Archive: Year 2 - Sunday, January 20, 2008 #13: "Wind Chill"

So here we are.  Right in the midst of the sort of weather that can put a chill in my heart even as the hot July sun beats down on me in my hammock.  Last night the actual temperature was -16, wind-chill of -33.  As I write this, I still don’t have running water in the head, and it was touch and go in the galley for the last couple of days.  

I would say this cold snap started about the middle of last week, when the daytime high struggled to get above 10.  Friday afternoon the high only got to about 5 but it was bright and sunny – something we hadn’t seen in weeks.  Tired of the darkness and enclosure of the boat-cave, I decided to take my laptop and books up the hill to the Dunn Bros which is surrounded my windows and adjoins a florists.  It proved a tremendous idea, as I had a highly-caffeinated productive streak that had been long overdue.  Driving home I spent a good amount of time congratulating myself on keeping my wits about me this winter.  As I walked down the ramp to the dock, I applauded myself on my forethought – amazing, I marveled, how I have anticipated every problem and then headed it off before it could land.  As I unzipped the shrink wrap and walked aboard, I was pointing out to me how particularly deftly I have kept my calm, as well – what nerves of steel.  I was very well-raised, I agreed as I went to brush my teeth-

A sputter of air, and then nothing.  I quickly turned on the hot tap – an echoing sputter of air and then nothing.  I walked over to the galley, already sensing the failure before me…  Two rather enthusiastic sputters of air and then nothing.  No water, neither hot nor cold coming from any tap anywhere on the boat.  The interior temperature was comfortable, 72 at least, but it wasn’t enough to permeate through the walls to the pipes.   Looking at the stack of dirty dishes I had lazily put off before I left that morning; and already feeling a sudden, overwhelming urge to take a shower – I started to cry.  I had completely overlooked how quickly the pipes can freeze, even with the sun shining; it was all my fault and I am stupid, stupid, stupid... but then REALLY this is ALL because my parents never had cable!  So much for ego.  

I didn’t actually start crying right away – freezing pipes is certainly not the worst thing that can happen to you out here; and last winter they had frozen too and it was just fine.  I did start crying (more Hillary Clinton crying that Tammy Fay, mind you) when I looked at the forecast for the upcoming days… 21 is the highest daytime temperature through the rest of the month.  I’m gonna have to really crack down and figure this out because the pipes won’t be thawing on their own…  As a matter of fact, depending on what’s frozen where, it could be really dangerous for the seals and connections…  that night was going to be -12, the next night -15.   That’s when I really cried – and it was still sorta like how Sigourney Weaver cries in Alien... anyway.

It occurred to me that adding water to the holding tank might raise it’s temperature just enough to, perhaps, warm pipes around it.  In any event, having more water to run through the pipes once they were free was going to be helpful… and I only had an hour or so left of daylight to do it.  

The sun was shining, but the thermometer said -10 when I bundled up and went outside to the water manifold.  Captain D and I share the same water supply hose, so I turned off the main supply, and opened up the flow to ours, which is attached to a string that hangs between our two boats.  The main supply hose is the one which runs under water from the compound, about 300 feet to J-Dock where it is tied by a string to a cleat and then dropped below the water line.  If that hose is turned off, or if it is not dropped back below the surface of the water, it will freeze.  If that happens - as it did last year - we still get fresh water but it delivered, irregularly, on the back of a truck.  It takes an hour or more to fill your tank and a better quality of water surely exists.  Last year we lost our water because the main hose was severed… we all suspected pirates and no, it wasn’t me.

By now, even in harsh temperatures, the process of filling my water tank has become second nature, and it was done in about 20 minutes.  The only trouble I had was with the access to the holding tank itself which wasn’t frozen shut – but frozen open.  After the water supplies were all properly switched over and dropped, I went to seal up my tank and found that the small amount of water that I drizzled on the portal now meant it couldn’t take it’s cover.  It took another 15 minutes, a cigarette lighter and a dry cloth to finally make it happen.  Although this delicate surgery was all taking place under the shrink wrap, any exposed skin still tingled within seconds… especially wet skin.

But all proved worth it, as within half an hour I heard my galley hot water tap sputter to life and then flow like a champ.  Dishes done and a clean face later, all seemed like it may just be okay.  As it stands, I can still use the toilet, but all showering will be brought to you by Anytime Fitness.  

This weather has been made more endurable with the final duct work from the furnace having been completed earlier in the week.  I now have a steady blast of warm air in parts of the boat that were always chilled before.  This has comforted both my feet, and my heart as it has put the marina back in my good graces.  Just in the knick of time, but in the knick of time none the less.  

Currently it is -1, and will be -3 overnight – comparatively mild.  As a matter of fact, the bright sun which usually accompanies these stingingly cold days, has lured more people out than I expected.  When I arrived home this afternoon, for example, fellow boater, Carla, was standing at the pit, next to impressive bonfire.  Looking very content with a beer and her two dogs, I quickly got Grace and joined her.  We stood there for over half an hour letting the dogs get out some of their cabin-fever and comparing horror stories from the past couple of nights.  Marvelous.  

The sun lit up the river so brightly, it was blinding to look at.  Not only frozen from shore to shore, but white and silent, the river is even more awe-inspiring these days.  Occasional slices of open water pour out steam like turbines… it’s really something to see.  But, sadly only to see in small doses because eventually – and I’m not kidding – your eyelids freeze shut.

The new play that I am writing “To a Candid World” is having a small informal reading on Tuesday night and the boat is, again, proving a warm and cozy nest to work in.  Because who would turn down paradise just because you have to brush your teeth in the kitchen sink?  

Next Post: February 20, 2008 #15: "Mercury Lining"

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