Sometimes a simple statement will live on, years, even decades later, haunting us, taking on a life of its own. My husband made one of those infamous quotes, and it’s gone on to embody a certain philosophy our family holds to, especially at times like these: the holidays.

It wasn’t long after we’d met; we were both still in high school at the time. It was one of those perfect summer days: the sun was warm without being hot and there wasn’t a trace of humidity. The sky was a flawless, cloudless cerulean blue that went on forever. It was an ideal day to go fishing. With his kid brother along, we slid his flat-bottomed boat into the bed of the pickup, loaded up our tackle and headed up to a nearby lake. How could anything go wrong?

Well, to start with, upon arrival we discovered the battery for the trolling motor never made it from the garage to the truck. Frank had asked his brother to load it; his brother thought Frank had grabbed it. But we had oars and we had rods and tackle, so we forged ahead.

It wasn’t long before it became obvious the fish weren’t biting. Obvious to his brother and I, at least. But it was a beautiful day and it was peaceful just drifting in a little boat on that sparkling lake. I put my rod aside, leaned over and trailed my finger in the cool water. Frank’s brother leaned back and gazed up at the sky, soaking in the sun’s rays. But Frank refused to accept defeat. He continued to cast and reel with great determination. I watched, bemused. Cast, reel. Cast, reel. Cast, reel. At last he finally paused, regarding me and his brother, our rods down and towels clearly thrown in even as we enjoyed that summer afternoon and he uttered that memorable quote:  “Damn it, we’re here to fish, not to have fun.”

No sooner than those words left his mouth, a look crossed his face as his brain processed what he’d said. I promptly burst out laughing and he shook his head in defeat. “You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?” he said.

I haven’t. In fact, that statement’s gone on to symbolize whenever the quest for fun turns into an epic battle. When doing what you love becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, you’ve reached the ‘here to fish’ moment. We’ve all been there: we get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we lose sight of why we’re doing it to begin with. Most anything we do for pleasure can gradually turn on us if we’re not careful. Vacations fall victim to the ‘here to fish’ mindset; the hopes and expectations are so high, the time limited, and people make themselves crazed in an attempt to do it all. And it happens a lot this time of year, with the pressure to have a perfect holiday often overriding the point of the holiday to begin with. But whatever you’re doing, be it celebrating with family and friends, or fixing a boat or writing or even fishing, always remember why. The object of the game, plain and simple, is to have fun.

Happy Holidays, and a safe and healthy New Year to all!