Pancakes? On a Boat?

May 1, 2012

On our way down to Maryland this past weekend Rich and I had an enlightening conversation about sailing. It went something like this…

Rich: Something, something, something…jib sheet.
Me: What’s a jib sheet?
Rich stares at me for a minute and then says: You really don’t know how to sail, do you?
Me: Did you think I was holding out on you? Trying not to show off or something? No! I really don’t know how to sail. At all.
Rich: OK, no problem. I know just the books you need to read.

When I got home tonight, my darling husband greeted me with three new books about sailing (well, one’s about pirates, but that’s just to keep me going when the weightier material gets to be too much). Now gracing our fledgling sailing library’s shelves are: Chapman’s Piloting & Seamanship, Sailing Fundamentals, and Under the Black Flag. I flipped through a few pages of the Chapman book while we were in Maryland last weekend and it’s got a lot of good information for novices like me in it. I’m so excited to learn all about this new world!


My summer reading list.

As the temperatures had really dipped down on Saturday, we decided to focus on inside projects like cleaning and organizing a bit. While I was cleaning up the galley I discovered that our oven is not going to cut it if we want to bake anything bigger than a cupcake. (And by that I mean if we could bake cupcakes in a single-serving cupcake-size pan.) For some reason I guess I just assumed the oven would be big enough inside for a cookie sheet or a roasting pan, but no, in fact it is not. Maybe a loaf pan would fit inside. Maybe. Can we make it through the summer with our Easy Bake oven? Considering that Jersey City in the summertime will probably be somewhat ovenlike in temperature, perhaps. Only time will tell, but I think this might be our next big purchase.


Houston, we have a problem…

We stopped at Lowe’s and picked up a few more things for the head repair project along with my new favorite appliance: the world’s tiniest little Shop Vac. We went to town with that little sucker (get it?) and now all of the cupboards and nooks and crannies in the salon are clean as a whistle.


We call him R2-D2.

We walked into town for dinner at Woody’s and stopped to check out St. Mary Anne’s, a beautiful old Episcopal church right around the corner from where the boat is tied up. It was built in 1742 and has the prettiest sounding church bells ringing off and on throughout the day.


St. Mary Anne’s. The headstones made me think of “Poltergeist,” which is part of another story.

The crab cakes at Woody’s did not disappoint. They had bigger chunks of crab and were a little less moist than the Pier 1 cakes, which seemed like a good thing, though they weren’t necessarily better. Let’s just say I’d be happy with crab cakes from either place! Rich had a steak, which he seemed to enjoy, almost as much as my crab cakes. We may have to go back to try some more before we set sail for our home port.


Everything’s better with a sprinkle of Old Bay.

Afterward we headed back to the boat to watch movies on the computer. We were disappointed to learn that we’d downloaded Return of a Man Called Horse instead of the original, but we were too tired to finish watching it anyway. Before we turned in Rich astutely observed that in epic 1970s movies like this, you can walk away for 10 minutes and not miss anything, whereas nowadays everything moves so fast that if you walk away for a minute you miss something crucial to the whole story. We climbed into our cozy v-berth for the night…and could not get comfortable to save our lives. We tossed and turned for a bit before deciding that the v-berth was not working out for us and retreating to the double birth in the salon. This was still a tad on the small side for two big people like us, but a lot more comfortable on the legs than that crazy “V” shape. If any v-berthers out there care to share information on how the members of their secret society can possibly sleep in that configuration, please enlighten us! Meanwhile, we’ve decided that the v-berth will make a fantastic closet and we’ll be widening the double berth in the salon. Rich confesses to never really caring for the v-birth design for sleeping anyway.


The v-berth. We shan’t be sleeping here!

On one trip up to the bathroom at the empty apartment that the previous owner generously allowed us to use while we were repairing our head (yes, there were three trips up in the middle of the night, folks, despite drastically restricting my fluid intake) I got a bit freaked when I found the TV in the living room was on. It hadn’t been on when I visited earlier in the evening but now it had the white staticky screen going a la Poltergeist. I hate to admit that I was this much of a wuss, but when Rich offered to accompany me ashore the next time, he didn’t fall for my weak “No, that’s OK, really, you don’t have to” and came up with me. The TV was on again, which he confirmed (and off again when we returned in the morning…) Spooky!


They’re heeeeere. Check out the awesome tote bag my parents sent us!

In the morning when we trundled ashore to use the bathroom we were promptly bowled over by the incredible beauty surrounding us. The creek was covered with a gorgeous mist and across the water we could just make out the shapes of about 20 turkey vultures perched in the trees across from the boat, not to mention a ton of geese and ducks wandering around. The great blue heron that I’ve adopted also swooped in for a visit later in the day. This is what it’s all about: Living in a tiny little floating house so you can sail it to places that take your breath away.


What’s good for the goose…

And then on my way back from doing a few dishes in the apartment sink, I learned the hard way that it’s really easy to drop almost all of your silverware in the creek at low tide. At least I saved a teaspoon! The boat was sitting a lot lower at the dock than when we’d arrived the previous afternoon, so I leaned over to set the dishes on the deck and realized my mistake as soon as I heard the clatter of the silverware flying out of the cup I’d stowed them in. Next time, I’ll be placing them on the dock and getting myself on the boat first. The good news is that we had more on board (and we use the term silverware loosely since I’m not sure how much actual silver was in any of that ware), but Rich, who is rarely cranky, was not exactly pleased.


Mata Hari, right before our silverware went into the drink.

Though it may be small, our stove is mighty. We used it to boil water, and, ahem, warm up the cabin a bit, and then Rich made pancakes, which were soooooo good. Does food taste better on a boat? I think maybe it does.


Breakfast in bed!

By the way, I should mention that the inspiration for the title “Pancakes? On a boat?” is a story that Rich and our friend Dierky (who lives on a groovy houseboat in Seattle called the Holiday Mansion) told me. Years ago they were doing a paid delivery job through the Great Lakes from Chicago to Buffalo, New York. The guy was buying his dream boat and he and his friends joined them for the final leg of the trip from Detroit down Lake Erie. One morning while Rich was making breakfast he noticed the owner and his friends just staring at him in wonder. Eventually the owner managed to say, “French toast? On a boat?” Apparently gourmet fare on a boat for this group was putting cheese on their bologna sandwiches. Yes, French toast can be had on a boat. And yes, even pancakes, too! That story cracks me up and somehow that phrase, or some variation on it (“A computer? On a boat?” “A French press? On a boat?” etc.), frequently works its way into our conversation.

After breakfast, it was time to get down to business. The biggest project on our list for the weekend was getting at least one of the toilets (or “heads”) working, and like the rock star that he is, Rich got it done! Hurray! I don’t have to tell you how happy this made us. Apparently some part of the pump had broken so once he replaced that, all was right in the world again. The cheering and uproar that followed that announcement was in no way influenced by the numerous chilly trips ashore we’d made the previous night (or the freaky Poltergeist experience).


Victory is ours!

Another project on our list was fixing the steaming light. After Rich gave me a crash course in electronics, he attempted to send me up the mast to get the job done, but Rich just wasn’t comfortable with the way the jib halyard felt. So I’m saving my electronics know-how for next time. Since we had to take down the jib to use the halyard, Rich took advantage of the opportunity to teach me how to fold a sail. It’s harder than it looks, my friends, but we managed. Rich says you can tell a real sailor from his sail folding technique. Guess I’ve got a lot to learn in that department!
And that’s about all for the weekend. We stopped on our way out of town to pick up new halyard line for next time (those West Marine guys still can’t seem to coil the rope properly, but what do I know?). Now we’re making our list for everything else we’ll need to do before we make the delivery. If the mechanic can finish the stuff on his list, we’ll be bringing Mata Hari to New Jersey in about a week and a half. (Fingers crossed that he can remove the bolt he broke when trying to remove the alternator bracket.)
We leave you with Rich’s beautifully coiled lines. Note that he coils his extension cord just like his ropes. He takes the last loop and wraps it around the coil, then pulls it through before “snugging it up” to make a neat coil that can easily hang on a peg.

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  • Reply Unknown May 1, 2012 at 4:16 am

    Monica – I am loving this adventure. I feel like I’m there, minus my sea-sickness. 🙂 Pancakes in bed! What else does anyone need? I’m very impressed and excited for you and Rich. Petter would absolutely love this adventure, too bad his wife is a wimp! Love you, Marji

  • Reply Monica James May 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks, Marji! Maybe Petter should bring you pancakes in bed (with a side of Dramamine)?

  • Reply Vicki May 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Love your blog!
    It’s giving me quite a lot of laughs & bringing back a lot of fun & funny memories of when I first bought my boat. I can’t quite decide which is funnier but your V-Berth comment wins today. Though I have slept in my V-Berth for 9 years, pre-dominantly on my own (lol), but I have tested it for 2 & that ‘survey says’: 2 to 3 nights out of the week only & you need to be in a Honeymoon phase;-)
    I look forward to many years of following this blog.
    Congratulations Vicky

  • Reply Monica James May 7, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Thanks, Vicky! And so glad to hear you agree about the v berth! Nine years. Can’t wait to be able to say that!

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