Archive:  Year 3 - January 13th, 2009 "The Tip of the Iceberg"

We are currently in about a 5-day stretch of the shittiest of the cold weather – daytime highs that don’t exceed 0, loads of snow, blustery wind-chills.  It is during these times, especially, that those who know me are most curious about how things are going down here on the river. 

As I write this, it is -4, with a wind chill of -21.  I’m breaking and clearing ice from around the hull about twice a day (not bad, actually – I’ve got it down to a bit of a science), and I haven’t had running water since before Christmas…  

That is the status aboard The Road.  Hell of a start to 2009.

As for me, I would say, generally, I remain confident and optimistic.  I won’t delude either of us with a rosy portrait of life down here, but the loss of my running water, so early on, has ALMOST been a comfort.  I’ve adjusted my life and developed a system of hauling water, which has made the lack of water coming out of the tap, primarily an inconvenience.  Now, not having internet down here – that would be intolerable.  

The furnace continues to keep Gracie and I cozy and comfortable while we’re inside.  Even with the temperature as low as -15, I’ve been able to keep the interior above 70 degrees, and with ease.  Propane ain’t cheap, but it’s certainly cheaper than downright misery… 

The word relentless seems to be the most appropriate word for this winter – there really has been no break, no comfort.  

So while I am confident and optimistic, I am also a little worse for ware.  The harsh and relentless nature of this particular Winter have started to take a few punches that land.  I have developed a knot in the palm of my right hand from cracking and clearing the ice and it’s starting to tighten and twist a line of nerves that extends up my arm to my neck.  I’m developing an attractive Richard III sort of gait that is explaining to me, with clarity, where the caricature of the ‘old sailor walk’ comes from.  

Everyday, several times a day for the last couple of weeks, I have bundled and bound myself, met the elements, grabbed the 30 lb steel pole that lays on the dock outside, and worked myself up into a sweaty and aching mass… Only to do it all again a few hours later.  And each time I emerge from the plastic and see the daunting layer of ice that has relentlessly appeared, my heart breaks.


Each time I am done, heaving hot breath against a wet scarf and nursing a hand gimped and numb – I am overwhelmed with a chest-pounding sense of accomplishment.  I scurry inside, shuffle off the layers, collapse in a heap and pat The Roads cozy interior walls.  We’ll be okay.  For the next few hours anyway, we’re all okay.  

Perhaps more difficult, is my tenacious tendency to imagine the worst-case scenario while I am off the boat.  Safe, warm and on land, I paint portrait after portrait of potential disaster:  

1. The propane tank is empty.  The gauge is broken, or they forgot to fill it last time, and the furnace is lifeless.  The boat slowly freezes and shatters.  Grace, an icicle; the windows, frosted and cracked;  the computer, camera and hard-drive – useless.

2. An overloaded outlet sparks and ignites a fire.

3. Something (again) gets caught in the bubbler and the ice is formed and the damage is done before anyone even notices.

4. The pipes have, in fact, been broken inside the walls and when the temperatures rise and the water is turned back on – the pressure will burst hem.  

5. The huge ice chunks forming around both bubblers are putting more strain on my stringers, and the very framework of the hull will snap - leaving me, my house, and everything that I own to sink to the bottom of the river.

6. Grace is not a dog, but in fact an alien life form sent to observe human behavior; and her disappointment with me as viable specimen leads her to kill me in my sleep.

This is a representative list…  

My oldest sister Anne, as is her duty, spoke the most comforting words I’ve heard so far.  After a phone conversation, describing to her the trials and tribulations of these past weeks, she said:  You know what, Dawn, in a few years you’re going to be rich and famous and totally pampered.  You’ll be spending winter in your penthouse in New York, and you’ll come out of your huge hot shower, wrap yourself in an expensive fleece robe, look out your double-paned, thermal windows and think, ‘How boring.’  

So true. This is why sisters are better than trust funds.

The next two days are expected to be the worst yet - we don’t have an above-zero temperature in the cards until Friday.  I am going to make an appointment at the local massage school this week and already have every episode of Sex and The City in queue on Netflix. 

Only about six weeks left and then the pendulum begins to swing the other way – the way of hammocks and boat rides and days on the beach.  

Not a bad ride.

Next Post: March 19th, 2009 "Polar Bears and Boxers"

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